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.