Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The latest rock 'n' roll fake-news

In honor of April Fool's Day:
* The three surviving members of Pink Floyd have decided to reunite for one last album.
Bassist and former leader Roger Waters announced today that the iconic '70s classic-rock band will team up to record ANIMALS 2, a sequel to their angry 1977 faux-punk-rock record ANIMALS.
In a nod to George Orwell's classic satirical novel ANIMAL FARM, the earlier album metaphorically looked at humanity as being composed of Pigs, Dogs and Sheep -- which were also the song-titles on the album. The often-cynical Waters joked that the new album would be a "kinder, gentler" look at mankind -- and said proposed song-titles include "Cowsies," "Horsies" and "Kitties."
Waters also promised the new album would feature more "killer" Dave Gilmour guitar solos. Classic-rock-radio programmers immediately took notice.
The new album will mark the first time the three remaining members of Pink Floyd have recorded together since 1982's downbeat THE FINAL CUT, an album Waters admitted they'd all really rather forget about -- even though he wrote almost all of it.
* A noted music-producer admitted this week that all current pop music is "faked" by a small group of singers and musicians at a single New York City recording studio.
"Adele, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga -- it's all the same people," claimed producer Eric "Bad Boy" Baddeley in an interview with the current-music website MEANINGLESS. "There's a reason it all sounds the same -- DUH!"
* Sir Paul McCartney has finally admitted that talented-but-tragic early-'70s British pop band Badfinger was really the Beatles in disguise.
"We just wanted to see if we could make the magic happen again," McCartney told DATED magazine. "We'd been taking ourselves too seriously, 'ya know. We just wanted to have some laughs -- get that old rock-and-roll feeling back again."
But McCartney said the public called the band's bluff -- Badfinger's singles were so popular, a band of that name had to be put on the road, and that's when the project spun out of control.
Music-biz pros liked the "band," too -- '70s singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson had a Number One, Grammy-award-winning hit with Badfinger's song "Without You," allegedly written by band "members" Pete Ham and Tom Evans.
McCartney said the song was actually written by John Lennon.
"Yeah, that was about a bust-up he had with Yoko," the Beatles bassist said. "But John thought it was a little too slushy and sentimental, too melodramatic 'ya know, so he didn't want to put it on one of his solo albums. I dunno -- I woulda sung it. I've always liked slushy, sentimental melodrama."
* Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has admitted the REAL Paul McCartney died in 1966 -- just like conspiracy theorists thought at the end of the '60s.
"We really WERE trying to send messages on those later Beatles albums," Ringo said in an interview with the webzine PAST IT. "We were all in shock. We didn't know how to handle it."
Ringo confirmed that all the "Paul is Dead" "hints" on late-'60s Beatles albums were planted there by the surviving band members -- on purpose.
"That line in 'A Day in the Life' -- 'He blew his mind out in a car,' that's EXACTLY what happened," the all-star drummer said. "We just thought we were on God's biggest roll -- and then THAT happened. There's no way to recover."
The Fab Three ended up hiring a dark-haired, left-handed bass-player who could sing a little -- and that lookalike has been "playing" Paul ever since, Ringo claims.
"Even his wife Linda never knew he wasn't REALLY Paul," Ringo said.  
* Sammy Hagar has suggested touring again with Van Halen -- with David Lee Roth along as a dual lead-vocalist.
Lawyers involved in the matter said the explosive line-up will never take the stage -- mainly because Hagar and Roth have already started arguing behind the scenes about who will be allowed to hog the spotlight the most.
Asked for comment, whiz guitarist Eddie Van Halen merely rolled his eyes heaven-ward and suggested that maybe his ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli would be willing to step in as lead singer.
Bertinelli couldn't be reached for comment, as she was busy touring with Heart.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

All Styx! -- with no coffee!

OK, I've been hyping myself about this for weeks. Some say '70s Chicago-based stadium-rockers Styx were occasionally "progressive" -- they even get a chapter to themselves in Will Romano's prog history MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY. I'd say they were a pop band with delusions of grandeur. Sometimes a pretty good pop band -- I still love "Lorelei," "Fooling Yourself" and "Why Me?" And I've many times rolled down the road with "Come Sail Away," "Grand Illusion" or "Blue Collar Man" blasting on the stereo.
But they were often kinda sucky -- like on the hideous PARADISE THEATER. Not a single good song on there. And I heard that album to DEATH back in my record-store days.
And I need to be in a great mood to really ENJOY them. I'm not in a great mood this morning. But this will be a half-hearted attempt to see if they ever did anything else as good as those first three songs I named.
Let's get rolling before I chicken out.
* Crystal Ball, from CRYSTAL BALL (1976). Heard this for the first time ever just a couple nights ago on KZOK, Seattle's only classic-rock station. Guess they do sometimes play something unexpected. Didn't even realize this was Styx until they got to the big opera-like choruses, which are a dead giveaway -- very late-'70s, tho not unpleasant. This is all sweetness-and-light early, then Dennis DeYoung messes around on keybs in the middle, then some heavy guitar, and then Tommy Shaw's kinda uncertain vocal. Then back to that big chorus. Not bad, certainly not boring or overplayed. But it meanders. and it coulda gone on longer....
* Shooz, from CRYSTAL BALL. Jazzy up front, then some show-offy guitar. James Young takes over -- this is more rocking than the title song. But not better. Put on your rock and roll shooz. Maybe too early to get this loud? Kinda cheezy, tho it might be OK live.
* This Old Man, from CRYSTAL BALL. More sweetness-and-light, this time from Dennis DeYoung. Deep and Significant, keeps trying to slip into their overblown "Suite Madame Blue." One little man as symbol for this great nation, etc. The lyrics are nothing much, the playing is bloated. I'm about 35 years past being able to hear this stuff with an open mind. More melodrama? No thanx, I'm trying to quit. Ends with Significant blowing-wind noises.
* Claire De Lune/Ballerina, from CRYSTAL BALL. They got the nerve to re-arrange Debussy's "Claire De Lune"? For a Big Closer, "Ballerina" is standard stadium-rock, and DeYoung sounds so pompous! Some OK flashy guitar, but. Then some operatic, "Bohemian Rhapsody"-style vocals, which became these guys' calling-card. 1976 was a great music year? Sure.... Well, at least it didn't go on any LONGER....
* Light Up, from EQUINOX (1975). BIG drama, lots of swirling keyboards up front, then a loopy keyboard hook. I take this to be an ode to using illicit substances to help upgrade the concert experience. Or the life experience. The singing is a little too operatic. Amazing how that stuff grates so quickly....
* Mother Dear, from EQUINOX. The group vocals on the verses sound oddly like ... The Who(?) to me, then they swing into a pretty great driving hook-chorus ... then they make it a song to Mother(?!). Lotta dicking around on keyboards -- cut out the wasted time and this coulda been a hit.
* Lonely Child, from EQUINOX. Uh-oh, look out. It's a wedding proposal disguised as a power ballad. Some Ok tho brief guitar. The singing is ... very over-ripe and studly. Ugh. Hope the proposal was rejected. the things I go through for you people....
* Sing for the Day, from PIECES OF EIGHT. Hadn't heard this in a thousand years. Very sweet, with more of Tommy Shaw's non-operatic vocals. But some of the lyrics: "As your surrogate leader I'm bound in your search for the truth"? The other lyrics are way more down-to-earth. Nice folky approach, and the keyboards are just bouncy and light enough. They don't overdo here, there's a nice light touch. These guys did have talent, no denying it. But it's about what you DO with it....
* The Message, from PIECES OF EIGHT. Swirling synth noise. A brief set-up for the next track.
* Lords of the Ring, from PIECES OF EIGHT. Pomp and circumstance. James Young has been taking voice lessons from Dennis DeYoung. And that's too bad. This is a Dungeons and Dragons-fantasy song -- power, glory, mystery, belief, faith ... Valhalla, I am coming.... And there's lots more of those operatic group-vocals.
* Pieces of Eight. This just in: Money won't buy you happiness. Deep. More operatic vocals? You got 'em. A swim through the ocean of these guys' souls will scarcely get your feet wet. Who are they trying to warn? Must be themselves. You know, these guys would have been better if they hadn't written lyrics. they don't have much new to say. And there's that show-offy grand piano piece at the end. Which is there why?
* Aku-Aku, from PIECES OF EIGHT. Album closer is brief, tho pretty. there's not much to it.
* Castle Walls, from GRAND ILLUSION (1977). Hadn't heard this in years. Wanted to see if it was as overdone as I remembered.... Not bad, but everything devolves into Pomp And Circumstance and The Meaning Of Life. Which is great if you're 18 years old....
* Grand Finale, from GRAND ILLUSION. The Showbiz glitz takes over, which seems appropriate.
* Boat on the River, from CORNERSTONE (1979). Low-key, modest. Acoustic, with what sounds like an accordion, and a tuba harrumphing away in the background. I've always thought Tommy Shaw wrote the best stuff for these guys. This is sorta a depressed German-beer-drinking song.
OK, I've done as much as I can take. the best Styx impression I've ever heard is by Kansas -- "Reason to Be" on their MONOLITH album. They've got the style down, and even the silly singing. But it works. If you're a fan of either of these bands, check it out. And someday soon I'll do an "All-Kansas" post....
...Oh, and coming soon, I may actually listen ALL THE WAY THROUGH a few albums, if I can keep my short attention span under control. A shockingly new way to listen to music, so I've been told....

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Politics -- who needs it?

Hey, I'd prefer NOT to be political. But things have gotten too weird.
After years of reporting on local and state politics for small-town newspapers -- which was fun at times -- I pretty much gave up politics when I retired. I didn't even bother voting from 1998 to 2016, because I figured Washington state (being liberal) had my interests covered. Of course, Washington sometimes goes way TOO liberal. In Wyoming, I voted to keep up my end as The Loyal Opposition so the state didn't go too far to the Right.
I wasn't thrilled with Obama. I thought his health-care plan was too damn expensive and the penalties if you didn't join up were ridiculous. I was to the point where I didn't believe a word he said.
But now things are even weirder.
Why is it so hard to come up with an affordable health-care plan that works for everybody, covers everybody, doesn't include outrageous premiums and big penalties -- and doesn't lead to a bunch of men sitting around trying to decide which women's health concerns SHOULDN'T be included in a package of health-care essentials?
Given enough time, the problem could be solved. If everybody involved could stop being so GREEDY and maybe try to do something GOOD for the country. Why is that so hard?
Why are we so judgmental about people we've never met, don't know, can't imagine what their lives are like? When did Americans become so hateful? Any country that would consider separating parents and kids at a border crossing would be OK with putting seniors out on a chunk of ice to fend for themselves, or hauling off anyone we don't like to a prison camp.
I thought we were better than this.
OK, so tighten entries and visas, fine. We're already in charge of that. But have you ever seen a wall people couldn't climb over or find their way around? Did it help the Chinese that much when the Mongols came to visit? People still got out of East Germany.... People are still getting out of North Korea....
Muslim ban? Hmmm. Interesting that Saudi Arabia isn't on that list, when a dozen of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. But it makes a good list for focusing anger -- identify the group, criticize the group, segregate the group, make the group disappear.
And where are YOU from?
Tighten vetting for visas? OK. But I've seen how tough and expensive it can be to get into this country legally, and how long you have to wait. How could we make it tougher for people seeking asylum or just relief and freedom? Do we have to waterboard them to prove their allegiance to the U.S.?
And I am stunned by how many people think that pompous blowhard in the White House is working for THEIR interests. What do you have in common with that vain, self-centered millionaire, "the deal-maker"? Get it into your heads, folks -- he's only working for HIS OWN interests. Unless you're a white guy with lots of money, or a woman he can grab, the Prez has NO USE for you. You're just getting in his way. I'm sure he thanks you for your support. But if you stop supporting him, watch out for the backlash.
I don't see how the Prez supports any Republican agenda. Except maybe for more jobs (?), lower taxes (? we'll see), and keep the strangers out. Oh yes, and let's ID and segregate anyone we don't like, anyone we think is Different. Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims. Women too? LGBTQ?
I'm looking forward to his tax-reform plan, which I'm sure will include big cuts for his corporate cronies. Then who's gonna pay for that $54-billion increase to the military? We are.
Haven't seen much in the way of more jobs. That Carrier AC and heating plant he crowed about is laying people off. And if you think the economy's recovering -- it's a damn slow recovery. It was under Obama, too. Keep saying it will happen and maybe it will...?
I want to hear more about his infrastructure rebuilding plan, too -- it's long overdue. Obama wanted to do the same thing, but of course Congress shot him in the face on that one. You can only do so much by presidential order, without the help of Congress. And right now Congress can't agree that the sun's going to come up tomorrow.
That's about it for now -- except for all you folks who think the new Prez is just great and he's doing exactly what you wanted. Or at least he WOULD be if the Evil Liberal Media would stop giving him such a hard time.
If you think the media is the enemy of the people, who are you gonna turn to when you want to know what's really going on? The Prez? Oh yeah. You're SURE to get the real story there.
To those who support this self-centered money-grubbing moron and his Nazi advisers, you'll still be saying he's your man and it's all for the best when they haul you off in trucks to that relocation camp that's probably in all of our futures. You're all a bunch of Let's Pretenders from straight out of the 1950's, and I wish you'd all shut up and THINK. For at least a minute or two. That's more than you've thought up to now.
Hate mail can be left in the comments section below.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New turntable!

OK, got a new turntable, an Audio-Technica, from Tacoma's HI-VOLTAGE RECORDS. The old $20 Goodwill turntable was dragging badly, and I was tired of hearing stuff play at 30 rpm's. Plus our cheap tissue-box speakers didn't put out much bass.
Now, with the turntable hooked-up to the CD player's way-better speakers, you can actually HEAR things. Including some bits I don't think I've heard before. And it was pretty cheap, too!
I'm still testing it out. So....
* Argent -- Dance in the Smoke, from their first album (1970). Even cranked up, the CD player's speakers perhaps show the limits of 1970 recording technology. I still love this song, and it still builds nicely in its hypnotic, mantra-like way. But it should be louder, stronger. So I'll crank it up to 11....
* Starcastle -- Shine On Brightly, from CITADEL (1977). I like this, and the speakers really bring out the trebly tones. Nice. But the following "Shadows of Song" still sounds like a not-very-inspired Yes song. "Can't Think Twice" is a step up, though it still sounds like Yes. And "Wings of White" is even MORE commercial-Yes-sounding.... Even so, a quick side, and fairly painless.
* Greenslade -- Melange, from their first album (1973). Found a $3 water-damaged-but-playable copy of this at HI-VOLTAGE. OK bubbly keyboards and bass, with airy wordless vocals, OK background music if not exactly stunning. Hadn't heard them since 1981, couldn't remember what they sounded like. Not bad....
* Alison Moyet -- Where Hides Sleep?, from ALF (1983). Moody, synth-washy, dreamy, occasional sparkly keyboards. Alf's vocals build in drama.... Fades out too soon.
* Alison Moyet -- All Cried Out, from ALF. You can sure tell this is 1983. Heavy beats, lotsa keyboards, takes a long time to get to the vocal.... But I like her throaty vocal -- she sounds a little like Annie Lennox. The lyrics are kinda clever.... Kinda slow and predictable, tho.... In a PLEASANT way....
* Jane Siberry -- The Waitress, from NO BORDERS HERE (1984). Silly, annoying song about OCD. Is this New Wave? I read somewhere she did some rather Strange stuff later....
* Jane Siberry -- I Muse Aloud, from NO BORDERS. Too much coffee, Jane. Metallic, computerized sound. The lyrics are a little silly. Her voice is a little whiny. Am I being a snob? $2 at Half-Price Books. Whadda ya want for $2?
* Jane Siberry -- Mimi on the Beach, from NO BORDERS. This starts off a little too cute, but it gets better as it goes -- tho I'm not sure I can take 7-1/2 minutes of it. Her voice sounds a little like Lisa Loeb, and when her band is permitted to up the drama it gets better. The choruses are pretty good, tho they're not repeated often enough. Mimi's going surfing, and I expect disaster....
* Jane Siberry -- Map of the World (Part 1), from NO BORDERS. Airy vocals and drumming.... Very lite album-closer.
* Osibisa -- The Dawn, from their first album (1971). Have wanted to hear this African/West-Indian band ever since seeing the flying-elephant album-cover artwork in Roger Dean's book VIEWS. Opens with dawn-in-the-jungle noises and a brief narration. Then light drumming and nice airy flute, leading into a heavier groove, joined by bass and organ. The organ ROCKS. Then guitar solo with more drumming and chanting. Nice, and VERY different. Tony Visconti produced. $1 at Half-Price.
* Osibisa -- Music for Gong Gong. Nice riff, excellent horn work. With a killer guitarist they could almost be Santana. More good organ work. Bet they were great live. This has a solid beat and some force. Makes me wanna dance around the room....
* Osibisa -- Ayiko Bia. More great riffs, this time with lots of chanting. Solid, involving. That's the whole side. This was well worth a buck.
* Osibisa -- Akwaaba. Nice riffs with solid horn and organ work. Lively. Good happy music. Guitarist Wendell Richardson is pretty good. So why didn't these guys get rich?
* Osibisa -- Phallus C. Their singing is actually their weak point, tho I rather like their chanting. But they sure can play. More great low-key organ work here from Robert Bailey. And some nice sour baritone sax from Loughty Lasisi Amao. Not to mention the guitar. And the great drum riffs. This is good stuff -- they sound like no one else. Worth tracking down.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

All over the place

* Bat for Lashes -- Lillies, from THE HAUNTED MAN (2012). Know next to nothing about Natasha Khan and the folks who help her here, except that I heard a couple trax from this album on the rock critics' radio show SOUND OPINIONS a few years back, and liked them. Am reminded very much of Kate Bush. Nice, though dark.
* Bat for Lashes -- All Your Gold, from THE HAUNTED MAN. This has a different, lighter feel. Not as dramatic. But still disturbing. And her vocals and the drumbeats keep building. Nice little ornate musical touches here and there add to the build.
* Bat for Lashes -- Horses of the Sun, from HAUNTED MAN. Chanting and drumming. Very nice early-morning wake-up music except for the drums, which tend to pound and echo. OK, no real ending.
* Bat for Lashes -- Oh Yeah, from HAUNTED. More Kate Bush-like sounds, with drumming and keybs. OK, but not different. I'd like to hear something more from her. Disturbing, eerie synthesizer tones. we may be done here.
* Joanna Newsom -- Bridges and Balloons, from THE MILK-EYED MENDER (2004). All I know about Joanna Newsom is she plays harp and piano, and that Gardenhead of the late, lamented music blog ASLEEP ON THE COMPOST HEAP once called Newsom's CD after this, YS, one of the very best of the 2000's. What a shock to hear she sings like an 8-year-old girl! This is cute and charming, and like the Incredible String Band never happened. But if she keeps singing like this, I'm not going to get far....
* Joanna Newsom -- Sprout and the Bean, from MENDER. That voice.... This is pleasant morning music, harmless. And she plays that harp like a guitar. She doesn't sound like anyone else. But....
* Joanna Newsom -- Inflammatory Writ, from MENDER. If an 8-year-old girl performed this at a piano recital it'd be charming. And ... uh ... precocious. But for a woman in her 20's(?) ... well, I just wonder what's wrong with her. Her lyrics are cute, but....
* The La's -- Son of a Gun, from their only album (1990). This is a little more like it, tho simpler than Newsom or Khan. Nice guitar strumming, light vocals. Then it's over.
* The La's -- I Can't Sleep. Heavier. I can't sleep either. Heard about this album on SOUND OPINIONS too. Another critics' baby. I probly shoulda known better. OK harmonies, nice guitars, closer to rock and roll.
* The La's -- Timeless Melody. Reminded of Bare Naked Ladies. Very pleasant, nice vocals. Songs on this album are nice, upbeat, mostly very short. Simple, basic, happy rock. When the guitar gets heavier, it gets better.
* The La's -- Liberty Ship. Now they could be the Turtles, almost. Their CD has NO information about the band, tho four producers are credited. I infer from the London Records label that they were English. Who is this L.A. Mavers who wrote all the songs and got a 6-point-type credit? And who played the instruments?
* The La's -- There She Goes. yes, the song that Sixpence None the Richer later made a hit. They had good taste. And this sounds almost exactly the same, only with a guy singing. This is very nice, with nice Byrdsy guitars. And it's over too fast.
* The La's -- Doledrum. Now they could be XTC. Nice, tho.
* The La's -- Feelin'. Pleasant. Slightly heavier guitars. Their songs are over too fast.
* The La's -- Way Out. OK, mildly jumpy not-broken-hearted lovesong. But it's time for a coffee break.
* The La's -- Looking Glass. OK, this runs almost 8 minutes, so we'll see what they can do with some room. ...More guitars, but more mournful. Not sure there's more impact, but all these songs are worth hearing. Maybe the first real keeper of the morning. ...Speeds up kinda pointlessly at the end. No big impact.
* Dusty Springfield -- Son of a Preacher Man, from DUSTY IN MEMPHIS (1969/1999). I've always hated this. It's sleazy and smarmy, and she sings it mostly like she's embarrassed, except from the middle on. Course it's well-produced.
* Dusty Springfield -- Just a Little Lovin' from IN MEMPHIS. Can't argue with the lyrics, but it's SO 1968 that it makes me laugh.
* Dusty Springfield -- So Much Love, from IN MEMPHIS. yes, she sings beautifully. I can go back to '66 with PET SOUNDS, so I'm not sure why I can't go back to '68 with this. Except this is way closer to Burt Bacharach than the Beach Boys....
* Dusty Springfield -- Willie and Laura Mae Jones, from MEMPHIS. This is more like it. Better. Gutsier. And she sounds more relaxed.
* Dusty Springfield -- In the Land of Make Believe, from MEMPHIS. Another mushy love ballad, beautifully sung.
* Dusty Springfield -- Little by Little, from VERY BEST OF (1998). Above-average 1966 album track. Made Number 17 in England. Missing that extra touch of magic.
* Dusty Springfield -- I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten, from VERY BEST OF. Only version of this I know is by Tracey Ullman. The piano makes me laugh, and it's a LONG way to that first chorus, but the drama here really works. And the strings later are a freakin' knockout. Fades out too soon.
* Dusty Springfield -- You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, from VERY BEST OF. This is a huge melodramatic piece of cheez. And I've always loved it, especially those killer choruses. Crank it up!
* Badfinger -- Apple of My Eye, from their first BEST OF (1995). This is a low-key second-string classic, the band's mournful farewell to Apple Records. Could maybe have used more crashing drama. And it's over too soon.
* Badfinger -- The Name of the Game, from BEST OF. Just want to note that this slodgy George Harrison-produced version is way weaker than the Geoff Emerick-produced version included on Badfinger's later VERY BEST OF....
* Badfinger -- Suitcase, from BEST OF. Several of this band's better songs were about their career, like "Some Other Time," "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch" and "Rock of All Ages." This is an OK stripped-down on-the-road rocker.
* Gentle Giant -- I Lost My Head, from INTERVIEW (1976). The usual pretty, intricate, ping-pongy music up-front. I admit I miss these guys. And I've never heard any of this album before. ...This is built like their earlier "Peel the Paint" -- the softer, delicate stuff up-front, followed by the rockier, relatively "simple" stuff later. Derek Shulman's wailing vocals backed by jumpy instrumental support. Not bad, if not a classic.
* Gentle Giant -- Interview. Pretty rockin' (OK: discordant, jarring) for these guys. Autobiographical. Did they really think they didn't find their direction 'til their fourth album? That'd be OCTOPUS, right? yeah, I didn't really know what I was doing 'til my fourth book.... Lots of jumping around as the track develops....
* Gentle Giant -- Give it Back, from INTERVIEW. About average, for them. More of this later. Now time for a potty break. I'll try not to pee on myself....
* Roxy Music -- Sentimental Fool, from SIREN (1975). The ghost of Eno haunts the opening. Yeezus, no wonder this takes 6 minutes.... On the opening verse, Bryan Ferry almost sounds like Sandy Denny! Nice choruses, tho. And nice sax from Andy Mackay, as usual. This would be better if Eddie Jobson's synthesized noise didn't drag it out.
* Roxy Music -- Whirlwind, from SIREN. Wonder if anybody's ever told Bryan Ferry he can't sing. Or even hold a tune. Doubt it. Nice guitar from Phil Manzanera. but we're done here.
* Roxy Music -- She Sells, from SIREN. ...Until I heard the piano hook at the start of this. Rocks. More good guitar. Try at another hit single?
* Gary Lewis and the Playboys -- Count Me In, from THE TEN BEST OF (1997/2005). Always loved this. yes, it sounds thin. But it's also cute and catchy and clever. Along with a sternly-worded warning about how copying or downloading music illegally is stealing from the artist, Capitol/EMI include NO information on the CD about the artist, songwriters or producers. Didn't Al Kooper and Leon Russell and Snuff Garrett have something to do with this music? No clues from the CD package.
* Gary Lewis and the Playboys -- She's Just My Style, from BEST OF. Worthy of the Monkees. And funnier.
* Adrian Belew -- Joan Miro's Procession Through the Insides of a Purple Antelope Across a Sea of Tuna Fish, from the DESIRE OF THE RHINO KING best-of (1991). yeez, it took me longer to type the title than the song is. Screechy violin and electronics with rudimentary drumbeats. Noisy. The weirdest thing I've played this morning. Odd, he's such a good guitarist with King Crimson....
* Gentle Giant -- Funny Ways, from PLAYING THE FOOL/LIVE (1977). This is a freaking knockout! Long, creepy, atmospheric, with an unnecessarily rocking mid-section tossed in just to wake the audience up. the drama just keeps building. By four minutes in, it's a masterwork. And it'll make your skin crawl.
* Mannheim Steamroller -- Toccata, from FRESH AIRE III and AMERICAN GRAMOPHONE SAMPLER III (1984). Nice keyboard riff. After a dozen listenings, I guess this is starting to grow on me a little. But they aren't Gryphon.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Pibroch"? Depends.

The song title above is pronounced "pee-break," as all Jethro Tull fans will know. And today's post is for the gentlemen in the audience.
Guys. Does your pee-er ever get confused -- like it won't go where you want it to go unless you guide it?
Uh... I'm talking about in the bathroom, while sitting on the potty. I've gotten to the point where I have to guide and hold the little guy where I want him to go ... or else I end up peeing all over myself.
I'll wait for the laughter to subside.
This has started to be a real issue with me. I have officially gone from middle-aged into Alzheimer's. Twice. In the last two weeks. Messed up two pairs of sweats.
The Girlfriend thinks this is hilarious. And she does the laundry anyway, Ghod bless her.
I guess I COULD go back to peeing standing up, and make a bigger mess ... just not on ME.
But this never USED to be a problem. Used to be I could just point the pee-er in the right general direction and gravity would take care of the rest. But now, thanks to those mysterious growing-older bodily changes, it's like he doesn't want to come out. Or he's too cold. Or something.
Yesterday, sitting on the pot, doing my business. The process gets started, and it's trying to be Spring here, despite the pouring rain, and I'm a little groggy, but my eyes are itchy, so I reach up to rub them, and ... well, you know the rest.
WTF? True, this is a very minor problem, and I can adjust, but. Does this ever happen to anybody else? (You guys, I mean.) And what new bodily horrors can I expect to experience in the days ahead? (If you have warnings for me, go easy. I've got enough to put up with already.)
Meanwhile, a brief playlist for those more challenging potty-time trips....
* Jethro Tull -- Pibroch.
* Boston -- Foreplay/Long Time.
* Beatles -- Revolution 9.
* Rolling Stones -- Goin' Home.
* Iron Butterfly -- In-a-Gadda-da-Vida.
* Love -- Revelation.
* Yes -- Close to the Edge.
* Jethro Tull -- THICK AS A BRICK (CD).
* Jethro Tull -- A PASSION PLAY (CD).
* Yes -- TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS (CD version). 80 minutes of un-interrupted soundtrack....
* Yes -- YESSONGS (CD). How much time do you NEED?
This post is for The Girlfriend, who told me I should write about it. While choking back her laughter.
...And if there's anyone out there waiting for any other funny horror stories from this same general area, well ... you're NOT going to get them.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Other voices

Another dull Monday night at work. So when the news started repeating itself and business got slow, I started twiddling the radio dial looking for something listenable in the pathetic lowest-common-denominator programming that is Seattle-area radio. And I wasn't surprised by what I heard.
If this continues, I'll have to start taking CD's to work again. And then I'll crank up the music and ignore customers, because that's what always happens.
Every time an overplayed song by a "classic rocker" came on last night, I jotted down OTHER great songs by the same artist that the stations could have played if they'd been a little more open-minded. Again, this isn't a scientific study, just a suggested playlist generated by a couple hours of bored listening. Stations included a "mix" of the 80's/90's/now, "Seattle's only Classic Rock station," one of those "We play what we want" stations, an alleged "oldies" station (KJR/"The Jet"), and two others aimed at 18-to-35-year-olds. And the playlists were all very similar. Unfortunately.
So try any of these alternatives and thank me later....
* Rod Stewart -- Handbags and Gladrags, Mandolin Wind (this took a LONG time to grow on me).
* Fleetwood Mac -- I Know I'm Not Wrong, Why?, Sisters of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Straight Back, Eyes of the World, Brown Eyes, Never Make Me Cry.
* Yes -- South Side of the Sky. (They actually play "Changes" here -- in fact, local radio turned me on to it....)
* Led Zeppelin -- Carouselambra, Hey Hey What Can I Do?
* Eagles -- The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks, James Dean, Outlaw Man, Seven Bridges Road.
* Boston -- Used to Bad News, Hitch a Ride, A Man I'll Never Be, It's Easy, My Destination.
* Rolling Stones -- Street Fighting Man.
* Madonna -- The Look of Love, Dear Jessie, Oh Daddy.
* Prince -- Anotherloverholeinyohead, Sometimes it Snows in April.
* Foreigner -- Rev on the Red Line, The Modern Day, Blinded by Science.
* Rush -- The Camera Eye, Mystic Rhythms (live), Manhattan Project, Force Ten, Show Don't Tell. (I'd add "Time Stand Still," but they actually play it here....)
* ELP -- Fanfare for the Common Man, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression Part 1).
* Eric Clapton -- Let it Grow, Another Ticket.
* Journey -- Daydream, People and Places, Troubled Child, Something to Hide.
* Police -- Omegaman, Secret Journey, On Any Other Day, Does Everyone Stare?
* Joe Walsh -- Rivers (of the Hidden Funk), Meadows.
* Grateful Dead -- Passenger, Uncle John's Band.
* Billy Joel -- Travelin' Prayer, The Entertainer, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.
* Genesis -- Inside and Out, Vancouver, Like it or Not, Afterglow, Your Own Special Way, Madman Moon, You Might Recall.
* The Who -- Daily Records, Another Tricky Day, Slip Kid, Blue Red and Gray, The Kids are Alright, Disguises.
* Heart -- Rockin' Heaven Down, Mistral Wind, Soul of the Sea.
* Kansas -- Journey From Mariabronn, Questions of My Childhood, Miracles Out of Nowhere, The Wall, Cheyenne Anthem, What's On My Mind, Reason to Be, Back Door.
* Queen -- Rock It (Prime Jive), It's Late, Death on Two Legs, '39, The Prophet's Song, The Show Must Go On, I'm Going Slightly Mad, Need Your Loving Tonight, Save Me.
* Aerosmith -- Seasons of Wither, Big Ten-Inch Record.
* Elton John -- Ego, Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Gray Seal, Grimsby, Sick City, Teacher I Need You, Have Mercy on the Criminal, Elderberry Wine, Don't You Wanna Play This Game No More (Sartorial Eloquence).
* Supertramp -- Just Another Nervous Wreck, Child of Vision, Babajii, From Now On, School, Crime of the Century.
* Paul McCartney and Wings -- Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five, Mrs. Vandebilt, Let Me Roll It, Medicine Jar, Venus and Mars Reprise/Spirits of Ancient Egypt, Picasso's Last Words, Magneto and Titanium Man, Call Me Back Again.
* Paul Simon -- American Tune.
* Simon and Garfunkel -- The Only Living Boy in New York, For Emily Whenever I May Find Her, Keep the Customers Satisfied, Punky's Dilemma, A Simple Desultory Philippic.
* Pat Benatar -- Hard to Believe, Precious Time, Wuthering Heights.
* Tears for Fears -- The Working Hour.
* Pretenders -- Time the Avenger, Kid, Hymn to Her, Human, Stop Your Sobbing, Lovers of Today, Mystery Achievement, 2000 Miles.
* Moody Blues -- Simple Game, Peak Hour, Time to Get Away, Twilight Time, Voices in the Sky, The Actor, Don't You Feel Small?, Lovely to See You, Never Comes the Day, Eyes of a Child Part Two, Gypsy, Out and In, Watching and Waiting, It's Up to You, Our Guessing Game, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, For My Lady, You and Me, Land of Make-Believe, Meanwhile, Nervous, Veteran Cosmic Rocker, In My World, Blue World, Meet Me Halfway, Running Water, It's Cold Outside of Your Heart, Sorry....

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How much do you want to know?

Maybe I've read too much about music. Good thing I found this book on the "Clearance" shelf.
Tim Morse's CLASSIC ROCK STORIES (1998) had the potential to be good -- telling the real stories that inspired the classic rock songs we all know. But the book's thin, only 200 pages (some of which are less than half-full), and it turns out some of the songs came from ... nothing much.
And though Morse includes a list of sources for his information, I'm more surprised by some of his quotes that aren't credited. Pete Townshend's comments on "Substitute" are straight out of a hilarious review Townshend wrote for The Who's MEATY BEATY BIG AND BOUNCY best-of that ROLLING STONE published back in 1971. Stevie Nicks's comments on "Go Your Own Way" sound like they came from an excellent Daisann McLane profile on Fleetwood Mac, "Five Not So Easy Pieces," that RS printed in late 1979.
Other good quotes are credited -- Neil Young's comments on "Ohio" and "Heart of Gold" both come from Young's liner notes for his DECADE best-of. Mick Fleetwood's comments on Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" and "Sara" come from FLEETWOOD -- one of the best rock-star autobiographies.
There are some good quotes that I've never seen anywhere else. Paul McCartney speaks for a lot of songwriters when he says "I use these things (inspirations) like a painter uses colors." You'll be surprised that Cream's "Badge" could have come out of the silliness George Harrison describes here.
Steve Miller's quote about how his early singles did on the charts made me laugh. Linda Ronstadt has a good story about "Heat Wave." Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ed King has a neat story about how the band recorded "Simple Man."
There are quotes from Led Zeppelin that are informative about how their music was put together, even if the quotes aren't revealing about where the songs came from. Same could be said for the Pink Floyd quotes.
In fact, that's the whole problem. This book barely scratches the surface about where these songs came from. There's a whole lot more that could have been done here.
In a section called "Really Deep Thoughts," you'll find out many of these songs didn't come from much deep thinking. I'd rather have the mystery. I'm not sure I want to know that "Running on Empty" came from Jackson Browne driving around with no gas in his car while he was recording THE PRETENDER.
At some point, no matter what the song meant to the songwriter, a piece of music becomes a screen onto which listeners can project their own stories, images, fantasies, wishes, dreams. And that becomes the meaning. Compared to that emotional meaning for the listener, the "real" story can hardly measure up.
But I wish Morse had been able to assemble some better, more involving Real Stories.
Also: There are silly little errors a good proofreader should have fixed:
* CSNY's "Our House" was really written by Joni Mitchell? Really? On the CD reissue of CSNY's SO FAR best-of, the credit's still going to Graham Nash. And frankly, the song isn't good enough or clever enough for Joni to have written it. Sorry, Graham. Though I'm sure it was about their domestic lives together....
* Eric Clapton's "I Shot the Sheriff" was on 461 OCEAN BOULEVARD, not THERE'S ONE IN EVERY CROWD.
* Neither Steppenwolf's first nor second albums were released in 1973. They were up to at least seven by then.
* The Doobie Brothers' producer's name was Ted Templeman, not Templeton. But the story about how the Doobies' "Black Water" first came out as a B-side is a good one. Though brief.
* Paul Kantner's name is spelled wrong. Twice.
This book's good for about an hour of browsing if you're into classic rock. Did I learn anything new? No, not much. But I wish it had been different....

Monday, March 13, 2017

Two dozen bad Strange Music albums

From the reblime to the subdiculous. Here's a list of 26 bad Strange Music albums that I somehow managed to listen to all the way through. In descending order of awfulness. Cringe in horror with me, and watch out for these.
* Gentle Giant --THREE FRIENDS (1972). Not truly awful, but very disappointing. "Schooldays" is haunting, "Peel the Paint" does just that, "Mister Class and Quality" is OK. But the album is short a couple songs. There should be more here. Side 2 is barely 14 minutes long.
* Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- WORKS VOLUME I (1977). Four long sides, three great songs! Defines "waste." Picks: The great "Fanfare for the Common Man," "C'est La Vie," "Piano Concerto, Third Movement." But the rest is real crap.... ELP's LOVE BEACH is worse than this? Not sure I'd survive it....
* Steely Dan -- GAUCHO (1980). The gorgeous title song and "Third World Man" make the cut. The rest is boring and lazy, barely able to rise above its drug-induced lethargy. Their worst, by far.
* Caravan -- CUNNING STUNTS (1975). "Dabsong Conshirtoe" has a sweet opening and almost everything else a fan would want -- except a decent ending. "Show of Our Lives" is sludgy. And it's the second-best thing here. Not enough of Pye Hastings' funny songwriting to save this. Their only appearance on the U.S. charts. BETTER BY FAR and THE ALBUM are even worse, but I couldn't get all the way through them....
* Gentle Giant -- GIANT FOR A DAY (1978). Once I thought this was the worst "prog" album ever. Boy was I wrong. First side has some nice, gentle love songs. But it's miles less adventurous than their best work.
* Rare Bird -- EPIC FOREST (1972). "Birdman" and the title song are prog classics. The rest is absolutely flat, with no inspiration or life. Available now for 99 cents at a Goodwill near you....
* Renaissance -- PROLOGUE (1972). "Rajah Khan" is a swirling psychedelic classic, so brave and noisy that it almost makes up for the rest -- which is VERY polite middle-of-the-road pop.
* U.K. -- DANGER MONEY (1979). "Rendezvous 6:02" is a pretty mood piece. "Nothing to Lose" sounds like a warm-up for Asia, where bassist/singer John Wetton would go next. The rest is heavy-handed prog doominess. No fun.
* Renaissance -- ASHES ARE BURNING (1973). "At the Harbour" is a stark death-at-sea piece, unlike anything else they ever did. "Can You Understand?" and "Ashes are Burning" both sound WAY better on their LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL. The rest are polite-pop leftovers.
* Yes -- TORMATO (1978). Yes on speed. "Release, Release" is almost good. "Madrigal," "Onward" and "On the Silent Wings of Freedom" are almost not-bad. But they're so BUSY! Too many notes, Mozart....
* Wigwam -- LUCKY GOLDEN STRIPES (1976). Following up the classic NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB with edited studio jams and half-baked songwriting. "Tramdriver," "Wardance," "International Disaster" and "Never Give You Up" aren't terrible. The rest is pretty lame.
* Hatfield and the North -- (1st) (1973). Richard Sinclair's vocals are always good to hear, and his occasional lyrics are whimsical and fun. But the fragmentary songwriting doesn't build, nothing leads anywhere, nothing's delivered with any force. Lightly pleasant, but airy, meandering.
* Genesis -- DUKE (1980). "Turn it On Again" is as "good" as this gets. The rest is muddy, sludgy, endless. And also their U.S. pop-chart breakthrough....
* Strawbs -- GRAVE NEW WORLD (1972). "New World" is shockingly bitter. "Oh Me, Oh My" is a brief, funny piece about pop culture and fashion. The rest is overdone, humorless, overbearing. Come back, Rick Wakeman....
* Barclay James Harvest -- THE HARVEST YEARS 2-CD best-of. "Taking Some Time On" is an excellent basic rocker, "Ursula (The Swansea Song)" is a sweet, catchy love song. "Poor Wages" and "Brother Thrush" are charming, innocent early stuff. "Mocking Bird" is a pretty song swamped by an orchestra. The rest is aimless and overwrought. And there's a LOT of it. And if you want to know how bad the Alan Parsons Project COULD have been, check out the hideous, endless "Dark Now My Sky" and "She Said." What were they thinking? The worst best-of ever.
* Pink Floyd --  A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS (1968). Lotta noise here. But except for departed leader Syd Barrett's chilling closer "Jugband Blues," nothing will hold your attention. Or stick in your memory.
* King Crimson -- ISLANDS (1972). "Sailor's Tale" has an interesting, banjo-like guitar sound. But the rest is too mellow, too quiet, too stuck-up arty. "Ladies of the Road" breaks out -- but it's pretty embarrassing. Album closes with an orchestra tuning-up. Their worst.
* U.K. -- NIGHT AFTER NIGHT/LIVE (1980). Former prog supergroup profit-takes by dumbing-down formerly good songs in front of an oblivious audience. Sad.
* Beach Boys -- FRIENDS (1968). Only the wordless "Passing By" makes it. The rest has a TM/India undercurrent ("Anna Lee the Healer," "Meant for You"). Couple Dennis Wilson fragments are passable. Brian Wilson's solo spot is disgraceful. "Diamond Head" and "Transcendental Meditation" are worse. Lazy.
* Barclay James Harvest -- XII (1978). Absolutely flat pop songs, no inspiration or magic anywhere. Beautiful album cover.
* Barclay James Harvest -- OCTOBERON (1976). ROLLING STONE once called them "morose progressive rock," and they were right. Want to see how much you can take? Try "Suicide." And don't blame me afterward....
* Gong -- EXPRESSO II (1978). Steve Winwood and Allen Holdsworth try to liven up this jazz-rock background music with no foreground. Titles include "Sleepy" and "Boring."
* Gong -- GAZEUSE!/EXPRESSO (1977). As I was saying.... Zzzzz.
* Pat Metheny -- ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SILENCE. The melodic-jazz-guitar master cranks it up to 11. No melodies, no tunes, just wailing feedback. Around the fourth track he adds acoustic guitar for contrast. Why'd he bother?
* Cromagnon -- CAVE ROCK (1969). Music for the Zombie Apocalypse. Alien folk ditties, some guy SCREAMING in a bonfire or rockslide for five minutes, a tribe of cave men chanting around a fire, dinosaurs stomping across the land as volcanoes erupt in the background. Not music -- an "Environments" record. "Thanks" to Crabby for inflicting this on me.
* Borbetomagus -- (1st) (1980). New York punk-jazz. Screaming noise, though the two saxophonists can REALLY blow. They HAVE to, to be heard over the rest. Cars rev up and drive through the studio, guitars get sawed in half, chipmunks get chopped up in blenders -- no melody or structure to any of it. Good luck.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

TAD's Top 100+ Strange Music albums

OK, here's 105 or so above-average "Strange Music" albums I've been able to get all the way through over the years, in more-or-less descending order of quality. And ranking them wasn't easy. With commentary....
* Beach Boys -- SMILE (1967). Way ahead of its time. "Surf's Up," "Cabinessence," "Heroes and Villains."
* Gryphon -- RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE (1974). Best all-instrumental prog album ever. "Lament."
* Gryphon -- TREASON (1977). A kinder, gentler Jethro Tull album. "Spring Song" should have been an art-rock landmark.
* Caravan -- FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT (1973). Gorgeous swinging big sound, silly lyrics. "Memory Lain," "The Dog," "Be All Right," "Surprise," "Hunting...."
* Yes -- YESSONGS (1973). So great you can throw one record away and not miss much. "Close to the Edge."
* Nick Drake -- BRYTER LAYTER (1970). Gorgeous, heartbreaking urban folk. "Hazey Jane II," "At the Chime of a City Clock," "Northern Sky," "Fly."
* Moody Blues -- THE PRESENT (1982). They should have retired after this. Mellow, nostalgic, their best. "Blue World," "Sorry."
* Group 87 -- (1st) (1980). Second-best all-instrumental prog album ever. "One Night Away From Day."
* Providence -- EVER SENSE THE DAWN (1972). A kinder, gentler Moody Blues album. "Fantasy Fugue," "If We Were Wise," "Neptune's Door."
* Renaissance -- LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL (1976). Beats their studio albums to death. "Can You Understand?", "Running Hard," first three minutes of "Ashes are Burning."
* Beatles -- ABBEY ROAD (1969). Complex enough? Side 2 suite.
* The Who -- WHO'S NEXT (1971). If only for Pete's synthesizer work....
* Beach Boys -- PET SOUNDS (1966). Bad for parties, you can't dance to it.... "God Only Knows," "Here Today," "Let's Go Away for Awhile," "Trombone Dixie."
* King Crimson -- YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE best-of (1976). This will Change Your Life. And the booklet of press clippings and diary entries is amazing.
* King Crimson -- THE GREAT DECEIVER/LIVE 1973-74 (1992). Better than any of their studio albums from the time. "Doctor Diamond," "Larks I and II," "Talking Drum," "Fracture."
* Gentle Giant -- PRETENTIOUS best-of (1978). Really their best, missing only "Think of Me With Kindness." "Raconteur Troubadour," "Pentegruel's Nativity," "The Advent of Panurge."
* Caravan -- CANTERBURY TALES best-of (1976). The 2-disc Decca album is actually stronger than the 2-CD best-of with the same title, which is also recommended.... "For Richard," "The Dog," "Memory Lain," "The Love in Your Eye," "Nine Feet Underground"....
* Illusion -- OUT OF THE MIST (1977). Best studio album Renaissance never did.
* Fairport Convention, etc. -- FAIRPORT CHRONICLES best-of (1972). Brilliant electric folk. "Come All Ye," "Listen Listen," "I'll Keep it With Mine," "Tale in Hard Time," "Meet on the Ledge," "The Way I Feel."
* Genesis -- A TRICK OF THE TAIL (1976). Gorgeous pastoral mood-music. "Ripples," "Madman Moon."
* U.K. -- (1st) (1978). Crashing drama. "Time to Kill," "Mental Medication," "In the Dead of Night."
* Moody Blues -- A QUESTION OF BALANCE (1970). "It's Up to You," "Question."
* Moody Blues -- TO OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN'S CHILDREN (1969). Distant, icy, haunting. "Gypsy," "Out and In," "Watching and Waiting," "Eyes of a Child Part 2."
* Fleetwood Mac -- TUSK (1979). Hazy, atmospheric, haunting. "I Know I'm Not Wrong," "Sisters of the Moon."
* Kansas -- LEFTOVERTURE (1976). Great balancing act. That they couldn't keep up. "Miracles Out of Nowhere," "Questions of My Childhood," "Cheyenne Anthem," "The Wall," "What's On My Mind."
* Queen -- A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1976). Arty enough for ya? "'39," "The Prophet's Song," "Death on Two Legs."
* Happy the Man -- CRAFTY HANDS (1978). Gorgeous waterfalls of melody. "Wind-Up Doll Day Wind," "Service With a Smile," "Open Book."
* Camel -- NUDE (1981). Pretty gorgeous. "City Life," "Drafted," "Captured."
* Clannad -- MACALLA (1986) -- Dark, with enough drama to vary the mood. "The Wild Cry," "Indoor," "Blackstairs," "Journey's End."
* Moody Blues -- DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED (1967). Can't beat the songs on Side 2. "Peak Hour," "Time to Get Away."
* Moody Blues -- LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER (1980). "Meanwhile," "Nervous," "Veteran Cosmic Rocker," "In My World."
* Justin Hayward and John Lodge -- BLUE JAYS (1975). "When You Wake Up."
* Caravan -- BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S (1976) -- High-quality end to a career. "All the Way," "Can You Hear Me?"
* Sky -- SKY2 (1980). You really CAN throw one side away and miss nothing. "Vivaldi," "Fifo," "Watching the Aeroplanes," "Scipio."
* Camel -- THE SNOW GOOSE (1975). Beautiful mellow instrumentals. "Flight of the Snow Goose," "Rhayader," "Rhayader Goes to Town," "Preparation/Dunkirk."
* Dire Straits -- MAKIN' MOVIES (1980). Cinematic. "Romeo and Juliet," "Hand in Hand," "Expresso Love."
* Al Stewart -- MODERN TIMES (1975). Smooth and consistent. Side 2's perfect.
* Wigwam -- NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB (1974). "Bless Your Lucky Stars."
* Camel -- ECHOES best-of (1993). LOTSA great stuff here, tho the commercial stuff is a waste....
* Grace Slick -- DREAMS (1980). You want drama? Check this out. "Full Moon Man," almost everything else....
* Suzanne Vega -- (1st) (1985). Folk music? Crystal-clear production, so sharp it hurts. "Cracking," "Freeze Tag," "Small Blue Thing."
* Strawbs -- STORY IN MUSIC best-of (1981, Italian import). Some of their best stuff is here, including their best moment ever, the angry live "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?"
* Steve Tibbetts -- YR (1980). Rockin' instrumentals from a Minnesota guitarist. Best: The opening guitar-meltdown "Ur."
* Glass Moon -- (1st) (1980). Genesis should have sounded like this when they went commercial. "Solsbury Hill," "Sundays and Mondays."
* Yes -- GOING FOR THE ONE (1977). "Wonderous Stories," "Turn of the Century."
* Hollies -- ROMANY (1972). Atmospheric, moody, spacey. Not a bunch of commercial sing-songy wanna-be hits.
* ELO -- TIME (1981). Cheezy sci-fi future, full of filler. And you'll love it. "Twilight," "The Way Life's Meant to Be," "Yours Truly, 2095."
* Gentle Giant -- FREE HAND (1975). Starts and ends weakly, but the middle's great. "His Last Voyage," "On Reflection," "Time to Kill."
* Rush -- CHRONICLES best-of (1990). So good you can almost throw the first disc away. "Time Stand Still," "Force Ten," "Manhattan Project."
* Caravan -- WATERLOO LILY (1972). Jazzy. "The World is Yours," "Aristocracy," "The Love in Your Eye."
* Pink Floyd -- DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (1973). I don't play it much, but it's genius....
* Sally Oldfield -- WATER BEARER (1978). Gorgeous LORD OF THE RINGS-style music, with a Middle-Eastern undercurrent. Title song, "Songs of the Quendi," "Land of the Sun," "Fire and Honey," "Night of the Hunter's Moon."
* Space Art -- A TRIP TO THE HEAD CENTER (1976). Best synthesizer album ever. "Speedway," "Odyssey," "Watch It."
* Alan Parsons Project -- THE INSTRUMENTAL WORKS (1988). Predictable but gorgeous. "The Gold Bug," "Where's the Walrus?"
* Camel -- BREATHLESS (1978). Side 1's great, Side 2's spotty. Title song, "Echoes," "Down on the Farm," "Summer Lightning."
* Moody Blues -- EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR (1971). "Our Guessing Game," "You Can Never Go Home," "Story in Your Eyes."
* Al Stewart -- YEAR OF THE CAT (1976). Cool and distant. "Flying Sorcery," "Lord Grenville," "One Stage Before."
* Dire Straits -- LOVE OVER GOLD (1982). More dramatic soundtracks. "Telegraph Road," title song.
* Jethro Tull -- SONGS FROM THE WOOD (1977). They shoulda been a folk band. "The Whistler," "Ring Out Solstice Bells," "Fire at Midnight."
* Genesis -- AND THEN THERE WERE THREE (1978). Moody-Blues-ish. "Undertow," "Deep in the Motherlode," "Down and Out," "Burning Rope."
* Hawkwind -- HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL (1974). Heavy space-rock. "You'd Better Believe It," "Lost Johnny."
* Jefferson Starship -- FREEDOM AT POINT ZERO (1979). Great science-fiction chorales. "Fading Lady Light," "Things to Come," "Awakening," title song.
* King Crimson -- RED (1974). "Starless" is probably their greatest piece ever. Title song's no slouch, either.
* Kate Bush -- NEVER FOR EVER (1980). Peter Gabriel reincarnated as a woman. "Delius (Song of Summer)," "The Wedding List."
* Kate Bush -- THE KICK INSIDE (1978). Brave and sweet. "The Man With the Child in His Eyes," "Saxophone Song," "Strange Phenomena," "Kite."
* The Jam -- SETTING SONS (1979). New-wave concept album about the end of the world -- or today. "Private Hell," "Little Boy Soldiers," "Thick as Thieves"....
* Pete Townshend -- PSYCHODERELICT (1992). Whadda ya know? A rock opera! "Now and Then."
* Pink Floyd -- WISH YOU WERE HERE (1975). Talk about distant.... Nice textures, though.
* Pink Floyd -- THE WALL (1979). "One of My Turns," "The Trial," "In the Flesh?"
* Pink Floyd -- PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN (1967). Psychedelic. "Flaming," "Chapter 24," "Bike," "Astronome Domine."
* King Crimson -- DISCIPLINE (1980). Great hypnotic meshing guitars. "Frame By Frame," "Elephant Talk," "Indiscipline."
* Amazing Blondel -- FANTASIA LINDUM (1972). Taking you back to 1600. That's a concept. Whole first side, "Three Seasons Almaine," "Toye," "Safety in God Alone."
* King Crimson -- STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK (1974). "Great Deceiver," "Fracture."
* Moody Blues -- ON THE THRESHOLD OF A DREAM (1969). "Lovely to See You," "Never Comes the Day," "In the Beginning."
* Love -- FOREVER CHANGES (1967). Spotty, but some wondrous stuff here, with gorgeous horn and string backing. "You Set the Scene," "Maybe the People Would be the Times," "Alone Again Or."
* Pink Floyd -- ECHOES best-of (2001). Not everything you need to hear, but close. "High Hopes," "One of These Days," "Jugband Blues," "When the Tigers Broke Free," "Keep Talking." But where's "On the Turning Away"?
* David Sancious and Tone -- TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE) (1976). The side-long title track will Alter Your Mind. There's also a gorgeous piano piece, and a wild Hendrix impersonation....
* Dixie Dregs -- DREGS OF THE EARTH (1980). Nice show-offy instrumentals. "Hereafter," "The Great Spectacular," "I'm Freaking Out."
* Rush -- MOVING PICTURES (1981). "The Camera Eye," "Red Barchetta."
* Alan Parsons Project -- I ROBOT (1977). "Some Other Time."
* King Crimson -- LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC (1973). Mixed too trebly, but there's some good stuff here. "Easy Money" is raunchy and funny, "Talking Drum" is pretty amazing, "Exiles" is moody. The rest sounds better on the GREAT DECEIVER box.
* Beatles -- SGT. PEPPER (1967). I don't play it much. But still....
* Camel -- DUST AND DREAMS (1991). The actual songs are strong. The rest is dramatic soundtrack music for Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH.
* Yes -- DRAMA (1980). "Tempus Fugit," "White Car," "I Am a Camera."
* Mark Knopfler, etc. -- LOCAL HERO soundtrack (1983). "Going Home."
* Camel -- RAIN DANCES (1977). "Unevensong," "First Light," title song.
* Jethro Tull -- STORMWATCH (1979). "Dark Ages," "Dun Ringill."
* Caravan -- CARAVAN AND THE NEW SYMPHONIA (1974). "For Richard," "Virgin on the Ridiculous."
* Kevin Ayers -- ODD DITTIES (1976). Great silly fun.
* Synergy -- SEQUENCER (1976). "S-Scape," "Icarus," "Classical Gas." Melodic synth music.
* Gryphon -- RAINDANCE (1975). "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben," "Wallbanger."
* Camel -- I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE (1979). The commercial stuff's annoying, but there's also gorgeous stuff like "Eye of the Storm" and "Who We Are."
* Rick Wakeman -- WHITE ROCK (1976). Olympics soundtrack had more energy than anything he'd done in awhile....
* Pete Townshend -- ALL THE BEST COWBOYS HAVE CHINESE EYES (1982). Damn, he's wordy. But the second side's pretty great. "Slit Skirts."
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- CHANCE (1980). A mechanical sound like nothing else. And then there's "Stranded"....
* Fleet Foxes -- (1st) (2008). Acoustic-folk meets the Beach Boys' SMILE. "Blue Ridge Mountains."
* Florence + the Machine, CEREMONIALS (2011) -- Pounding, booming empowerment songs. Throw the photo booklet away. "Shake it Out."
* Can -- ANTHOLOGY (1993). Some truly twisted stuff here. "Father Cannot Yell," "Uphill," "Mother Upduff."
* Supertramp -- CRIME OF THE CENTURY (1975). "Dreamer," "School," title song. Kinda mainstream, but it least it ain't BREAKFAST IN AMERICA....
* The Move -- MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY (1972). The heavily-produced stuff is AMAZING. The fake-rockabilly throwbacks are just odd. Title song, "Do Ya?," "Tonite."
* Al Stewart -- 24 CARROTS (1980). Smooth, consistent, underrated. "Rocks in the Ocean," "Running Man," "Mondo Sinistro."
* King Crimson -- IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING (1969). Half sounds like Heavy Moody Blues. But "21st Century Schizoid Man" sounds like nothing else. Ever.
* Camel -- THE SINGLE FACTOR (1982) -- Half a great album. Second side is pretty amazing. First side plunges off a cliff.
* Spirit -- 12 DREAMS OF DOCTOR SARDONCIUS (1970). Opens and closes strong. Middle gets weird. "Nature's Way," "Nothing to Hide."
* King Crimson -- FRAME BY FRAME 4-CD best-of (1991). The edits hurt, but there's some great stuff here. And the booklet that goes with it...."Sleepless," "Barber Shop," "Sailor's Tale," much more.
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- ANGEL STATION (1979). First side's solid. Then it starts to wind down.... "Belle of the Earth," "Don't Kill it Carol," "Hollywood Town."
* Kinks -- VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY (1968). Modest, quiet album about small-town English life. Title song, "Days."
* Mike Oldfield -- TUBULAR BELLS (1973). Have heard this way too much.
* Alan Parsons Project -- TURN OF A FRIENDLY CARD (1980). Smooth, predictable, almost dull. But then there's "The Gold Bug"....
* Weather Report -- 8:30/LIVE (1980). Yeah, it's jazz-rock. But a lot of it REALLY MOVES. "Bahia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" is supreme noise.
* Van der Graaf Generator -- PAWN HEARTS (1971). Spooky.
* Sky -- SKY3 (1981). Kinda dull, but. "Meheeco," "Connecting Rooms."
* Journey -- DREAM AFTER DREAM (1980). Spacey, atmospheric soundtrack. A little short. Steve Perry doesn't sing much.
* Gong -- YOU (1974). "Master Builder," "A Sprinkling of Clouds."
This list will likely be revised, rearranged and expanded in the future. I'm sure I must have missed something....
COMING SOON: A much shorter list of the worst Strange Music albums....

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Top 100...?

Awhile back, I looked at progarchives.com's list of the Top 100 progressive rock albums as chosen by their readers, and some things about their list jump right out at me.
One thing is how many of those top 100 albums just aren't prog.
While their list includes many of the Usual Suspects you'd expect (sometimes in some odd places), a good portion of the list is taken up by stuff that ... probably shouldn't be there. Of course, I think any definition of "prog" is better too-open than not-open-enough. But still....
I haven't heard everything on the list -- but I've heard more than a third of the albums mentioned, and I know most of the rest either by bits-and-pieces listening or by reputation. And....
Almost a dozen albums on the list are clearly jazz-rock fusion -- prog-related, similar approach, spacey enough, but not prog. One album is just jazz -- Miles Davis's KIND OF BLUE. But that's from 1959, and though it may have been progressive for jazz listeners then, it sure ain't rock.
About 10 of the selections are that "extreme prog-metal" stuff, which means I'll never hear them. There's a scattering of Italian artists like PFM, Banco and Le Orme. I'll probably never hear those either.
Two albums are by Santana. Three are by Frank Zappa -- one of those isn't even jazzy.
It's an interesting list. Progarchives' readers have clearly listened a lot. To be counted in the list, albums had to receive enough ratings by readers to be "statistically meaningful" -- in this case, at least 250 ratings. Some albums have over 3,000 votes.
Even the top of the list has some oddities: Four Genesis albums in the Top 40 -- three in the top 12. Four Yes albums in the top 41 -- three in the top 11. Van der Graaf Generator makes the Top 10, and has four albums in the top 52.
Pink Floyd has three titles in the Top 10, four in the top 32. THE WALL doesn't make the Top 100. One of many instances, I think, where fans either "love it or hate it."
King Crimson has two albums in the Top 10, and another in the Top 20. Rush has three albums in the Top 30, and another at Number 43.
Camel has two albums in the Top 20, and THE SNOW GOOSE only made it to Number 47. Gentle Giant has four albums in the top 56 -- none higher than IN A GLASS HOUSE at Number 23.
There are lots of surprises here -- one is THE WALL not making the list, after high ratings for other Floyd albums in the same period. The Floyd's PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN isn't here -- in fact, there's no psychedelia at all. SGT. PEPPER isn't here, either. Maybe that explains why there's also no Moody Blues albums.
The only ELP album mentioned is their first -- which sneaks in at Number 67. I thought BRAIN SALAD SURGERY was a big fave -- but again, likely a victim of "love it or hate it."
Though Caravan is listed twice, there's a shortage of Canterbury-style stuff. No Soft Machine. Robert Wyatt's ROCK BOTTOM snuck in at 54. Hatfield and the North's first makes the 100 -- but the slightly-less-weird ROTTER'S CLUB isn't mentioned.
No Can. No TUBULAR BELLS -- though Mike Oldfield's OMMADAWN is here, bit of a surprise. No Alan Parsons? No middle-period Al Stewart? Hey, he was progressive enough....
Maybe the biggest surprise to me is that Khan's SPACE SHANTY -- with Steve Hillage on guitar and Dave Stewart on keybs -- is here at Number 68. Might have to track that one down. There's one Gong album listed -- YOU -- but no other Hillage works. And though the Hatfields' first is listed, there's no other albums with Stewart -- nothing by National Health or Egg or Bruford. This may guide me in future buying decisions.
Again, it's an interesting list. It's an interesting website, with some well-thought-out reviews of prog albums. It's true that their Top 100 doesn't reflect my experience with prog, but as they say in the commercials, "Your mileage may vary."
I just think there's more to prog than this.
Their list has also forced me to come up with my own list of the Top 100 prog albums I've managed to get all the way through over the years. That list will be coming soon....

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Betcha didn't see this coming....

OK, you know the routine. Let's get on with it.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- Ten Degrees and Getting Colder, from SUMMER SIDE OF LIFE (1971). This is just about perfect. & I can't understand why it wasn't a hit. Was it too simple? Just some really nice pickin' by Gordy and friends with a sweet love-story lyric, and it ends in just the right place. & it's all over with in less than 3 minutes. Gordy shoulda had a dozen more hits in the '70s.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- Cotton Jenny, from SUMMER SIDE OF LIFE. OK, this is maybe a little TOO simple, too country. Though it's mildly charming. So why was it on his best-of? We won't be playing "Summer Side of Life," because it's freaking brilliant and I've been singing along with it for years....
* Gordon Lightfoot -- Talking in Your Sleep, from SUMMER SIDE. Where have I heard this before? Nice, mysterious broken-love lyric, very subtle use of vocal backing. Thought those were strings at first. haunting. Then the backing vocals get a little too forceful....
(Sorry for the delays, I'm fighting with my computer....)
* Gordy Lightfoot -- Cabaret, from SUMMER SIDE. This is another one of those multi-part suites Gordy sometimes does, pleasant enough if not a knockout. Subtle production by Joe Wissert (Turtles, Association, etc). And Gordy's "Love and Maple Syrup" wasn't the silly love song I've been seeking for years, which I think is actually called "Knotty Pine." The search will continue. Onward.
* C.W. McCall -- Wolf Creek Pass, from the same album (1975). Ol' C.W. had a Number One CB-radio hit with "Convoy" around '76. That wore out kinda fast, but I've always liked his earlier, smaller hits. They're pretty cheezy, that's why they're funny and charming. I could really do without the shrill women background singers from Tulsa, but the rest is cool and trucking-atmospheric. Did you know the guys playing behind C.W. are the guys who became Mannheim Steamroller? Really -- Don Sears, Chip Davis, those guys. Check out the credits.
* C.W. McCall -- Old Home Filler-Up and Keep On Truckin' Café, from WOLF CREEK PASS. This started out as a TV commercial, which I have no trouble believin'. Maybe a little TOO cheezy, tho cute now and then. Maybe Number 92 on the national charts.
* Gerry Rafferty -- The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin'), from SNAKES AND LADDERS (1980). This was maybe too homogenized, too mainstream to ever be a hit -- there's no killer sax solo. But there is a really nice pennywhistle hook contributed by my hero Richard Harvey from Gryphon. And the choruses are nice. OK, maybe Number 80 on the charts....
* Bread -- Why Do You Keep Me Waiting?, from ON THE WATERS (1970). Bread was the best soft-rock band of the early '70s. There will be no arguments about this. They rocked just enough -- but David Gates got all the A-sides and the hits, and the rockier stuff by James Griffin and Robb Royer was left for B-sides, like this one. Nice, light vocals and subtle guitar.
* Bread -- The Other Side of Life, from WATERS. This sounds kinda like a brief draft for "It Don't Matter to Me." WATERS also includes "Make it With You," the gorgeous "Look What You've Done," and the best thing these guys ever did, "Been Too Long on the Road" -- which casual fans like me never heard until their second best-of....
* Bread -- This Isn't What the Governmeant, from BABY I'M-A WANT YOU (1972). David Gates does a "Taxman," whining about how much Uncle Sam takes. Still relevant today, if that matters. Sort of a gentle hoedown with lotsa finger-pickin'. Bread, huh? At least it's over fast.
* Gordy Lightfoot -- Sit Down Young Stranger, from IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND (1970). Talk about still relevant today.... Supposedly a welcome to American draft-dodgers of the time from Canada's unofficial poet laureate. But there's more going on here....
* Gordy -- Minstrel of the Dawn, from READ MY MIND. Tune starts out like "Pop Goes the Weasel"! Pleasant, forgettable.
* Gordy -- The Patriot's Dream, from DON QUIXOTE (1972). Another long suite piece. heard this once years ago and it's kinda bitter if I remember correctly. Lotsa pickin and grinnin up front. Yes, this gets bitter rather quickly. Wonder if Donald Trump's ever heard it...? The pickin' and grinnin' and the string-y production is an ugly contrast to most of the tough lyrics. ...We won't be playing "Don Quixote" and "Beautiful" because I added them to my playlist years ago....
* Tim Moore -- Second Avenue, from TIM MOORE (1974). Sweet, gloppy love ballad that I was a sucker for in the summer of 1974. It doesn't seem quite so impressive now. Orchestration could be bigger, grander, and should have been. Art Garfunkel later had a slightly bigger hit with this. Moore almost sounds like him. OK, not a lost classic.
* Three Dog Night -- Heavy Church, from NATURALLY (1971). My old buddy Jeff Mann was a sucker for this song, written by Alan O'Day (do you remember "Undercover Angel"? Why would you WANT to?). Killer choruses and some brief spacey guitar and organ. Not a total success, but those choruses are great. Woulda made a wild follow-up to "Joy to the World."
* Carly Simon -- We're So Close, from SPY (1979). Subtle. Maybe TOO subtle. And it takes 5 minutes. Lots of drama. And she does sound lonely....
* Slade -- Mama Weer All Crazee Now, from the SLADEST best-of (1973). Ok, enuf of this mellow stuf. This is freekin awesome, screaming and trebly, loud and silly. The louder you crank it, the better it gets. They shoulda had a dozen hits in Amurrica.
* Slade -- Gudbuy T'Jane, from SLADEST. More! Simple, chanty, upbeat foot-stomper. I could bcome a fan....
* Slade -- Coz I Luv You, from SLADEST. Uh-oh. Starting to sound like Queen. Not that that's a BAD thing.... Where'd that screechy violin come from?
* Slade -- My Town, from SLADEST. My beach, my waves, my chicks, get lost!
* The Captain and Tennille -- Ladybug, from COME IN FROM THE RAIN (1977). OK, I know you're gonna think I'm full of shit, but this is by FAR the best thing these folks ever did. It's glorious, and wherever you are it'll make the sun come out for you, I promise. Try it. And no, I haven't had too much coffee....
* Squeeze -- Hourglass, from BABYLON AND ON (1987). Oh, did you want more of The Captain? I don't think Squeeze nailed their songs very often, but this one really works. It's hypnotic and addictive, and the sax makes a BIG difference.
* Neil Diamond -- Love to Love, from DOUBLE GOLD (1973) and THE BANG YEARS. Gotta play this before The Girlfriend gets home, because she thinks Neil is The Antichrist. This is the typical Moody Neil from the mid-'60s, with added horns. Not bad. Tho not a hit....
* Kenny Rankin -- Silver Morning, from SILVER MORNING (1974). Well, I don't know, I thought that one time I heard this back in '75 that it wasn't too bad. Maybe I was wrong.... Slushy.
* Cream -- Deserted Cities of the Heart, from the HEAVY CREAM best-of. Not sure about Jack Bruce's pompous singing, but there's a great Eric Clapton guitar solo in the middle, and I'm a sucker for the title.
* Cream -- Those Were the Days, from HEAVY CREAM. Peter Brown's lyrics were often a real mouthful, as here. But the singing's better. The rather odd group vocals on the choruses remind me of Gentle Giant....
* Cream -- Doing That Scrapyard Thing, from HEAVY CREAM. OK, we're done here....

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Another ticket

My memoir about growing up with my step-brother -- a story I've been trying to finish writing since age 17 -- will be done soon. I finally learned the final part of the puzzle over my weekend, and it's a shocker.
I've posted a couple parts of the memoir here recently -- stories about stealing gas out of people's cars and gas cans out of garages, stealing money from people's houses, and treating women badly. The first girl I ever loved is wrapped up in this story -- I wrote about her here a few years back, in a post titled "First Girl I Loved."
Anyway, once I figure out how to handle this new information -- I'm still reeling -- I'll be adding it and my feelings about it to the rest of the memoir, re-reading the whole thing, trying to maybe tone-down some of the teenage angst in the story, and sending it off to Amazon/Kindle, where it will (hopefully) become my sixth e-book.
This will probably take a couple weeks or so. I'll keep you posted.
The book will be called BROTHERS.
Right now, I'm just boggled by the way people's lives turn out -- mine, his, everybody's. The choices we make, when we don't even know we're making choices that might change our lives.
More on this soon....