Friday, December 24, 2010
She's Coming Down Again is a power pop masterpiece with one of the most stupdenous choruses in many a year. But underneath the layers of harmonies, fuzzed-out guitars, and uber-awesome keyboard work is one extremely sad drug parable. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (both born in the very late 60s) have perfected the art of power pop. One hopes they continue on for many years to come.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Jimmy Web wrote all but one song on their 1967 Magic Garden LP, just as he was breaking up with his longtime girlfriend Susan. Her name pops up frequently in the lyrics. A true pop/psych song cycle, there are introductions and connecting pieces between the plethora of fantastic songs. The turmoil of the breakup is reflected by the increasingly depressing song subjects. In Dream/Pax/Nepenthe the singer refers to "cobweb shadows all over her face like lacquered lace", as if some long buried memory. In the heartbreaking The Worst That Could Happen he imagines her marrying another.
The true test of real "ear candy" is a song that hooks me within five seconds. The dense syncopated piano cluster chords that open Paper Cup are absolutely smile-inducing for me. Even in my worst mood this song will perk up my spirit. Quite the enigma considering that the lyrics are one supreme downer. "And everyone says I'm quite insane, and someday I'll be going down the drain. I know they're right, but I don't care. I feel no pain."
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
At the time a little-known Kiwi band was making some noise in the US. Split Enz got some radio traffic with their 1980 single I've Got You. In 1981 their LP Waiata was released and immediately got some music videos playing on that new-fangled MTV channel. I was (and still am) very enamoured by that record. In fact I don't believe they ever released a better record. The radio hit One Step Ahead is a standout, but there are at least half a dozen other songs of equal quality on that album.
Which brings me to I Don't Wanna Dance, which appears snuggly in the middle of side one. The opening salvo of synths and drums leads to the first verse in which songwriter and vocalist Tim Finn makes the complex melody line seem simple. At 2:20 Neil Finn lets loose with an intense guitar solo that does not let up until the end of the song, and the complexion of the song changes dramatically. The angst inherent in the lyrics come front and center as the synthesizer chords build and build. The chorus returns and when repeated a second time, at just about 2:51, a moment of transfiguration occurs when the harmony is changed and Mr. Finn sings the line "I don't wanna dance.... tonight....". It is that rare moment in pop music where the perfect chord, the perfectly sung lyric, and the emotion of the moment take this song into another realm.
I drove by that house at the corner of Sandusky and 12th in the summer of 2009 and was happy to see that the current owners have spruced it up. I wonder if they kept the art deco fireplace, and what sort of music they listen to.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Fix Is In begins with a quietly lovely electronic piano accompaniment. Always attuned to emotional violence, Smith practically whispers the warning of the opening verse:
When she took shape in your eyes and you in hers
You're going down to see her, it's a big mistake
She got ice she don't want anyone to break
The fix is in I'm going where I don't belong
Mr. Smith would go on to perfect his little world of sad, lonely songs sung by a singer too tired and emotionally drained to fight back. But this earlier effort still hits me right in the gut.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Sam Coomes, the bass player in Heatmiser, went on as the frontman for Quasi. Several Quasi songs have links to Elliott. He played bass on several tunes on Quasi's Field Studies (1999). Lyrics to several Quasi songs certainly seem to be aimed at him, including Little Lord Fontleroy from Sword of God.
Perhaps the most poignant and biting is The Poisoned Well. It is unclear whether the lyrics are self reflective or aimed at another. But given the circumstances of Mr. Smith's death, there is certainly a haunting truth to several lines.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
So here are two versions of the song. The first, performed by Manfred Mann, starts off with an awesome piano pounding. The second - only a link here as there is no embed available - is Love's transmogrification and perhaps one of the oddest and most endearing relics of that transitional period between pop rock and psychedelia, with some garage rock thrown in for good measure. It starts much simpler, with a thudding repeated bass note. The minor key is discarded for a less fussy yet almost atonal harmonic structure. This video of the original Love line-up is perhaps their only filmed testament.
I know which version I prefer but will leave it to you to decide for yourself.
All I did was talk about you
Hear your name and I'd start to cry
There's just no getting over you... oh, no...
There ain't no girl in my little red book
Who could ever replace your charms
And each girl in my little red book
Knows you're the one I'm thinkin' of
Oh won't you please come back
Without your precious love I can't go on
Where can love be I need you so much
My Little Red Book-Love
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Never really considered a part of the Easybeats canon, some of the music on the Friends LP is top notch. There is one little nugget that just pops my chops everytime I hear it. Rock and Roll Boogie is a joyous excursion that celebrates the title in every way - a real tribute to the power of rock'n'roll. Some songs just have a"sound" and wow, does this ever have that chugging late 60's groove. The guitar lines throughout are pure genius. Nothing flashy or overpowering, just some of the tastiest licks ever put down on vinyl. Add to that the off kilter drumming, awesome bass lines, and some great syncopations and you have one hell of a tune that really makes me want to get up and dance.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Since you are here, give a listen to the tunes on Dwight's just-released Green Blimp. The Turtles-ish Me and Melanie and the gorgeous beyond belief Let It Rain are just stupendous.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
The Bangs become Bangles. The girls who had previously shared singing and songwriting duties turned into a front for the girl singled out by the record company as the "lead" singer and they began to have hits with songs by outside writers. Their own material was miles above the dreck that was foisted on them - the wonderful Prince-ly Manic Monday notwithstanding.
But enough on what went wrong. Those first two releases have nothing but right on them. Here is their first single from the EP Bangles released in 1982. The Real World is a miraculous reincarnation of the 1964 Byrds, with a dash of harpsichord to boot. When the harmonies come in I just swoon!
Friday, October 8, 2010
Standing there but never talking sense
Just a visitor you see
So much wanting to be seen
She'd open up the door and vaguely carry us away
It is about time I got around to writing about the title song Paris 1919 from John Cale's 1973 LP. It is a clever ghost story, cloaked in his usual obscure lyrics, with one of pop music's finest keyboard and string arrangements. In recent years Mr. Cale has been known to give this the full symphonic treatment, hence the live video embedded below. This is another one of those songs that drilled into me on first listen and has remained inside throughout they years.
Considering that he had just previously produced the haunting, austere The Marble Index for Nico and the initial mix for the first LP byThe Stooges, the grandeur and scope of Paris 1919 went in a totally different direction. The addition of tubular bells and a glockenspiel in the last chorus in this live performance just put it totally over the edge for me.
You're a ghost
I'm in the church and I've come
To claim you with my iron drum
La la la la la la la la la
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Repeated listenings reveal a constantly changing texture of keyboards and guitars. And the song construction is quite unusual with an overall A-B-C-A-C form. The main verse and chorus share the same underlying chords but the melody and driving percussion become much harder in the chorus portion. There are two additional sections that interrupt mid song, with the second instrumental section returning as a coda at the end.
The roxichord opening is augmented by some mega awesome drumming and a syncopated bass line obbligato. Phil May's lead vocal soars above it all, sounding like a cross between Colin Blunstone and George Harrison (!). At this point (1970) he was the primary songwriter and vocalist and this song is one of his many gems.
To wear as her disguise.
Then catching cosmic rays
She uses them for eyes.
At 0:55 lovely harmony vocals open the first of the two middle sections.
Behind the hill she waits for you.
Painted on a field of corn
Strange messages she leaves for you.
Then at 1:19 a battle of two guitarists breaks out with a constant dizzing change of meters.
At 1:57 it flows back into the main theme with the obbligato taken up by a very fuzzy guitar.
Fearing it displeases you
Amid the white silk melting forest
Where she flew.
The final verse is puncuated by savage drumming, the instrumental section returns, then that final out of tune guitar chord, as if A Hard Day's Night had gone sour.
Excuse me while I listen to it again :)
Monday, October 4, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The song has a wonderful loping tempo, Beatlesque duo harmonies, perfect little guitar/sitar interjections, and a killer faux-raga interlude with lovely harmonies. As excellent as this song is - and mark my words, it is a nearly perfect single (see my top 100 list for criteria) - it did not catch on with the public and was never released on a followup LP. Meanwhile Rafferty and Egan put out a second LP with a completely different rendition of the song. Slow, plodding, and missing all of those little flourishes that made the single so wonderful. To this day the single version has never been released on CD.
Trying different places, didn't like the faces (oh no, oh no)
Rollin' in the gutter, throwin' up my pride
Belly full of whiskey, was it hard to swallow (oh no, oh no)
Saturday, September 11, 2010
De-Luxe by Lush is one of those tunes that drilled itself into my brain on first listen. I knew nothing about the band at that time, and I came home empty handed from the record store after attempting to score this song on CD. As it turns out it was released on a hard-to-find EP and as a promo single. Years later I finally found it on a "best of" CD.
This is exactly the kind of out-of-nowhere song that hits me upside the head. Alternating meters, jangly guitars, and sweet vocal harmonies. The lyrics - how can I say this gracefully - are dripping with sexual metaphors and imagery. But the insistent beat and the swirling guitar layers take me off to a very happy place whenever I hear this song.
What's that supposed to mean
Paper flowers bring me luck
No birds in sight I fear
Stick sticks in you my dear
When I'm up you're coming down
This song haunts me. It stays in my head for days. I cannot really say why. It just does.
If you'd seen the naked dream
I had of you
Would you care
And would you now come through?
Take me far away
My miles and mind can't beat the dream of death today
Hard to get by
When what greets my eyes takes my breath away
In my dream you are around the stars
I watched your walls all fall away
You were bare of thoughts, we were to part
And we stayed that way
Some try to hide because they lied
They were not true, they were afraid
And they refuse to see or be free
Be on to the gods they prayed
Ahh, save me, save me, save me, save me
save me, save me, save me
I'll save you, can I spend you?
And now this naked dream
I had of you
And will you care
And will you now come through?
Take me far away
My miles and mind can't beat the dream of death today
Oh, no, hard to get by
When what greets my eyes takes my breath away
Oh, cryin', save me, save me, save me, save me
save me, save me, save me
I'll save you, can I spend you?
-- Alexander Lee Spence
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
David was one of my buddies and he drove a hot orange muscle car. I vividly remember one Sunday afternoon on a return trip home. He had his swanky car stereo radio tuned to a top 40 station and three songs by female vocalists were played consecutively. All three were to be big hits. In the case of today's tune, it was that artist's biggest radio hit.
So what were the songs? I love them all but fully expect some groans related to at least one. First was Anne Murray's version of the Beatle's You Won't See Me. Believe it or not I was unfamiliar with that great McCartney tune from Rubber Soul. Ms. Murray's version pales in comparison, but the arrangement really isn't too bad and she had a nice voice that suited it well. Next up was Maria Muldaur and Midnight At the Oasis. The lyrics are as corny as all get-out but I have a real soft spot for this song. Maria has an unmistakable voice and her odd phrasing is frankly quite sexy. Plus the short guitar solo is quite tasty.
So my favorite of the batch? Hands down - Help Me by Joni Mitchell. Joni was entering a very jazz-inflected phase and the amazing procession of odd tunings and 11th chords ushered this song right up into the top ten. This was my introduction to her work and soon afterwards I had worked my way back through her catalog. Certainly not the Canadian folky sound of her earlier work, but it was a breath of fresh air in that summer of '74 and still brings a big smile to my face whenever I listen to it.
Monday, September 6, 2010
In 1974 he released Rebel Rebel as a single from the upcoming Diamond Dogs LP. In the spirt of the Kink's Lola, it is a real gender bender - "You've got your mother in a whirl, cause she's not sure if you are a boy or a girl". In the USA the 45rpm release was a completely different production than on the album and on the UK single. The tempo is a bit faster, there are wonderful phased vocal harmonies, the run time is 1:20 shorter, and the mix is absolutely on fire. The US single version is very hard to find. My brother bought the single back in the day, and I finally found it on the Sounds & Vision box set. Some obliging soul has put it up on YouTube, so I suggest you give it a listen. It really rocks my sock off.
And a favorite memory from the olden days - I saw a punk band from Pine Bluff, Arkansas perform this song at the Blue Grotto club on S. Main in uptown Tulsa in 1980. Priceless!
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I promise not to write much as the music speaks for itself, but I want to mention that Back Of A Car proves that counterpoint (that amazing guitar work) is just as necessary in rock as it was to 17th century baroque music.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
One tune really knocked me out. George Harrison wrote Sour Milk Sea around the time of the White Album. There is even a rough demo out there with the Fab Four performing it. But alas like so many Harrison songs, this one was never to be part of the offical Beatle's canon. Instead he gave it to Jackie Lomax, an up-and-coming singer who was signed to Apple early on. It was released as a single in the US and UK in 1968. Apparently it sank without a trace.
On the recording you will find George on guitar, Paul on bass, and Ringo on drums. Nicki Hopkins tickles the ivories and Eric Clapton joins George with some blistering licks. It has a "sound" that really works for me. Deep and heavy, with lots of reverb. With Paul and Ringo holding down the rhythm section, how could it not be good?
Sunday, August 29, 2010
What does that have to do with a blog about power pop? Everything really. For in the rock universe we have our own vocal prayer, that never-duplicated combination of Brian Wilson at the top of his game and the peerless harmonies of the Beach Boys. From the aborted Smile project circa 66/67, here is Our Prayer to lull you off into a night of peaceful contended sleep.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
By 1973 only lead singer/songwriter Gary Brooker and drummer B. J. Wilson remained as original performing members. Poet Keith Reid continued on as lyricist, and his darkly disturbing words were a key link between the old and new lineups. With Fisher and Trower gone, Gary Brooker was now the undisputed leader. His distinctive vocals, songwriting craftsmanship, and powerful piano pounding kept the group going strong well into the mid 70s. But for me the original lineup was unsurpassable. With Trower's white hot guitar interjections a'la Hendrix and Fisher's gentle lead vocals and baroque Hammand organ counterpoint, this band was unique among its peers. Sometimes lumped in the "prog rock" bailywick, PH was really much more than that.
The closing number on A Salty Dog is Pilgrim's Progress. The third and last Fisher written composition on the album, it begins with his signature Hammond organ sound accompanying his sweet soft vocals. If ever there was a song that makes me take a long look back at my life, this would be it. The lyrics are introspective and full of truth. Damn - this song sends shivers down my spine.
A few things I wish to point out:
- B. J. Wilson's drumming. I rank him up there with Keith Moon and Ringo. Never was a better percussion man.
- Fisher's uncanny ability to write a melody that could have come out of a Bach cantata
- The absolutely stunning beauty of that melody
- The sound of the Hammond
- The touching story arc and the realization that life really is a big circle
- The opening of the piano-driven coda, and B. J.'s entrance therein
- The hand claps in the closing section
- The Beach Boys-esque vocal harmony at the end
In starting out I thought to go exploring
and set my foot upon the nearest road
In vain I looked to find the promised turning
but only saw how far I was from home
In searching I forsook the paths of learning
and sought instead to find some pirate's gold
In fighting I did hurt those dearest to me
and still no hidden truths could I unfold
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Frosting On The Beater hit the record shelves in 1993. Unlike their pop-filled sophomore effort Dear 23, FOTB contains a definite movement towards a harder rock sound. It is filled with moments of grandeur as well as some of their finest melodies up to that time. Definite Door has a possible sci-fi premise with hints about "another dimension", but underneath it really seems to be about a life out of control. Heavenly harmonies come in with the second section of the bridge at 0:56, then around 1:24 an instrumental interlude kicks out the jams. The simple bass line alone is worth the price of admission. It knocks me in the gut every time I hear it.
Keeping track of the eyesight streaming
Isn't part of the regimen
Many hours of sleepless dreaming
Unaware of the mess you're in
And if you didn't have a clue
You probably never will
And all the things you didn't do
Will inundate you still...
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Here is the fabulously soul-drenched Afterglow from side one. I love everything about this song - the initial comical acoustic opening, the Hammond organ sound, Marriott's vocal pyrotechnics from a whisper to a scream, Kenny Jones' powerful drumming, and the way the song builds each time to the furious chorus. They were an amazing band at this point in the career.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
An obvious choice for this post would have been the title track by virtue of its haunting melodies and ghostly back story. But this album has one rocker that deserves equal attention. A chunky rhythm section starts Macbeth off like gangbusters. In a typical obtuse John Cale fashion the lyrics do not give away enough information to make it clear who or what the song is about. But it does not matter for the music is upbeat and joyful, and the fiery guitar work by Lowell George of Little Feat is top notch. Something about this groove here reminds me of Paul MacCartney and Wings circa the same 73-74 period. Cale was firing on all cylinders.
And you know it's true
You never saw things quite that way
She knew it all
And made you see things all her way
Somebody knows for sure
It's gotta be me or it's gotta be you
Come on along and tell me it's alright
It's alright by me
Macbeth (press ctl-enter)
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
What other pop record starts with a string quartet and bassoons? It is a song of incredible complexity - mulitple sections which intertwine betwixt and between organ, trumpet, strings, brass, jangly guitar and the kitchen sink. Lead singer Steve Martin has a one-of-a-kind tenor voice that works perfectly within the baroque atmosphere of Michael Brown's compositions. And that ending with the cacophony of "la la las" over the orchestral counterpoint sends me over the edge. A guaranteed 2 and 1/2 minutes of pure listening pleasure.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Listen to the impeccable harmony work in The Ghost and Number One. I have no idea who the "knappy superstar" is who inspired the rant in the lyrics but there is real venom exuding here.
Sure life's no cherry but a cupcake for the meekAt 1:23 the song enters a Pet Sounds-inspired musical universe. And again at 2:40, what with the banjo, chimes, and bass line, the spirit of Brian Wilson lives on.
So he shoots up his poison until the frosting tastes so sweet
Mrs.Lynn the fruit of your labour
Gives us a savior, nappy superstar.
To you we bid congratulations, to him adulation.
A blessed life begun, for the ghost at number one.
Friday, July 16, 2010
What brings me to revisit Wichita is perhaps one of the finest songs written in the 20th century. Those that read this blog know that I have a big gooey soft spot for the songwriting of Jimmy Webb. He has a way with weaving his words into melodies that seem to have always been there in the back of my mind. And more often than not the lyrics hit a chord with me that continues to vibrate years later. Wichita Lineman conveys a feeling of yearning, a desire for a connection that never quite transpires. The lineman imagines the voice of his lover echoing over the electric lines. But there he is, up on the pole, miles away from the real thing and the reality and loneliness sets in. The arrangement adds to the mood, with swooning strings and a Gulbransen synthesizer (thanks Wikipedia!) telegraphing an insistent morse code signal.
I hear you singing in the wire
I can hear your through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line
And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
But the Wichita lineman is still on the line
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The B-side - To Be Free - is a lovely piano driven Beatleish tune that would have fit nicely on Magical Mystery Tour. Wish it was available on Youtube so that I could share it. If I had to pick a year that was the peak of the 45rpm single it would probably be 1968.
Based on what I read at Tages they were the predominant pop/psych band in Sweden in the mid 60s. Based on a dozen tracks I downloaded a few years ago I can see why. Tuneful, great harmonies, and production work nearly on a par with the best UK bands. Many of their later tracks were recorded at EMI/Abbey Road studios in London.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Here is a video for the original version (imho much better) of Pretty In Pink. Caroline (my friend, not the subject of the song) is pretty sure the song is about a drag queen, and now that I have read the lyrics I must say I think she is spot on. Just like all of those great Lou Reed songs about transvestites, Pretty In Pink casts a shimmering soft light on its subject and treats her with great respect.
caroline laughs and it's raining all day
she loves to be one of the girls
she lives in the place in the side of our lives
where nothing is ever put straight
the one who insists he was first in the line
is the last to remember her name
he's walking around in this dress that she wore
she is gone but the joke's the same
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I have no doubt that the Mael brothers were using every trick in the book to get noticed. After all this was their shot at the big time. They had two big hit singles in the UK earlier in the year and their offbeat stage personas had worked well amongst the oddities of UK pop music at that time. Glam glitter and gold lame were all the rage. Ron sat behind the electronic keyboard like Charlie Chaplin on tranquilizers while pouty-lipped brother Russell pranced around the stage with his poodle dog haircut bouncing in rhythm to the beat. Needless to say the effect did not translate to sales or radio play in the USA.
For me their first two Island albums are little treasures of pop depravity. The excellent lead guitarist and talented bassist from Kimono My House were jettisoned when their suggestions for a musical direction threatened the Mael's stranglehold on the band. Waiting in the wings was Trevor White, perhaps my favorite glam-era guitarists ever. His work throughout Propaganda is full of pyrotechnical somersaults, and the producer put that sound front-and-center in a way that was never allowed again on a Sparks recording.
Reinforcements consists of a verse melody that could have been composed by Kurt Weill and a rock chorus that is driven by an insistent guitar chord. The double entendre of the lyrics are a hoot, with comparisons of the sexual appetite of the singer's girlfriend Denise to the lexicon of armies going to war. At 2:04 the chorus repeats, each time building with more energy until the guitar nearly explodes, then at 2:36 the bottom drops out. What comes next is one of those unexpectedly divine moments that pop music can sometimes deliver. The verse harmony recurs, but instead of lyrics it is accompanied by a softly sung vocalise, a lovely guitar counterpoint, and a background chorus. Then on the second time through it is joined by the guitar and even more counter vocal lines. And then it repeats just enough times to linger in my head for hours afterwards. Imagine God Only Knows mutated into a twisted glam cacophony.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
One of Paul's crazier ideas was to record his next record in a small EMI studio in a tropical land far away from the UK. Only after he had signed up as producer did Mr. Emerick learn that the studio was in fact in Lagos, Nigeria. Paul had recently ejected Wing's drummer and lead guitarist, leaving only the core of Paul and Linda, and the ever-faithful Denny Laine. Upon arrival in Lagos the hardy travellers were met with hostile locals, flooding monsoon rains, and a recording studio which was - shall we say - something less than modern.
In the process Paul pulled himself together to write what is likely his finest collected batch of post-Beatles songs. No worries about his departed band mates - Paul was more than up to the task of playing drums and guitar along with his vocals and always stellar bass work. And no solo McCartney or Wings record ever sounded as good as this album. Whatever was in the water in Lagos, Paul should go back for another drink.
The album closing track, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five finds Mr. McCartney in a rockier groove with a super fine bass sound. Then there are the lovely vocal harmony sections that weld together all the pieces. When the final buildup occurs at about 3:45, the smile on my face gets so big that my moustache touches the bottom of my reading glasses. Brass, synthesizer, piano, bass, and a final explosion that leads back to a reprise of the Band On The Run chorus. Thank you Paul -- all memory of At The Speed of Sound has been erased.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Musically, Sorrow is a product of its time with psychedelic flourishes throughout. Mr. Smith's production adds odd instruments along with layered vocals. Pandora's box was opened with Sgt. Pepper the previous year and Sorrow takes advantage of the giant leap forward. Unlike the musical kaleidoscope, the story is quite grim. In fact it may well contain the most depressing story arc in the history of pop music. Before side one has ended, Sebastian F. Sorrow - the protagonist - as a young man has taken a job as a scab worker at a factory where his father had previously been employed. He goes off to war, witnesses atrocities, returns home only to witness his fiance's death in a Zeppelin disaster.
Later in the story Sorrow has been shown the dark side of life by the wicked Baron Saturday, and comes to the conclusion that the world is devoid of people of honor and trust. The song Trust finds him barely holding on to the last of his sanity. The loping melody, syncopated bass line and gorgeous vocal harmonies stab at a sharp angle with the hopelessness of the lyrics. This is truly one of the lost treasures of the sixties.
Excuse me please as I wipe a tear
Away from an eye that sees there's nothing left to trust
Finding that their minds are grey
And there's no sorrow in the world that's left to trust.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Some day I must write about Peek-a-boo, a disturbing song with an art house video in which Siouxsee Sioux dons a killer Louise Brooks bob. But today I am listening to Spellbound, a single from 1981. From the point the percussion (courtesy of Budgie) and acoustic guitar make their entrance about 30 seconds in I am hooked. The fast guitar strumming with interesting chord changes is a hallmark of this song. Reminds me of The Who and Aztec Camera. Listen and enjoy.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Romany is a little-heard jewel that contains some of their finest harmony work. Terry Sylvester turned out to be quite a talented replacement for Mr. Nash, and Rickfors added a soulful baritone lead that took them in an entirely different direction. Unfortunately, except for a few singles and a release-in-Germany-only LP, this lineup would never again issue vinyl.
There is so much to enjoy here. Judee Sill's odd vision of religious ecstasy Jesus Was a Crossmaker is given a beautiful power pop rendition with Terry Sylvester's lead vocal. Magic Woman Touch is the failed single that should have been a hit what with its lovely opening guitar work by the underrated Tony Hicks and a splendid lilting verse melody. Or Courage of Your Convictions - seen by some as an attempt to cash in on the sound of 1971's hit Long Cool Woman - but in my book this is a vastly superior rocker with more excellent chiming guitar work by Mr. Hicks. And the ballad Romany exhibits Mr. Rickfor's honeyed-voice in a way that no previous Hollies tune could have.
Perhaps the most surprising song here is Delaware Taggett and the Outlaw Boys. The Hollies imbue this tune with harmonies right out of Crosby Stills and Nash, and the tightness of the instrumental work indicates that they had finer chops that anyone had given them credit for up to this time.
Long time fans rejoiced the next year when Mr. Clarke returned to the fold but for me the promise of Romany was forever lost.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Knowledgeable reviewers knew the score though - this was EC's finest album to date. The power pop of This Year's Model, the orchestrated sweep of Armed Forces, and the compressed soulfulness of Get Happy all came together in a mature collage of lyrics and melodies. And the Attractions were at an absolute peak, giving each song a sound universe befitting the generally downbeat lyrics.
Just about every tune on this LP is a keeper, even the near rockabilly Luxemburg. For my money the absolute standout track it New Lace Sleeves with its shifting rhythms and harmonic movements that take it into new unexplored territory. The bass, percussion, and keyboard work are so fine I cannot bring justice to them with mere words. The final staccato organ chords keep coming back again and again as the song trails off. The first half deals with the aftermath of a less than successful tryst and then pulls in the media circus around politicians and their penchant for indiscreet rendevous. In the second half EC wags his finger at the British empire and its pursuant warmongering. At least that is how I read it, as on this album Mr. MacManus becomes even more opaque and obscure, but the rhythm and the poetry of the lyrics stand up even if they have become nearly indecipherable.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The front cover photo contained no band members, just a five-necked checkered guitar and a bass drum skin. The moment I picked up the CD I could feel that something was different. Inside was a bonus disc which I listened to first. It contained a killer hard rock number Baby Talk and a spot-on cover of The Move's Brontosaurus. My expectations were high at this point, but I was in no way prepared for what I encountered on the official release.
CT 97 is filled with some of the finest power pop ever made. There are a few angry rockers like the opening Anytime that transforms itself into a grunge screamer. Then there are some stunningly beautiful quieter numbers like the closing It All Comes Back to You. And the remainder - mostly written by the band - shows a maturity beyond what I ever expected from the Tricksters.
I keep coming back to this album again and again. Because of the consistent quality from start to finish I am reluctant to pick a favorite. But at the moment there is a one song that keeps cropping up in my subconscious due to its combination of aching lyrics and one of the finest chorus melodies in the annals of power pop.
Carnival Game begins with a man who is sure that the pain caused by his relationship is so great that he would be better of alone.
Some days are easier said than doneWhen the chorus arrives he momentarily relents and gives in to his need for a physical connection. But soon the pain returns and he gives up. That brief respite never returns.
Always expecting something's wrong
I'd rather live alone than drag this on
Take your time - please lay your hands on me
Don't wanna be alone, oh no
A mask behind a face then you're gone
Oh yeah - comes a time when you're better off alone
We once collided like a broken wheel
So undecided what was real
Maybe a crash somehow has sex appeal
Whatever turns you on
One down - one to go
Oh no, playin' in a carnival
Your time is gone
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I previously posted an audio-only preview of the lead off track Repulsion but with the success of the release and the accompanying tour, a plethora of live videos have been posted. A favorite of mine is an video filmed at the Gibson studio in Austin TX by KEXP (Seattle) during the SXSW festival. It gives a real glimpse of the loose yet focused energy the band brings to their live performances.
Sam summons up a combination of Keith Richard's riffage and Summer of Love psychedelic guitar freak out in this little tale of a sad loser with love making performance issues. Meanwhile Janet and Joanna have become my favorite rhythm section of any band currently working. My objectivity is clouded of course - these folks are based here in my little heaven of a city.
I could not stop, I stayed too long
I gave it a shot but I got the gong
I hit the bed and I pull up the sheets
I am stuck in this rotten lump of meat
And "folding" over at You-tube has posted the studio version with a video credited to Mike Donovan that has a zillion jump cuts and odd video effects. Fits the song to a tee.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Sam moves beyond the heart-tugging relationship struggles from their previous release. As the lead off track All The Same expounds a world-weary attitude.
"frayed at the edges, busted at the seams
i can walk with a song, sleep with my dreams"
When he does touch on relationship troubles his take is much more adult than in previous lyrics. The decision of whether to suffer or move on is now within his grasp.
"you can get out with it clean or prolong the agony
which ever you prefer, it's all the same to me"
And perhaps my favorite bit of lyric from Quasi is a poke at starry eyed do-gooders. I count myself in that group from time to time. But as an environmentalist and realist I know the chips are stacked against us.
"you worship the future like it's some kind of saint
but it's just like the past with a new coat of paint
try to save a world that doesn't want to be saved
stolen like a child, the one you think is misbehaved"
Friday, March 12, 2010
The CD is chock full of bright roxichord-driven pop songs with broken hearts sprinkled liberally throughout the lyrics. There will be no tragic 19th century romantic subjects here. The sentiments expressed come from deep inside a wounded heart for sure, but there is no gothic vision nor tragic barely missed opportunities. Long time fans like myself have always wondered if Sam Coomes was writing about his failed marriage to drummer Janet Weiss. Only the two of them know for sure, but in a wicked twist of fate they journey on in the band now entering its seventeenth year. If she is indeed the antagonist of these tunes, it is an amazing resolution that they continue to make great music together.
So for your listening please here is I Never Want To See You Again.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Even though you're nowhere near me
And I know you kiss him so sincerely now
Even though the signal's indistinct
And you worry what silly people think
Who just can't wait to feel frozen out
I bet he thinks that he was chosen out of millions
I suppose he will never know about... High Fidelity
Monday, February 1, 2010
Here is an unordered list of sixty songs that were all contenders, and if I could fit 164 into 100(+4) entries I would. Maybe a year from now I will revisit and refine the original list, but for now I think these 164 entries are a fine collection of the lost art of the 45rpm single.
|Carpet Man||The Magic Garden||The 5th Dimension||1968||Video|
|Earn Enough For Us(Australia only)||The Man Who Sailed around His Soul||XTC||1986||Video|
|Grass||Extrovert; Dear God||XTC||1986||Video|
|O, My Soul||Morpha too-I'm in Love With a Girl||Big Star||1974||Video|
|September Gurls||Mod Lang||Big Star||1974||Video|
|Say Goodbye||Yeah Yeah||Cheap Trick||1997||Video|
|Stop This Game||Who D'King||Cheap Trick||1980||Video|
|Surrender||Auf Wiedersehen||Cheap Trick||1978||Video|
|Homburg||Good Captain Clack||Procol Harum||1967||Video|
|Heroes||V-2 Schneider||David Bowie||1977||Video|
|Golden Years||Can You Hear Me||David Bowie||1975||Video|
|Changes||Andy Warhol||David Bowie||1972||Video|
|#9 Dream||What You Got||John Lennon||1974||Video|
|Mind Games||Meat City||John Lennon||1973||Video|
|Stand by Me||Move Over Ms L||John Lennon||1975||Video|
|Photograph||Down and Out||Ringo Starr||1973||Video|
|It Dont' Come Easy||Early 1970||Ringo Starr||1971||Video|
|Back Off Boogaloo||Blindman||Ringo Starr||1972||Video|
|When We Was Fab||Zig Zag||George Harrison||1988||Video|
|Blow Away||Soft Touch||George Harrison||1979||Video|
|Hi, Hi, Hi||C Moon||Wings||1972||Video|
|The Back Seat of My Car||Heart of the Country||Paul McCartney||1971||Video|
|Shangri-La||This Man He Weeps Tonight||The Kinks||1969||Video|
|See My Friends||Never Met a Girl Like You Before||The Kinks||1965||Video|
|Days||She's Got Everything||The Kinks||1968||Video|
|Sleepwalker||Full Moon||The Kinks||1977||Video|
|Dead End Street||Big Black Smoke||The Kinks||1966||Video|
|Nutbush City Limits||Help Him||Ike and Tina Turner||1973||Video|
|Help Me||Just Like This Train||Joni Mitchell||1974||Video|
|Killer Queen||Flick of the Wrist||Queen||1974||Video|
|Past, Present and Future||Paradise||The Shangri-Las||1966||Video|
|Remember (Walking in the Sand)||It's Easier to Cry||The Shangri-Las||1964||Video|
|Anarchy in the U.K.||I Wanna Be Me||Sex Pistols||1976||Video|
|God Save The Queen||No Feeling||Sex Pistols||1977||Video|
|See Emily Play||Scarecrow||Pink Floyd||1967||Video|
|Arnold Layne||Candy and a Currant Bun||Pink Floyd||1967||Video|
|Laughing||Undun||The Guess Who||1969||Video|
|No Time||Proper Stranger||The Guess Who||1969||Video|
|These Eyes||Lightfoot||The Guess Who||1969|
|Turn! Turn! Turn!||She Don't Care About Time||The Byrds||1965||Video|
|So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star||Everybody's Been Burned||The Byrds||1967||Video|
|Chestnut Mare||Just a Season||The Byrds||1970|
|Walk Away Renee||I Haven't Got the Nerve||The Left Banke||1966||Video|
|The Little Girl I Once Knew||There's No Other (Like My Baby)||Beach Boys||1965||Video|
|Wild Honey||Wind Chimes||Beach Boys||1967||Video|
|White Rabbit||Plastic Fantastic Lover||Jefferson Airplane||1967||Video|
|Evil Hearted You||Still I'm Sad||Yardbirds||1965||Video|
|For Your Love||Got To Hurry||Yardbirds||1965||Video|
|Shapes of Things||You're a Better Man Than I||Yardbirds||1966||Video|
|Happenings Ten Years Time Ago||Psycho Daisies||Yardbirds||1966||Video|
|Over Under Sideways Down||Jeff's Boogie||Yardbirds||1966||Video|
|It's My Life||I'm Going to Change the World||The Animals||1965||Video|
|We've Gotta Get Out of This Place||I Can't Believe It||The Animals||1965||Video|
|Stand!||I Want to Take You Higher||Sly and the Family Stone||1969||Video|
|Hot Fun in the Summertime||Fun||Sly and the Family Stone||1969||Video|
|I'm Free||We're Not Going to Take It||The Who||1969|