Friday, January 20, 2012


(photo by Yescelt from the forum)

 Heaven help me, but I think I'm actually starting to dig some prog. First warning sign: Spending a couple hours on an archived GEOCITIES PROG SITE. Second warning sign: Listening to a Camel CD on headphones while my girlfriend is sleeping in the other room. I've also been crawling around the Prog Archives. Something has happened. Maybe.

         It could all a fluke, or maybe I just needed a gateway. Either way, this album Moonmadness by Camel showed up in the 2.99 bin at work last week, and I stashed it in the back just in case. A few hours on the prog sites, and I went for it.
         Forgive the simple-mindedness, but when I think prog I think of that certain pomp prog is/has been famous for. And heck knows why, that specific stupid just doesn't appeal to me.  The same way everyone still thinks of black metal's church burnings, prog, for outsiders like me, always comes back to the capes.
         Lo, Moonmadness does it for me in this major way. At the very least, a relatively major minor way. The key for me, as best I can figure, is the breezy approach Camel takes here. If you can imagine such a thing, this sounds like the kind of prog a few guys would go sit on the porch and play. You know, relative to prog itself. This is surely NOT news to prog dudes, but I've never been one, and it was a major mind blower to me. PORCH PROG. ALL HAIL. I think it's mainly in the keyboards and treated vocals, but man does this thing get MELLOW.
Camel can get buck when it's time to pull the big rock showmanship card, but this album focuses most of its attention on melody and mood. It's also full of flutes, monophonic synths, and other junk which has long appealed to me. What this means for me is that the proggy structures are something of a flourish to the music I am already getting into. With the focus more on the lush/basementy sound than progginess itself, I find myself stoking on how the progressive bent is making these songs I already like even better. And eventually I realize that I'm listening to this three dollar prog CD for the second time in a row, and I'm picking out melodic themes that run throughout the album and it all seems so clear, and I'm wondering how I ever just wrote off ALL OF PROG as being that Yes four-song double album and eventually turning into Dream Theater.

          I don't know where this prog thing goes from here, but I seriously hope it has something to do with Museo Rosenbach:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Haul

Got a killer batch of platters at the Record Exchange today. What I've really been hunting for lately is old school (is there any other kind) Euro/Canadian speed metal, but I wasn't really expecting to find anything anyway. Hell, I still don't really know what I'm looking for on the Speed Metal front. I just listen to whatever utube vid is on the sidebar of the one I'm watching. I find some great stuff on there, but forget most of it. But w/e cuz I got some champ 'cerdz.
This is part two of what I guess is a three part Link Wrap comp put out by a label called Norton in 1990. Haven't heard much Link Wray (only Rumble I think), but I knew this comp would be killer because the liner notes say "ished" instead of "issued." Got it still sealed for ten bux. Only opened the shrinkwrap at the edge, then let it sit empty while I went to get Nachos. Came back and the sleeve was warped to hell! Guess that's a lesson about old shrinkwrap? Loosed it from its bonds and put the record back in, and it's fine now, except the pressure or whatever separated the top edge of the sleeve. So now I have a cool old record instead of a cool new record. 

Seriously everyone who likes 70s rock (so everyone who likes rock?) should know who Split Enz are, but people don't. This is the American issue of their second album under the title of their first album or whatever? My brother explained it to me. All I care about is that side one is FUCKING INVINCIBLE. "Late Last Night," "Walking Down a Road," "Titus," Lovey Dovey," and "Sweet Dreams." THAT SHOULD RAISE THE HAIR ON THE BACK OF A ROCK FAN'S NECK. But I wouldn't even know that if my mom wasn't e-friends with a Kiwi who sent us a Split Enz DVD years ago. 

Marhsall Crenshaw is my new main jam. This guy is the middle ground between Alex Chilton and Joe Jackson or something? I didn't know that was something I was looking for, but man I'm into it. Extra Stoke: I already had this album in my stack for 5bux, but then I spotted it in the bargain box for 2. So I took that extra scratch and picked up:

New York Tendaberry which record store guys and my brother tell me is THE Laura Nyro album. I haven't really listened to her yet, even though her killer rep precedes her. I have heard the album she did with LaBelle. There is some serious belting on that album, and I love belting. Plus, she wrote Wedding Bell Blues, which is an astoundingly solid jam.

All I know about Yellow Magic Orchestra is the song Computer Games. But anyone who knows how much I love Casiopea and 70s Herbie (Thrust specifically) would know that Computer Games alone is enough for me to take a 9.95 gamble on Some YMO Record (didn't even notice the name of the record at the shop, but I think it's called Naughty Boys). If I dig it, I'll probably pick up the other two records they had in stock at the exchange. 
Also from the 2dollar bin, here's "In a Wild Sanctuary" by Beaver & Krause. Didn't know anything about this when I picked it up, but the cover looked pretty Old School New Age, and then the liners sold me. "Environmental impressions recorded with Moog Synthesizer, Hammond organ, congas, cuicas, tablas, tambourines, drums, piano, guitar, wooden and metal flutes, the sea, live voices, live lions, birds, monkeys, cable car tow cable clicks and San Fransisco muni buses." That sells me right there. Other items of note: Moog record from 1970; Ralph Nader is listed in the Thank Yous; a guy is credited with "all kinds of flutes"; radio promo copy; THIS IS WHERE THE THX WOOSH COMES FROM. I din't know that last bit til I jammed it. This is a pretty solid record. Review to follow?

My shopping buddy Broah Noah picked up some Rundgren and some Steely Dan. Then, as we're walking out, Record Exchange Bill clues us in to the free tape and record sections. I pick up a best of Rundgren tape and then like THIRTY FIELD RECORDING/SOUND EFFECTS RECORDS. Most of it is from the CBS Music Library series or the Capitol Media Music series. I also picked up this Jackie Gleason presents Velvet Brass comp because of the foxy ladies on the front. I've always thought about starting a foxy 60s cover star collection, but it kinda makes me feel like a creep. But hell, if it's free...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Listen-Roger Miller Golden Hits

Roger Miller
Golden Hits (1965)
Antone's 9*30*10

          Roger Miller is like your funniest uncle (or Dave Letterman). The humor is different than the kind you use, but it works. He's always saying weird things you don't quite get, but the point comes across. It's the kind of wit that leaves you tickled. Roger Miller has this down. It's not just in his word play that works, but also his phrasing, his guitar lines and his timing (kind of a country Thelonious Monk).  There is something aged but timeless about your funniest uncle's humor, and that is also true for Roger Miller's hits. And your uncle probably remembers a lot of these Roger Miller songs. 
          Miller is one of those rare-ish
 artists willing to embrace humor in their songs. For a minute I got on that "bygone era" mentality, but realized how wrong that is. Funny/"Funny" musicians are always out there, but just not in force. And usually  they just turn out to be the Bloodhound Gang. So it's nice to land on artists like Miller who make successfully funny songs. These songs tend to steer clear of hitting you over the head with their jokes. His brand of humor is decidedly agile and witty, and really lends itself to country. Some songs, like "England Swings," and "Kansas City Star" don't quite hold their water, but the songs on this collection are mainly successful. 

          A lot of his lyrical humor comes from embracing shit situations. "King of the Road" probably does this best, which helps make it his song everybody knows. "Dang Me" takes a more self-deprecating approach, and is the plain funniest song here. "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" reminds us that can't actually do just what you want. And I guess that's funny. The song is, anyway. 
          He also has songs that don't embrace the shit situations their speaker is in, and those are good too. "(And You had a) Do-Wacka-Do" really gets to the core of this. He wishes he was happy instead of you, and you can have a do-whacka-do for all he cares. There is a joy to be found in such bluntness. "One Dying and a Burying" is all about wanting to die. The super-casual tone he uses when wishing for death sets up the joke. Then there is no punchline, and that is the punchline. 
          "One Dying and a Burying" is an oddball on a set that could use a couple more oddballs. You can tell a few things listening to this record. You can tell that this was the jukebox era. Seven of the twelve songs here are under two minutes, so basically this is a set of two-minute jokes, which weren't really meant to be listened to all in a row. So these songs do a great job of what they were going for, but I still want a little more variety. These songs are mainly mid tempo, with acoustic guitar, acoustic bass and drums. One song had a trumpet, which was a nice touch. I like that the arrangements are simple, but flourishes like that help a track stand out. I would like for more of these songs to stand out. "King of the Road" has some piano. 
          Most of these songs are good-to-great, and most of them are songs you need to know. There are eight or ten little treasures here, and you will be happier upon having heard them. You need records like this every now and then, and they're usually cheap. Of course you know "King of the Road." But do you know "Do-Wack-A-Do" or "It Happened Just That Way"? "England Swings" isn't' that great, but it's an old country song making fun f England, so it's sort of essential, right? Music listening is about this bottomless well that's out there, and this is one of those records that gets you to keep on digging through record shelves.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The LIsten-Love Over Gold

Dire Straits
Love Over Gold (1982)
Gripped At:
Antone's, 9*30*10

I'm going to say something bold here, and admit that I am a little underwhelmed by this fucking Dire Straits album. I feel kinda silly for expecting it to be really awesome. After hearing "Romeo & Juliet," and knowing how good "Walk of Life" and "Sultans of Swing" are, I thought maybe a band with really killer albums was hiding in plain sight. If they have 'em, this one ain't it. 

Love Over Gold is an album that tries to sound important, but we never get a reason to care. Opener "Telegraph Road" starts strong, with a nice moody build at the outset. Then it dies down to almost nothing. Then it builds up. Then it quiets down. Then it builds up. Like most of the album, this song seems to kill its own momentum repeatedly. It's not bad, and it has strong guitar work, but it's not as good as it needs to be. If an album opens with a fourteen minute song, it should to be a damn good one. 

The band reaches for high drama again immediately with "Private Investigations," which sounds like original music for something on the USA Network circa 1995. We find out that digging for dirt on a lover is painful, but we don't feel anything about what was learned. The song doesn't go into detail and the rest of the album doesn't provide any outside material to lend any meaning to this song's vague musings. Lots of music on this album is very heavy and serious, but the lyrics rarely earn the band that heftiness. They are counting on a certain mood to hold the album up, but when the lyrics don't get us anywhere, it ends up just being decent lyrics over okay, melodramatic 80s rock. I love this kind of cheeseball music when it taps into convincing emotion, but most of this album just falls flat. 

Then things get seriously shitty for like six minutes. Side two opens with "Industrial Disease," and this song just blows. This is the up tempo pop number in the set, which the album doesn't need at all. It is anchored on a grating, awful organ line that seems to skree to infinity. Mark Knopfler aims for a humorous take on the mundane horrors of modem life. Have you ever heard any really, really bad 80s Lou Reed? That is exactly what this song ends up sounding like. It goes on and on, and just keeps sucking and sucking. At one point he sings a verse in some character's goofy voice. The jokes in this song fail, and the insights are shallow and pointless. Nothing is "I feel you brother," and nothing is funny. And then after every dull verse/chorus chunk (Dylan song structure) comes that wretched organ refrain, NEE NEE NEENEE NEE NEENEE…

The title track follows. It is the best song here, and the second shortest. It has the same momentum problems as "Telegraph Road" did, but has a really good chorus, and manages to find the right connect between music and lyrics, actually establishing the mood most of the album goes for. It is good and then gone, and then we're at the pretty-okay closer "It Never Rains". Like "Telegraph Road," this song is not bad, but it is not nearly as good as it could and should be. It has a really great chorus which it only uses once, and the rest of the time relies on a build-up riff that has no payoff. Then the song peters out with a few minutes of sub-par rocking and the album is done. It feels like this song is going for dramatic denouement, but we really aren't coming down from anything. The album never find a way to be engaging for long, and after seven songs that never feel developed it is finished and that's that. And after all the moodiness and intensity it goes for, what sticks with me? The hook from the out-of-place pop jam. NEE NEE NEENEE NEE NEENEE…

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Listen-Grand Funk

Grand Funk Railroad
Grand Funk (1969)
gripped at:
Antone's, 9*30*10

I  have maybe never hard an album that fucked around less. Except some punk albums, probably, and black metal and noise and stuff. But for classic rock? Forget about it. There are enough guitar solos for at least two or three albums on here, and just as many cool riffs, but no time is wasted. Everything here is direct and huge. This is why they called these kinds of bands power trios. Incredible, absurd stuff.

Remember when you were like 14 and first heard about the MC5 and heard the phrase "kick out the jams mother fucker" and expected them to be the most blazin', powerful band on the planet earth? Their reputation implied burning amplifiers cranking out an endless guitar solo, but then you found out it wasn't their sound that caused that riot. Anyway, this album is what you expected the MC5 to be. Or it was for me anyway. It really IS that pure distilled rock essence that you always hoped was out there. But you don't hear a lot of Grand Funk out in the wild. This (earlier) shit is way too heavy for radio, but way too cool for your friends in high school (and probably college) to listen to. There is a reason your dad has these records. 

The bass is what really sets this thing off. That incredible low end attack. It grooves, but is way too heavy to be groovy.  Mel Schacher doesn't need twelve Sunn stacks and a cloak to unleash the beast. It's all there in his monolithic bass, sunglasses and polka dot shirt on the cover. Bass was invented for this guy to slay, and they wisely thrust it out front in the mix. Why couldn't Phil Lynott get this treatment? Nothing can touch the bass work on this album. 

That said, I don't think the guitars are loud enough on this thing. Mark Farner tears the fretboard up (in the best, sort-of-clownish way), but it could use more punch in the mix. I guess it's kind of like how when you're a kid playing with an equalizer (which is on your Wal-Mart stereo for some reason), and they all sound good so you turn them all up all the way. The people making this record were probably smart enough to know you can't put everything at the top of the mix. But my ears are excitable enough to know that I want it all up there. I probably need to get the live album. 

The band is dynamic, but this album doesn't have a lot of dynamics. It doesn't need to. This has that same energy as hardcore. On every song they do as much as they can as hard as they can for exactly as long as they need to and then they get out. The only real shift during the whole album (and I mean that, really. The album is 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds) comes on the third song, High Falootin' Woman, which is the same thing but bloozey. It's not as good as the other songs, but the album would probably collapse under its own weight without it. 

Fave track honors probably go to Paranoid, which is nothing like the Sabbath song which would come in a cuple years, but is just as killer. It gets everything right in a mighty way. The solos kill, the bass is all there. It has some cool guitar effects. It's hard to say what sets it apart, but I knew it when I heard it.

In Need, the (ridiculous) closer of Side 1, by far has the best drums on here. There is cool syncopation in that metal way, and I think a little double kick. The drums are solid on the whole album, but sound really inspired here. I wish they were like that on the whole album. Louder drums, louder guitar. The album would explode under that pressure. It comes pretty close, anyway, and in that it is amazing. Totally, totally recommended. Better than I expected, and I was expecting good things. 

How I went through this all without saying "choogle" is beyond me. Cuz that's what it does, and hard.

Below are the notes I made while playing the album.

The Haul-Antone's Records

Antone's Records
Austin, TX
Sep. 30, 2010

When I travel, I have two primary sightseeing concerns--grub and records. While getting grub in Austin over the weekend (to see GBV), we spotted this shop and headed over after lunch. Turns out we lucked into one of the country's finest record stores. So I bought lots of goofy shit.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Beach Boys Cover Review: The Beach Boys' Christmas Album (1964)

I'll admit I'm kind of late getting this review out there, but let's use it as a chance to reflect on the time time which was. It's The Beach Boys' Christmas Album! This one is goofy and wonderful, and you'd have to be a Mr. Potter to not love it.

There is nothing not to love about a silly picture of our heroes decorating a Christmas tree. This is the kind of thing that set these guys apart from the Beatles. They would only do something this wholly silly if it was some Butcher Cover protest. The rest of the time they were either mugging like little kids or, with time, looking all serious at the camera. Either way, they were taking themselves pretty seriously. Not our boys. They probably love Christmas. Everybody loves Christmas. Let's decorate a tree!

Of course Dennis is stretching out to top the tree, of course Carl is sort of looking a way keeping to himself. All of the standard Beach Boys personas are showing through here in a pretty fun way. Besides that, I should use this space to point out some foreshadowing. Note the appearance of what looks an awful lot like a couple of the sweaters which will appear next on Beach Boys Today. The sweaters are even less diversified here, but these covers were never about attention to detail, really. Also, perhaps most significantly, note the first use of the Green/Yellow color scheme which will come to define the cover of Pet Sounds. Was there a grand Beach Boys cover master plan??

Of course not, but it's fun to notice, and helps it fit nicely in the cover canon.

Finally, note the proper use of apostrophe in the title. You have to give props to that. It was a 1964 Christmas album cover, who is going to call them out if they don't do it? Nobody. But somebody in the art department had the presence of mind to put a little bit of care into this.

This one gets a point for every original song on the album. Minus one. Kids, that's a 4 out of 5, or an Al Jardine on the Beach Boys Beards scale. Merry late Xmas!