Four Beat Bars
an online book provide FREE
by Ryan McMaster, & Alex Beltran II
Written by: Ryan McMaster
Copyright © NightShadeGallery.com October 2nd, 2014
It's a strange world we live in, meaning the 21st century. Being a popular music fan means something different now than it did 50 years ago, when The Fab Four released their first album. One could argue that things have changed for better and for worse, or that things aren't any better or worse, just different. But things have changed.
I grew up a small child in the 1980s and I was a product of the MTV generation. This is back when MTV was a new concept and when they actually played music videos. Of course, this would prove to be a highly promotional new tool for groups at the time, until the internet came more a priority in the information age. I distinctly remember having a childhood nightmare about the Talking Heads music video for Burnin' Down the House. I called the Grateful Dead Hateful Bob when I found out I liked Touch of Grey. My parents were generous enough to allow me to buy 7 inches of my favorite 80s singles, a number of which I still have to this day. I would play them on my 1983 Fisher Price turntable complete with birdie needle. Children's storybook records were also in vogue of course, with the comforting refrain of "When you hear the chimes, turn the page."
I'm not sure exactly when it first happened of course, but sometime during my childhood, I graduated to the LPs. I put on my parents battered old copy of Led Zeppelin IV. From the opening blast of Black Dog, I was hooked on rock and roll. Other favorites I soon raided from their collection included After the Gold Rush by Neil Young and Tommy by The Who, who I imagined to be my childhood friend in my innocence.
Of course, great changes were on the horizon in how music fans would absorb their favorite pastime. By the 90s, compact discs were on their way to being the primary format and like everyone else, I decided to let it be mine. I experienced the alternative revolution through the glow of MTV on the screen. I asked my mom to buy me Nirvana's Incesticide, but the clerk at Tower Records insisted that my mom have me cut my teeth on Nevermind first. Of course, in April 94, I was watching Milo and Otis when my mom informed me of Cobain's untimely passing. Alternative music being a mainstream fixation was pretty much doomed from there and by about 1997, the tide of popular music was changing yet again.
I spent high school railing against groups like Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit. These fads were pathetic and I saw right through them. In 2000, young men my age rejoiced as Eminem took the crown as the white hip hop artist that spoke to them. But to me, he fell on deaf ears. It wasn't rock and roll and I eagerly awaited the new messiah. The closest I got to that of course, was The Strokes. Around this time, I started more firmly forming my own personal musical tastes. There was a treasure trove of older rock music to discover and I was on the hunt. Kurt Cobain had eagerly praised such groups as Meat Puppets and Butthole Surfers, so I dug into their discography. The Strokes were fans of The Velvet Underground and I became fixated with them as well, along with other protopunk acts such as The Stooges.
A love affair with punk rock soon followed the indie rock one, as I delved into the Sex Pistols and Black Flag. Of course, there was time for classic rock greats as well: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, etc. Of course, all this became just the tip of the iceberg for me. I dabbled in the hard rock of AC/DC and the heavy metal of Black Sabbath. I reveled in experimental music like Can and Silver Apples. I took a loving to the work of Miles Davis. Appreciated the true genius of Frank Zappa and Brian Wilson. Kept up on indie greats like Shellac and Sonic Youth. The list of course, goes on and on.
Ten years ago, I could go to Tower Records and find most of what I was looking for. Otherwise, I made the trek to independent record stores, such as Amoeba Music and all the smaller ones. I now had a turntable of my own and was eager to build an LP collection as well. Of course, as I looked backward, the future loomed. Steve Jobs unleashed the iPod and the digital musical revolution took hold, following the illegal downloading of services such as Napster of course. iTunes became the legit means of file sharing that was ok because you paid for it. iPods became a way to conveniently cart your entire music collection around in the palm of your hand. I eventually succumbed to the iPod, but I never forgot about my compact discs and records. I purchased a usb turntable to record my records to iTunes. If anything, an iPod became more about the convenience of on the go to me.
Meanwhile, record stores closed their doors. Tower, Virgin and indie stores went under. People continued to focus on the latest and the greatest in their mind, of which I thought there was very little. The album format had been destroyed by the point, replaced by the click, download mentality of my generation. Individual songs praised over works as a whole. The instant gratification of picking and choosing your downloads, obliterating the record store experience and taking away the social aspect of purchasing music, except in writing capsule reviews.
If you still care about music as being more than something that you throw on as background noise, this book is your book. We are the historians who want to seriously explain why we think a work of music is great and how it shaped us. Sure we are snobs, but we have discerning taste. Maybe we agree with the critics or don't. But don't crack this book expecting a review of Mumford and Sons, because you won't find it. Hell, who even reads books anymore anyway? If I had sense, I would make this a digital download online. Oh well. Listen, learn, look, read on.
Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
I remember picking this up at Tower Records in Tustin when I was 17. Of course, I already had the advantage of being able to sample music online, though in those days, it was more regulated to 30 second snippets on sites like CDNOW. But this record had struck my fancy; you could say I was already enamored with the myth of Ian Curtis before I even bought the record. Nonetheless, the clerk at the counter started drooling immediately. He promised me that I had just purchased a great, classic album. So I went home and started spinning it regularly.
Of course, a common theme of reviewing records from the past is that in order to get a full picture of their influence, you have to put yourself in the time and place in which they first appeared. In Joy Division's case, Manchester, England in the late 70s. Punk had exploded with groups like the Sex Pistols and now, a new genre was cropping up that came to be termed postpunk. This included groups who took the sparse ferocity of punk and added a sullen, experimental inward edge. Joy Division were influenced by the Sex Pistols as many were and you could make a strong argument that they were the definitive, touchstone postpunk group. This style would later merge into what became new wave, through groups such as New Order.
For a debut album, Unknown Pleasures was a stunner, simply one of the greatest of all time. Hearing the group's rough punk sketches on An Ideal For Living, it was hard to believe that they would so quickly wind up with a product like this, which apparently differed greatly from their live work. The missing link of course, was Martin Hannett, who was ruthless with the band in the studio and helped make Unknown Pleasures the work of art it would become. The common themes of depression, lonliness and despair can be evoked from this music and it naturally hints at Ian Curtis's suicide, though not so much as Closer. But outside of all this, this is great music from a band with pure, unique vision. It's not the Ian Curtis show. The group, Bernand, Peter and Stephen, are all accomplished players, as they would continue to demonstrate in New Order. Ian's vocal styling of course give the group a separate identity from New Order though. There are themes of depression and other repressed negative emotions throughout the record of course, but Unknown Pleasures is deeper than that. There's never been another record like it and even Closer is a different beast all of its own.
As a teen, Unknown Pleasures spoke dearly to me about the confusion and uncertainty I was experiencing. The record was as heavy as hell and still is. Plus, the artfulness gives it more emotional resonance than many of their contemporaries in the punk underground. This is a timeless album because Joy Division created their own space and time with it. It still stands on its own today, having become a key touchstone for alternative music. Give it a listen and marvel at just how much has been inspired by this since. If you listen and still don't understand what makes Unknown Pleasures a classic, then all I can say is that we will remain strangers for way too
Nirvana - Bleach
Nirvana as imitation Black Sabbath.
Cobain called Bleach one dimensional, but we all know how critical he was of his own work and how quick he was to praise other indie greats. One could argue that Nirvana were still on their way to true greatness of course, but this was a fine first effort. A Melvins homage complete with juvenile bathroom humor lyrics, roaring shades of fuzzed out distortion and Cobain's impeccable melodicism. Of course, he used this album to approximate how a Seattle Sub Pop band was supposed to sound at the time, meaning big, loud and dumb, but this is still the best album you will ever hear made for $606.17. The fact that it eventually went platinum on the strength of Nirvana's success was no small feat and it kept Sub Pop in business, even before they cut a deal with the majors.
Sub Pop's 20th anniversary edition was also lovingly done, more so than the disappointing 20th for Nevermind in my book. Sure the 20th of Nevermind had twice as many records and music. It was also too much of a good thing and didn't really add to the experience of the album itself. Who cares about the boom box demos of Nevermind? They are just rough sketches and no replacement for the album itself, even if they do show how the sound was built up. That never interested me though. There's the best version of a song and that's the one you want to keep listening to. Plus the packaging leaved something to be desired. No booklet guys? Just a few inner gatefold photos and that's it? The records themselves looked boring and had no personality. A wasted opportunity.
Sub Pop on the other hand, actually made an effort to make the new Bleach one you'd be proud to own. White vinyl, just like the initial run in 89, complete with Big Cheese and Downer on the studio record, which were originally not included on the LP. A live record that, while not essential, was an amusing addition without over killing the extras. Plus a great booklet with never before seen photos of the group. Sure, new Nirvana photos are popping up all the time. There's literally hundreds. But I hadn't seen any of the ones in this booklet and it's a treasure to own as a keepsake as well.
It's not just about the first side. Side two also offers treasures that shouldn't be overlooked, such as the roaring, fun loving Mr. Moustache. Sure indie snobs make the mistake of saying Bleach is all you need. The same mistake the casual fans make by saying just get Nevermind. You need everything, including Incesticide, With The Lights Out and their finest, In Utero. But Bleach is a great starting point to see a classic band on the way to greatness. If you are among the roughly two million fans who own it, as opposed to those who only own Nevermind and the great but overrated Unplugged in New York, you are far better off. Without Bleach, your indie rock collection isn't worth a fuck. This is the band's stab at indie glory and it's a fine one indeed.
Regarding The Strokes
Being a rock fan in the 21st century can sure make you feel like you were born too late sometimes. You look back at all these great masterpieces in the second half of the 20th century and wonder why the hell you couldn't experience all of that as it happened first hand. Your friends, who are sidetracked by other inferior genres (in my opinion of course) laugh at you for listening to music that may be more than just a few years old. However, the joke is on them, since they have been lead to believe by their peers and the media that Lil Wayne is great music. A true rocker refuses to compromise and sell out to what others his or her age may be listening to. I'm not saying you can't flirt with other genres, but have some discriminating taste. There should be no place for garbage like Justin Beiber or Britney Spears in your collection.
The problem is that rock has been marginalized and it is no longer the dominant force in popular music it once was. Many other genres compete with young people in popularity now. Dumbshit dance/rave (ala Mousehead boy), melodically bankrupt hip hop, boring ass reggae, manufactured pop, etc. Beware of your friends who try to tell you this is really where it's at. A true rocker will flatly say, actually my main allegiance is to rock and I'm proud of that. Don't be an asshole, but don't be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve a bit either.
Take The Strokes for instance. A modern, mainstream rock band that is popular sure, but nowhere near the level they really should be. How many of your friends get excited when their new record comes out? Or is it a bigger deal that Lil Wayne's new record came out the same day? Such is what just happened when The Strokes released Comedown Machine recently. Lil Wayne is prominently featured on iTunes, sucking up the glory with a huge banner ad and a nice, fancy download page. The Strokes get tiny a corner in the new release section with everything else sure, but the download page is nothing fancy. Because the record execs know it's not where the money is really at anymore. The young people are crying out for that stupid song of his with that annoying vocal effect instead. The Strokes in my generation are like pearls before swine with such people.
Any rocker these days will feel like they were born too late, but I'm just glad I wasn't born any later than I was. At least when I was in my formative years and hitting my 20s, there was a great new rock band on the horizon, The Strokes, which actually received some mainstream recognition. I'm not counting underground or indie darlings you worship that your friends haven't heard of. At least they have heard of The Strokes, even if they don't like them. This current decade has had no equivalent to that so far and it must suck to be that age now is all I have to say. Don't try to tell me Mumford and Sons are the new saviors of rock, for instance, unless you are deaf. The Strokes are a decent rock band that focuses on melody, tasteful indie rock influences and Velvet Underground worship. That works for me. Plus the new album doesn't suck. I can't say the same for almost any other mainstream artist right now.
Sparks - Big Beat
A strange record for sure. Sparks are of course a multi genre band that has been purveyors of their own twisted, unique vision since the 70s. They are best known for their magnum opus Kimono My House, which always sounded more like it was sung by the two kimono clad Japanese geishas on the cover than the brothers in the band. In reality, it really is male vocals of course, which may be disturbing to some and the woman on the right actually was the one who did those ranting vocals on David Bowie's It's No Game (Part 1) a few years later.
They changed it up and some say dumbed things down a bit with Big Beat in 76. To my ears, this is more of just a quirky power pop record, similar to what Cheap Trick would be doing shortly. It features the single worthy Big Boy, a dumb, fun catchy jingle, as well as other faves like Fil-Er-Up. I must say that Throw Her Away (And Get A New One) is kind of a nasty song lyrically though, even though it is catchy as hell. It panders to the male obsession with young women, saying the solution is the title of the song naturally. It's funny how they kind of dated themselves with this number though. In other words, top of the line is considered 1959, which makes sense at the time I suppose, but not so much anymore. Guess they would have been logically been lusting after The Runaways in this case. Imagine the backstage encounters if both of them had shared a bill. They sound so horny on this record, frankly, with White Woman and I Like Girls being the other obvious examples. Then again, their obsession with females was all too obvious on Kimono My House, as they feminized the vocals so much.
Otherwise, they are lyrically just plain cynical assholes, such as with the lyrics to Everybody's Stupid. Screwed Up seems to be a bitter song as well, as it traces the 20th century up until that point and comes to the conclusion that the song title sums up the problem with everything. That was then, this is now. I can only imagine what they would have said about more recent decades if this song had been released more recently.
The bonus tracks on the digital version are good for a chuckle though. The schmaltzy cover of I Wanna Hold Your Hand, for instance. God, Sparks are such a bunch of screwballs, but you have to give them credit for doing something unique and original though. These are still pretty catchy songs, even if they chose to quirk them up quite a bit. Big Beat is a fun record, even if it's not usually considered their very best. This band did a lot of amusing things worth exploring.
If you are curious as to my discovery of Sparks, I remember seeing the bizarre cover of Kimono My House at Vinyl Solution in Huntington Beach and thinking what the fuck? Later, I saw the movie Rollercoaster with my girlfriend, in which Sparks play a couple songs for the bicentennial celebratory opening of Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain. The band regrets appearing, but I have to give them credit for showing up when Kiss couldn't, if only to ensure that Big Boy would soon be engraved with its catchiness in my brain ever since then.
Forget about all this hoopla about Aerosmith being the best Rolling Stones knock off in rock. C'mon now, let's get real?
If anything, that honor belongs to the Faces, for starters because they also came from across the pond. Old Aerosmith has its moments (though I remain underwhelmed overall), but leave it to the lads overseas to bring a bit more intelligence to releasing some solid product, as usual. I mean come on now. Draw The Line Aerosmith's peak was brief in the mid 70s before they steadily became more and more disposable. Faces weren't around all that long, but at least most of what they put out was adequate during their lifespan. You can't ask for much more, really.
Plus band member Ron Wood, who later went on to join the Stones and remains with them to this day. He sang Ooh La La of course on the band's last album, probably because Rod the Mod was losing interest at this point, sidetracked by his solo career, drink and fucking Britt Ekland.
I'm joking of course. It's not all about Rod in the Faces. Ronnie Lane was of course the other great piece of the puzzle in terms of vocals. The irony is that he sang a song called Stone on the first Faces album. He sings once I was a Stone, but the irony is that it would be Ron Wood and not him that later became a Stone, if you get my drift. His songwriting contributions are sadly missed and it's no wonder he was bitter by the time of Ooh La La. Still, hate to go against the grain of popular opinion, but for what it's worth, Ooh La La is my favorite and not its predecessor. Let's not get into the box set, it may not be an original album, but it's a huge chunk of the puzzle and fucking fantastic. Just a little too gargantuan to make it fair to play favorites with. Silicone Grown still makes me laugh, mainly due to an asshole ex friend who dragged me to a titty bar where the goods were obviously fake.
Of course, it's natural to wonder what would have happened if Rod hadn't gone the solo route, even though sales of his solo albums indicated he would be more successful by pursuing that path. Maggie May is his best remembered song perhaps, but it is nearly tied with Stay With Me, which was his ultimate Faces outing. Ron Wood got to be a Stone from the Faces breaking up, as Jagger didn't want to contribute to the breakup of the band and therefore didn't offer too soon. Things worked out when Mick Taylor left in 74 and Wood joined after his Faces obligations dissipated, joining the band for Black and Blue in 76.
Pool Hall Richard is a killer single, by the way. Crank it at the pool halls after a few rounds for maximum effect. I know I have. Kids these days may not know or care about the Faces because they are fucking retarded. But a Stones fan will find much to savor. Their Aerosmith records may even collect dust. Sometimes, hidden treasure like Faces can be a breath of fresh air from the overrated shit. The Replacements were right on to like them.
The Stooges - Raw Power
Protopunk is naturally a rock genre that came after the fact of its occurance. In retrospect, it's easy to see how Raw Power was perhaps the biggest harbinger of the rise of punk rock in the late 70s. At the time, however, Raw Power was loved by few and ignored or hated by many more. As the fans know, it sank like a stone and the band dissolved about a year after its release. Of course, it's a classic, simply one of the greatest records of all time. I'll never forget the first time I heard it. The sheer unbridled intensity and purity of vision. Here is a band that simply did not give a fuck and created something both unique and amazing that was too brilliant to be of its time. Instead, it was ahead of the curve as those in the know can now attest to. History has proved the influence of this record on classics like Never Mind the Bollocks and many others after.
The record is a bruiser either way, but fans often now squabble over whether the Bowie mix or the Iggy remix is preferred. They are different but both great in their own way. The Iggy mix wins if you are looking for sheer volume and intensity, as it is the loudest compact disc on the planet. Iggy's vocals seem to be more prominent as well. The mix seems a bit more fleshed out musically, though probably in ways that not everyone would approve of. The Bowie mix is more subtle and simple, but just as effective in demonstrating how it is perhaps the essential protopunk document. It's more stripped down and razor thin, but some would argue that less is more and it still definitely gets the point across. My only complaint with the Bowie mix is the early fades on the songs. Hearing the songs as they ended naturally on the Iggy mix is kind of cool in the sense of completeness. Artificial fades on songs just doesn't seem to jive with the organic ethos of the Stooges in my opinion.
Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell and Shake Appeal are personal favorites. Damn, these never get old. Balls to the wall, stripped down, gripping rock with a true sense of dread and danger. Raw Power is an atom bomb of a record that will make the paint peel off your walls. What else needs to be said about it really? It's the genuine article; ask the greats in punk, indie and alternative. They know the importance of this record trust me and they are musicians who have made their own important contributions. Raw Power isn't an album for followers; it's an album for fucking innovators. A stone cold landmark of what's possible artistically with an uncompromising vision.
The Stooges originally disbanded in the year following this album. Their last show at the time, as heard on Metallic K.O., proves that they were not exactly the most well liked of groups at the time. Yet many other musicians soon began citing it as an influence and its legend grew. Time has not diminished the intensity of this record one bit and it still lives up to its name today. In fact, it may just be one of the most aptly titled albums of all time, as it more than delivers on its promise.
Ah yes, the often maligned third album by Chicago. I picked this up for 99 cents at a now defunct record store in Laguna Beach. For that price, it was of course worth every penny. With this album of course, Chicago proved how hard it is to pull of three classic double albums within two years. The third was seen as a letdown after the first two, which yielded more hits and were more commercially viable. They wisely switched to single studio albums briefly after this, but not before unleashing a poorly conceived quadruple live album that weighed a ton. Sometimes, less is more.
The album is notorious for its ridiculous, drugged out studio banter, beginning right off the bat with the first track. First, we hear one of our intrepid septet say, One. As if we couldn't figure out for ourselves that it is the first track on the album, but thanks anyway guys. Then we hear some horns and some stoned rambling from what appears to be Terry Kath before his count off into the first track, Sing a Mean Tune Kid. The drugs were obviously getting to the band by this point. Later, even more drugged out rambling continues with I Don't Want Your Money. Alright!, Kath says, before beginning a rambling, stoned, nonsensical rant and eventually counting off. Don't ask me who the hell Pablo Periwinkle is either. Eventually the track lumbers to its conclusion and Kath says with a stoned giggle, It was fun, I don't know about anything else! "Too fucked up" another band member asks, leaving Kath only to chuckle and then eventually sigh it off. Damn, this guy was loaded.
We then move on to side two's fabled travel suite, about what a drag it is having to tour the world when you are in a successful rock group and all. They just wanna be freeeee, after all. Shit, at least they made millions off of recording this pap. I hate to tell Chicago, but that's the best freedom they were ever going to get. Eventually things mellow out though with Happy, Cause I'm Going Home, which I'm assuming is about returning to the windy city after a long, arduous trek on the road. The song opens with yet more stoned ranting from what I'm assuming is Robert Lamm, he sounds like a drugged out guttural ape at the beginning of this track. The track that follows is soothing though I suppose, even though it's just him basically scat singing throughout the whole damn thing.
Next up we get a couple groovy numbers in Mother and Lowdown. Lowdown in my opinion, is the highlight of the record and one of Cetera's more underrated moments. This single, unlike much of Chicago III I suppose, is unjustly overlooked and underrated today. Then we get a suite from Kath, An Hour in the Shower, about just that. Whether or not it was because he was masturbating in there as well, I guess we will never know. As a useless aside, I hate people who take long showers, especially when I'm awaiting mine. It's just plain fucking rude and a waste of water as well. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get clean, but obsessing over it and taking up to an hour is another matter completely. And believe me, I know people who have done it.
Anyway, the real kicker on this suite is Kath's lyrics. On the last album he was ponderously contemplating about how the Vietnam War had better end soon and stuff. Now, he's reduced to going over the mundane details of his daily morning routine. So he takes an hour in the shower, while some of the less fortunate in the world don't get to shower for even a minute or five. Then he talks about having his breakfast, which consists of tasty Spam and how he could eat it all day long. Naturally, there are those out there who would not agree with him when it comes to this fabled mystery meat. I don't mind Spam myself, but I agree it is a rather bizarre topic for a song. I believe only Weird Al was the only other individual to ever stoop so low, as when he did that R.E.M. parody. Anyway, they don't carry the Spam brand where he happens to have traveled to; apparently they only have Treet or whatever. So he has to settle for some hash instead. Now of course, you are going to assume he means the breakfast food by the context of the usage, but judging how stoned he appeared earlier on the record, would you really be surprised if he meant that other kind of hash, I think not. Sweet, sweet Spam indeed. And don't forget to join him for his hour in the shower as well. How creepy.
Lamm then has the nerve to kick off the fourth side with a pretentious poem called When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow, which is exactly what this poem will cause any laughter to do. Seriously, any poetic aspirations he had fall pretty flat with this track. You are left snoozing until the music kicks in, and then it's just a lengthy, forgettable brassed out jam from there until the conclusion of the record. I believe it's during the song, Progress, when we hear a bunch of traffic and construction work, followed by a toilet flushing. The flushing of the toilet, by the way, is what I would like to do with the entire side of this album. I realize Chicago are trying to say that we should actually flush the incident known as the Industrial Revolution down the toilet, but can't they see the irony when they insert this sound effect during one of the more fillerish moments on their double albums. Besides this, only Yoko Ono had the audacity to put a toilet flushing on one of her albums that I know of (later the same year in fact), and her reputation warranted such absurdity far more than Chicago ever did.
So there you have it, Chicago III in all of its dated, cheesy glory. Now I admit I had a great time making fun of this record and I chose so because it was so easy to do, but it's not like I actually hate it or anything. Consider Chicago, and in particular, their third album, a guilty pleasure for me. I get more of a kick out of listening to it then the played out Chicago II anyway, so isn't that good enough? It's not up there with the guitar driven, rockin' first album, sure, but I suppose it's still their most underrated. I do really enjoy Chicago VII as well though, for what it's worth. At least they pulled off one more decent double album that didn't suck balls, before forever succumbing to mediocrity there forth. Chicago are not great shakes in the rock genre, even in their prime from 69 to 74, but there are groups more worth your derision overall, like the Eagles, so let's give them a break. Chicago III is a mildly amusing historical curiosity, nothing more and certainly nothing less. After all, success speaks for itself.
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
This was my favorite record for a long time and I'm happy to explain why. Not only did it change the tide of popular music (name another band that has done that after releasing only one studio album), but it was and remains an album about freedom of individuality. To be yourself and make a joke of the masses. Those who want to play their life safe and play the roles assigned for them will not get this record, nor do they deserve to. It wasn' made for stupid fools who stand in line, so to speak. The Sex Pistols are not your band in that case. But they existed and the record still stands up of course. Those in the know rightly call it one of the greatest albums ever. It was symbolic of the time and its influence is not forgotten.
A bruiser, this one. I listened to it every day for a month and a half after first purchasing it. PiL was a different beast of course, but John Lydon considered this band to be the end of rock and the record pretty much explains why. It's the sound of the British working class rising up and thumbing their nose at polite society. It's the sound of a band that could give a fuck whether you like them or not. Their brilliance allowed them to not give a toss and they certainly didn't.
Sid Vicious does not play on the record and it's no major loss. Those less familiar with the band often sing his praises, without knowing that John Lydon was a far more important element to the band. Sid embodied the punk image, which is fine, but not everything of course. His live recordings with the band prove his lack of bass playing ability. Thankfully, he was in the hospital at the time the record was recorded and Steve doubled on bass. Glen Matlock's contribution to the early singles should not be overlooked, yet Sid is the fixation for many less familiar with the band. Many didn't want them to record an album, which only made them more determined. After two record deals that fell through, the Sex Pistols ironically wound up on Virgin Records.
Many like me own this record and we have listened to it countless times. In the interim, punk continued in the UK and the US into the 1980s, with several different mutations along the way. Unfortunately, other forms of more commercialized, glossy "punk" have risen in the meantime. Such groups don't really have anything to do with the spirit of the Sex Pistols or what it was about. The Sex Pistols never gave a fuck about mainstream acceptance and were hated by far more than those who loved them during their original run. Their message was far more important than any commercial returns.
Never Mind the Bollocks took ten years to go gold here and another five to go platinum. In other words, the record buying public had a lot of catching up to do. Now it's acknowledged as a classic of course, yet the Pistols snubbing the rock and roll hall of fame is a sign of their punk spirit. To be fair, it's not like the masses were very welcoming at the time. The Sex Pistols US tour before their initial breakup was a disaster and part of the reason they imploded.
Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Not with this album.
Black Sabbath - 13
When we last heard from Black Sabbath with Ozzy at the helm, it was of course the disaster that was 1978's Never Say Die! album. If anything, they should have said die before recording it. Tales abound of the band packing up their shit for the day at the studio and heading home, mainly due to the drug fuelled stupor that left the members incapacitated. I still maintain that it the weakest of the band's first eight and best albums with their iconic frontman. Technical Ecstasy is a step down but not too bad. It's still listenable, just not that memorable or a classic. Never Say Die! is considered by Ozzy to be the low point of his career and one reason why he wanted to rectify that mistake with 13. And rectify it Sabbath have.
Now naturally, this isn't going to make anyone forget about Paranoid. But 13 is nonetheless a respectable stab at latter day glory and as you would expect, many of the trademark Black Sabbath elements are in place. Any quibbles should be minor. It's not like they had to record an album together ever again and it certainly beats Never Say Die! Plus let's not forget all those awful Black Sabbath albums released over the years that only tarnished the legacy of the original group. I've nothing against the early Dio albums and I think fans can tell which albums I am referring to. That 80s one with Tony, for instance.
13 on the other hand, makes you forget about those fake albums in an instant and the years just suddenly melt away. Was it really 35 years ago when the Ozzman last led the mighty Sabbath in the studio? Of course, his excess is legendary and I'm sure that didn't help with the arrival of the album any sooner. I realize the band postponed the record a decade ago due to his solo obligations, but better late than never. Black Sabbath is back and in fine, fighting form.
An album like this reminds me that rock is alive and well for those who want it. This is the Sabbath formula we all know and love, updated for the 21st century with the focused production of Rick Rubin. Needless to say, it's time for heavy metal fans to rejoice and snatch this up. Let's forget about the stupid, shithole metal with cookie monster vocals that everyone is fawning over. These worthless groups owe their existence to these veterans and 13 is a powerful reminder that Sabbath did it first and probably still did it best.
Be sure to get the deluxe edition with all four bonus tracks. Taken altogether, this makes for a double album's worth of new Sabbath to digest. The discs themselves are of course a replica of the band's classic Vertigo label, which originally released their albums across the pond. The last track on the album itself harkens back to the opening storm and bells of the band's debut, as if to symbolically state that things have come full circle. Maybe this is the end and maybe it's not, but the Ozzman has called it the most important album of his career. It's time to finally lay the myth of Black Sabbath to rest and conclude with a mighty roar for the time being, as opposed to how things had been left until now.
Pylon - Gyrate
It's no secret that I identify heavily and am sympathetic to indie/alternative music. Sure music forms part of my identity, but it's a beautiful thing to decide for you what great musical art is and there are so many options besides the flavor of the month. I recently watched an interview with Rod Stewart on Howard Stern and was disappointed to hear of his love for Adele. Of course, Rod Stewart sold out many moons ago, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
I am sympathetic to female artists in rock. Nico, Blondie, The Runaways, Bongwater, Yoko Ono, etc. But Pylon was one strange, awesome beast. Arty, jangly post punk with the feminine touch of Vanessa's vocals. You can tell she could give a fuck about being the typical pop diva that is so common with women in popular music. Instead, they received the praise of a band like R.E.M. and toured with them. She and the guys eschewed the charts and mainstream acceptance at the time for something far more important in the long run than monetary gain: artistic credibility and an uncompromising vision.
Of course, the band disappeared after only a couple records, only to reunite for a new record a few years later that I found more underwhelming. The bloom was off the rose. But you can't go wrong with Gyrate or Chomp. Gyrate is my favorite though, as it's a bit more edgy I think. There is exuberance to Vanessa and the band here, so many possibilities, but of course they were to be unfulfilled for the most part. But let's appreciate what they did do. Gyrate seems to me a bit more punkish and intense. The music is more just straight up post punk and she seems more pissy on certain tracks, which I like. Not exactly comfortable being the next Madonna, if you know what I mean.
I understand perfectly well that the masses have no use for a music group like Pylon. They can keep their Taylor Swifts and pretend that's the real thing. But I have more discerning taste and I'm not shy about expressing that. Pylon was a great band and I wish more females today had the ovaries to front a band like this. But no, any woman visible in the current mainstream just wants to play it safe. I suppose Courtney Love is an exception, but she's always had an outrageous reputation anyway.
I mean come on; they have a song called Read a Book for fuck's sake. Now that's pretty cool. I realize that may be because they were named after a Faulkner novel, but they are encouraging people to wake up, get their heads out of their asses and better themselves. Have some intelligence and obviously being a female is no excuse, same as being male isn't. There are other options besides being a teen mom and shopping for a new dress for women. A band like Pylon is about those possibilities. They may fall on deaf ears for those that need to be spoon fed their new oversexed pop goddess, but they exist and that's good enough for me. Blare your Susan Boyle records from your minivan and I'll blast this right fucking back.
The Runaways - The Runaways
We all remember record producer Kim Fowley, who had already tried his hand at recording groups such as The Modern Lovers at this point. A great cult group in their own right, featuring Velvet Underground fan boy, Jonathan Richman, though their earliest material has the key tracks. Upon meeting girl rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Curie, Fowley was convinced he had stumbled upon the next big thing. An all teen girl rock group with enough sex appeal to set the world on fire. The rock equivalent of Charlie's Angels, putting females in the roles traditionally assigned to males, thereby empowering women and giving men something to drool over. He was to the group what Malcolm McLaren was to the Sex Pistols, providing the ham-fisted music industry support and backing the girls crucially needed, while also naturally taking them for a ride here and there. Taking advantage of the naiveté of their youth as one would expect a grown male piece of music industry scum to do at this point.
Fowley gave Curie Cherry Bomb of course, a play on her first name, as a showcase for her blonde bombshell sex appeal. Though apparently he had to coach her to make sure she came off as steamy as possible. Joan countered with You Drive Me Wild, which is supposedly still her favorite Runaways track. Next is my favorite, Is It Day or Night? What a great tune. Thunder is decent and isn't a blunder, thankfully. Rock 'n Roll, complete with cowbell, is the girls od e to The Velvet Underground. It won't make anyone forget the original of course, but it's passable enough. Lovers has fun, lustful lyrics and vocals. American Nights is a rousing rocker that instills you with a sense of good old patriotic fun. They introduce the phrase 'queens of noise' here, which would become the title of their next album. Blackmail is an amusing change of lyrical pace. Secrets tells a story of sneaking the guy into your room to hide the microphone, all with the potential thrill of being caught scaling the heights of passion and denying it.
Dead End Justice, the epic finale, is a whole other beast and a laugh riot. Blonde bombshell Curie winds up in a rundown teenage jail after being too drunk and stoned and must plot an escape with Jett, or they will be both be stuck there until they are 18. Besides the amusing lyrical back story, it's just an all around great rock track. The way it builds up at the end with the chants of "Justice!" is fun and infectious. This song is surely a play on how the group was named The Runaways after kids who run away from home and risk ending up in situations like this.
Of course, the group was doomed and Curie left after the second album due to drug abuse. Jett continued with The Runaways for a couple more albums before calling it a day. As she said, The Runaways no longer held any weight once you were of age because at that point, what were you running from? Fowley had the last laugh, with Curie and Jett going onto solo careers, with Jett's being particularly successful. Her solo hit with the Blackhearts, I Love Rock 'n' Roll, made enough of an impact for Weird Al to cover it with I Love Rocky Road. She's still going strong today, having survived to see a new crop of teenyboppers impersonate the group in a biopic.
The Tubes - Remote Control
Though the debut is my fave, there is no denying that Remote Control is the funniest concept album ever conceived, tied only with Zappa conceptual efforts such as Joe's Garage, which I suppose is cheating. An idiot savant couch potato faces trials and tribulations with his television addiction. How appropriate for a group called The Tubes. They had already penned the track TV, from their early demos compilation, Mondo Birthmark, though it merely hinted at the themes here: how man was consumed with the glow of the television screen in the late 20th century. Today, I'm sure The Tubes would have instead touched upon man's addiction to computers and portable electronic devices. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Todd Rundgren produced the album as best as he could, but it tanked.
Turn him on because he needs to know. Entertainment is readily available in his home by clicking that treasured power button, so why should he venture elsewhere? TV is King ups the absurdity level a notch, in which TV is elevated to a Christ like savior in our protagonist's life. Prime Time adds a romantic edge, with Re joining in on Fee for vocals. He may be a television addict, but regardless, he's saving his prime time viewing slot for a love interest. He dreams of watching the best programming of the day with his fantasy female. I Want It All Now touches on themes of instant gratification and how our hero doesn't want to wait or have to work to live a successful, stress free live of luxury and paradise. He wonders what's on the other side of the wall, but he may miss a critical rerun if he runs to get groceries. No Way Out is when he is forced to stare at the TV screen and admit defeat or no escape. He claims he is stranded in the great, vast wasteland of his TV. Maybe a Television Anonymous meeting would help.
Getoverture is naturally an instrumental medley of the other songs on the record. The Tubes seem to be saying to him, get over it you fat slob! There's a world out there waiting for you! But he pays no mind, instead descending further into addiction and madness. He becomes paranoid, believing that others will show him No Mercy in the outside, but tries to pick himself up with the inspirational anthem, Only the Strong Survive. Be Mine Tonight is when our hero pursues the woman of his dreams to share his life with. He's clearly never happier on the record that at this point, giddy at the excitement that he has found another being to connect with, besides those on the tube. Of course, he goes and blows it. The woman probably wanted to do more than take a highlighter to the TV Guide all day. So the somber number that follows is Love's A Mystery (I Don't Understand), which expresses the lament of his heartbreak. Unfortunately, he has a tragic solution. The final number, Telecide, explains his decision to dive headlong into the TV screen and never look back, even if it costs him his very self esteem and well being. He succumbs to TV dinners, the news, and quoting Howard Beale from Network. I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore! With one last guttural moan and zap of cable wiring electricity, he signs off forever into the abyss. Please, don't let his story be yours.
Uriah Heep - Very Eavy Very Umble
When it comes to the heavy rock of the early 70s, classic rock fans are quick to drool over Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and maybe even Deep Purple to lesser degree. A band like Uriah Heep, while once popular at the time, have drifted into obscurity here in the states. Sure the boomers remember them, they were there. I myself discovered Demons and Wizards through my parent's record collection. It's a record people my age tend to be less familiar with, though Steve Albini did admit in an interview that it is a guilty pleasure of his, if I'm not mistaken. Then again, Albini would be a little more hip to such things than the average music fan. I'm not the average music fan and while I admit the band never topped its early 70s output, it's still fun to revisit it once in awhile.
Some swear by Look At Yourself as well and that's fine. But my award for the most underrated album is the debut, Very Eavy Very Umble. The original UK album, which is the preferred one in my book, dropped in the summer of 70 and heralded how big a force heavy rock would become in the next few years, along with the other biggies of course. There's something to be admired about the unpretentiousness of the album title. Though it supposedly is a reference to the character from David Copperfield (which the band takes its namesake from) in regards of a line he utters, it also suits what you can expect to hear. Basically, the group are going to offer you some humble, heavy rock.
Of course, I'm not blind to the fact that this album did receive some scathing reviews in the press. Some rock journalists at the time thought Uriah Heep were merely pretenders to the throne. Today, the band is better respected amongst those in the know however, and they remain popular in certain regions of the world. The UK release has the humorous tongue in cheek album title and the song, Lucy Blues, which naturally shows the Heep at their bluesiest. The US album isn't the same without it. The cover is a hoot as well, David Byron coming out of the cobwebs for a wail.
Gypsy is the group asserting its heaviness right out of the gate and Walking In Your Shadow works great as a second track. Other favorites include the upbeat, fun loving Dreammare and the moody, dramatic I'll Keep On Trying. Byron's wailing is a trademark already from this point and he sure knows how to push it to the max.
Play this album for the heavy classic rocker in your life and they may be pleasantly amused. Uriah Heep is a refreshing break from the played out shit and this album is a damn good reason why. One thing you'll never see is someone wearing a Uriah Heep t-shirt. Maybe I should just to remind rock fans that there is life after Zeppelin. Here's a record most of them will overlook and it's a shame. Spinal Tap would have been proud to record this record. It's far from being mediocre head banging bullshit and besides, they don't make them like this anymore.
Queen - Hot Space
Really, this review is interchangeable with any 80s album from a 60s and/or 70s rock act that was trying to stay relevant with cheesy new wave or dance music. The list is long and there is no need to comment on every single example. Hot Space just happens to be one of the more humorous blunders of the era from one of the supposed greats of the previous decade. Many Queen fans would argue that the band released a string of classic albums in the 70s, though most were not without their moments of filler. With Hot Space, the group abandoned their classic sound for the misstep that was soulless dance beats. Nonetheless, Hot Space is good for a chuckle and has a so bad it's good, quality to it.
With the first side of the album, the band seems to clearly be saying the 80s have arrived. Let's bust out the shoulder pads and bad perms. Let's snort coke all night, boogie in the neon glow of the dance floor and maybe even squeeze in a quickie by dawn. Side A is the excessive soundtrack to such glorious decadence and hedonism. I almost wish the band had stuck to this formula for Side B as well. It would have made this album even more of a misguided, unintentional laugh riot. Unfortunately, as I know most would disagree with, Side B is just more of the same old same old of their classic sound, without much memorable, other than the groovy Cool Cat and the bonus tack on of Under Pressure, which I guess elevates the album a point or two. It's too little too late of course, but I suppose this Bowie duet was worth flogging and he was sure to tack it on to his new wave sellout album, Let's Dance, as well.
Staying Power is about the last couple shaking their ass on the dance floor as last call is announced and how much cooler they are then you for it. Dancer is an infectious jingle about just that. Pretty deep sentiments here. Back Chat is about word on the street that's been going around. Hopefully it wasn't meant to be about Freddie's sexuality. Of course, he dives headlong into that topic with killer single Body Language, a lustful, steamy anthem that is vague enough and non-gender specific so as to suit his bisexual fantasies. Nothing like hearing him say he wants your body. He's so subtle here. Action This Day changes the tone lyrically at least and is a nice finale to the new wave detour. Plus the band shows their songwriting prowess by dividing the credits amongst the tracks.
Sure Hot Space is showing its age now and the bloom is clearly off the rose. But just for a minute, it's amusing to be whisked back to the early 80s, when people really were excited about this next big thing. Imagine yourself in a disco getting down with your bad self to this record. Boomers will now cringe and try to deny it ever happened but surely there was someone shaking their poor ass out their somewhere. Queen embraced the excess of the times as they had before, so I guess it was no surprise they were eager to hop on the bandwagon, so to speak.
Blind Melon - Soup
Perhaps the most underrated album of the 90s, bar none. Of course, the group is often merely remembered for No Rain, but as those in the know are well aware of, they peaked with Soup. This was a promising group that made a leap forward in the strength of their sophomore effort, complete with the idiosyncratic musical persona of Hoon. Great production and songwriting as well. Unfortunately, the cook was to spoil the broth.
With a heavy heart, I relate the typical rock and roll story of debauched drug excess that lead to a premature death. The group went out on tour in support of Soup, walking a dangerous tightrope, as Hoon already had no memory of recording the Soup album, as he attested in interviews. He was fucked off his head in New Orleans during recording, allegedly smoking crack for breakfast while other band mates settled for more typical fare.
Now, on the road, the group brought along a drug counselor to lead Hoon away from his appetite for drug abuse. Unfortunately, the drug counselor may as well have been Belushi's. Apparently, he was met with nothing but rancor from Hoon and sent packing shortly into the tour. He resumed his ingestion of substances, which culminated in a night long cocaine binge after a less than stellar show left a sour taste in his mouth. Hoon was pointing the finger at all and generally in a foul mood. He was up until the next morning, when he left the tour bus for a smoothie and returned to sleep off his coked out comedown. Unfortunately, he was not to wake up. One of Blind Melon's crew tickled his feet upon entering the bus to wake him for sound check, only to realize that Hoon was inanimate. He was dead at 28, only mere blocks from where the group had recorded Soup in New Orleans. The town had proved to be bad luck for him and his ultimate vice.
Needless to say, the group was forced to pull the plug on the proposed 18 month long tour and Blind Melon disintegrated. Promotion for Soup was abruptly abandoned, which was a shame because this was a lost pearl forgotten by most. Hear it for yourself and see why. The lost promise of Soup hurts more when you hear the embarrassment of musical riches on this album. Blind Melon released some of their best material they hadn't already on their next disc before calling it a day. We will just forget about that joke of a new album with Travis Warren failing miserably to fill Shannon's shoes.
On New Life, Shannon spoke of turning his life around to be there for his newborn daughter, but it was not to be. I swear by The Duke myself. Instead, listen to this record and marvel at what could have been. Don't forget the hidden track in the pregap or to complete the complimentary word search that comes with the album. Fuck some bro faggot shit like Sublime. Soup by Blind Melon is the diamond in the rough from the 90s you have been searching for.
Fugazi - Repeater
Good group, but let;s not go overboard here. Fugazi fan worship seems to be at a fever pitch online these days. To be fair, Repeater was the peak, though they were never to top it. It;s really the only one you need. They would go on to fiddle and experiment with their sound for a few more years, though I found these detours middling at best. The group then went on an indefinite hiatus, though they may have well just called it a breakup. Any chance of them getting back together for further recording or touring at this point is next to nil, not that it;s a huge loss or anything. But like Butthole Surfers, no new records.
Though this is a good record, I find the fan slobbering and worship a bit much. Ian MacKaye isn;t worthy of putting on some pedestal or something. So he did things his way and independently. So what? He;s not the only one who has. I don;t really give a fuck about his personal life either, meaning whether he does drugs or eats meat or not. Doesn;t have anything to do with his music and besides, he said straight edge was not a set of rules. Repeater was his last stand, an attempt to regain the glory and fire of his early Minor Threat material, to satisfactory, but not jaw dropping results.
Save the slobbering for the likes of Steve Albini and Shellac. A better group all around who did more novel things in the minimalist rock department, without any of the frustrating peachiness that comes with the MacKaye package. I mean, kicking people out of a show because you don;t approve of slam dancing pretty much smacks of that to me. Though I respect it as anti-violence. Handing back $5 in envelopes. Plus the guys came off as complete douche nozzles in an 89 interview circling YouTube. Holier than thou indeed.
Shellac, on the other hand, actually had a sense of humor. The Q&A sections at their shows are a hoot, as I can attest from firsthand experience. They didn't have to worry about kicking out aggressive meatheads, maybe because they didn't achieve the same 15 minutes of indie glory that Fugazi did momentarily, but that's a plus. Nice to be able to go to a show and not worry about that shit, as opposed to some jock who stole a group like this from us. Steve and the boys are still going strong with a new record out soon. Fugazi gave it a rest when they should have kept going, as opposed to the shit Ian is churning out now with The Evens. Hard to believe it's the same front man from Minor Threat, really. It's one main reason these MacKaye fan boys need to calm down, now that's he's trashing his reputation.
Plus, Guy Picciotto. I mean, who is this guy? Oh yeah, Mr. Rites of Spring. Though the weakest link in Fugazi. His vocals are an annoying distraction. The group would have been just fine with MacKaye as the sole vocalist, really. Shellac are the better group because they didn't have Guy Picciotto as a member, ultimately. Heard he wasn't a member at first, it's a shame. The bottom line is that the way most feel about Fugazi, I do about Shellac.
R.E.M. - Dead Letter Office
Now that we know they are done for good (and what a sad day it was a couple of years ago when the announcement came), isn't time to more clearly examine why R.E.M. were one of the best bands of the past thirty years. I certainly think so. An embarrassment of riches from these guys, really, and I was grateful to catch them about ten years ago when I still had the chance. I have picked up their records at a leisurely pace, collecting some classics I have often returned to along the way.
With them no longer here, it's time for the romanticizing and myth to begin and I have decided to peek into the grab bag of IRS cutting room floor leftovers. Turns out this band was great even when they were just tossing off practice runs. Naturally it's not their best or anything like that, but I'd be lying if I didn't say there is an offhand joy in sifting through these office files. It's R.E.M. too, a side of the band you don't normally see, and I love how it's all over the map. You can never quite guess where it is headed next.
Crazy has been called a great original, but of course it's really the group's amusing Pylon tribute. The group also heavily finds inspiration in the Velvet Underground, covering three of their classics. The Aerosmith cover and Burning Hell fall flat, but are fascinating nonetheless. A group paying tribute to another that doesn't sound like them stylistically at all, but I'm sure they would have been amused at the nod. Burning Down and Ages of You are fine tracks that simply got lost in the shuffle. Not to be missed though. I suppose the other highlight is Bandwagon, this is another that shouldn't have been forgotten either.
White Tornado, Rotary Ten and Walter's Theme are instrumental, but fun throwaways. Great warm up material here that serves as amusing interlude between other goodies. King of the Road ends things on a light hearted tongue in cheek note. It's better to hear a great band goofing off than a lesser group's best material sometimes. That's what I've realized and R.E.M. were indeed one of the greatest groups of most recent decades. But Rome wasn't built in a day and this record is kind of a behind the scenes looks at the detours a group can take while stumbling among the great tracks to build a masterful album.
My favorite record is still Murmur; however, this record is a potent reminder of how great R.E.M. was in general. You can get lost in their discography, now with a bittersweet mindset as you remind yourself that they have called it a day. Let's remember these songs too, yet it will probably be awhile before I travel back to their albums again for the next treasure. I now check out each at my leisurely pace, remembering that there is now one less each time to hear all the way through for the first time. I have checked out a couple new records since the breakup, with this being one of them. I intend to gradually continue and extend the life of this legendary missed group a bit further for me, just for my own personal sentiment.
They Was the Greatest
Really, this fan boy slobbering has to end one day. I remember listening to The Beatles with an ex-friend and we marveled at played out accomplishments. But was they the greatest? If you are easily lead by the nose, perhaps you will continue to subscribe to that view.
Hardly and fuck anyone who says so. No, it wasn't Led Zeppelin or The Doors either. Before discovering the The Fab Four, I had my friend convinced Pink Floyd was the band, but thankfully, this nonsense passed as well. Then we took opposing sides for awhile. The Who he said and I The Rolling Stones. Of course, I was merely leading him down the primrose path some more. For the record, The Who, though they had their moments, were generally overrated. The Stones were the better group, with a higher tally of greater songs overall. He dutifully saw The Who this year as did I the Stones, our rivalries remaining. Unfortunately, we don't see eye to eye anymore, so he can go slobbering off into the sunset for all I care.
Now that I've finally rid myself of his fungus, I can continue digging. It is with rich and bitter irony that I've finally found an answer without his nagging presence. Why didn't I see it sooner? Ironically, he is no longer around to soil the memory of this enlightening moment. As I always suspected, it is an underdog that claims the title. A group that this ex-friend would have never stumbled upon in his sublime ignorance, though they aren't exactly complete unknowns either. I was getting warm with the British Invasion to be fair. What a fitting balance for me anyway, not that I expect anyone else to ever see the forest for the trees, even if I sport their rock tees.
You see, I have fallen under the spell of Ray Davies and what a glorious spell it is indeed. One listen to The Kinks Kronikles ought to clear up the confusion. And who needs them on iTunes anyway? Isn't there something romantic about having to go seek out these classics in physical form? This double album set is a perfect primer for the crown jewels of the discography, with the distinctly British edge that makes such an analogy appropriate. No wonder Damon Albarn fell in love. Neither group has ever been as big in the states, but I now realize too much time was spent listening to Blur and not enough to their influence.
Let's get something straight. I could give a rat's ass about the royal baby hoopla. These people are not any more special than us just because they can shit out a child. But what Ray Davies did, writing some of the great songs of all time, is. The man is a national treasure from an era when rock was king and the best music ever was made. So keep your piece of shit new Eminem single, because you've all been swindled. As usual, the lads across the pond got it right and it doesn't take a fucking limey to see it. Well, at least The Knack and Big Star had the decency to cover them. The Britpop scene of the 90s had Blur and Albarn's tribute character sketches. If you like British music hall, you've come to the right place!
What The - Indeed
Just to be fair to music groups that I appreciate with loyalty, I am well aware when a group I've loved makes a false move. Such is the case of sour grapes I have with Black Flag at the moment. The group returns a week from this coming Tuesday following a lengthy absence with a new record. One thing you would not want to say about this album, if you will forgive my hardcore humor, is that it's nothing to scream about. Unfortunately, that is the case.
The cover art is ridiculous and the name of the album makes you say just that as you stare at it. But worse yet are the songs. I've heard three and all I can say is that the magic is gone, right out the fucking window. The group has unfortunately recorded this new LP with Ron Reyes, who was always my least favorite vocalist of the original four. Even so, I made the effort to hear what I could of it out and I regretfully say that musically, the group is going through the motions. There's nothing memorable about the songs at all and it sounds more like some wannabe cover band than the genuine article. This new record will merely tarnish their legacy, not add to it. This is not even on the level of their lesser old works.
I'm aware of the legal hoopla surrounding the group at the moment, but at least Keith Morris has done something in recent years other than parade around his version of Black Flag this year. I am of course referring to the mighty OFF! who have roared into the indie circuit with some great new songs in the traditional hardcore style. With his new material, it's as if no time has passed since the glory days at all. Plus, he returned to the source with Raymond Pettibone for the artwork to give a further sense of authenticity. The bottom line is their new records are where it's at right now for this genre, proving sadly that a name, even like Black Flag, is just a name if you can't back it up.
So what if Ginn is releasing it on SST, just like the old days. It's too little, too late for him to reclaim the legacy and glory now with a shitty record like this. Shame on him for getting it wrong. I know he thinks the group is his brainchild, so in that case, couldn't he have come up with something more memorable? Maybe Rollins has been wise to stay out of the way.
It reminds me of when PiL released This is PiL last year. Again, another classic cult band that tarnished their reputation further. I was excited to hear it, until I realized it was just a pale retread of the group, meaningless next to their experimental postpunk classics from the early years. Of course, PiL had been treading water for awhile before they broke up originally back in the day, but it's a shame they weren't able to reclaim their glory either with a new release. The expectation of such opportunities now lost leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Oh well, I will continue to hold out for Shellac's new LP. It's not like the news of the moment is Eminem's or Linkin Park's new garbage. At least I know the odds of a certain North American trio letting me down are slim.
Lou Reed Gone
It's not going to be a sappy funeral. Let's celebrate the life and the music that was made. I remember playing Lou Reed's first album, which I affectionately referred to as Meat and Potatoes. The only album I can think of offhand that I actually had a pet name for. The reason being that it was his simple, innocent sketch of a rock album, the kind he would be making as a solo artist. So what if a few Velvet Underground songs were recycled. The bottom line is that combined with the others, meaning those I have not bothered to find outside of VU, this effort showed that he could just do straight ahead rock with no frills. An underrated effort for that fact alone, as he would start taking bizarre turns soon enough. It was as if he bothered to stand still for one moment, momentarily continuing the feel good time rock of Loaded just to remind everyone sometimes you can't beat the basics.
Of course, by the time of The Blue Mask, his last gasp, he was already pushing his luck. Lou had settled down, gotten off the drugs and was ready to live in simple domesticity with his partner at the time. That's well and good, but why did he have to slow down creatively? I found myself longing for something headier. Perhaps sobering up was to blame.
Not trying to speak ill of the dead of course. He needed a liver transplant, which had eventually failed, so apparently he'd lived some hard years. Nonetheless, The Blue Mask said to me, this is Reed slowing down and I promptly avoided later albums. So what did I miss, outside of The Velvet Underground and his early solo work.
Well, apparently, Reed had teamed up with Metallica for what had turned out to be his swan song and a sorry swan song it is. The mess that is Lulu has left a sour taste in my mouth, when I only was making sure that I hadn't missed some later day masterpiece.
Yes, it appears that Iggy Pop truly has won the war. He came back strong this year with Ready to Die, yet he remains. Seems like he's intent on going out on a high note to me. Wish I could say the same for Reed, though I doubt he would have ever been serious about new Velvets studio work anyway. Reed followed his muse in a complete different path and neglected to reflect on what that could have meant. Nod to Jealous Guy noted.
Regardless, I miss the presence of course. The Velvet Underground and the The Stooges were welcome rivals in the day, offering the seeds of the alternative movement which would continue to coalesce over time. His contribution is a mighty one and I regret the loss.
Maybe Lou Reed has a slight edge for Iggy for the solo work, but really, it's neck and neck. I know I've neglected Iggy's slightly more. I suppose I'll give the edge to Street Hassle as his definitive solo statement. I've discovered many of the treasures of the discography and this is the rough edged Reed I'll remember most.
Bob Weir - Ace
Ask for this one by name, as long as you are not foolish to assume its Dylan under a pseudonym. That would be Jack Frost. It's not Bernard Shakey either.
As any serious Deadhead will attest, he was breaking out solo, much like Garcia and Hart at the same time. The results are one of the more overlooked records of the present, as the Dead loom in memory. But if you know the Dead, you know Weir. You've been no stranger to his vocals and playing in the band. So why stop there? Ace is the one solo album where Weir in did fact show the ace in his deck, in other words, that he could make his own worthy solo effort with a sly nod to Garcia. The band did play along on the record, as I hear. These tracks would join the Dead repertoire soon enough and Weir even got a shout out on Skeletons in the Closet with Mexicali Blues.
From my understanding, Walk in the Sunshine is the only one that never made the stage. Even so, that "deep six your wristwatch" bit was always the part I would belt out, the part that seemed to get caught in my head, when I was first hearing it. Weir was on a roll here, before the Kingfish fiasco to take place soon enough. From the opening moments of Lazy Lightning, you know you've been swindled.
Let's travel back to when the bloom was on the rose. The Dead were still at a heady peak at this time, as this album displays. Europe 72 proved it at the same time. With One More Saturday Night, that album was hinting One More Saturday Night as a showcase for Weir, so he naturally brings it into the deck as well while showing his hand. What a marvelous hand it was, though this record will sound great even outside of Vegas. Like Quah, this is a misplaced singer songwriter effort from the era that got lost in the shuffle. Deadheads simply must spin it if they think they've heard it all.
Garcia's gang, you may think when you hear the Dead, but you'd be wrong. Weir is really the shining star of the show by bringing the songs for the Dead to polish and shine. Apparently Pigpen was absent, and I bitterly regret the loss, as maybe he could have dropped in for one duet with Weir before he was gratefully dead next year. We were robbed of that, but in essence, this is still meant to be Weir in his element anyway.
Garcia had taken more of a surprise with the hand he played at the time. Just him and Krutzman, though the results were glorious as well. Different methods for different solo albums, but these results will have you grinning from ear to ear nonetheless. Deadheads are sure to remind each other to check out this solo offering from one of the group's premiere members. You can tell, this time anyway, that this was a welcome, amusing side addition to the Grateful Dead story and Weir showed us how his contributions to the Dead made them a part of who they were. See what you've missed before it's lost to time.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
I bought Beggar's Banquet at the same time, though I wound up not opening it for five days. That's how awe inspiring this record was and continues to be. The first time I heard it, I couldn't believe my ears. I just kept playing it over and over again, several times in a row.
Pet Sounds was definitely not a creeper for me. But for me, what's bewildering about the record is how it continues to delight and amaze in a way no other record really can, no matter how often you've heard it. So many albums tend to dull in time with fascination for the listener. Pet Sounds really is that bizarre anomaly. You can put it for the millionth time after not having heard it for many moons with lowered expectations and it's still just as gripping. This music just sort of gives off this eternal glow, boggling your ears to hear it since it cannot really be compared to anything else in any record collection, even your dull one.
I had heard great things about the record of course, but I still wasn't truly prepared. Don't think I could have ever been really. Sgt. Pepper gets all the accolades, but sorry, it really has nothing on this. I've rarely felt more strongly about debating 60s classics when it comes to making that statement. It was an earth shattering leap forward that made Pepper possible.
Brian Wilson reminds me of Orson Wells crafting Citizen Kane with this record. It is the Citizen Kane of pop music, more or less. His genius lies in the melodies he perfected, the orchestral flourishes of the wrecking crew, the soaring vocal harmonies he got out of his fellow band members, among other things. Some, like McCartney, have said that one secret to the majestic feel of the album is the ascending bass lines. If you listen, you can hear how that's just one aspect that creeps up and makes this such a unique masterwork.
Of course, there are the timeless lyrical themes of love and innocence lost, as well as coming of age themes. Yet even the instrumentals are heavenly perfection, they don't need any damn lyrics to be stunning. The instrumental title track, for instance, which just seems to carry you away with its infectious giddiness every time.
Heard a neighbor playing a song from Abbey Road today. That's all well and good, but why the fuck is Pet Sounds so neglected in comparison? You don't really hear anyone blasting it all that often. To this day, it still remains ultimately a cult record, a musician's record. The key players in the biz know its worth, which I suppose is most important. The average braying jackasses on the street, who only know the group from the early material, thinking Pet Sounds some sort of holy grail of surf rock, don't know their heads from asses. Oh well, less overkill and hype for us in the know. One clown was mocking the Beach Boys selection remaining at a Tower Records in Tustin when they went out of business. Somebody's never heard Pet Sounds, I muttered in return. This may as well be the greatest album out there, though the finally released original version of Smile is no slouch for a sequel.
Jan & Dean - Carnival of Sound
I was watching part of an old TV movie recently about the tragic duo when I asked myself, just what happened after that fatal accident at Dead Man's Curve? Well, Dean was going to Save for a Rainy Day, apparently, now that his companion was working to battle aphasia. In Jan's jealousy, he retaliated with Carnival of Sound, with a little help from his friends of course.
You may have thought the Beach Boys were doomed in the 60's as the tide turned toward the headiness of the psychedelic era. But with this group, the end came thick and fast following that dire moment. To make matters worse, neither Jan nor Dean's efforts in this hazy era were released until many moons later.
Don't get too excited though. Smile was the holy grail of surf psychedelia, so naturally it was an album that needed to be sought out, long before it was officially released. Finally it was and it was a triumph. The shadow of Brian Wilson had always loomed large and he did write Surf City for Jan and Dean after all. But it was going to take a bit more for Jan to make his contribution, naturally. Dean would not be contributing to his project, furthering the gulf.
This was a little more serious than Dylan's motorcycle crash the same year. Jan was going to have to take baby steps back into recording, though he tried to put on a gay façade with Carnival of Sound. Still, at the risk of sounding like a douche, this slight record is bittersweet, as Jan's vocal contributions are minimal. I suppose making music in a group, where the inevitable listeners rely on primarily just their ears to absorb things; it may be easier to conceal such trickery. But with proper research, the swindle becomes evident.
You see, there are other vocalists singing through a number of these tracks. Let's just call them guest appearances, though in essence, Jan was more the guest due to his limitations. It's not hard to spot the ruse on certain numbers at all, but even on vocal tracks that sound like Jan, you've always got to question the source. One clown online even flat out admitted he was the vocalist on a certain track in question and it checks out. Coming to claim his glory I see, seeing that Jan had suffered some drastic setbacks. Let's not name names, of which there are many.
Maybe Jan should have realized he was reaching beyond his grasp and waited until the early 70s, when he supposedly began properly singing again. But then his glorious contribution to the Summer of Love would have been lost. Hell, it was for decades after and it is with bitterness that I report what little was lost. It's a shame, what a lame time to have an accident, just as the music industry was really heating up for one of its most memorable periods. Of course, The Beach Boys had some rotten luck as well with Brian's meltdown. Being a surf rock fan means taking some things with a grain of salt, like lost possibilities.
Jorma Kaukonen - Jorma
This work would not be complete without a well deserved shout out to Jorma. Here's to the underrated guitarist singer songwriter who wowed us with Hot Tuna and to a less enthusiastic degree, Jefferson Airplane. Hot Tuna is like buried treasure of classic rock and any fan of the genre would be well advised to go straight to them, in the words of Rollins about Mother Superior. But perhaps the quintessential moment was the staggering quality of Quah, a lost pearl if there ever was one. Jorma was really on a roll here, with enough creative energy to be wowing in a solo environment as well.
Perhaps the highlight of my summer was a fabled trip to the bay area, where hence I came across some lost treasure from the files of Jorma. Guess I shouldn't have been surprised given my proximity to their roots at the time. I mourn for the Hot Tuna show Eric and I had a chance to see and passed on. Yet the Hot Tuna was always on tap at Amoeba of course. Yet again, some of Jorma's buried treasure remained from the glory daze.
A steal, Jorma's second, self titled solo LP was. At a mere $4 for a pristine LP copy how could I refuse? This record had always been elusive to me in lesser regions. I'm talking about you faggot sellouts who actually did fall for Gaga this time around. While you clamor for that garbage, I was on the hunt for some idea of what to expect from this record. And no, a sample of De Ga De Ga at the time didn't really count. In the online marketplace, Jorma is available if you want to be lame about it, though it commands far higher prices. What's wrong with an LP, first of all? Society has been swindled out of the record store buying experience. Lord knows I mourn for it and long for the next moment. This was a great find.
Jorma was back and it was nice to revisit the son of the bitch. Hell, my copy of Quah even came with a ticket to one of his shows from a few years prior. Why not lie and say you were there? To see Jorma in his element. My friend did that with a ZZ Top cassette many moons ago. Shit, I wish I had caught him, much like how I wish I did with Eric.
Of what little I could learn of this elusive record, supposedly it was a mighty fall from the heights of Quah. You are left wondering if Jorma has risen to the occasion. He has, though I admit this is for more serious fans. Some underrated gems though, such as Valley of Tears. De Ga De Ga is good for a stoned chuckle naturally.
Let's not forgot the artwork, which will arouse the suspicion of anyone who loves Quah's. We are talking quite an amusing piece of art and anyone with an eye will be able to spot it immediately. Jorma was bringing a sense of fun to the proceedings, much as he had with Hot Tuna. Let us remember his contribution to the San Francisco sound as well and not just that of the Dead. To me, that is justice.
Crazy Horse, shit. If only Danny Whitten had gotten by.
The group stood tall and proud on this release and Bernard Shakey was nowhere to be seen.
Not that it mattered; Danny Witten rose to the occasion and made this a classic.
Though he does the lion's share of songwriting, there are some other contributions as well.
All around, this is a solid offering and certainly no waste of time. It's a shame it's now lost in the shuffle.
You will marvel at how tastefully this record is done, with some respectable country rock.
There's no need for the Allman Brothers of Lynyrd Skynyrd with this. Sorry Billy Bob.
The group got it right the first time, pure and simple, leaving a classic in their wake.
The group was doomed, starting with the loss of Witten and other key contributors.
By the next release, Loose, which you might call the Squeeze of the band's career, it ended. I mourn the loss of course, but the music lives on. This is a buried classic rock gem.
You certainly won't hear it on your sleazy station program, so shame on your missing out.
Meanwhile, some of us know a great classic when we hear one. The songs still stand strong.
Look at all the things Danny had and marvel. Unfortunately, he was a casualty.
Much like The Band and Jack Frost, as on those fabled Basement Tapes, this is elemental.
Other voices worth hearing. We'll just forget about that next record.
On a funny note though, I did find Loose on wax and changed the price tag before buying.
On the cover of the album, the group even has that first LP in their midst on the cover.
Unfortunately, they had to move away from greatness, but that matters not.
Let's marvel at what could have been.
Now cherish what wasn't lost.
Crazy Horse, all alone and all was fucking well.
The Animals - Winds of Change
Sorry to rain on everyone's parade, but I found Winds of Change to be kind of a drag. Eric Burdon sensed the psychedelic era was upon him during that heady Summer of Love, but unfortunately, he came up kind of short here. His prophecies are somewhat hokey in retrospect, now that the smoke has cleared. Keeping up with the times was obviously on his mind, yet he struggled to grasp the true meaning of the epoch. Basically, the fish rots from the head down and it's just a load of rubbish, that's all. Winds of Change indeed, but who's to say this clown was leading the charge? Burdon and the Animals were merely following suit here, this is a pale retread of far greater glories from the same period. Beware, the emperor wears no clothes.
This may be good for a laugh with the proper rose colored, mind altering glasses, mind you. Yet the utter cheesiness of this very lame affair brings to mind other low quality stabs at psychedelic corniness. Put them in the same category as the fake Bosstown shit, such as Ultimate Spinach. San Francisco, which he mentions, only reinforces his lack of competitive abilities with the true tastemakers of the time in the states.
Maybe Burdon would have been better off sticking to his guns, rather than fanning his psych peacock feathers in such a flagrant display. Winds of Change is a sham and a ruse; it's trying to remain hip and failing. At least the Kinks didn't pretend to be interested in psychedelia. Ditto for Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys, who came up with some other amusing experiments, ala John Wesley Harding or Wild Honey, which had nothing to do with it. Burdon was desperate as the tides of pop music began changing against him, so he thought he suddenly needed to be the next Grateful Dead, seeing as one track is lamely called Gratefully Dead. Leave that to the experts, you clown.
Yes, I am experienced. Oh, what a clever Hendrix nod. Let's just acknowledge our betters and all the great things they were doing at the time, so as to further draw attention to how lacking our own efforts are. Sure there's only one cover this time, but it's, as expected, a bumbling misfire. The Stones - Paint It Black. Like any Stones cover has ever topped the original. This version doesn't even try and takes it to some pretty moronic places instead. Dreadfully unnecessary.
One track even tries to set the mood with tales of chanting monks. Please, how is Burdon suddenly some visionary with his moronic poetry? A little jealous of the Fab Four's exploits in India, I see. He probably wishes he was there, coming on to Mia Farrow like the Maharishi supposedly did. Instead, Burdon presented himself as the court jester here, leaving a moronically dated artifact in his wake. There are many classics from 67, psychedelic and not. This is not one of them. Avoid it like The Black Plague, no pun intended.
Phish - Junta
This is the fucking greatest album ever made.
Well, ok, maybe that's going a bit far. But it sure is a doozey when you are loaded. That's the conclusion I've drawn in the past week or so. All I can see is that if this really is the only Phish record to go platinum, it's deserving of it. The group simply got it right here perhaps more than they ever would again, as many fans are aware of. They hadn't begun to excessively tame their sound for the studio yet and that's a good thing.
In other words, they are still clearly getting their jam on and not being hampered by the limitations of such an environment that they would eventually be more willing to embrace. Like the Grateful Dead, Phish merely ask that you put on those rose colored glasses and then trust me, you will crack the riddle. You'll love these songs for the jamming prowess, such as when You Enjoy Myself causes you to do just that. David Bowie is another highlight, as the group works up an unfettered, freewheeling session that will have your reeling sense of consciousness all over the map. It's a shame the group would eventually begin taming itself more and more in the studio environment. But with Junta, there was rich promise and the group delivered.
This expanded edition draws the cult classic out to an amusing two disc set, not to be confused with the vinyl edition which is only just now hitting shelves. The disc artwork is a hoot and keeps you from taking the proceedings too seriously. The bonus tracks are live cuts, starting with the lengthy instrumental Union Federal, which takes many surprising twists and turns during its duration.
Sanity is supposedly a Jimmy Buffet cover, though I'm not sure how tongue in cheek Phish may be about that comment. Pretty silly stuff, which is then followed by Icculus, a song I suppose only they could have done. It makes its point repeatedly with grave seriousness, though the tongue in cheek mood clearly remains. He wrote the fucking book, ok?
By this point, you are realizing that Phish are their own beast. Not to be confused with faggot ass offenders like Dave Matthews Band that some may associate them with. So maybe they've toured together or whatever, who cares. Dave Matthews is lightweight, radio-friendly garbage. Phish, at least at this stage of the game, were not. I wish they could have remained as uninhibited as they were here, but at least the memory remains.
As Trey said, this album is the closest you will come to hearing the group without any sense of pressure. There are also more awe inspiring moments here than later, such as those he described in an interview while talking about his favorite concert moments growing up.
The Kinks - Muswell Hillbillies
One thing I've learned as I am ushered into the Kinkdom, as the court jesters have taken to calling the phenomenon of their fandom, is that the fan boy slobbering seems to be over a string of classic albums released in the glory daze. Yes, like their British Invasion brethren, the group solidified their reputations in the late 60s and early 70s. Though many will argue over their favorite record and the group's masterstroke, some shock with how they seem to clamor for Muswell Hillbillies. I prefer the mid range overkill of Preservation Act One to this.
Of all the classics, Muswell Hillbillies is still passable of course. Though I remain underwhelmed by this record perhaps more than any other of the oft mentioned crown jewels of the discography. People tend to go a bit overboard with this one, in my opinion. Just what is it exactly that I'm missing? First of all, the Kinks just sound so damn sluggish here. I get that it's supposed to be part of the vibe, which is a turn in a whole new direction. I can't fault them for that, but I can for how much duller an affair it is.
Life is overrated, Ray sings. Unfortunately, so is this. To me, this is the record I find myself enthusing over much more mildly. 20th Century Man. Well, good on them. This one is great of course, though everything else simply pales in its wake. I suppose the next track is fine as well, but Holiday is so low key it really leaves something to be desired. Many tend to pick Skin and Bones. It's serviceable melodically if you must insist, but nothing to really get worked up over at all. Alcohol is a drag, just kind of a dirge, really. Complicated Life is bluesy I guess, though as a song idea, it does seems a little half assed.
Here Come The People In Grey is pretty slight really and I don't like the blah atmosphere. What I want to say is, Here Come The Kinks In Grey! Simply because this track indeed doesn't seem to grab you with any sense of spark or color. Have a Cuppa Tea? Well, for this fucking record, I guess I'll call it a minor gem. They regain their twee Britishness for a moment and it's harmless fun.
Holloway Jail is back to their looser, laid back vibe and it just doesn't fucking work at all, sorry. Oklahoma U.S.A. is somewhat cheesy and Uncle Son is the epitome of forgettable. The record closes with the title track. It tries to save the day with rousing sing-along, but by this point, you feel so robbed, there's no real point. They put on that hillbilly mask and it's all pretty tongue in cheek. But honestly, I find this a bit corny to be really effective.
Those who swear by this one are hearing something I'm not. I'll let it slide, but seriously this is the Kinks record out of the ones I've heard that I have not been able to get into nearly as much. I just had the clear the room and get that elephant out of the way, because as you can imagine, there is much more than faint praise for a number of their other works. But for the record, I don't see eye to eye with those slobbering over this out of everything they did.
Camel - Mirage
Yes, I am afraid, upon closer inspection, the emperor wears no clothes. The mirage, courtesy of R.J. Reynold's Camel, is aptly named, as it is a Mirage indeed.
There's really not much going on here, but watch as the group gleefully attempt to pull the wool over your eyes. They've failed with me, rose colored glasses or not, as it is with bitter rage that I realize how little was missed.
This record is kind of hard to come by, unless you at one of the elite record stores or willing to splurge for an import. I now realize how unnecessary this import is. Camel will jam and try to wow you with their progressive ways. That's great and everything, but in all honesty, they just don't bring the songs. It's a hazy excuse to avoid it for the limited vocal passages, which don't inspire in the songwriting or melody department.
You have to bring that guys, the times were no excuse. Otherwise, you are just a novelty. That how Camel comes off. As needless as a pack of cigarettes, in comparison to the real and true musical revelations of the era of excess.
Listen very carefully my words are about to unfold. Please. By the time the words finally appear, you aren't expecting much and you'd be right to. You'd think if they were wiser, they'd be building up to something pretty dramatic and unforgettable. No, it's just more of the same. A moment of a head scratching riddle and that's it.
Camel treat these moments as if they are exactly the musical euphoria the listener has been looking for. Hardly. This is nonsense of the highest order. Pompous, really, for them to think this is all they need to get away with.
So I must search for other musical vistas. Buried treasure is nice, but only if it really is treasure. Not some deservedly forgotten relic such as this. I can name plenty of other more underrated records from the same era right here and now. Those in the know I'm sure might be aware of some far worthier of inclusion.
But Mirage is just foolishness. You'd be well advised to put it off as long as you can if you insist. Now that it is readily available for streaming at least, the truth comes out. It's nothing to start putting on a pedestal. It defines inessential.
So let's move along. I figure by this point, a positive review of something worthwhile is probably needed for a change of pace. But in the process, I must call them as I see them and I'm not going back on this one.
Just don't do the same and fall for any of this for a second. Mirage doesn't really exist.
Mission Of Burma - Signals, Calls And Marches
In the old days, the group's discography was slight. Perhaps the purists feel it should have been left that way. One single, one EP, one LP and then it was off into the sunset. With such a minimal discography, the point needed to be made urgently you would hope and the group delivers with the earlier material with Signals, Calls And Marches.
So much promise here, so you can see why they had to deliver. Some were miffed because the production on these tracks didn't quite match the live experience of the group. Apparently, Vs. is a more accurate representation of the group before an audience. Yet call me crazy, but if anything, they were more on the money here.
This isn't as much as a muddy cacophony of sound I suppose, yet in a way, it leaves the songs to stand on their own, which they do quite convincingly. Of course, you'll want the remastered edition with the bonus tracks that kick off the proceedings, much like those clever Fall remasters. It gives a logical buildup to the EP, itself, starting of course with the first single and then a couple amusing outtakes that didn't originally make the final cut. They don't distract at all and if anything, add to the experience and flow. Therefore, the EP has been made into a shorter, punkier LP.
The group of course, roars out of the gate with Academy Fight Song, a soaring anthem which remains one of their highlights. Along with the gripping vocal outro of Max Ernst, these constitute the highlights of the early tracks.
That's When I Reach For My Revolver, is, of course, perhaps the band's signature track. So much emotion and great melody to be found here; it's a true classic indeed. Who gives a flying fuck what Moby thought about it though. I'm tired of faggot fan boy tributes. When I was younger, more naïve and ignorant, when admittedly I had more of an excuse, I admit I did come across his cover first. I should have known all along it was too good to be one of his own. As usual, it is critical to go to the original source and I now realize what I missed all along in bitterness.
Really love that bridge in Fame and Fortune as well. It's the eye of the storm and they play it up for all the dramatic flair it is worth. With moments such as these, it's well deserved, as it all builds up to a glorious finale.
New to Mission Of Burma in general? Not quite sure what you've been waiting for, unless your taste is severely lacking. Pick up this disc today and see what the fuss is about. They disappeared and were never the same once they returned, but when they first shined, it was fast and bright, like all the greats. These tracks are ample proof, so do not delay in discovering why for yourself. Already, their legacy had been cemented here for the ages.
Al Kooper - Kooper Session
King Kooper is remembered in elite circles as a figure that spent some time behind the scenes of music in the 60s, before coming into to his own to briefly lead Blood, Sweat and Tears. To his credit, the group naturally never recovered from the loss.
Instead, Kooper struck out on his own with the super group ideal, as expressed on Super Session. Bloomfield and Stills joined him on either side to help out, creating some legendary sessions indeed in the process.
Kooper couldn't resist returning to the formula one last time. Cleverly, he christened the sequel with his namesake to differentiate it. He also hooked up with one 15-year-old Shuggie Otis, whose career got a boost in the process.
As before, Kooper brings out a friendly rivalry in the fellow players to match him blow for blow. To his credit, Shuggie indeed rises to the occasion. He is on fire here. As is Kooper. To the point where he insists you bury his body and he sure as hell don't care where. The track builds to wowing jam climax. Double or Nothing is a tight instrumental that moves things along nicely.
One Room Country Shack is where the spotlight is most firmly on Kooper. He delivers with the heaviest number of all. Lookin For a Home is a great cool down ballad moment. The rest is left to the blues jamming, as was the case on the first side of Super Session.
12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues is a winner in creating a blues jam to envelope yourself in. One could argue that Shuggie gets it wrong with the next track, unfortunately. However, Shuggie goes out on a high note yet again with the marvel that is Shuggie's Shuffle. You can see Kooper smiling behind the control board there somewhere after the session I'm sure.
I'm not a huge fan of Al Kooper's solo work, but he was perhaps able to go to the well one more time with some amusing results here. Of course, having the experienced players helps bring the atmosphere of the proceedings a nice seasoned feel. These artists knew what they were doing and they want you to know it. It's certainly tasteful and in the spirit of the times.
Kooper decided to drop the session moniker, even though it well reflected in his past glories, such as his glorious session work on Blonde on Blonde. He went in a more pop direction, but some of us still long for those heady session days. This is a lost gem that somehow has been shuffled improperly. So let's give it its due.
Here's to Kooper and Shuggie. How I bet they wish this rich collaboration was right in front of them to complete all over again. But the snapshot, as always, is forever. Who knows what could have been.
Utero 20th Anniversary Hoopla
Was it really worth the wait? Oh wait, that's right, it's a reissue. But reissues bring with them much romanticism. With a group like this, I suppose it's inevitable. Especially this being the final LP.
So Albini stepped up to the plate of course, though it was only natural that Nirvana asked him to return to the scene of the crime. He crafts his remaster by merely reinforcing what he did before naturally, which was exposing his recording techniques to the largest audience possible. The album is the band's take off on Surfer Rosa in the Albini sense.
Albini far from phones it in, of course. Credit must be given where it is due and I suppose the new mix worked for merely diverting amusement. But the original album is still the same as remembered to be preserved. One could argue that it's been beefed up, I suppose.
So Albini insisted yet again on those thick 180 gram presses that don't break or bend, for starters. Then he decided that the original LP be split across two, with the third covering the b-sides and outtakes. He claims it's because it's a long LP program, when it's 41 minutes.
The drag is that I'm just too lazy to have to switch a record of this length three times. However, Albini insists it is for the best that I do. He feels that this is the best way to hear the record, with the grooves having more room to breathe.
He's the sound guru of course and his disciples will follow his judgment. I've never heard it on wax before, so I have nothing to compare it to. But it does break up the flow quite a bit, I'll be honest. I thought I was a geek until I saw a message board of fans ogling this press.
Nice the b-sides and outtakes were included of course, though they are all the same ones we have all heard before. Still, they show the group taking advantage of the studio just a bit more before they would leave it forever. So hear them for what they were, I suppose once again. Or revel in the novelty of the 2013 mix if you opt for that LP.
Then are the trials and tribulations you've been waiting for. Albini's mixes of Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies. They sound great. Albini was right all along. The group should have left them this way, the masses be damned.
Scott Litt's mix of Pennyroyal Tea is unnecessary. If Cobain was to work with Litt on the next record, as he claimed at one point, fine. But it's not needed here. Albini got it right, so let's not paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
Revisionism is a big part of the Nirvana story. But if this record has done such now, at least it's in a loving and respectful way.
Slint - Tweez
Now that Bob Weston has stepped forward with his prized remaster of Spiderland, as included in a geek out box set with a treasure trove of rarities, an illustrated history and even your own vintage threads if you order in time, it's time to clamor for more. Slint, unlike a group such as Papa Roach, for instance, is one that has stood the test of time. Those in the indie circle are in the know, of course, those aware of Tweez even more so.
Enough of the bullshit about this record being the redheaded stepchild of Slint's brief, yet amazing run. Unlike most, I picked up this one first and it was intentional. It served as a fitting primer into the singular experience of their beloved quirkiness. Yet I resent those who feel Tweez is weirdness for weirdness sake. The highly unusual time signatures had sent this bunch apart right from the start. It's time to revisit the awe and wonder that only Bemis and Gerber can provide yet again.
May I suggest that Albini step forward to the plate. He let Weston man the boards for Spiderland, fine. Guess he figured it was his turn for the spotlight after the In Utero hoopla last year. Yet he did man the boards for Tweez originally, so I see it only fitting that he now revisit this past glory. Maybe there isn't the plethora of unreleased material from these sessions to pluck from. That's fine, but I think a beefed up remaster is in order sound wise. Albini could reminisce in the liner notes as well. How this group from Louisville came upon him in Evanston, with him not knowing they would soon be making music that would make his jaw drop. Let's answer the question as to why this remained unreleased for two years following his recording as well.
So McMahon's headphones were fucked up. Let's get into the humorous anecdotes about the process of replacing them, so that they were satisfactory. The spoken word ramblings of Nan Ding and how they came to be would be of interest. I'd also like Albini to include the story of the microphone techniques required during the water McMahon swallows on Kent. Don't worry about me, I've got a bed. I've got a Christmas tree, inside my head.By this point, you can tell the group is headed for uncharted territory and you'd be right.
Following the ominous Darlene, which hints at the haunted sound of Spiderland and the cryptically open ended lyrics of Don, Aman, we get down to the overall concept of the record. This, of course, is McMahon's tweezer fetish, hence the title of the album. "Hand me those goddamned tweezers," he moans, as his gratification is at stake. Pat cleverly reinforces the tweezer motif and all the horror that comes with this shocking self revelation. This track shows just how inventive Slint were in the dizzying progression of their songs, all with parts that, while anything but simplistic to play, make thrilling sense musically. Rhoda finishes matters off with its own strangely beautiful coda to the madness.
Chad Channing Snubbed by Rock Hall
He still receives royalties from Bleach and Incesticide. He had a hand in creating additional drum parts during his tenure as well. Some prefer Chad as a drummer, saying he gave the band a different feel. He has been included in several documentaries and books about Nirvana as well.
Chad, if anything, is the unsung hero of the group. He had been there for the lean years and was by far the group's most serious drummer before his replacement. Yet the rock hall is now conveniently snubbing the man. Eh, what's the use, I guess is what they figure. Well, seeing as he remains a key part of the band's story and plays on a fair whack of their studio material, you'd think somebody would give a shit. Plus, Nirvana was arguably more productive song-wise in the early days. There's a lot of early, noteworthy non-album tracks, as the box demonstrates for instance.
But leave it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to get it wrong. Sure, I guess you could lamely say they are trying, but ultimately, this is just about commercial concerns. How far above is it than the Grammy's really? Yes, I know. Groups must prove their worth over time in that case; it's not just whose popular this year. But snubbing Chad is a slap in the face. It proves that people still only care about Nirvana as a commercial entity overall. With Cobain's death, it's only natural that the image of the group is represented perhaps differently that he might have liked.
Nirvana were like Spinal Tap in terms of their drummers. I agree that including any of the other drummers may be going a bit far. There was a long list and some were with the group quite briefly, Dan Peters being a case in point. But if I were Chad, I would not be amused. Perhaps he should hold a ceremony of his own, just to mock the whole fucking thing.
I don't worship at the altar of Dave Grohl. That's great he went on to do other things, but even he acknowledges that there was a purity and honesty about the group that he has not been able to recapture. Krist Noveselic has taken a nobler route, following politics and musical endeavors that aren't so thrust commercially in your face without the substance to back it up. Playing on the new Flipper record was perhaps the highlight and it didn't need a lot of industry hoopla to gain my interest. He deserves to be there most of all of course since he saw the group from start to finish.
Cobain would probably have found attending silly and if he did, he would have done so with his tongue firmly in cheek as fulfilling an obligation. Kind of like playing the MTV Music Awards. Then again, it's hard to top the Sex Pistols reaction to the hall of fame, which he likely would have admired. The nature of induction means that those late to the party may stand up and congratulate, even if they didn't care when the group was starting and active.
Midnight Oil - Head Injuries
Here's one I would swear by, unlike that schmuck who sold me my last pack.
Lacking the growing pains of the debut and the transitional awkwardness of the third, Head Injuries is arguably the strongest of the early records from Australia's Midnight Oil. With this record, they seemed to come more into their own with their early hard rock sound before they started making adjustments. Still, there's no denying that Head Injuries sounds the most assured of the three, like they were not only coming into their own but starting to demonstrate some true mastery, specifically song-wise.
Peter Garrett was great behind the microphone the first time around, but he did sound a little gun shy at times. We'll forgive him, as it was the only the first go round and the first LP remains an essential stepping stone. However, here he's just self-assured and it makes you want to join in on the fun. Assured enough that he brazenly graces the cover, in a gold yellow hue, doing some crazy move that I'm sure was incorporated into the live set.
Head Injuries makes you smile, because here is a group that knew exactly what it wanted to do and how to do it. It's a great set of tracks and flows impeccably. This record may come across with hard rock flair, but it's anything but generic hard rock. Midnight Oil are thankfully too idiosyncratic and too busy claiming their own unique identity within the genre. These are some thought provoking tracks worth slobbering over. The group stretches out here, but their success rate of hitting the mark is even higher this time than the LP before or after it.
Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) is utter perfection, a true winner. This track just stays glued in your head with its catchiness for eternity. The somber sections, such as the outro of Koala Sprint, are quite underrated. Midnight Oil were going for something a little deeper and richer here than the good time party vibe of INXS or the balls to wall, lowest common denominator of AC/DC.
Naturally, this may have not lead to the massive sales either of those groups had in comparison, but make no mistake Midnight Oil were one of the good guys. Think the shaved head of Michael Stipe and a group with a consciousness, though this was the more explicitly politically geared outfit. Given the opportunity, I would have welcomed tickets to see Midnight Oil live.
I saw an INXS biopic recently and was quite miffed that their manager manages to slag off Midnight Oil during the course of the film. He boasts of INXS's moment of commercial glory, which came and went like any other fad, as much as I have a soft spot for the group. However, he belittles Midnight Oil for not matching them in the charts or in overall sales. I hate to tell him, but this group was striving toward a higher purpose, and not just because of their message. They weren't going to be pushed around, they just were who they were and that's exactly why they are deserving of respect. Few remain so true to a unique vision.
Slint - Spiderland
Turns out the whole remastered set is now up on NPR. So I listen to it and breathe a sigh of relief. Because as much of an indie cult classic as this record may be, it turns out I'm not missing too much ultimately.
The remaster sounds great, so kudos to Bob Weston there. However, the main draw to the box set musically, as I'm sure was intended by the labeling, was the two post Spiderland tracks. Todd's Song and Brian's Song, naturally. The question is that unanswerable question. Just where were Slint heading after Spiderland?
Well, don't expect any major revelations. These are two instrumental tracks and sure they are amusing from a historical curiosity point of view, but that's about it. There's nothing revelatory about them. They bear a vague resemblance to the atmosphere of Spiderland, but they are hardly essential. Still nice to include them though.
The true gem of the box set turns out to be the vocal run through of Pam by far. This was always the greatest Slint outtake and it remains so here. The versions without vocals are useless to me because they just make me long for those great vocals. But the one take that does have them is pretty cool and is the highlight of the music tracks by far. It's the only one that does make me cringe with any jealously at all that I won't be owning it, but the live version from the Chicago 89 is pretty kick ass as well and will suffice. Plus it is more complete in containing the whole song and doesn't cut off at the end.
Basically, I just didn't want to plunk down $150 for the set, unless there were more goodies promised. I don't give a rat's ass about any of the alternate takes of any of the songs from the album. Don't get me wrong, Spiderland is a great and haunted indie classic. But the album itself remains the heart of the matter, as this set clearly demonstrates. I'll have to do without the book with all rare photos, info, etc., as cool as it sounded. Breadcrumb Trail, the documentary, I am still very interested in. However, I'm sure I'll eventually be able to watch it separately in some form or another.
All that leaves is missing out on that Slint tour shirt reprint from the Tweez daze. Oh, well. Seemed a little cheesy with that shirt pocket and all. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy they remastered this record. Albini's slobbering review was well deserved and Spiderland will always hold a special place in my heart. But there was no need to go all out with this lavish but pricey box set.
I just hope Touch and Go Records will continue to survive without me plunking down an entire paycheck, because I know they have been downsizing in dire straits. They deserve to stick around and Spiderland remains one of the crown jewels of their treasured indie catalog.
The Police - Synchronicity
I remember when I first heard this record, I became enamored with Carl Jung's theory of Synchronicity, just as Sting had when recording the album. On the cover of Synchronicity, which varied in alternate formats in its original vinyl incarnation, you would see him somewhere. He was reading the book. So I decided to do the same.
The eerie thing was, is that as I read the book and absorbed the record, I started seeing instances of synchronicity in my own life. I couldn't begin to tell you all the eerie coincidences that took place as my future stretched out in front of me. Now something has happened to steer me back to this record.
Namely, this is due to an overwhelming feeling of synchronicity that has overcome me. I haven't felt it so strongly since I first bought the record a decade ago. Now I listen to it again and it all comes back in a glorious wave. Synchronicity with those close in my life and the realization of a dream that now stretches before me.
Because it is possible and I realize now it was meant to happen this way. I will take advantage of this instance of synchronicity and not let it go. I am in the perfect position to move myself forward and then up and out. This will be harmonious with other events happening in my life at the same time.
I can't express how grateful I am to have this album back in my midst and to be able to connect with it so strongly once again. If you believe in the theory, this album will strengthen and illuminate that and vice versa. It's about realizing there is more to life than meets the eye, that we can sense of our own will.
Some interpret such spiritually, as through religion. Others take a scientific or psychological approach, as did Carl Jung. Some express it artistically, which is what The Police perfected here, on their final album.
I admire the studious approach they took at the end, perhaps due to Sting's background in teaching. In all seriousness though, this is the record that deserves the title. It is Synchronicity and I play it again now for good luck.
Because I've reached a turning point and it's time to make the most of it. I did see that instance of synchronicity and I will not let it slide. I will embrace it and through it my life will improve. You can wait all your life for moments like these but sometimes they just happen.
I should be so lucky, so I am eternally grateful. Synchronicity lives.
James Gang - Miami I
ve never been myself, though I have been to Florida many moons ago. Rollins noted that Floridians were not known for their warmth during his Black Flag tenure. But the Butthole Surfers did consider moving there.
For Tommy Bolin, Miami was a magical dreamland where he lived in wretched excess. So he decamped with the James Gang to Criterion, if I'm not mistaken. 'Twas to be his swan song with the group, though he would die from drug related causes in Miami a couple years later.
His was similar to Shannon Hoon's fate, recording a statement near the end in what would become his city of death. Hey, we will send you a postcard, James Gang said. They did, flamingos and all. Yet they were on a decadent spiral.
At least Bolin reinvigorated these tossers after Joe Walsh fucked off. We'll just forget about that other band he wound up in. As Christgau noted, the group were just passin' thru in the meantime. Maybe he was wise to mock them during that awkward middle period.
But fuck Christgau, I don't want to impress him. I impress myself by writing record reviews longer than three fucking lines long. So he missed that Walsh fella. Great, who didn't? Nobody is taking anything away from the Walsh era which remains the group's high point.
Miami is the lost album, the one that slipped through the cracks. Bolin worked hard to emulate Walsh here and it's about a good an ape as you could expect. Plus he did recommend him for the job. Instead, Bolin fucked off for Deep Purple and then returned to Miami to meet the reaper. You really got to watch out for that peninsula there. A lot of Columbian cocaine has passed through the Bermuda Triangle.
Bolin succumbed, so we will never know what could have been. Supposedly everyone freaked that they would get rolled and Bolin had had several close calls before. This time, he just went too far.
A casualty of the era, yet Miami remains. In fact, EBay has about 30 or more LP copies available for your choosing. Go for the $2 one, this record is getting plentiful already. Miami is a minor work, but it succeeds on its own modest terms.
By far, this is James Gang most underrated record. Give it a spin and see why. But if you are passin' thru Miami, just remember that you won't find that Walsh fella. He's busy hanging in Ohio, near Cleaveland's rock hall. This was a haunt of the group, as the postcard illustrates in kitsch.
Bob Dylan - A Tree With Roots
An embarrassment of riches and more so than The Basement Tapes, this could be a contender for the album of albums. It's certainly among the most necessary bootlegs in rock.
First of all, I dig how Dylan keeps giving a shout out to Garth of The Band. He is the organist after all and his touch is just as essential here as it was on the released version. Now, I just pity those wasting their time with the released version.
Who needs those Band songs that had nothing to do with the original sessions? This is pure Dylan from start to finish, loads and loads of lost treasures. Dylan of course, was holed up during the summer of love when he laid down these tracks at Big Pink in West Saugerties New York. In 75, Dylan consented to a significantly inferior double album set of supposed highlights. A few were included but there's so much shit here that should have seen the light of day. This set is nothing short of essential. Now that Smile has been released, this has become the most mythical of lost rock treasures.
Maybe it would be cooler if it stayed that way, as opposed to Dylanologists clamoring for an official release.
A Tree With Roots is a beautifully well kept secret for those in the know. We can only smile at another chance to hear humorous and great outtakes, such as Young and Daily Growin', Under Control, Sign on the Cross, The Spanish Song, I Shall Be Released, See You Later Allen Ginsberg, Po, Lazarus, Belchazaar, I'm Alright, I'm Not There, I'm Your Teenage Prayer and more.
Don't be a damn fool and be overcharged hundreds of dollars for this. It's essential, but raping people for it is so not cool. I downloaded it with file sharing, which I can justify since it is a bootleg. I've also seen CD-R copies sell for much cheaper on eBay. Get it however you can.
But get it and marvel at Dylan's genius. He is the most bootlegged artist in rock and A Tree With Roots is a damn fine reason why.
Seriously, this and Smile are the lost American rock treasures. A Tree With Roots is now the more obscure, but it is four discs! 100 songs and rich rewards indeed. Dylan, how could you not make all this available in the bootleg series?
The meat of the sessions is especially in the first two discs, which focus exclusively on songs that never made it to the released sets. There are just too many classics to name. By the time the instrumental jam comes in, you already have heard so much greatness. This tree has many roots and each should be savored and explored, as a bootleg of mythic status.
One of the strangest and most fascinating sensations for me has always been digging through the relics of my past.
Many things have been lost over the years, much to my chagrin. One is a naive, written journal I kept when I was 20 years old that is gone forever. I often wonder what it would be like to read those thoughts now.
However, other relics have survived and it's amusing to be reminded of things I had completely forgotten. It's a key to the past, what I was into and the way I thought.
Or it's just a bunch of crap salvaged from the storage unit, take your pick. For me, I admit it's purely sentimental value.
Here were some of the amusing finds:
1. Rock City (compact disc) - I bought this in college years ago and it somehow got lost in the shuffle. This was Chris Bell's band before Alex Chilton joined and it morphed into power pop cult band Big Star. The trilogy of Sunday Organ, The Preacher and Shine On Me are the highlights as I listened again just now. Pretty much the coolest Christian rock sentiments out there (hinting at themes he would return to later), with the possible exception of Master of Reality of course.
2. Anthology of Jazz (5 compact disc set) - A jazz compilation spanning several eras. I saved these from a history of jazz class I took in college. All I remember is that many in the class made fun of the music and apparently took it for an easy A. I, on the other hand, was grooving on classic cuts from Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, etc. This only survived in iTunes with a single disc CD-R of my favorites from the collection.
3. Extra Cream (CD-R) - An album length compilation of non-album Cream material and the only disc that made it fully to iTunes. Good singles and rarities here, though I reluctantly admit it didn't have The Coffee Song on it.
4. Premonitions of War - Left in Kowloon (CD-R) - A grindcore metal album with cookie monster vocals so ridiculous, I thought it would be amusing to own as a joke. I believe I first sampled it at Hot Topic. A friend wound up buying it and I burned it off of him.
5. This is Grindcore (CD-R) - Similar deal. A preposterous grindcore collection, with 48 tracks in 12 minutes. Whoever burned me this, please step forward. I don't remember if it was Eric or not.
6. Rollins Band - Life Time (CD-R) - The first Rollins Band solo album of course, though I heard it much later after my initial teen fixation with Rollins. I had seen him live and had a number of the other albums, but a friend eventually picked this up. I burned it from there.
7. Poco - The Forgotten Trail (2 CD-R set) - I burned this off of Brad Momberto, a boomer I worked with at The Lompoc Record. I think I burned him a Smile bootleg before it was released in return. I remember bragging about how I interviewed Dave Mason of Traffic, since he was a fan. In return, he bragged about how he interviewed these classic country rockers. Along the lines of The Byrds or The Flying Burrito Brothers.
8. Brother Yusef - Back at the Crossroads (CD-R) - This was a bluesman that used to play at Downtown Disney, I have no idea if he still does. My friend became enamored with his playing and bought his disc. I burned it from there.
9. Skin Yard - Undertow (compact disc) - This is back when I was picking up obscure grunge music, some of it from the '80s like the Deep Six compilation. I had seen the movie Hype! and was curious about bands like Skin Yard. I went on to find a couple of their LPs; this was just a single from their last album.
10. Robyn Hitchcock - I Often Dream of Trains (CD-R) - I actually have no memory of burning this whatsoever. A solo album from the former Soft Boys vocalist, though I may not have even been into The Soft Boys proper yet at the time. Can somebody point me in the right direction? Did Neil burn me this or did I stumble upon it another way?
11. New Order - Low Life (cassette) - This may have been a gift from a garage sale or flea market. The funny thing is, a few months ago, I listened to Elegia. It was the first time I had heard anything from this album in a long time. I had completely spaced that I had a cassette copy floating around somewhere. Should be interesting to revisit.
12. Adolescents - Complete Demos/T. Rex - Electric Warrior (recordable cassette) - These were records I borrowed from a friend and dubbed to cassette, one on each side. The Adolescents stuff I barely remember except for a couple songs. Electric Warrior is a glam rock classic of course.
13. Metallica - Ride The Lightning (recordable cassette) - A compact disc to cassette dub, courtesy of a friend.
14. Elvis Presley - Assorted No. 1 Hits (recordable cassette) - A compact disc to cassette dub from a friend or a parent's friend. Listened to this as I helped a friend pack to move back east.
15. Subhumans, Conflict, Dystopia, Rodney Dangerfield, Dennis Leary, etc. (CD-Rs) - I know Eric must have burned these for me for sure. His handwriting is on the discs and I recall him passing them along. I'll have fun revisiting these trinkets in the near future I'm sure. ;-)
Jorma Kaukonen - Barbeque King
Jorma got it right one last time with his band, Vital Parts, and Barbeque King. This is solid product and deserved to sell, so shame on RCA for not giving it more of a push. Jorma retaliated by leaving the label and rightfully so, as the album and tour tanked.
Maybe it was a sign of changing times. Jorma was golden with Burgers and again with Barbeque King here. But he was forced to look over his shoulder as the 80s began. He was hip to the new wave scene and decided to give this record a more commercial flavor, with some rock and pop in the mix.
The fault was not Jorma's, he got it right here. Fuck the record buying public for getting it wrong. They should have paid more attention to Jorma when he broke out solo. We could expect more great things from the Hot Tuna alumni.
One time, I bought the Quah LP and there was a ticket to a Jorma show, as well as a flyer for a contest, saying "Jorma Live at Your House."
Jorma, it's time to reinstate that offer. Come on over, we'll have some hot tuna burgers and you can play barbeque king for a day in my backyard. You will dazzle with stories from the sessions for this record.
Then Jorma will begin playing and he will acknowledge Barbeque King as his most unjustly forgotten album. Jorma figures why bother making this more easily available, I guess. They didn't want it the first time.
Well, I dig it Jorma and it's time to spread the word.
Damn Jorma, making me hungry with his album titles.
I will only settle for genuine barbeque as well, you smart ass. No Hungry Man backyard barbeque TV dinners will suffice.
I had to download this, since I don't expect to find an LP in person anytime soon. It was hard enough finding the second album.
All I have to say is Jorma fans without this one are missing out. If you dig his work, you'll dig this as well, so don't be shy.
Besides recycling one song, Jorma can do no wrong here. Snout Psalm is a personal favorite. Jorma and Vital Parts will become a vital listening experience for you.
The barbecue king is indeed Mr. Kaukonen. Let there be no question in anyone's mind whatsoever.
OFF! - Wasted Years
I remember seeing Circle Jerks with a friend of mine at House of Blues Anaheim. Great show and at the time, there was much anticipation about a supposed new record.
Instead, Keith Morris scrapped the idea and started a new group, OFF! Suddenly, it was like classic hardcore had never really gone away after all this time. First Four EPs was a bruiser and I saw OFF! at Burgerama at The Observatory a couple years ago. Yet another great show and Keith seemed reinvigorated by the new material.
While I maintain that First Four EPs remains the best record so far and the second record was only marginally inferior for being so similar, Wasted Years strikes a nice balance between the two. It's the same, unpretentious sonic roar of course, making all other modern punk, including the new Black Flag, seem silly by comparison.
With this record, OFF! seem to be stretching out a bit in their own modest way, without sacrificing any of the ferocious intensity of the attack of course. A whole 23 minutes this time.
These songs still take a bit longer to bury into your brain than the instantaneous rush of I Don't Belong or Upside Down. The group even has the nerve to finally break the two minute barrier on Hypnotized. I Won't Be a Casualty is a personal favorite. The bonus track on the digital version is In Your Arms. Wasn't this the name of a Flipper song as well?
The point of Wasted Years, to my ears anyway, is to take the OFF! attack to an even more dense and challenging level. The band stretches out in some amusing ways here. Like I had previously stated, I think this is better than the self-titled record. It feels more like a true progression from the First Four EPs than the second one did.
It seems more punk fans are starting to catch on to Keith Morris's new project. It was exciting seeing them when they only had one record out, but the only natural drawback is what I can assume was an even shorter set than what they have to choose from now. Still, OFF!'s performance was the best thing about Burgerama in my opinion.
Keith is obviously one of the hardcore punk survivors and he proves his salt once again here. Black Flag and Circle Jerks obviously had their moments, but with OFF!, he presents a modern vision of exactly how punk needs to sound. Loud, abrasive and dangerous.
Apparently Alternative Press reviewed this record. Funny they show up now, after promotion so many wannabe punk poseurs in previous years. What, you thought I actually listened to Thrice just because they are from Irvine? The Middle Class is my favorite OC punk band.
OFF! is the genuine article. Keep your whiney gloss punk. Wasted Years reminds you just how many years were wasted without a true light at the end of the tunnel for this subgenre. As for those who still prefer Thrice, let this record go right over their heads. It deserves to.
Frank Zappa and the Myth of Conceptual Continuity
Zappaphiles say Frank Zappa was a genius. I suppose you could argue it if you absolutely had to, just because of how he put his esoteric stamp on so many genres of music. He asked if humor belonged in music as well, after all.
Yet I believe his references to conceptual continuity have an aura of myth about them. It was a tongue in cheek creation of his to link his multitude of albums in different ways. For instance, on Waka/Jawaka, the sink handles say Hot Rats. Zappa is giving you a hint that if you liked Hot Rats, you may like this one two.
Ditto for "Is this phase one of Lumpy Gravy?" and so on and so forth.
In the song "Stink Foot" from Apostrophe, Zappa even name checks conceptual continuity. He is a giving a knowing wink here, because afterward, the female chorus sings "The poodle bites, the poodle chews it."
Of course, fans had already heard this phrase a few months earlier on Overnite Sensation, on the song "Dirty Love."
The albums were recorded during the same sessions. We can see that this was yet another example of Zappa's wit. He linked them together with this phrase to clue you in, as it were. Who could forget other examples of this, like Mr. Green Genes vs. Son of Mr. Green Genes?
Zappa did state in an interview that he believed in conceptual continuity in his work and that everything is a part of the bigger picture. I suppose it's another way of saying that no matter what genre Zappa tackles next, it's still him tackling it.
Frank remains a distinctive artist despite his sense of musical adventurism and being willing to try anything. To me, the true conceptual continuity of Zappa lies in his use of the xylophone. I often wonder if this instrument appealed to him, because of the tongue in cheek alliteration. However, I may very well be off base.
It's a silly sounding instrument and Zappa loved these after all. Much like how kazoos were used, not on The Grand Wazoo, but Freak Out! Zappa later admitted the kazoos were on Freak Out! because they were cheap and affordable.
But if anything, we should associate Zappa with xylophones. It's enough of a constant in his work overall to merit greater attention. Wouldn't you agree?
Zappa did attempt to cover all of his bases in one big mass with the Lather album, first proposed in the 1970's and finally released in the 1990's. The album plays the trick of giving you quantity, of course. In other words, if you want to understand all facets of Zappa, here he is taking the time to try on many of his different hats. I suppose a Zappaphile would enjoy it.
Crack the Sky
Perhaps some reviews of more well known albums are on the way. But what's the point ultimately of another millionth review in line for those? I see one goal of this work as being exposing people to some great records they may love, regardless of how successful or well known they were the first time around. Open your mind and you will see, as with Crack the Sky.
The little classic rock band you've never fucking heard of that could, basically. Their problem, like Big Star, was distribution problems in the 70s. Radio not coordinating with album availability as well. Like Big Star, Crack the Sky also has their cheese ball moments. But basically, the debut is a good record and an utter obscurity to boot. I've yet to run into anyone familiar with these guys in person, but there is an audience for this record.
How do I even describe their sound? Basically, if you want to hear a complete obscurity that could have been played on classic rock or AOR radio, pick it up. It's been called prog rock.
The band really can't rival opener Hold On and I admit that in a heartbeat. It's an extremely dynamic kickoff and endlessly listenable. However, the one two punch with Surf City is really pretty bitchin. Don't confuse it with the Jan & Dean tune; this is its own funky, heady beast, updated for the 70s. What clever lyrics as well. "Hey whitey, here come the spades." I love it!
Sea Epic is the closest thing to a Procol Harum type song, without actually being the group, which I have ever heard. If I didn't know better I would say it was Procol Harum in a heartbeat. By the way, that's not a slag. For another band to convincingly sound idiosyncratic enough to sound anywhere near that band is actually pretty cool. She's a Dancer is an ass shaker and catchy, while giving you nice mental imagery if you are male.
Robots for Ronnie is basically the other Procol Harum song, this time meant to be an inspirational anthem for a "loser" Yet we learn he has been branded such because he is different, a fat little brat. He doesn't drink beer or watch football. Well, neither does Ian MacKaye as far as I know. In other words, don't necessarily define loserdom the way others do.
Ice is a good start to the second side. It's smooth, midtempo, melodic, and atmospheric. The violin solo is pretty legit. Then we get the other ode to females, Mind Baby. She's over, apparently. This song is fun to crack lyrically as a riddle.
I Don't Have a Tie is basically Crack The Sky admitting they forgot to bring a jacket and tie to Arby's, er I mean a very posh, chic, fancy restaurant. Catchy, faster and more upbeat, which makes sense for the penultimate track. The original album finishes with Sleep, which is a fitting and melancholy outro, complete with the inspirational line, "I could be a hero." Who needs overrated pap like Marvel when you have lines like this reminding you to be your own hero? The one bonus track of interest even relates to Marvel with their tribute song, Dr. Octopus. This is as close as I ever plan to get to supporting them ha-ha. Crack The Sky's debut has its cheesy moments, but overall, this grew on me and I still feel a classic rock fan should give it a spin.
Four Bar Beats has been edited by Ryan McMaster, & Alex Beltran II.
*Some errors have been left behind in the online book for you to squak about, untill Ryan, & Alex have another TV Party to make the corrections!
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