Monday, July 30, 2012

187. So. So So



Album: So
Artist: Peter Gabriel
Genre: Pop
Year: 1986

Tracks

  1. Red Rain
  2. Sledgehammer
  3. Don't Give Up
  4. That Voice Again
  5. In Your Eyes
  6. Mercy Street
  7. Big Time
  8. We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)
  9. This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds

It's possible listening to this album was the first time I've heard Sledgehammer without the accompanying images. The Video for the lead single from this album was one of Ardman Animations earliest achievements and it's always held up as one of the greatest clips of all time. Rightfully so. It's a triumph of pre-computer animation and hugely entertaining. It's so memorable I've always considered the song itself to be the soundtrack to the movie instead of the original source for which the visuals are just added eye candy.

Listening to Sledgehammer without anything except fellow commuters on my train to distract me I came to the conclusion that it's kind of annoying. It's a bit repetitive and wears out its welcome pretty quick. The good news is it's not nearly as irksome as the rest of the album which I found really kind of grating.

Gabriel is a talented guy but he's quirky. I don't mind quirky in small doses but So might be a bit too quirkified for my tastes. For a start he's included doses of Kate Bush who is The Quirk Queen and a bit of an acquired taste. There's something about that woman that just drives me the wrong way up a one way street. She sets my teeth so far on edge they leave my mouth and I can see them hovering a metre away grinding in agony. I know there are those who think Don't Give Up is beautiful but I find it a really difficult listen, not helped by the amazingly twee lyrics "Don't give up, we're proud of who you are".

So also suffers from some tragically dated eighties instrumentation. It's full of synths and processed beats and electronic boopery all of which anchors it firmly in the decade and bogs it firmly in the mire of eighties music. It's amazing to think that the next year producer Daniel Lanois would produce the timeless sounding Joshua Tree for U2 and not long after that would produce the revolutionary sounding Oh Mercy for Dylan.

I know I'm supposed to adore Gabriel as a genius but hearing So all the way through made me realise he's kind of irritating without the clever visuals to prop him up.

Highlight: Big Time
Lowlight: A feeling of disapointment

Influenced by: Lanois
Influenced: Future Lanoisness

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Almost every single song on this CD is lush."

-That's probably true. I'm just not sure I want Lush in a CD.

-So. So? So So or so something else? Let me know below.

Friday, July 27, 2012

188 Buffalo Springfield Again. Clever person overload



Album: Buffalo Springfield Again
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Genre: Rock
Year: 1967

Tracks

  1. Mr. Soul
  2. A Child's Claim to Fame
  3. Everydays
  4. Expecting to Fly
  5. Bluebird
  6. Hung Upside Down
  7. Sad Memory
  8. Good Time Boy
  9. Rock & Roll Woman
  10. Broken Arrow

Most bands are lucky to have one really talented songwriter. There are groups who have managed to forge entire careers with a single half-talented song creator and others who have basically got by on cover versions. The Beatles had three (eventually) and only needed one of them to be half as brilliant  to be twice as good as anyone else was. Buffalo Springfield had three talented songwriters which is why Buffalo Springfield Again is so weird but so damn good.

Least lauded of the trio is Richie Furay who formed country Rockers Poco after Springfield collapsed. He contributes the countrified A Child's claim to fame and Sad Memory to the album and gives it an authentic country twang along with Good Time Boy which adds a strange element of funk.

More famous is Stephen Stills, who had previously given Springfield their biggest hit in For What It's Worth ("Stop children what's that sound everyone look what's going down"). Buffalo Springfield Again catches Stills laying the groundwork for Crosby Stills and Nash, his next band. He even cowrote one track with David Crosby, who had to keep his contribution secret as he was still under contract to The Byrds at the time. Stills contributes Rock and Roll Woman, Bluebird, Everydays and Hung upside down which are the most conventional rockers on the album and all feature his under-rated guitar talents.

And one further step up the fame ladder is Neil Young who at the time was in full experimental mode and playing with orchestras and big sounds on Mr Soul and Expecting to Fly and sound collages on Broken arrow.

Sometimes when differing musical styles collide the results compliment each other and the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. In this case the three differing styles don't work together at all. Furay's country, Stills' rock and Young's experiments don't really sound like an album they sound your MP3 player spewing out random tracks.

The whole thing should be a total disaster but it's saved (White Album style) by the fact that the three writers are all really good at what they do. Every song on BSA is fantastic and it's easy to look past the disjointed nature to appreciate a thoroughly enjoyable listen. It even works on random, since the song order makes no sense anyway and can be enjoyed if you program your player so you hear Furay's tracks first, Young's last and the Stills penned songs as a nice bridge between the two.

Buffalo Springfield managed to squeeze out one more album that was even more disjointed than this one before they went their seperate ways. Furay went from this to form the insufferably tedious Poco, Young became a hugely successful solo star and Stills formed the magnificent CSN and vowed never to work with Young again (but did immediately afterwards). The band reunited in 2011 for some incredibly well received shows which I would love to have seen.

Highlight: Mr Soul
Lowlight: Sad Memory

Influenced by: Dylan, country and the wonders of the studio
Influenced: Three different future directions

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "AS THE CALIFORNIA DEMOCRAT PARTY BUYS UP GREENDAY AND FOO FIGHTERS DISCS AND MICHAEL MOORE MOVIES IN BULK TO PUT THEM ON THE 'CHARTS' AND MAKE THEM SEEM HIP, POPULAR, AND WOW NOW, WELL,...I WOULD JUST RECOMMEND YOU IGNORE THE SPIN OUT OF MTV AND CNN AND JUST GET INTO COOL OLD STUFF LIKE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD"

-I've heard of managers buying up records to improve a record's sales but a political party? From one state? Tin foil hat time.

-So are you happy to see Buffalo Springfield again or do you wish you'd never seen them the first time? Let me know below.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

189 Happy Trails. What's not to love?




Album: Happy Trails
Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Genre: Rock
Year: 1969

Tracks

  1. Who Do You Love? - Part 1
  2. Where You Love
  3. How You Love
  4. Which Do You Love
  5. Who Do You Love - Part 2
  6. Mona
  7. Maiden of the Cancer Moon
  8. Calvary
  9. Happy Trails

It might not look like it but the first side of this album is made up entirely of one song. Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love is given an extended work out by Quicksilver with the result broken up into separate tracks for convenience (and to cunningly give the individual performers songwriting credits and therefore more money). The 25 minute song was recorded live in front of some lucky buggers at the Filmore who got to see a truly great band jam some blissful extended rock and roll that blisters along without ever losing its way and disappearing up its own psychedelic bottom.

Some people might hate the idea of one song stretched out to nearly half an hour with two extended guitar solos, a bass solo and a strange spacey bit in the middle. There are those who would see this as nothing short of hell but personally it's my idea of a great time. I not only enjoy this version I've got several Quicksilver Messenger Service live albums and bootlegs that let me experience even longer versions. I can listen to John Cippolina play all day (and some days I have).

But for those of you who dread the idea of an entire album side made up of nothing but Bo Diddley fear not! Side two contains more live extended musical performance but only the first 7 minutes is a Bo Diddley song (Mona) the rest are original compositions including the 13 minute Calvary which features a lot more soloing.

Okay it's dreadful if you hate this sort of behaviour but one thing is for sure: it's the best way of capturing guys like Cippolina and the rest of Quicksilver. To this day I have never understood why more albums from jam bands weren't recorded live. The Grateful Dead put out some terrible studio albums but were brilliant in front of an audience. I will never understand why they bothered with the stale studio environment which brought out their worst when they could have exclusively used recordings from onstage where they were at their best.

Quicksilver Messenger Service have been overshadowed by other bay area bands like The Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and  Big Brother and The Holding Company but they deserve to be more widely heard. They played an incredibly exciting brand of live rock and roll which doesn't work on radio but is just fantastic on albums like this. And if you really loathe extended soloing then you can at least appreciate the short sung version of Happy Trails that finishes the album off and wishes you well, granted the vocalist is clearly drunk and can't sing but at least it doesn't have an extended bass solo.

Highlight: Who do you Love?
Lowlight: Happy Trails

Influenced by: Bo Diddley
Influenced: The Bay Area

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Certainly it's devotees are lost in the foggy halcyon days of yore, fondly remembering their first time listening to it - sitting around their dorm rooms high on hashish, which may have made this much more listenable."

-Everyone who doesn't like this album seems to think that everyone who does only appreciates it because they were stoned teenagers when it came out. I consider myself a devotee and I first heard it in my late twenties and have never listened to it (or any album) under the influence of anything stronger than caffeine.

So are these trails happy or not? Let me know below.

Friday, July 20, 2012

190 From Elvis in Memphis. A safe pair of hips.



Album: From Elvis in Memphis
Artist: Elvis Presley
Genre: Rock
Year: 1970

Tracks
  1. Wearin' That Loved On Look
  2. Only the Strong Survive
  3. I'll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)
  4. Long Black Limousine
  5. It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'
  6. I'm Movin' On
  7. Power of My Love
  8. Gentle on My Mind
  9. After Loving You
  10. True Love Travels on a Gravel Road
  11. Any Day Now
  12. In the Ghetto

There was a time when Elvis Presley was considered the most dangerous man in America. His lascivious hip swinging, leather jacket and sneer were public enemy number one in the United States and he was held up as personally responsible for the problems associated with the country's youth (problems which at the time included chewing gum, excessive use of hair product and reduced eye contact while respecting elders). Elvis was the person parents warned their children about. He was a bad, bad man.

You would never know this if you listened to From Elvis in Memphis. The idea that the nice gentlemen crooning those nice songs was a danger to anyone is frankly laughable.

From E in M is basically as safe as music can get. These are lyrically safe songs about true love, lost love and unrequited love. The musicians aren't guitar slingers pulled out of juke joints they're professional string and horn players and the backing vocalists sound like the sort of nice girls who don't give the time of day to rock and roll singers. Presley's shoes aren't blue suede they're well polished and sensible and the only Hound Dog in sight is the faithful family pooch asleep in front of the fire. 

All of which means it's painfully and incredibly dull. From Elvis in Memphis came to us after the sixties had revolutionised rock and Presley's crown had been stolen by the Beatles and passed between The Stones and Led Zeppelin. Elvis himself had turned his back on rock and spent the decade making a series of increasingly tedious musical movies, each one earning less money than the one before. 

The 1968 comeback special (which is fantastic) rekindled people's interest in Presley as a recording star but it became obvious his fans weren't teenagers, they were raising teenagers. From Elvis in Memphis is targeted firmly at the sort of middle-aged housewife who made up his core audience and still does to this day. 

Far and away the best track on the album is the closer In The Ghetto which has stood the test of time and while it's been covered dozens of times the original is still the best. You get the genuine impression that Elvis feels the pain and sings with some real emotion. If only the rest of the album was this good. 

From Memphis is for fans only. It's got none of the exciting music Elvis was known for and lots of the tedium that seems to make sense only when sung by someone in a white jump suit.

Influenced by: Nothing that occurred in the previous ten years.
Influenced: People who knit things.

Highlight: From the Ghetto
Lowlight: Power of my Love

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This isn't just the greatest Elvis album ever, but the best album period."

-I'm don't even agree with the first statement but I certainly don't agree with the second"

So do you thank Elvis for sending you this or wish it stayed it Memphis? Let me know below.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

191 Funhouse- Welcome to the house of fun.





Album: Funhouse
Artist: The Stooges
Genre: Rock
Year: 1970

Tracks


1. Down on the Street
2. Loose
3. T.V. Eye
4. Dirt
5. 1970
6. Fun House
7. L.A. Blues


Nobody could ever accuse The Stooges of holding something back. You can't listen to Fun House and think "well that was okay but it could have been much better if they really gave 100%". Despite performing in the cold environment of a studio, The Stooges rip through the tracks on their second album as if they were told they only had an hour to live (although the way Iggy Pop behaved it's possible he thought he wasn't going to see one song to its conclusion let alone an entire album).

If you're the sort of person who loves a tedious debate you can join the furious argument centred around this album and whether it should be called Punk, post-punk or something else. It's a debate that will never be settled but the doesn't stop it raging all over the internet.

There's definitely a lot of musicianship here for a punk effort. I always imagine most punk guitarists as guys who know three chords, don't own a capo and still struggle to fit their strap properly. Punk drummers play one beat over and over again and inevitably start speeding up halfway through the song. Punk bass players play the same chord over and over again with a puzzled look on their face that seems to say "I thought being a musician was much harder than this." The Stooges however can play, the guitarist enjoys a solo and they even have a saxophone which is very very not punk.

Musically however they're a noisy kind of shambles. Iggy loves a good shout and is more concerned with expression and conviction than polish. The final track, LA Blues has no structure or tune and is just the band working off some pent-up aggression and energy in a 5 minute noisefest.

Funhouse is definitely one of those releases which requires multiple listens. It's not opening its doors to a casual passer-by it requires a degree of commitment and dedication but its rewarding to those who are prepared to offer. Iggy is a compelling presence who might shout lots and has a great scream but is by no means a one trick pony. Dirt gives him an ability to show off his ability to sing, moan, groan, howl and generally command a microphone. And the rest of the band aren't slouching around relying on their vocalists ability to see them through.

Funhouse might not be a place you want to move into but it's well worth a visit if you're wondering what The Stooges are about (and you're prepared to bypass the Not-Funhouse which is full of people arguing about how punk it is)

Highlight: Dirt
Lowlight: LA Blues

Influenced by: The Stones
Influenced: Punk

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "It makes me feel so... so.... feminine."

-That's the entire review right there. I think it's a fairly unique reaction not shared by most people.

So is this a house of Fun or a house of pain? Let me know below.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

192 The Gilded Palace of Sin- Helping to create a genre we never needed



Album: The Gilded Palace of Sin
Artist: The Flying Burrito Brothers
Genre: Country
Year: 1969

Tracks

  1. Christine's Tune
  2. Sin City
  3. Do Right Woman
  4. Dark End of the Street
  5. My Uncle
  6. Wheels
  7. Juanita
  8. Hot Burrito #1
  9. Hot Burrito #2
  10. Do You Know How It Feels
  11. Hippie Boy

Call me a traditionalist but country music should be recorded under the influence of whisky, beer and in extreme cases, home made moonshine. It should be put down on vinyl by people who grew up in the south, know how to ride a horse and eat grits a lot. Under no circumstances should country and/or Western music be cranked out by people who smoke dope, take LSD and think psychedelic is a way of life and not a dirty word. Country albums should be called things like "Down home cookin" and be recorded by bands called "The South shall rise again" it certainly shouldn't come to us on albums called The Gilded Palace of Sin as recorded by The Flying Burrito Brothers.

And yet here we are.

Towards the end of their life The Byrds stopped being a Hippie band and started to develop an interest in country music. Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman decided to leave Byrdom and instead form a new group in order to showcase their newfound ability to add twang to their voices. They recruited some guys to play with them and set out as a country act playing music from the deep south to kids from California who could enjoy a slice of real Americana without having to worry that they were supporting people who might be Republicans.

By far the most interesting member of The Flying Burrito Brothers is Sneaky Pete Kleinow who is a fascinating character. He was working as a special effects expert in Hollywood and not a professional musician when Parsons asked him to join up. He hooked up with the Burritos for a while playing slide guitar and then decided to commit to some session work and picked up gigs with Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison, John Lennon, Billy Joel, Ringo Starr Joni Mitchell and dozens of others. Then after having had his fun on the pedal steel he went back into special effects where he worked on The Empire Strikes Back and Terminator 1 and 2. What an amazing guy.

Musically The Gilded Palace of Sin is as bad as you would expect. It sounds like bad country played by bad country impersonators. The vocals are given an exaggerated twang that rings false and the tunes sound like a hippie's interpretation of what country should sound like. It's best avoided at all costs.

EDIT: Thanks to all the people who have commented on this post, especially the ones who have taken the time to tell me why they love it. I've listened to it twice more in response and I've developed a greater appreciation for it lyrically if not musically. I'd be interested to hear what Gram Parsons fans feel about my review of his Grievous Angel album which I reviewed here http://500horizons.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/429-grievous-angel-little-bit-country.html

Highlight: The cover "Hey look us! We're country Hippies!"
Lowlight: The Music: "Hey listen to us! We're country Hippies!"

Influenced by: Drugs and country
Influenced: A genre we never needed.

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: If you want to know why "country-rock" came from out of the blue around 1970, you need not look any further than this album.

-I think this guy is giving credit when I think he should be apportioning blame.

So is the a huge case of Yeeehaw or Dagnamit for your hippie soul? Let me know below.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A special announcement

Rolling Stone just buggered me up in no uncertain terms. The editors of Rolling Stone magazine have thrown me for a loop and left me in a bit of a pickle.

They've revised the top 500 list.

I suspected they would of course. Top 500 lists are big sellers and collector's issues are a huge market. The original list of 500 albums that I've been working on was originally published in 2003 so I thought 2013 would be a reasonable time for them to come up with an updated 500 albums. What I wasn't anticipating was just how lazy and dishonest the Rolling Stone writers could be.

I was alerted to a new magazine by regular a regular reader (thanks Garry) and immediately rushed out to see what the story was. Sure enough I found a gold rimmed magazine in the racks at my local newsagent advertising itself as Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 greatest albums of all time. I bought it and checked out the list immediately. No 1 was the same, so was number 2 and number 3. In fact the entire top twenty was identical. I found it strange that a new collection of contributors would produce the exact same top twenty list that the first lot did in 2003. Odd. Then I did some more research.

The truth is that Rolling Stone haven't redone their list at all they've just smooshed two lists together. In 2003 they asked 271 contributors to vote for their favourite albums which is how they compiled their original list of the Top 500 Albums of All time.

Then in 2009 they surveyed 100 other notable people to come up with the best albums of 2000-2009 and published a 100 best albums of The Decade list. Now in 2012 they've taken some of the albums from the latest list and dropped them throughout the previous list (although none higher than 118). But instead of simply removing the bottom thirty albums to make way for thirty new ones they've removed albums willy nilly based purely on the whim of the editors. Sometimes they've ditched a best-of compilation which was replicating other albums but they've made some strange choices. How was it that in 2003 Sunflower by The Beach Boys was the 380th best album of all time but now it's nowhere to be found?

This reworking isn't just lazy it's also blatantly dishonest. The official version says it's a combination of two lists- one from 2003 and one from 2009 to make one comprehensive listing. Can anyone tell me then how an album from 2010 and one from 2011 made their way in? Were the people who contributed in 2009 so good they could predict something that was two years off being released? Or is the whole thing basically a total sham?

It seems to me that Rolling Stone Magazine decided to deal with declining sales (who gets music news once a month from a magazine when you get it daily from the internet?) by releasing a quick collector's edition. The editors spent an afternoon dropping thirty albums from the list, adding thirty more based on their own opinions, whipped off a bit of lazy copy and then gave it to an intern to dig out some accompanying photos from the archive.

So where does that leave me?

There are now three different 500 lists kicking around. The original 2003 version which was done for the magazine. A revision that came out not long afterwards for a hardback book which features a few minor changes, and the 2012 reboot which is predominantly the same only with a three dozen alterations to pander to the last ten years and make it look more contemporary (even though the top 100 is still pretty much identical).

I've given this a lot of thought and decided to continue with business as usual. Most of the changes in the recent reboot occurred in numbers 200-500 anyway and I'm passed them now. I've just posted 193 and the next ten albums are identical in both lists. There's no change until I hit 184 when Madonna's Immaculate Collection makes an appearance in the new list where it's leapt up from 278 in the old one.

I will acknowledge changes when I encounter them for the benefit of those that are reading this blog while clutching the new magazine in their hand (and if I can be bothered I might edit some past entries to mention their changed status) but I'm not redoing the entire blog or trying to change ships now.

In a way I'm relieved. I suspected Rolling Stone would totally redo everything and launch a brand new list compiled by new contributors which changed the landscape completely. In the long run their own dishonest laziness has made my life much easier.

193- Dookie.



Album: Dookie
Artist: Green Day
Genre: Rock and/or Punk
Year: 1994

Tracks


1. Burnout
2. Having a Blast
3. Chump
4. Longview
5. Welcome to Paradise
6. Pulling Teeth
7. Basket Case
8. She
9. Sassafras Roots
10. When I Come Around
11. Coming Clean
12. Emenius Sleepus
13. In the End
14. F.O.D.

Some people really hate Greenday. They rail against them and shake their fists with frustration at their massive success. The main source of their frustration appears to be teenage Greenday fans who say "I love punk, Greenday is my favourite band". People who really love Punk and grew up in a time when the word meant something feel that Greenday is to punk what the Rock Rhythm setting on a Casio keyboard is to John Bonham. It's punk-lite and it makes people who like punk-heavy very angry indeed.


For those of us who don't really consider ourselves punk purists and aren't so worried about labels, Greenday are just a rock and roll band. They have guitars, drums and bass and if the fact that their songs are short and they don't do solos makes them punk or the fact that their songs are catchy makes them pop doesn't matter in the slightest to me. I've put them on my stereo not in a box and I'm not going to get bogged down in labels (even though I have to choose one at the end of this post).

Taken entirely on their own terms it's hard not to like Greenday. This is their big label debut and you can see why everyone wanted to sign them. They can crank out a catchy tune and they play high energy  music with suitably nihilistic lyrics. Longview, the first single and the tune that broke them in the States, is unashamedly about masturbation and marijuana, two subjects dear to the heart of teenagers all over America. There were 15 year old boys sitting around in their homes with a spliff in one hand and a stiff in the other thinking "finally someone is singing about something I care about".

The four singles (Longview, Basket Case, She and When I come Around) are all catchy with anthemic moments that made for great audience sing-alongs in concert. Greenday's ability to transform their high energy studio performances into higher energy stage shows made them a huge drawcard in the states and throughout the world.

Greenday would definitely benefit from their later ability to craft more complex songs with a political slant (on American Idiot) and ballads (Good Riddance Time of your life) which varied their sound considerably. Dookie feels like a succession of fast paced rockers which get repetitive fairly quickly and dropping some of the lesser tracks would make the highlights stand out more. But there's no denying they're a talented threesome who can write a catchy song.

If you're a punk purist you probably hate this more than you hate infected safety pins but if you're just someone who likes a bit of rock it's a great listen. Whether you need the whole album or whether you're better off getting the highlights on International Superhits, their greatest hits package, is another story.

Highlight: When I come around
Lowlight: Coming Clean

Influenced by: Punk
Influenced: Teenagers who still don't know who The Clash are.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I'll give this CD 1 star because Boulevard of Broken Dreams is a good song".

-This review was posted in 2005 and nobody has pointed out that Boulevard of Broken Dreams isn't actually on this album yet.

So is this true punk or young punks not playing punk? Let me know below.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

194 Transformer. Lou's greatest hits.



Album: Transformer
Artist: Lou Reed
Genre: Rock
Year: 1972

Tracks

  1. Vicious
  2. Andy's Chest
  3. Perfect Day
  4. Hangin' 'Round
  5. Walk on the Wild Side
  6. Make Up
  7. Satellite of Love
  8. Wagon Wheel
  9. New York Telephone Conversation
  10. I'm So Free
  11. Goodnight Ladies

If you ask someone to name the best song Lou Reed recorded as a solo artist then it's a fair bet they will immediately name Walk On The Wild Side (and follow it up with a joyous doo doo-doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo etc). Ask for another Lou Reed hit and they'll probably provide either Vicious, Perfect Day or Satellite of Love all of which are great songs, and all of which appear on Transformer.

The Velvet Underground were a dismal failure, at least by commercial standards. Their much vaunted first album peaked at 171 on the album charts and their entire career was met with critical and public apathy and in some cases outright derision. Lou Reed's first solo album after leaving the band (who had all left him by that stage) was made up of VU offcuts and rejected songs he re-recorded on his own terms. It flapped around lifelessly at the bottom of the top 200 and failed to make any impression at all.

Things needed to change for solo album number 2 so Lou cranked up his hitwriting abilities, joined forces with David Bowie and Mick Ronsen and came up with four classic songs to base an album around.

Perfect Day is a beautiful and gentle song with Lou's vocals wrapped around a simple piano with some strings lingering in the background only to ramp up in the chorus when Lou turns on the echo effect, breathes deep and hits his words with a lot more voice. A lot of people have read a lot into the lines "You're going to reap just what you sow" which they take as implying that there is something sinister about the otherwise idyllic relationship Reed portrays but surely reaping works both ways? If you sow good things can't you reap them too? Call me a sad old romantic but I like to think Perfect Day has no dark undertones...

...unlike Vicious. Vicious lives up to it's name. The guitars are vicious, the vocals are vicious and the lyrics are vicious: "When I see you walking down the street, I step on your hands and mangle your feet" It's one of Rock's greatest bitter songs from a guy who did bitter extremely well.

Walk on the wild side is slinky catchy and groovy. It has one of the most recognizable basslines in music, a great sax solo, the most notorious reference to oral sex and catchy backing vocals supplied by a group called The Thunder Thighs (seriously).

Satellite of Love received a boost when U2 covered it live on their Zooropa tour but it never needed Bono's stamp of approval even if it benefited from his slightly slower arrangement. It's a very catchy number although nobody has ever explained to me why Lou's vocals are so low in the mix. Bowie can clearly be heard having a lovely time with the "Bom Bom Bom" backing vocals which gives it an extra element of charm.

The rest of the tracks don't live up to the four highlights. Hangin Around is a great rock number and New York Conversation is a tedious piece of filler while the others are all fine in their own way but nothing special, not that they need to be. Transformer is a brilliant listen thanks to four magnificent tracks which showcase Reed's huge talent.

Highlight: Vicious
Lowlight: New York Telephone Conversation

Influenced by: Ornette Coleman
Influenced: David Bowie

Favourite Amazon Customer review quote: "TRANSFORMER is one of Lou Reed's best recordings if not the best. Knowing for whom it is written is why it is so great. Special songs for special ladies."

-Shame he never thought to tell us for whom it was written.

So did this transform you or not? Let me know below.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

195 The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton. Eric Clapton (with the Bluesbreakers)




Album: The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton
Artist: The Bluesbreakers
Genre: The Blues
Year: 1966

Tracks

  1. All Your Love
  2. Hideaway
  3. Little Girl
  4. Another Man
  5. Double Crossing Time
  6. What'd I Say
  7. Key to Love
  8. Parchman Farm
  9. Have You Heard
  10. Ramblin' on My Mind
  11. Steppin' Out
  12. It Ain't Right

John Mayall is a giant in English Blues history. His band The Bluesbreakers has featured some of the biggest and best names in white blues- guitarists Mick Taylor (who later joined The Rolling Stones), Peter Green (who gave the world Fleetwood Mac along with fellow Bluesbreaker John McVie) and Eric Clapton who left to form Eric Clapton Incorporated which isn't a band it's a brand (and a way of life). Mayall gathered together some great names and got the most out of his talented bandmates. So why isn't his name better known? Primarily because he's not really all that great.

Don't get me wrong, I like the guy but you don't see him on any list of great vocalists, instrumentalists or songwriters mainly because he doesn't really belong there. His voice is average, the songs he wrote aren't really that inspiring and when he plays he's best as a sidemen to his band's more talented stars. Consequently the moments on the band's debut album that showcase Mayall aren't really all that interesting. Another Man is a fairly tedious and derivative blues stomp that features Mayall singing and accompanying himself on harmonica. His voice is deep and vaguely pleasant especially when compared to his efforts on Little Girl which showcases how limited his range is and how offputting his warbly tone becomes when he tries to sing a more difficult tune.

But there's a reason this album is on here and it's not Mayall it's the guy holding the guitar (and the Beano comic on the album cover). Clapton left The Yardbirds because he hated their attempts to move in a pop direction. He wanted to be a Blues Purist and plugged his guitar into Mayall's amp becuase he was all about the Blues.

Bluesbreakers proves that from an early age Clapton was a great blues player. His solos on the blues standards are fantastic and prove he could really play. Especially cheeky is his riffing during What I'd say in which he quotes Day Tripper, presumably a nod to the Yardbirds who were trying to become the Beatles. Bluesbreakers also includes Clapton's first attempts at lead vocals. Rambling on my Mind features his deep and resonant voice and while he doesn't have the confidence he'd show in later years he sounds a lot better than Mayall does.

Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton is a great album but should really be renamed Eric Clapton with the Bluesbreakers and would be even better if he was allowed more blues covers to showcase his guitar and voice on.

Highlight: Ramblin on my Mind
Lowlight: Another Man

Influenced by: The Blues
Influenced: White boy Blues

Favourite Amazon Customer Review: "I don't know where John Mayall ever got the idea that he could sing. It wasn't from me."

-Well that's ruled one person out. Anyone else prepared to step up and deny responsibility?

So is this Clapton's finest moment or Mayall's worst? Let me know below.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

196. Nuggets. Not just a one hit wonder



Album: Nuggets
Artist: Various
Genre: Rock
Year: 1972

Tracks

  1. The Electric Prunes: "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)"
  2. The Standells: "Dirty Water" 
  3. The Strangeloves: "Night Time" 
  4. The Knickerbockers: "Lies" 
  5. The Vagrants: "Respect" 
  6. Mouse: "A Public Execution"
  7. The Blues Project: "No Time Like the Right Time" 
  8. The Shadows of Knight: "Oh Yeah" 
  9. The Seeds: "Pushin' Too Hard" 
  10. The Barbarians: "Moulty" 
  11. The Remains: "Don't Look Back" 
  12. The Magicians: "An Invitation to Cry" 
  13. The Castaways: "Liar, Liar" 
  14. 13th Floor Elevators: "You're Gonna Miss Me" 
  15. Count Five: "Psychotic Reaction" 
  16. The Leaves: "Hey Joe" 
  17. Michael and the Messengers: "Romeo & Juliet" 
  18. The Cryan' Shames: "Sugar and Spice" 
  19. The Amboy Dukes: "Baby Please Don't Go" 
  20. Blues Magoos: "Tobacco Road" 
  21. The Chocolate Watch Band: "Let's Talk About Girls" 
  22. The Mojo Men: "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" 
  23. The Third Rail: "Run, Run, Run" 
  24. Sagittarius: "My World Fell Down" 
  25. Nazz: "Open My Eyes" 
  26. The Premiers: "Farmer John" 
  27. The Magic Mushrooms: "It's-a-Happening" 
Some one-hit wonders deserve more recognition and appreciation. There are some bands who seemed to have one great song in them and their inability to replicate their sole hit has reduced them to the musical scrap heap. It's almost hard to know which is worse- not having a hit at all or having one big song that hangs around your neck dragging down your entire career. How do you perform a live show knowing that every song you play is met with disappointment unless it's the one track the audience loves?

Today compilation albums come out all the time and bands can have their one hit appear on a new CD every week. If there's not a new collection of forgotten hits from a certain genre there'll be a compilation of songs from a certain year, or decade, or maybe geographic location. There are dozens of ways a one-hit wonder can find its way onto a cheap compilation even if it's a four CD boxed set that is still cheaper to buy than a single chart CD.

Back in 1972 there weren't so many collections kicking around but one of the biggest was Nuggets- Original artyfacts from the first psychadelic era. Elektra records collected a double LP worth of songs by bands that history had already forgotten less than a decade after their moment in the sun. Groups with names like The Electric Prunes, The Shadows of Knight, Blues Magoos and The Chocolate Watchband had released songs which briefly broke into the top 40 and then spent the rest of their lives as old 45's sitting in people's record collections to be pulled out when the owner was hit by a brief urge for nostalgia. The original Nuggest took 27 of these hits and put them on two records which provided an instant burst of nostalgia for anyone who grew up in the era and hadn't heard A Public Execution by Mouse since it went to 121 on the billboard charts back in 1965.

In 1998 Rhino decided to rerelease the original album on CD and instead of just putting the four sides of vinyl on one shiny disc they threw in three other discs as well turning a double album into a four disc box set with 122 songs. They strayed a bit from the original intention as well by including better acts that weren't really forgotten (Captain Beefheart and The Charlatans) and songs that aren't so much obscure as classic standards (Louie Louie, I want Candy and Wooly Bully).

In its original format, Nuggets is an interesting listen and has some great songs which feel like they capture an era. The expanded version feels a bit like a watered-down concept. Rhino have just grabbed whatever songs from the era they had the rights to and flung them together as a bloated compilation of "Stuff we can legally sell". It makes for long and disjointed listening.

Highlight: Dirty Water by the Standells
Lowlight: A Public Execution by Mouse- possibly the most blatant Dylan rip-off ever.

Influenced by: Big sixties names.
Influenced: garage bands.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I wonder if we'll see a Nuggets in 2040 with "Oops...I Did it Again" or "Wannabe," because that's basically what this box set amounts to."

-Interesting concept. Although both those songs charted better than most songs here.

So are these nuggets or just tiny pebbles of wombat poo? Let me know below.