Friday, October 26, 2012

#600: Good book/Bad proofreading

If you're a Todd Rundgren fan, or a fan of any of the dozens of albums he's produced 4 a variety of artists over the years, you should check out Paul Myers's A WIZARD/A TRUE STAR: TODD RUNDGREN IN THE STUDIO (2010), an in-depth recap of Todd's lengthy career as recording artist, engineer & producer.
While Todd's hadda handful of hits (he shoulda had MORE) & done some solid albums (SOMETHING/ANYTHING?, ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA), he's almost better known 4 the artists & albums he's produced and/or engineered: Meat Loaf's BAT OUT OF HELL, Hall and Oates, Grand Funk (twice), Cheap Trick, The Band, Patti Smith, New York Dolls (twice), Badfinger, XTC, Sparks, Tubes (twice), Fanny, Steve Hillage, Shaun Cassidy -- plus a dozen albums 4 his band Utopia.
Tho Todd's comments R featured all thru this book, the best thing about it R the Xtensive interviews with the people he's worked with -- the many members of Utopia, Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman, Rick Nielsen & Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, the Grand Funkers, Patti Smith & Group, David Johansen & Sylvain Sylvain of the Dolls, lotsa Tubes, & XTC.
Not all these people were thrilled with Todd's sometimes-trebly radio-ready hitbound productions of their work. Badfinger was disappointed at the time with Todd's mop-up work on STRAIGHT UP, tho it got them a coupla hits. Patti Smith's WAVE was perceived as a disappointment & a sell-out (I thot the 1st side was pretty great). XTC member Andy Partridge was frustrated by the Xperience recording SKYLARKING, but former member Dave Gregory sez Todd saved their career.
My only real disappointment with the content is there's only 1 paragraph about Todd's production of trailblazing all-girl rock band Fanny's MOTHER'S PRIDE (1973) -- not their best album, but.... & there's barely a namecheck 4 the updating Todd did on Shaun Cassidy's WASP (1980), which Shaun fans at the time called diffrent & Xciting & brave -- & it sank without a trace.
Myers did his homework. It is really neat 2 see folks quoted that you'd normally never hear from -- the backing musicians & engineers & folks behind the scenes who helped make this music happen. Each chapter that focuses on a specific album is like a little documentary -- The Psychedelic Furs come to visit Todd at Utopia Sound, & when he's delayed 4 a couple days they party down & rip-up Woodstock & Bearsville, N.Y., until Todd gets them 2 calm down & start working.
Todd also seems drawn 2 challenges -- both Cheap Trick & XTC were facing pressure from their record labels during their work with Rundgren. Ditto 4 the Tubes' swan-song, LOVE BOMB. Speaking of pressure & uncertainty, turns out Todd basically bankrolled BAT OUT OF HELL & got it finished while Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman worked 2 find a label that would actually RELEASE it....
Along with all this, Myers tracks Todd's ongoing solo career & the various incarnations of Utopia -- all covered in detail. I was happy 2 see so much space given 2 Utopia, who never quite broke thru despite the quality of their more pop-oriented later stuff.
Well worth your time, overall. But....
Nobody who mangles the English language like I do here should complain about this, but....
The folks at Jawbone Press have previously done some really Xcellent music books -- Bill Bruford's AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Jeanette Leech's SEASONS THEY CHANGE, Richie Unterberger's WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN. They were a pleasure 2 read, & were mostly immaculate in terms of typesetting.
Not sure why, but WIZARD has problems in this area. They're minor at 1st -- little misspellings or words dropped out, quotes opened & never closed, minor stuff like that. But they get worse & more numerous as the book goes along.
Don't know why, but the book bottoms out in Chapter 19 -- which deals with the breakup of Utopia, recording Todd's A CAPELLA, & recording the Tubes' LOVE BOMB. Here words R dropped, sentences R mangled, words R transposed & repeated, quotes Rn't finished -- it reads like the composer or proofreader fell asleep, or was hungover -- or only had 2 days 2 get the whole proofreading job done. & when that chapter's done, the rest of the book is back 2 basically pretty-much OK.
Now, if you're writing a book, you use Real English. The inability 2 use Real English in a book format casts doubts on whether the writer knows what he's doing in other areas. Each time a sentence gets mangled or words get dropped out, it jolts the reader out of the Xperience & makes him wonder what's going on behind the scenes.
Clearly, Paul Myers knows what he's doing -- he couldn't have done dozens of interviews & made this 300-page story fit 2gether if he didn't. But the composing or proofreading coulda used more work, 1 more pass B4 the book went 2 press.
Other than that, no major complaints. As with other Jawbone Books, there's a discography & nice period photos. It's a good-looking package, & the info is worth the minor problems you might bump in2. & I'll B looking 4 more Jawbone Books -- there's 1 out there about Arthur Lee & Love that I've bn wanting 2 get ahold of....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#599: This 1's 4 Crabby!

My Internet buddy RS Crabb at Crabby's Music Review and Top 10 Site knew I was bored with just about all the music I had in the house, so he recently sent me a baker's-dozen CDs 2 try out -- including summa the weirdest stuff he's ever heard.
I promptly tested 1/2adozen of them over the weekend at work. Summa this stuff is too good NOT 2 share, so this post's 4 Crabby & I PROMISE I'll get that box of old 45's out 2 ya as soon as I can afford the postage.
Meanwhile, here's the playlist:

Sonny Rollins: THE SOUND OF SONNY (1957) -- The Last Time I Saw Paris, Just in Time, Toot Toot Tootsie!, What is There to Say?, Dearly Beloved, Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, Cutie, It Could Happen to You, Mangoes, Funky Hotel Blues.
Shawn Phillips: SECOND CONTRIBUTION (1970) -- She Was Waitin' for Her Mother at the Station in Torino and You Know I Love You Baby But it's Getting Too Heavy to Laugh, Keep On, Sleepwalker, Song for Mr. C, The Ballad of Casey Deiss, Song for Sagittarians, Lookin' Up Lookin' Down, etc.
BYRON ALLEN TRIO (1964) -- Time is Past, Three Steps in the Right Direction, Decision for the Cole-man, Today's Blues Tomorrow.
Cromagnon: CAVE ROCK (also known as ORGASM) (1969) -- Caledonia, Ritual Feast of the Libido, Organic Sundown, Fantasy, Crow of the Back Tree, Genitalia, Toth Scribe 1, First World of Bronze.
Tangerine Dream: OPTICAL RACE (1988) -- Marakesh, Atlas Eyes, Mothers of Rain, Twin Soul Tribe, Optical Race, Cat Scan, Sun Gate, Turning Off the Wheel, The Midnight Trail, Ghazal (Love Song).
Various Artists: ALL THAT JIVE! (jazz-vocal classics) -- Billy Eckstine Orchestra: I Love the Rhythm in a Riff, Oop Bop Sh'bam; Slim Gaillard and His Orchestra: Flat Foot Floogie; Jackie Paris: Round Midnight, The Old Master Painter; Dizzy Gillespie and Joe Carroll: On the Sunny Side of the Street, Pops' Confessin' (I'm Confessin' That I Love You)....

OK, I don't know crap about Good Jazz, but 4 me Sonny Rollins's THE SOUND OF SONNY is nearly as good a jazz-blowing album as John Coltrane's GIANT STEPS and Thelonious Monk's UNDERGROUND. Not too Out There, pretty melodic, never boring (even onna coupla lyrical ballads), Sonny sounds great, & this disc will bounce you right along. + Sonny Clark adds Xcellent piano & Roy Haynes is great on drums. Bassists Paul Chambers & Percy Heath R right on it 2.
Summa these R covers of classic showtunes, tho it don't matter if you don't know the originals -- I DID recognize "Toot Toot Tootsie" from an OLD Wayne Newton album(!). Not much else 2 say Xcept sevral customers noticed the sounds & were diggin it, & that's always a +. Put this disc on & you'll see the light, that everything's gonna B all right.
Shawn Phillips is almost always pleasant, Xcept when he starts singing like my Grandpa, railing at the objects of his derision like some Old Testament prophet with a guitar -- which he somewhat resembles on the cover of SECOND CONTRIBUTION. He has a very strong multi-octave voice, & I'd heard part of this album B4 -- I remembered "She was Waitin' for her Mother at the Station in Torino...."
I don't know if Phillips really needed the sometimes-rather-large production 4 what R basically folksongs -- & his backing band includes '60s/'70s studio stars like Paul Buckmaster, Harvey Burns, Brian Odgers, Poli Palmer, Bruce Rowland, Jim Creegan, Peter Robinson, etc.
But what lets him down here R his songs. They don't always seem 2 B worth the drama, & the 2nd side descends in2 kinda pointless short quiet instrumentals. The best moment 4 me is on "Lookin' Up Lookin' Down," when Phillips urges the younger generation repeatedly 2 "Go slow...."
Nothing here is as striking as his later, slightly-more-commercial "Bright White," which shoulda bn a hit....
BYRON ALLEN TRIO is a set of improvised Ornette Coleman-ish early-'60s free jazz (1 of the pieces is titled "Decision for the Cole-man"), released on the trailblazing ESP-Disk label. It's about what I Xpected -- lotsa honking & screeching sax from Allen. Clearly free jazz wasn't meant 4 me. But drummer Ted Robinson's pretty great. Not unlistenable, but not that pleasant. Bad background music.
Speaking of ESP & unlistenable, here's the big 1: Crabby sez Cromagnon's CAVE ROCK (aka ORGASM) is the weirdest album he's ever heard. & it IS weird. Some of it really DOES sound like caveman music -- now that I've gotten thru it 1nce, I wish MORE of it sounded that way. But it's all over the map.
"Caledonia" is some nonsense verse (lyric-sheet provided) recited over familiar patriotic-march music, bagpipes included. "Ritual Feast of the Libido" is the most disturbing -- it sounds either like a caveman being crushed in an endless rockslide, or being beaten 2 death with rocks & clubs -- or like a guy with a REALLY BAD case of stomach flu. Not sure which. But the grunting & screaming is 2 passionate 2 take it as comedy.
"Organic Sundown" really does sound like post-apocalyptic caveman music -- like 40-some members of a tribe gathered around a huge campfire & beating on tin cans & pots, all while chanting disjointedly at you 2 "Sleep!" "Fantasy" includes some rather disturbing woman's laughter -- I could only get thru a couple mins of it....
"Crow of the Back Tree" sounds like kids cheering repeatedly, endlessly at some junior-high or highschool sports event, or maybe a tennis match. "Toth" opens with volcanoes erupting, then goes in2 roaring dinosaurs, speaker-melting Xplosions.... How did they get something this powerfully bass-y down on tape in 1969?
"First World of Bronze" sounds like little green aliens chanting a brief poem in 1 speaker while an overdriven Hendrixy gtr wails in the other. Almost intresting. Coulda bn a hit, compared 2 the rest of this stuff....
Some rather obvious questions present themselves. I'm impressed with the HUGE sounds on "Toth," & the detailed atmospheric sounds elsewhere -- I'm gonna havta go back & re-read the interview with Cromagnon's "drummer" in Jason Weiss's ESP history ALWAYS IN TROUBLE 2 C if there's NE clues about how they got summa this stuff down.
Who was the intended audience 4 this? What the hell was the message? & why wasn't "The Connecticut Tribe" credited on the back-cover listed in detail? From the disc, it sounds like it musta bn a pretty BIG tribe....
I'll give CAVE ROCK a coupla things -- it's 1 of a kind, & it's timeless, it coulda bn recorded ANYwhen. Definitely NOT unlistenable, tho I don't know if I'll ever play it again. If I still needed some "music" 2 drive unwanted guests outta the house, this would do it.
It's not Xactly enjoyable, but it works. & some of it's pretty disturbing. Guaranteed 2 cause Bad Trips. Despite all the evidence, I'd say these guys knew what they were doing....
Tangerine Dream sounds positively NORMAL compared 2 Cromagnon. OPTICAL RACE is from the milder, tamer, New-Agey '80s version of TD. "Mother of Rains" is the best thing here, with a melody you might actually remember after you finish the disc. "Sun Gate" has some actual haunting electric guitar work from the David Gilmour School. Most of the rest sounds like gameshow themes, or like a soundtrack from a wildlife documentary. Pleasant enuf, but background music.
The Tangs were a lot better back in the '70s, when they had that distant, icy, Germanic coolness going 4 them. They had enuf cool 2 dare 2 take-up whole album sides with winding, leisurely compositions. I don't remember them being so worried about keeping a BEAT back then, either....
I'm sure Crabby threw-in the ALL THAT JIVE! collection cuzza my weakness 4 silly '50s stuff like Louis Jordan. There's some nice amusing stuff here, but no knockouts so far. Dizzy Gillespie's voice is a hoot -- like a "buzzier" Louis Armstrong. It was cool 2 finally hear the notorious "Flat Foot Floogie," whatever the hell it all means. & Jackie Paris's "Old Master Painter" is nothing like the version of that song Brian Wilson used on SMiLE....
More from Crabby's box of suprises Coming Soon....

Friday, October 19, 2012

#598: Doubting Thomas

Writer & critic Thomas M. Disch was always attracted 2 the embarrassments of science fiction -- the main embarrassments 4 him seemed 2 B that most of it was worthless & most of it was written 4 kids. Disch always wanted 2 believe that he was writing 4 mature, intelligent adults.
This was maybe an issue 4 Disch because -- altho he started out writing SF -- he was brilliant & multi-talented. As his career went on he wrote gothics, plays, lots of poetry, opera, videogames, & 3 huge horror novels that got rave reviews & capped his career. He also wrote quite a bit of criticism thruout his career.
Disch's ON SF (2005) collects over 40 of these pieces. 2 of them R about science-fiction embarrassments -- & sevral other sections read like rough drafts 4 his cynical 1998 critical overview of SF, THE DREAMS OUR STUFF IS MADE OF. The sections on Newt Gingrich's co-written science-fiction novels(!), Whitley Strieber's allegedly factual UFO-abduction books, & SF writers Walt & Leigh Richmond's "telepathic" collaborative writing were all recycled in DREAMS -- Disch's point being that SF was most like itself when it was being its most schlocky.
But Disch doesn't seem 2 get much fun from pointing out the embarrassments. He mostly seems embarrassed himself -- offended that such stuff is allowed 2 exist in the same universe as his more refined novels.
Disch had a lot of talent, & wrote sevral SF stories that I think R classics. It's tough 2 argue with "Descending" or "The Number You Have Reached." Or there's the spooky possession tale "The Asian Shore." Disch withdrew his novel CAMP CONCENTRATION (1968) from consideration 4 a Nebula Award -- tho there R none of the standard SF devices like spaceships & lasers in it, it's an intellectual adventure & it's not 4 kids.
His novel 334 (1973) got lots of acclaim -- a near-future novel in which the Welfare State takes over. He finally won a major SF award 4 ON WINGS OF SONG (1979). & 1 of his late horror novels, THE M.D. (1991), waits on my bookshelf 2 B read -- I got a few pgs in2 it. The 1 thing the reviews I've read of it agree on is that it's pretty grim. So I can probly wait 4 that....
But Disch wasn't always grim & serious. There R reviews included here from his magazine work 4 TWILIGHT ZONE and FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, & they R as vivid & clever & argumentative as I remembered. I wish there were more of them. Disch had absolutely no patience 4 hacks, & he pinpoints weaknesses in writers like Stephen King, John Shirley & Barry N. Malzberg.
But here again, Disch is so self-conscious & refined & offended -- as if he is above all this trash he has 2 review. There R some good insights -- he almost makes me want 2 TRY 2 re-read Gene Wolfe's BOOK OF THE NEW SUN quartet -- a project I know I'd NEVER get thru. & there R good critical pieces on summa the works of Philip K. Dick & William Burroughs.
I wish this book were more FUN, but I gather that Disch's life wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs, either. He suicided a couple years ago after his longtime lover died & while the landlord of his New York City apartment tried repeatedly 2 have him evicted.
In their edition of this book, the University of Michigan Press helps put across some of Disch's attitude toward SF right on the front cover -- they call the collection "A last judgement on the genre." That gets the feeling of what's inside just about right, & I'll bet Disch probably enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

#597: Old-time radio

(I wrote something like this 1nce 4 my old dead website, but its been gone 4 3 years & I wanted 2 get this stuff down again B4 I 4got it all....)

I remember what radio was like B4 The Playlist took over, B4 Clear Channel & Cumulus clogged things up with the same-old-same-old. I remember when you could go from Donny Osmond 2 The Stylistics 2 Ten Years After within 5 mins. & they called it "pop."
I 1st started listening 2 the radio in the Fall of 1970, when I noticed my classmates in 6th grade seemed 2 B addicted 2 it. & they brought the records that grabbed their ears 2 lunchtime, 2 play on the record-player at the back of class: "Spirit in the Sky," "Hitchin' a Ride," "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me." Really innocent stuff. Bubblegum pop.
I was lucky 2 B living in Tacoma, Wash., which was home 2 a pretty wide-open radio market. We got a ton of stations from Seattle, but #1 in Tacoma was KTAC-AM 85, the local "Top 40" station. But it was a whole diffrent Top 40 then, & you got a LOT more than just the 40 most popular songs every couple hrs.
KTAC was famous 4 playing Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" every aft around 3:30, just as the kids got out of school, so we could space-out to it on the long bus-ride home. & every Fri nite at 10 they'd play Iron Butterfly's 18-minute "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" -- whatta trip! Still remember the eerie wind-up organ that kicks that side off, not 2 mention The World's Longest Drum Solo buried in the middle of it....
KTAC was tops among kids my age, but if you didn't like what they were playing, Seattle's KJR 95 AM was an OK backup. KJR was farther off, a little staticky & fuzzy, but pretty reliable until they cut power around 9 pm. Meanwhile, KTAC was busy blasting thru the Tacoma fog, less than 10 miles from my house. I used to wake up 2 it, go 2 sleep 2 it, all the news I needed 2 hear was on KTAC.
I remember the DJs' names, I remember their silly morning comedy shows like "The Adventures of Chicken Man" ("the greatest crime fighter THE WORLD ... has ever known") & "The Tooth Fairy" -- hell, I even remember some of the COMMERCIALS they used 2 run -- like 1 unforgettable spot 4 BG's Tall and Big clothing store, in which a mellow male choir crooned:

If you're tall
If you're big
If you can't find clothes that fit
There's a store that knows about man-size clothes
It's BG's Tall and Big....

KTAC's DJs included "Sugar" Bruce Cannon in the afternoon, Bobby McAllister 4 your drive home starting at 5 -- he'd always start out the weekend with some great the-weekend-is-HERE! rocker like The Easybeats' "Friday on My Mind." There was Dudley the idiot in the morning, always saying Exactly The Wrong Thing during R bus ride 2 school. & there was Gary Crow at night, playin lotsa great stuff as we slept-out under the stars in the summer.
Me & my friend Gene Goodell 1nce sent Gary Crow a letter & he read it on-air & invited us 2 come down 2 the station anytime. We couldn't believe it -- we screamed like girls. & the next time we were at the Tacoma Mall, we tracked down KTAC's office -- high up in a glass-walled office building overlooking South Tacoma.
Course Crow wasn't working -- it wasn't his shift. & when we wandered in2 the office, nobody said a word. We walked past a receptionist & peeked in2 the booth where Bruce Cannon was doing his afternoon show, spinning Lee Michaels' hit "Do You Know What I Mean?" ...& even tho the on-air lite was on, Gene couldn't resist: "Why do they call you Sugar Bruce?" he asked. & Cannon made a loud shushing noise at him, then ignored us 4 the 10 mins we hung around.
Not Xactly a visit worth remembering, but we did see a big bin full of singles & albums marked "CROW'S NEST," so we knew R hero was somewhere around....
Both these stations were pretty adventurous compared 2 these days. In the late afternoons, KTAC would try-out all kinds of stuff that never caught-on: Manfred Mann's Earth Band's "Living Without You," Billy Lee Riley's "I Got a Thing About You Baby," Heaven Bound's "Five Hundred Miles," Johnathan King's "A Tall Order for a Short Guy," Brenda and the Tabulations' "One Girl Too Late," Freda Payne's "You Brought the Joy," Lobo's "California Kid and Reemo," lots more.
KJR sometimes played some unusual stuff 2 -- the 1 I remember best is Kracker's "Because of You (The Sun Don't Set)." (The only DJ I remember from KJR is Norm Gregory -- who was STILL ON THE AIR at KJR when I moved back 2 Washington in 1998.) Most of these songs I've never heard on the radio since. Most of 'em I can't track-down on the Internet, either. The most successful of them -- Manfred Mann -- peaked in the low '60s nationally.
Tho my 1 visit 2 KTAC was nothing earth-shaking, summa this fascination with radio continued when I moved back home 2 Boise, Idaho in Fall 1973. There KFXD AM 580 was the only station rock fans'd ever need -- & they were pretty open-minded 2, playing odd stuff like 10 CC's "Rubber Bullets" & "Wall Street Shuffle," ELP's "Still, You Turn Me On," Steely Dan's "My Old School," Uriah Heep's "Easy Livin," The Eagles' "Outlaw Man," Pratt & McClain's "When My Ship Comes In," Tim Moore's "Second Avenue," Nigel Olsson's "Only One Woman," Andy Pratt's "Pistol Packin' Melody," The Hudson Brothers' "So You Are a Star" & "Rendezvous"....
Knew mosta the names & voices at KFXD, 2. "The Good Doctor" Drew Harold & J. Donovan West led-off the mornings, Bob Lee handled the afternoons, Charlie Fox did the evenings, Chuck Love & Wendy Green handled late nites. Don Kelley was in there somewhere.... Tom Scott was on now&then, B4 he moved on 2 B a TV sportscaster. In 1982, when KFXD suddenly changed 2 a pretty good oldies station, I called Tom up & asked if he'd play Five Man Electrical Band's "Absolutely Right" -- & he said "That's a GREAT song! I'll get it right on for ya...." & 2 minutes later, it was blasting outta the radio....
When I worked at the record store a few years later, I met a couple of these guys. Bob Lee hadda huge ego -- the best time I ever had with him was calling him at the station when he'd whined on-air about being sick ... & when I said I was sorry 2 hear about his untimely demise, he laffed & said "Yeah, I BET you are...."
Charlie Fox helped out in the record store 1 Christmas & I was SHOCKED 2 discover that he was almost as young as me -- & he knew way less about music than the rest of us. Naturally I just assumed that he Knew His Stuff.... He was also WAY quiet off-the-air....
Late in '73, the wave of the future hit Boise. That's when all-automated all-computerized KBBK-FM suddenly appeared, playing all KINDS of weird stuff I'd never heard B4. That was the 1st place I ever heard Yes's "Starship Trooper." With their pristine, high-definition sound quality, KBBK was sure 2 B a big hit -- & they were. But their lack of live personalities took some getting used-2. Soon enuf, they sounded just like any other Top 40 station in the valley. The 1 strange thing I remember them playing until it burned a hole in my brain was Eric Burdon's screaming "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood/Nina's School."
By 1979 at the latest, all the differences had been ironed out & all the stations sounded the same. KIDO AM briefly sounded great when they went all-rock with a wide-open playlist -- the only place I ever heard Queen's "It's Late" played at that time. But when I called 2 encourage the DJ he sounded pretty down -- he was convinced that only about 4 people in the whole valley were listening 2 him....
By 1982 it was all pretty homogenized. I stayed with KFXD cos they played what I'd become used 2 calling "oldies" & I still recognized the voices. But then I moved away & had other radio-related adventures elsewhere. (See "The Boogie Monster and other adventures.")
When I joined the Air Force I hadda chance 2 Bcome a broadcaster, but I didn't wanna end up broadcasting from a hillside in Korea or an island in the Aleutians. I probly missed my real calling, became a reporter instead. If I'd become a broadcaster I coulda bn paid just as badly & likely woulda bn put out-of-work even sooner....

Monday, October 15, 2012

#596: "Mindfuck music"

It's the Summer of 1978 & I'm sharing a 3-bedroom townhouse-style apartment in Boise, Idaho, with my 2 best friends in the world, Jeff Mann & Don Vincent.
& we R having musical arguments.
They R mostly low-key at 1st. Don & I R mainly seeking-out weird music 2 aid in our creative writing efforts -- strange mood-music mostly, but we're not against stuff that rocks, either -- if it fits R definition of rock. We lean mostly toward the "artier" end of the spectrum. & we're kind of snooty about it, too.
Jeff don't do no "arty." Living away from his parents 4 the 1st time, Jeff mainly collects good party music. Xcept 4 the Beatles, he doesn't seem 2 B much in2 subtlety. At 1 point Don & I agree that Jeff will buy & bring home whatever obvious cliched rockin' stuff his particular peer group at work thinks it's OK 2 buy. This isn't completely fair, but it shows how stuck-up we were.
Jeff & I have already discussed how much AC/DC & Van Halen I can take. Which ain't much. & in an apartment as small as R's, there's only so far you can go 2 get away. So if Jeff is playing HIGHWAY TO HELL rather loudly, Don might B across the hall in his room playing early Journey. Loudly. & I'll be in the 3rd-bedroom/closet listening 2 Renaissance or Genesis -- under the headphones.
All this actually works out pretty well 4 awhile. We didn't try 2 kill each other, & I don't remember the neighbors complaining that much. + the music drowns out NE other Xtracurricular activities that might B going on in some1's room -- in Don's or my room, usually. Jeff seems 2 B Btween relationships during this period.
The music covers-up-4 a lot. I can't remember how many times I'd come home from work in the evening 2 hear the sounds of Chuck Mangione's FEELS SO GOOD still spinning on the turntable in the living room -- apparently 2 cover up the sounds of sensual delight that might've been occurring in that room just moments earlier. If I arrived home TOO unXpectedly, I sometimes heard Don's bedroom door slamming shut upstairs.
1 thing about living with folks -- you end up learning things you never really wanted 2 know. In an apartment this small, you can hear just about everything echoing thru the heat vents from room 2 room. 2 counteract that, music Bcame an almost 24-hour necessity.
I didn't think that much about R diffrences in musical taste til Jeff came home from work 1 nite after I'd had what I thot was a stress-filled day. I was decompressing by playing King Crimson's dramatic & very dark "Starless."
& Jeff said: "I see you're playing that mindfuck music again."
& that summed-up R differing approaches, 2 me. So we talked about it.
Jeff seemed 2 feel that the intense last 8-or-so minutes of "Starless" was slowly working 2 obliterate all peace-of-mind from my life. While I felt that those same devastating 8 mins were working 2 RE-ESTABLISH my peace of mind & help me shrug-off the problems of my day. The music was like a "reset" button 4 me. & it really worked.
(2 years later I found the 1st Pretenders' album also worked 4 me in this way -- cos no matter how bad my life was, no WAY was it more perilous than Chrissie Hynde's Xperiences....)
We continued 2 talk about this, & I switched 2 Steeleye Span's "Allison Gross" -- a sorta dig at an old girlfriend of mine -- & a song that drove Jeff 2 distraction with its screechy, demented violin middle-break & the WAY 2 LOUD electric guitar at the end.
"See!"  Jeff said. "More mindfuck music!"
I could see how Jeff could get this impression. 4 Don & I, "good mood music" could B NEthing from Pat Metheny or Tangerine Dream 2 Gryphon, Gentle Giant, Providence, Jethro Tull, Hawkwind, U.K., Yes, any number of synthesizer whizzes --  2 David Sancious and Tone: jumpy, unpredictable jazz-rock-fusion gtr&keyboard stuff that I'd used more than 1nce 2 drive people I didn't wanna see out of the house.
I pointed out that mosta this stuff was more approachable than Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Head East, Ted Nugent, REO, or whoever else he was listening 2 that week. Jeff & I could agree on the Beatles, Kansas, Boston & Queen, but that was about as far as we could go. & if Don got in on this discussion, there'd B even less agreement. In fact, more than 1nce we went on 4 HOURS criticizing Jeff's musical taste. Ghod KNOWS how he ever put up with it, or why he didn't shoot us both.
Here's the kicker: Most of the music Jeff was addicted-2, Don & I ended-up buying. I think we 1st caved-in on Journey's INFINITY. Then Don actually bought some Ted Nugent & AC/DC. I later Bcame a big fan of REO, pre-HI INFIDELITY. REO's "Roll With the Changes" & "Blazing Your Own Trail Again" still put a smile on my face. Jeff went as far out as Pink Floyd.
I never quite Bcame an Aerosmith or AC/DC fan -- or a fan of Van Halen, Ghod knows. But I'm willing 2 allow them a spot or 2 on the radio. I like 2 hear "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" now & then -- it makes me laff. & I hava fave Aerosmith song, the moody "Seasons of Wither." (Not 2 mention "Dude Looks Like a Lady" & "Rag Doll"....)
I stubbornly held-off liking much Led Zeppelin 4 YEARS. Jeff was always right about them. I think I held off until I heard "Carouselambra." Or maybe it was the 1st time I heard "When the Levee Breaks." & then, Xcept 4 "Stairway," "Immigrant Song," "Over the Hills and Far Away," "The Rover" & "Kashmir," I started wondering what else I'd missed....

Monday, October 8, 2012

#595: Lowest Common Denominator

OK, so I sat down earlier this aft 2 write this long, ranting post about the suckiness of Seattle-area radio, a post that named names & blamed blames, a post that marveled about how -- with 2 million people living in the Greater Puget Sound metropolitan area -- we can't seemta get enuf decent radio 2 keep every kinda listener happy. Or even me.
So I bashed this up, added some completely unscientific song-counting data compiled over this past weekend when I was stuck at work with nothing BUT the radio 4 a music source ... read thru it, proofread it, it was even ALMOST in English, quite an accomplishment 4 me, sent it off, & ...
The Internet ATE it. 2 Fucking Hours of work. GONE! I couldn't recover it. Obviously a conspiracy by our local Clear Channel- and Cumulus-owned radio stations 2 keep you from reading The Truth.
I haven't lost a whole post in 3-1/2 years, so I was kinda bummed.
(OK, here's the short version: "Classic Rock" KZOK's playlist hasn't changed since 1982. KJR plays the same oldies every nite, practically at the same time -- a friend of mine sez autistic people LOVE KJR because it's so predictable. KISW is great if you can take the Scorpions & Krokus 24/7. KMTT "The Mountain" usedta have the widest variety of music locally, now they just sound like a 2nd-rate KZOK. & it's been a LONG time since Q104.5 played any oldies as unexpected as Small Faces' "Lazy Sunday.")
Looking at my local radio stations as an Xample, is it NE wonder no1 listens 2 radio anymore? Is it any wonder so many people download music off the Internet? Why bother wasting yer time with some1 else's wretched musical taste -- or their opinion of what's "popular" -- when you can assemble yer own dream playlist 4 yer iPod?
It wasn't all garbage that I heard over the radio this past weekend, there were occasional suprises, but most of it was The Same Old Stuff, formats that haven't changed since 1979, playlists that haven't had much "new" stuff added 2 them since about 1982.
When we COULD have anything. There is so much more out there....
In my dreams, a good radio station would B 1 with a playlist open enuf 4 everything from old Buck Owens & Johnny Cash hits from the '60s 2 Coldplay or Coheed and Cambria -- from '50s rock&roll classics 2 Green Day's "Holiday" -- from Eminem's comedy stuff 2 gushy love ballads like Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last."
From Motown hits 2 classic Atlantic Records R&B 2 singer-songwriters 2 synthesizer noise, from Broadway showtunes like CAMELOT's hilarious "Fie On Goodness" 2 Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" -- or even ELP's! From the Beatles' "There's a Place" 2 the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen." AC/DC & Motorhead 2 Nick Drake & Pat Metheny. Rare Earth to Miles Davis, Grand Funk to John Coltrane -- no limits, no formats, as long as it's GOOD.
Back in the '60s, they used to call this "pop." It was broadcasting, instead of narrowcasting. Everything got in.
Such an open format, which could potentially attract a wide audience, couldn't fail 2 B successful. And I'll bet listeners would B a lot happier than they R right now. They might even be suprised, delighted.
Everybody seems 2 agree that radio sucks.
So ... why not?

Monday, October 1, 2012

#594: Awake!

As a sorta musical wake 4 my old buddy Don Vincent (see "An obituary," below), I decided 2 play as much new-2-me Strange Music as I possibly could this past week at work. It turned out 2 B not all that much -- not everything listed below is brand-new 2 me -- but I found some good new-2-me stuff. & it's what Don would've wanted: Keep Xploring....

Porcupine Tree -- "The Sound of Muzak," & the rest of IN ABSENTIA (2002).
Mogul Thrash -- (1st) (1971)
Barclay James Harvest -- Taking Some Time On.
New Order -- Regret, True Faith, Blue Monday, World in Motion.
Hawkwind -- Urban Guerilla, Sonic Attack, Psychedelic Warlords, 25 Years, Night of the Hawks.
Caravan -- Place of My Own.
Blue Oyster Cult -- In Thee, Black Blade, The Marshall Plan, Veteran of the Psychic Wars, Joan Crawford, Burnin' for You, Shooting Shark, Take Me Away, Dancing in the Ruins, Stairway to the Stars.
Richard & Linda Thompson -- Dimming of the Day, Calvary Cross (live), Beat the Retreat, Roll Over Vaughn Williams.
King Crimson -- ProzaKc Blues, The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum, I Have a Dream, Inner Garden I, Radio I, One Time, Radio II, Inner Garden II, B'Boom.
Happy the Man -- On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs, Hidden Moods, New York Dreams Suite.
Egg -- Nearch.
Pete Townshend -- English Boy, A Little is Enough, Sheraton Gibson, Now and Then, Slit Skirts, My Baby Gives it Away, Misunderstood.
Return to Forever -- Romantic Warrior, Majestic Dance.

Don was the 1st 2 discover a LOT of Strange Music I still listen-2 2day: Gryphon, David Sancious and Tone, Be-Bop Deluxe, Amazing Blondel, Tangerine Dream, Hawkwind, etc. Whenever he dipped in2 the cheap-vinyl cutout bins he ALWAYS pulled out something un-heard-of but brilliant.
I turned him on 2 a few things: Providence, Happy the Man, Genesis, King Crimson, Nick Drake, Caravan, Gentle Giant, Sky, Barclay James Harvest, Sally Oldfield, U.K., Group 87, Incredible String Band.... At the VERY least, I'll miss having a good old friend 2 talk over Strange Music with.
Now then, on 2 the New Stuff:
Porcupine Tree's IN ABSENTIA is overall pretty good, but the star track is "The Sound of Muzak," a lament 4 the future of music that is the best new-2-me thing I've heard in months. Progressive rock with hooks & choruses! The group vocals R very smooth, & there's some good guitar work. The other songs on the album that R similar 2 this R also very pleasant -- but summa their more abstract, gtr-dominated instrumentals don't quite work 4 me. Worth checking out -- but you Out There who R way more up-2-date than me probly already knew that. (A Regular at work tossed the CD 2 me a year ago or so, & it took me this long 2 get 2 it.) I'll B playing it again -- I've already played "The Sound of Muzak" SEVERAL times since Weds....
Mogul Thrash's only album is avg, pretty easily ignorable, tho not offensive. John Wetton doesn't sing enuf (he's not even lead-vocalist), but there's some OK gtr from James Litherland, & the horns even help (tho not so much on the very 1st track, where they seem kinda overblown). Coulda maybe ended-up sounding sorta like Lighthouse, tho not as horn-heavy as Chicago or BS&T.
BJH's "Taking Some Time On" is NOT new 2 me, it's just their best rocker ever. In sorta the same vein as Badfinger's "Rock of All Ages," the Barclays sound nothing like the Moody Blues on this 1. They shoulda done lots more stuff like this. I'm still investigating BJH's HARVEST YEARS best-of -- I have heard & can remember maybe 6 of its nearly 40 songs....
New Order's "Regret" & "True Faith" R still brilliant, but "Blue Monday" ennnhhh ... & what's with the fake-Germanic Kraftwerk-like vocals on "World in Motion"? Is that a World Cup thing...?
Hawkwind -- like Gryphon & David Sancious -- was a band Don discovered based on the strength of their album cover. Anything with a great cover hadta have great music inside, right? Well, sometimes....
Meanwhile, "Urban Guerilla" & "Sonic Attack" R both hysterical fun, "Psychedelic Warlords" has a great riff & mantra-like verses & choruses, & summa the rest get by on chant-power alone. Still haven't made it all the way thru their EPOCHECLIPSE best-of, tho....
Caravan's "Place of My Own" shoulda been a hit -- it's a timeless classic. & check out Dave Sinclair's rockin' keyboards!
BOC, BOC, I've seen 'em 2wice & they still don't get 2 me.... Well, maybe 1/2 the time. Played 1/2 of the 2nd disc of their ESSENTIAL best-of, summa the later, smoother stuff ... & thot it was all smoothed-out a bit 2 much. "In Thee" is pleasant & "Joan Crawford" is funny, & "Shooting Shark" & "Take Me Away" & "Dancing in the Ruins" all have some nice Mood.... "Burnin' for You" really stands out among mosta the others.... But I've gotta circle back & re-hear the earlier, heavier stuff. ...& why the Hell isn't the version of "Astronomy" from IMAGINOS on here?
I wish Richard & Linda Thompson ROCKED a little more. "Dimming of the Day" is a classic brokenhearted love ballad -- you can hear the 1st verse & chorus in the movie DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD. "Beat the Retreat" is the male version of the same heartbroken dirge -- tho not as good. "Calvary Cross" is a live gtr orgy that I wish was a little more intense 4 its 13 minutes. "Roll Over Vaughn Williams" is a LOT more like it -- intense, with lotsa stinging gtr, & the lyrics R FUNNY ... tho I think Richard MEANT it, I don't think he was joking....
KC's "ProzaKc Blues" & "Kitchen Floor Wax Museum" were both better & funnier live. But they're still OK, & funny. Oh, & LOUD, of course. The short pieces from THRAK R pretty cool, I always liked Crimson in their more lyrical moments. & "One Time" is a classic.
Happy's "Precious Laughs" is still great, suprised I wasn't crying by the end of it, considering the subject matter & recent events in my life. But it's still glorious -- probly 2 jumpy & swooping 2 ever have bn a hit, but worth checking out. Stan Whittaker's gtr solos R especially inspirational, the way they soar out of the flute/sax/keybs background. "Hidden Moods" & "New York Dreams Suite" R classy mood music.
Egg's "Nearch" is more of the same atonal, sorty jumpy music from their album THE CIVIL SURFACE (1974), which I may never get thru. If you're a fan of Hatfield and the North or National Health, you might like this -- Dave Stewart's keyboard sounds R 1 of a kind. Not melodic -- the Egg guys never did anything as simple-minded as a "tune" -- but the odd tones will stop you in your trax. If you're a fan, drop me a line & I'll send you my copy of the CD....
Pete's "English Boy" is sorta an update of his earlier "Rough Boys" -- it's the obligatory-rocking opening track from his PSYCHODERELICT, & it's OK. "Sheraton Gibson" is charming, a ditty about life on the road. I am more charmed with each listening by "My Baby Gives it Away," an unlikely song of adoration. & it rocks. "Misunderstood" is still hilarious.
Don was a big Return to Forever/Chick Corea/Al DiMeola fan back in the day, & I didn't always understand why at the time. But "Romantic Warrior" & "Majestic Dance" R both pleasant & stately & seem 2 have actual TUNES I can hang on2. So I'll B looking more in2 their best-of ANTHOLOGY....
More soon....