Wednesday, November 26, 2014

There were rules you never told me

A few months ago I mentioned that I had just purchased Paul McCartney's New album.   Well, I am here to report that IMO his winning streak is going strong.  In fact the deluxe edition contains a couple of bonus tracks that leave me wondering why they were omitted on the original release.  There are beau coups of ear worms here, and Mr. McCartney continues to venture into new sounds and structures.  Starting with Chaos and Creation from 2005 it seems that he has finally thrown off the shackles that lowered the value of his 80s and 90s output.

Queenie Eye belongs in the category of "just enjoy the ride".  From the opening mellotron prelude (shades of Sgt. Peppers!) to the piano driven pop of the song proper, this is one of those songs that only McCartney could deliver.  I consider it the 21st century cousin of Lady Madonna, with a driving beat and melody that never overstays its welcome.  Furthermore there is a heavenly almost whispered interlude right in the middle that makes me feel like the sky has lifted to the heavens, and brings out the most touching lyrics in this song:

It's long way, to the finish
When you've never been before
I was nervous, but I did it
Now I'm going back for more

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The next best thing to be...

Here is a little taste of heaven, at least at the aural level.  I am so besotted by the duo lead singers of Lucius that I sought out every YouTube video that I could find.  And in the process stumbled across their live in the studio rendition of John Lennon's Free As a Bird.  The first soft vocal entry is absolutely perfect - the tone and harmony work is spine tingling.  And then.. on the next verse... the first word "Home" is delivered as a cascading overload of harmony.  A perfect sense of rhythm coupled with dead on pitch and breath control shoots this into the stratosphere.  The contrapuntal acoustic guitar and over amped electric lead guitar add sparse accompaniment that fits the song perfectly.   My partner and I are kicking ourselves for missing Lucius twice in 2014 here in Stumptown.   Next time they are anywhere near the West Coast - we will be there.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

You've been acting strange of late

In 1965 my cousin Mary Rita married a young man named Roger, and they needed to get rid of some items to move in together, so Roger gave me his LP collection.   Among the gems were albums by Gerry and the Pacemakers (that "other" Merseybeat band) and San Francisco's own Beau Brummels.  That Brummels LP is long gone but I sure wish I had kept a hold of it.  The more I listen to their recorded legacy, the more I realize what a really fine band they were.  They had an ace songwriter in guitarist Ron Elliott, and one of the most unique vocalists with Sal Valentino.  Record company issues and changing popular tastes shortened their career, but before they called it quits in 1968 they produced a fine body of work ranging from their early folk/pop hits to psychedelia, with their final LP as a Nashville produced county/folk piece that I love dearly.

In 1965, as they were changing record labels, Fine With Me was intended as a single A side was left in the vaults, then re-recorded as a B-side on their new record company.  Over its Mamas and Papas bop-bop-bop vibe and acoustic guitar licks, Mr. Valentino delivers a deep soulful lead vocal. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Changing now into forever

Gary Usher was a songwriter and producer who had a hand in some of the most gorgeous pop records of the 1960s.  He co-wrote songs with Brian Wilson early in the Beach Boys career, including the resplendent In My Room.  He produced my favorite Byrds LP The Notorious Byrds Brothers, their last record to include the nucleus of the original band.   His revolutionary production merged psychedelic effects throughout that record.  Along with cohort songwriter and musician Curt Boettcher they released one of my favorite lost sike-pop LPs Present Tense under the band moniker of Sagittarius. 

The oddly named Song to the Magic Frog (Will You Ever Know) boasts one of the most exquisite melodies that I can think of.   The accompaniment is mostly acoustic guitar and harpsichord, with xylophone thrown in for good measure.  Against this baroque pop atmosphere are angelic vocals that leap and soar into the heavens.   Frankly it can be tear inducing if it catches me in the right moment. 

Above the cloud-like, shimmering oval
Through some misty blue
Still before me
Stands the morning when I first saw you

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Though it's only a whim

So here is the last of the three John Lennon songs that open Beatles For SaleBaby's In Black has a happy country-tinged atmosphere that belies the downright depressing subject matter.  The singer is pining after a girl who cannot get over the death of her lover.   Though I do not find it quite as wonderful as the two songs that preceded it, it does have a lovely middle eight in which McCartney leaps into the upper atmosphere, and the John and Paul harmonies are quite wonderful and remain from start to finish.  George furnishes a short twangy guitar solo with some unexpected leaps and slides that I only wish were longer.  And Ringo has some simple yet perfect fills, but you must listen carefully to hear them as they are not prominent in the mix.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Although I Laugh and I Act like a Clown

I'm A Loser is the second in the John Lennon trifecta that lead off Beatles For Sale.  And the blue mood started with No Reply just digs itself a deeper hole.   This album is the turning point where John's lyrics become more introspective, and consequently more real.

Just a few of my many favorite moments:
  • John and Paul's exquisite harmonies in the intro
  • The jangle of John's acoustic guitar, followed by Paul's bass entrance
  • John repeatedly hits a low G
  • Paul's walking bass line during the chorus 
  • Ringo's cymbal work
  • John's raunchy harmonica
  • George's country picking on the solo

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I tried to telephone

The first three songs on Beatles For Sale may be my favorite opening trio on any Beatles LP.   All three were written by John Lennon, and they capture him at his early peak.   His songwriting would evolve over the course of the next three years, but these sad melancholy love songs from late 1964 are just my cuppa tea.  John was still fully invested in the Beatles and their future at this point, and for at least a couple of more albums he would lead the way with his amazing songwriting talent.

No Reply was a brave choice for the opening cut.  Of course Paul McCartney's fingerprints are all over this song, from the great harmony work (in tandem with George) to the uptempo middle eight.   But it is John's glorious sense of melody and the emotional explosion with "I Saw The Light..." that just sends this over the top.   His singing turns raw and anguished, and it hits me right in gut.  The acoustic strumming and Ringo's sublime syncopation just add to the atmosphere.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

October 9th 1940

Today is John Lennon's birthday.  There is nothing I can say other than I miss him dearly.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I was crying, left to die in this godforsaken place

For the last few months I have been on a Macca jag.  After years of being turned off by his creative low point in the 1980s I have finally embraced his late period renaissance.  With 2005's Chaos and Creation In The Backyard I felt that he was again at the top of his game, writing some of his most personal lyrics and lovely rainy day melodies.  That album is anything but a rock'n'roll album but I love it dearly nonethless.

His follow up release, which consisted mostly of songs started before "Creation", was Memory Almost Full.  Fellow blogger Tim mentioned to me that it is a fine album but for some reason I never jumped on board.  Until now.  I just picked up a used copy of the deluxe release.  On my way home from the record store I listened in stunned amazement.   This album rocks like nothing he has done in ages.  Why I waited seven years to dip my toe is due to a nagging fear that Paul could not keep up the high quality of it's predecessor.  Well I was wrong.

Perhaps the most Wings'ish sounding tune he has written since that band's demise is Only Mama Knows.   Not only does it rock like all get out, but it has a killer hook in the chorus, and when the harmonies kick in the last time around it sends shivers down my spine.   That a man in his sixties could write a power pop classic is a true testament to his inate sense of melody and skill at songwriting.

I just bought "New" so expect reports shortly.

Monday, September 1, 2014

You'll Shine Over Me Today

In 1973-74, Paul McCartney and his band Wings were on fire.  Singles Live and Let Die and Helen Wheels got the ball rolling, followed by the Band On The Run LP and two singles spawned from that triple platinum album, then Paul's great rocker Junior's Farm.   Also during this time Paul produced and co-wrote the music for his brother Mike McGear's 1974 eponymous LP.  And his band Wings came along with the deal, so for all intents and purposes this is a Wings LP with Mike McGear singing lead vocals. 

I bought this LP when it came out based on a glowing review in Stereo Review magazine.  IMHO this album was better than the next Wings LP Venus and Mars.  In fact it is somewhat of a lost treasure.  That said, there are some odd tracks that were clearly more musically risky than anything Paul was willing to commit to on an official Wings' album, but for me that only adds to the charm.  Rainbow Lady might not be the deepest or most expansive track, but it has the effortless Macca tunefulness mixed with some lovely harmony work.

Friday, August 29, 2014

See The Light

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour were not the only 70's power poppers in Tulsa.  I was still in high school in Enid - 120 miles west of Tulsa - when Cargoe released their one and only studio LP on Ardent Records.  Yes, that same Memphis label that spawned Big Star.   And just like Big Star, the record company had immense distribution and financial issues before finally going down the tubes.   The Cargoe LP tanked as one might expect.  But their 1972 single Feel Alright went to #1 in Memphis and received considerable airplay in the South.

Cargoe was not so Beatles and Byrds obsessed as Big Star and their music shows a much broader range of influences.    The Wiki page for Cargoe states "Cargoe epitomized the funky Tulsa sound".   I could not agree more!  If you want to learn more there is a great write up on the band over at Bordel do Rock in which they are referred to as the "American Badfinger".  High praise indeed.

Feel Alright has so much going for it - powerful drumming, a killer jumpy jerking bass line, excellent CSN harmonies, and a complicated verse melody with hooks galore. 

Here is a smokin' live version:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Have You Seen Her Dressed In Blue?

Just because.   I am a marginal fan of the Rolling Stones, but I sure dig their Summer of Love output.  The LP Their Satanic Majesties Request and the single We Love You are quite my cup of tea.  Full flowered psychedelia with a pinch of foreboding.  Here is She's A Rainbow, with that eerie opening piano riff courtesy of Nicky Hopkins.

Ignore the year posted on the YouTube video - this was definitely from 1967.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oh the Mysteries

In 2010 Dwight Twilley released his thirteenth (or possibly fourteenth) studio album, not counting a bunch of releases of lost recordings from throughout his career.   Green Blimp found him ratcheting up the Beatles vibe, and nowhere was that more apparent than on Me And Melanie.  The driving piano riff is punctuated by Revolver-era guitar interjections.  "We changed our style.  We've been changing for a long long while."  The chorus is infectious - "Me and Melanie, Oh the memories" - and is underpinned by some stellar production work with guitar and bass counterpoint.   Give a listen at 1:47 to the bending notes in the guitar solo - just amazing and beautiful.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what power pop is all about!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Six O'clock in the Morning I Finished Recording

After their 1975 hit single "I'm On Fire" the Dwight Twilley Band suffered through the collapse of their record company, the yanking of their follow-up single "Shark In the Dark" from distribution due to record company worries that it would be seen as cashing in on the new hit movie "Jaws", and the cancellation of the LP they had been recording in England while "Fire" was riding up the charts.

So in 1977, with Arista as the new distributor for Shelter Records they recorded their second LP Twilley Don't Mind.  Dwight and Phil Seymour along with their longtime guitarist Bill Pitcock IV enlisted some help from friend Tom Petty.   The resulting album was a template for what power pop could and should have been.  But Arista seemed to lose interest and radio stations ignored the LP and singles

The great and sadly departed Mr. Pitcock lays down some 12 string jangle of the highest order in That I Remember.  This video from what appears to be a children's TV show is unfortunately lip synced.  However it is great to see the band in their prime.  The chorus never fails to choke me up a bit. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Million Hours to Dream

Here is a little nugget of power pop heaven from 1979,  Dwight Twilley with Alone in My Room.  I tend to wax poetic when discussing my hometown rocker.  Back during his brief brush with fame in the mid-70s I would preach to the unwashed in an attempt to gain some converts.   With the benefit of hindsight I can see that his heartfelt marriage of Beatles, rockabilly, and glam was just too out of step with current trends.   However for me the joy continues, and I have discovered a fantastic back catalog of albums right up to the present day.  I hope to be posting some of those hidden gems soon.

This track kicks off with a tasty guitar riff fighting against the counterpoint of the bass line.  One of the great features of this song is the front-and-center guitar work.  But the chorus just kills me.   This should have been a GIANT hit!

Monday, August 18, 2014

A shameful display, sung in some impermanent place

Every few years a new band comes along that gets up my hopes that the next big thing may be in the works.   The last band to trip my trigger - Tame Impala from Perth Australia - produced a killer first LP.   All fuzzed out in modern day trance psych, I really though they were contenders.  But their second LP was a big letdown, full of retread ideas and a drop off in energy level.

Recently I latched on to Temples, a new UK band that formed in 2012.   Several listens to their first album Sun Structures has me convinced that they might be the one.   I am really trying hard not to go overboard just yet, but the musical evidence so far is mighty fine.   Their influences include early Pink Floyd and T-Rex, with Byrds and Beatles definitely in the mix.

Their late 2013 single Keep In the Dark is the subject of today's post.  It kicks off with a glam drum stomp, then builds until a sing along chorus is followed by a high voice and mellotron flute, taking the listener into Moody Blues territory.  Then at the 2:00 minute mark an unknown instrument (bass sax, fuzzed out bass?) takes the song to a whole new level of psychedelic fab-ness.

I just discovered that they will be in Seattle and Portland next month, so tickets must be purchased forthwith.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

And no, it is not dangerous to confuse children with angels

Annie Lennox soars into the heavens with There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart).  It is a lovely throwback to the late 60s Tamla/Motown vibe, but updated with typical 80s synthesizers.  The harmonica solos by Stevie Wonder just add to the bliss.

And unrelated, except for having "Angel" in the title, is the show stopper title song from the too bizarre to be real movie "Angel Angel Down We Go".  This 1969 flick starring Jennifer Jones is on my must see list, as soon as I can snag a DVD copy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Take It Tony

From Wing's much maligned first LP Wildlife, here is Little Richard Paul McCartney cranking up the volume and rocking out like nobody's business on Mumbo.  Frankly I always loved this album.  Granted a lot of folks - who also hated Ram - groused about the lack of studio finesse.  But for me this album has a bit of everything that Paul does so well.  Great melodies, interesting harmonies, and the ability to rock out.   Sure Mumbo has little to offer in the lyrics department, but Paul's bass and Denny Seiwell's drumming just tear it up.  And then there are those awesome organ interjections and the energy level just keeps pumping all the way through. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The cat in satin trousers said it's oily

In light of the recent announcement of the next two archive releases from Paul McCartney and Wings, here is the white hot live-in-the-studio version of Soily from the One Hand Clapping film.  I have never understood why a studio version of this song was never released.  A fine live version appeared on the Maybe I'm Amazed (live) 45 b-side, but this OHC version  just smokes it.  Apparently Paul intended it to be part of the planned two-record release of Red Rose Speedway but that was cut to a single LP before release.

Every time I watch and listen to this performance on the Band on the Run archive release DVD I contemplate what an album full of stompers like this might have done for Wing's image back in the day.  Along with Junior's Farm, this is as heavy as McCartney ever got outside of the Beatles.  Anyway, I just love this song to death.  Also dig Linda jigging about in the background, looking too cool for school.  Big time Linda fan here!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Some Just Shapeless Forms

Let's bring this summer's psychedelic party across the water to my home turf.  Easily one of the earliest and most musically adventurous journeys into the realm of otherworldliness.  Written mostly by Gene Clark, with one great line of lyrics provided by David Crosby and IMHO the most amazing guitar work ever committed to vinyl thanks to Roger McGuinn - of course I am referring to Eight Miles High.  Sadly this was to be the Byrds last venture into the US top twenty.

Gene Clark would be gone before the song was released but his stamp is all over the place in the vocal melody and lyrics.   Banned by some radio stations due to its supposed drug influences, a close listen to the lyrics tell me that it is about so much more.  I see it as a poetic reflection on the loneliness of travel through the prism of an outsider.   The novel musical arrangement shows that The Byrds were ahead of the game.  Released in March of 1966, this single beat the Beatles to the psychedelic punch of Revolver by six months.

From Chris Hillman's opening leaping bass line and Crosby's chugging rhythm guitar rise that unmistakable McGuinn twelve string frenzy - all free form jazz and sounding like nothing before (or after).  Every time I hear those gorgeous three part vocal harmonies they put a lump in my throat.

Rain gray town
Known for its sound
In places, small faces abound

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I’m Just a Stranger Here

Here is the scenario:
  • a rock band from St. Louis MO is offered a deal with Capitol Records in 1968.
  • the band turns down the offer but is given the name of an A/R man with EMI in London
  • the band flies to London, plays a demo for the EMI man, and gets a record deal
  • hailed as the next Beatles, the band is given a £35,000 budget to record an LP
  • during the recording in 1969 one band member quits
  • the album is completed, the band heads back to Missouri only to lose another member due to a family issue
  • EMI backs out of releasing the LP because there is no longer a band to tour and promote it
  • 34 years later, in 2003, the album is release on CD
The band is the Aerovons, and apparently the only record released while they were still active was an EMI single in the UK.   I stumbled upon the CD recently and was both amazed and amused.  The LP is chock full of McCartney-esque piano pop, sometimes sung with a John Lennon tone.   The songs are quite tuneful though many have elements that were clearly lifted directly from The Beatles.  Over at Peter's Power Pop Peter has cataloged many of the "borrowed" pieces.  However the one big number - World Of You - is a bit of a lost psychedelic masterpiece.  It contains one of the finest string arrangements these ears have heard, at least in a pop song.  With its lovely sad melody, it feels like a wistful winter day.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Don't You Think That Your Love Is a Waste?

I have previously hucked Tages here at la Casa Sunday - a Swedish band that tried to break into the UK market and recorded and Abbey Road around the time of Sgt . Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  In keeping with my recent theme of UK psychedelia, here is To Be Free, the b-side to the song in my previous posting.   It includes a guitar lick that appears a few times throughout this song that just slays me.  It is only seven notes, but the tone and timbre is so at odds with the rest of the song I cannot help but fall in love with it.  The song itself has a very odd construction and includes a tinny old upright piano that lends just the right mood.  It says what it has to say in less than two minutes, then fades away into a barely audible section of music concréte.

And amazingly enough, someone has put up a promo film for To Be Free on Youtube!

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Luck That's Brought Me Down

The last 45rpm released by The Action before Parlophone canceled their recording contract was Shadows and Reflections.   Produced by George Martin, the song was written by Larry Marks and Tandyn Almer.  Mr. Almer was the composer of Along Comes Mary as well as co-writer of Sail On Sailor with Brian Wilson.  This track gives a good idea of what the Rolled Gold tracks might have sounded like if they had ever made it past the demo stage.

After a lovely but sad harpsichord introduction the verse kicks in and Reg King reminisces about love that is lost:

There's an old vacant apartment
Above the shop on the square
Something keeps bringing me back to
Those final moments we shared
To that glass the reflections
Cast their glow on the door
Empty shadows of night on the floor

At the 1:50 mark that Martin magic comes blaring in with horns and heavenly harmonies carry through to the end. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Kind of Love's Bringing Down This Man

On my top 100 45rpm singles posting I placed the Easybeats' Friday on My Mind in the top ten.  Written by Easybeats pair of lead guitarist Harry Vanda and rhythm guitarist George Young, the song became a worldwide hit in late 1966, with a delayed USA release in May '67.   The advanced songwriting and frenetic musical technical requirements were well beyond most bands on the charts at the time.   Clearly this was a band with the ability to break into the upper ranks of the current scene.  Other than the Beatles I would say that they could have challenged just about anyone else around.

But of course they were not a "new" band.  From their start in 1965 in Australia they became local legends and accumulated a significant number of hit records before they burst onto the international scene.   In late '66 they moved to London and signed with United Artists (NY) for their international releases.   What ensued would make a great comedy if it were not for the tragedy that resulted to their career.   I have neither the knowledge nor the time to relate everything that happened from this point forward, but I can sketch the overall arc for you.   Attorneys became involved, entire LPs were recorded and discarded, singles were prepared then withdrawn, and the records that were released were done so in a haphazard fashion.  While a new LP of heavily orchestrated psychedelic tunes sat in the vault, tastes changed and hit bands were moving in a new direction.   And worst of all, the record companies involved seemed to lose interest and did not aggressively market the music that was released. 

Hence today's post.  The follow up single to FOMM was Heaven and Hell, released in mid '67.  First of all the title scared off the radio stations, then one line of lyric resulted in a hastily edited US version to prevent panic in the streets.   Of course the end result is that it received little to no airplay and completely tanked on the UK and US charts.   It performed slightly better in their home country of Australia, but the die was already cast.   Though they continued to record and release some spectacular music over the next couple of years, they managed only a few scattered chart placements and by the end of 1969 it was pretty much over for them.

This track bursts forth with a guitar and harpsichord introduction, then the verse kicks in and Stevie Wright lays down the opening verse.  Clearly this guy is going through a major girl problem.  Alternating between verse and chorus, the song suddenly takes a 180 into a softer middle eight, all the while maintaining a high energy level.   By the final chorus the band is harmonizing like choir boys while Stevie spills his guts.  This is amazing songwriting, musical production, and performance.  Methinks I must go back and reappraise my top 100 single list.

Monday, June 23, 2014

So much cooler than the slippers, pipe and TV

Today's tune is sometimes referred to as a great lost psych single, but to me this is one of the first and greatest examples of pure Power Pop.   One has to wonder if Nick Lowe ever heard this song, because it sure has the look and feel of his late 70s work.  God only knows why the record company put Continental Hesitation on the B-side, for if there ever was a coulda-shoulda been hit single, it would be this song.  

Four seconds in, a killer acoustic guitar riff drops in and drives the song forward.   The bass leaps and bounds in all the right spots.  The second stanza sets the scene for the songwriter's views on alternative spirituality - "Ali Taj Mahashish Yogi Bear promised me.  He will open up your mind to truth and you'll see. No need for lucky charms to hang on your doors.  Continental Hesitation makes you feel free."  I am never one to ridicule someone for their beliefs, but there certainly were some odd directions for seeking enlightenment back in the late 60s, and the Eastern mysticism and mind altering drugs get the full send up here.

The story behind Rifkin is copied verbatim from a website for Mr. Ed Furst, the man behind the band.

Rifkin was the invention of a fan of the Ingoes.  She suggested the name, going solo, composing all my own songs, playing guitar & harmonica simultaneously ('Oh, what, like Dylovan?' - 'No, not your drippy voice, use your ballsy voice, and keep your home made solid guitar with the holes in, etc, etc.')  Pity she fancied Brian Godding, but then they all did.  Anyway, two years later I realised I had spontaneously done everything she suggested except call myself Rifkin, so I gave it a go.  Page One released 'We're Not Those People Any More' (drippy voice) b/w 'Continental Hesitation' (ballsy voice), and Radio Luxembourg guaranteed 50 plays a week, but Page One forgot to get it printed because their staff were all concentrating their energy on somebody called Reg, with a song (which I must admit I almost forgot to hate) called 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me'.  Wonder what happened to him.
The session band was:
Ed Furst as Rifkin (vocals/gtr/sitar), Colin Frechter (harpsichord/vocals), Dee Murray (bass/vocals) and, I'm told, Dave Mattacks (drs/vocals); plus Colin Frechter again (producer/MD/logistics/tea lady).

The full lyrics can be found here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I Said My Way

By this morning he wore the carnation to bring me down 
I was torn from the tomb of the foolish Egyptian crown

Wow.  Talk about trippy.  The remnants of The Action slowly morphed into a new band named Mighty Baby in the 1968-69 time frame.  Gone were all attributes of the mod band that failed to find a record company after their five singles flopped.   As mentioned in a prior post here, The Action managed to record an album's worth of excellent popsike demos, but their soulful lead singer Reg departed, and multi-instrumentalist  Ian Whiteman and guitarist Martin Stone arrived to lead the group in a new direction.

Their first LP kicks off with Egyptian Tomb, an impossible amalgam of jazz, British psychedelia, and West Coast jam.  The opening sax riff repeats while layers of guitar counterpoint weave a sonic soup that is damn near genius.  This is a band that knew how to build a groove and carry it forward to a satisfying conclusion without running into a ten minute workout.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Your Ears Will Start To Ring and Life Will Sing

The Factory is back again for the second day in a row.  This is their first single - Path Through The Forest - from 1968. Though a bit less aggressive than Try A Little Sunshine, it more than makes up for that with its overall soundscape, which could be from another dimension, or another planet, or even the future.   In fact it really does sound as if it could have come from an alternative band from thirty years forward.  The processed vocal technique is the real kicker.  It makes it seem as if the singer is rooms (or miles) away, and his voice is broadcast over some ancient speaker technology.  The subject matter seems to relate to a hallucinogenic journey through some mystical forest, though you are free to reach your own conclusions.

If you google the band and song name, you will see quite a few blog posts that consider this one of the absolute greatest 60s psych singles.  And frankly I cannot disagree.  It creates its own little world and takes me someplace I have never been before.

You've got to slow down now
or you'll grow cold.
Leap past the flowers that sleep,
The hours that spring those old
Shadows confuse you
and silence is loud
you're reaching for the light
you're losing sight

You've just got to swing past the forest
where colours can blind you
and everything finds you
it can drive you insane

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Though It Takes a Little Rain To See

The subject of yesterday's post released only one 45rpm single during their short career.   The band for today's post - The Factory - doubled that output.  Try A Little Sunshine was their second and final release in late 1969.   A true freakbeat record that combines crazed drumming, wobbly bass, flanged guitar licks and an almost angelic lead vocal. Buckle you seat belts, it is going to be a bumpy ride!

Try a Little Sunshine and you'll be right there
Though it takes a little rain to see

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I can't rest while the sun & the stars are so bright

To get in the mood for summer I have been delving into that mutant strain of the Summer of Love - British Psychedelia.   I am finding myself amazed at every turn, with one discovery leading to another.  Much of this music was quickly rushed to market to capitalize on the sudden interest in all things psychedelic, likely thanks to the Beatles (Strawberry Fields, Sgt. Peppers, etc.)  Because there was so much product being released a great deal of it completely missed the charts and received little to no radio play.

Tintern Abbey is one such band.   Their short recorded history - one 45 rpm single - is cataloged in the linked Wikipedia article.    Even though the single made no known chart, nowadays the original UK 45 on Deram is fetching in excess of 1000 pounds.   Although the asking price is clearly a reflection of supply and demand, there is no argument on my account that this is one of the tastiest pieces of popsike out there.  Beeside (which was the A-Side) is one of those multi-part mellotron driven tunes, with very odd lyrics relating to bees and their pursuit of flowers during every moment of daylight.  A central falsetto / piano / oboe section takes the action in a different direction for a few seconds.  Quite the sweet dreamy little nugget.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Haven't Seen A Thing Like This Since You

There is a particular guitar sound that one sometimes finds on a mid 60's pop song.  I refer to it as "rubber band" guitar.   Today's tune is a perfect example of what I am referring to.  This is not meant as a derogatory description, as in this particular case the notes being played are crazy genius work.

I am referring Look At The View, yet another amazing track from The Action's Rolled Gold LP.  After the guitar intro, the first verse adds vocals and bass.  But on the second pass, the drums come in and this turns into one hell of a great 60's stomp rocker.  At 2:45 the song goes off into quavering Strawberry Fields land with hazy high vocal harmonies with organ accompaniment.  If only this had made it past demo stage, one can just imagine what George Martin's production wizardry could have done for this track.  But no complaints from me - their demo more than shows what excellent rockers and melody writers they were.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Remember Me

Two chords.   Generally my tastes call for lots of chords, with interesting progressions and odd harmonies.   For years Elvis Costello tried to write a song with only one chord - but always ended up using at least two.   Two of those are amongst my favorites.  "Beyond Belief" spills over with word associations and builds to a fevered pitch.  And "Uncomplicated" begins with thunder and cuts to the bone.  Those two gems are about the only two chord songs that I would care to list amongst my favorite songs.  Until last week.  When I discovered the long lost Rolled Gold LP by the mod British rockers The Action.

For a bit of background on that album, they were produced by none other than George Martin, and released less than half a dozen singles on Parlophone Records, none of which made a dent in the UK charts.  But they had a large mod cult following, apparently not so far behind The Who and The Small Faces.   About the time that they were dropped by Parlophone in 1967, they were working on demos for an album.  By this point they had graduated from American soul covers to writing their own acid drenched rockers.   Many of the songs had fully fleshed out melodies and harmonies, but the lyrics were just placeholders awaiting further tuning, and the arrangements were still quite spare.  No Martin magic had yet been applied.

Thirty years passed and the LP never saw the light of day.  Then an ex-band member released an acetate to a small label that put it out on CD.   The quality was poor but it piqued some interest, then another ex-member acknowledged that he had the master tape in his possession.   Finally released in its full yet spare glory, it sat there for about fifteen years waiting for me to discover it over at the excellen Monkey Picks blog.  There are many truly great songs on this album that never was.

That was five days ago.  And since then I cannot stop playing it.  Especially the song that inspired today's post.  "Brain" is that holy grail - the two chord song that has everything it needs.   The chiming rhythm guitar and a phased lead set the environment for alternating loud and soft sections.  Thrust forward by some just killer drumming, the song pummels and pleads.  And best of all is the passionate vocal by lead singer Reg King.  His voice is almost a ringer for Pete Hamm of Badfinger, but with even more soul.   It is all still new to my ears, but I can guarantee you that I will playing it loud for many years to come.

Take your brain it's time to go
You don't have long to go
Remember me (re)member me
Cause I'm the one that made you see
(re)member me

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

So Why Did You Have To Be So Nasty?

Ah, the ongoing animosity of the Brits for the Germans.   Here is a little early punk nugget from Adam & the Ants that extols the virtues of "curls of the Deutscher Girls".   Deutscher Girls was originally from the soundtrack of the 1978 Derek Jarman film "Jubilee" but in 1982 was released as a single A side with overdubbed vocals due to the risque subject matter  -"nazi" has been changed to "nasty" and "Camp 49" to "lover of mine".

In my book that opening guitar salvo is one of the most breathtaking openings to any pop song.  Ever.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

You Don't Know Me So Well

Here's a little forgotten power psych single from 1970 - Crabby Appleton with "Go Back".   Somehow it flew under my radar until just this week, but it is a fine little jaunt betwixt the Hollies and something considerably more heavy.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'll Give You Fish

Today's posting is short but to the point.  I have been on a B-52s listening binge recently, and no song of theirs floats my boat more than Give Me Back My Man.   Cindy Wilson begins in her lower range, vibrato-less and yearning for the man that got away.  By the time she gets to the chorus it is abundantly clear that there is not much that she will not do go retrieve her guy.   The great video shows her barefoot in her little black party dress, eventually dancin' and fruggin' next to spastic Fred.   And then on the last pass through the chorus she lets loose a furious set of pleas. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

If words could speak they'd mean even less

Any time is the right time for a dose of Jellyfish.   Absolutely one of my all time favorite bands, so very talented and yet they only made two albums before disbanding.  This nugget is from their first LP Bellybutton - The King is Half Undressed.  The vocal harmony work is top notch, and Jason Falkner delivers some amazing guitar licks.  A perfect song to bring my day to a close.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

They Laid Down the Law

My college friends and I were a little hot bed of new wave aficionados in the prairies of NW Oklahoma.   We saw the Talking Heads in Norman, OK during their "Fear of Music" tour, caught The Pretenders and The Go Gos at the OKC Zoo, and rented the local roller rink for a new wave/punk evening.   I cannot skate but I remember being plastered while skating to The Clash.

Of all the new wave groups that sprang forth in the late 70's, the B-52s were the most near and dear to my heart.   Total nerds.   Just like us.   By the time of their third release in 1982, some thought the bloom was off the rose.  As we now know, Mesopotamia was supposed to be a full fledged album with ten tracks.   Something went amiss and they tangled with producer David Byrne, so the release was cut back to an EP with just six tracks.  It was definitely a new direction, but they jettisoned the new sound immediately and never returned. 

Here is the title track.  From the moment that Fred mispronounces Mes-a-pa-ta-mia I was hooked.  The monster hand claps just sealed the deal.   This has to be one of the greatest grooves of the 80s, what with the funky bass and the counterpoint between the various vocal parts. 

 I'll meet you by the third pyramid!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Got a Big Surprise

When I was eight years old, I took on extra chores around the house so that my parents would give me enough money to buy tickets to the Enid, OK premier of A Hard Day's Night at the Chief Theater.  I was thrilled to be there at the premier and of course I loved the movie and the music, but was a bit too young to really understand what a great film it is.  Furthermore I did not see the gigantic song writing step forward by Lennon and McCartney.   For years I was a bit torn about the US LP by that name because it contained a generous portion of George Martin orchestrated instrumental versions of some of the songs.  I also purchased their Capitol LP Something New, which was really a scatter shot collection of songs left off the US AHDN album, plus some singles and b-sides.  And in some way I preferred that record because it had some amazing songs like Things We Said Today, Any Time at All, When I Get Home, And I Love Her, and If I Fell.

Then during my early college years in the mid-70s I acquired the British version of the LP.  And immediately I realized that Capitol records (and United Arists) had done us a great disservice.  The "real" A Hard Day's Night is perhaps the first true Beatles' masterpiece.   Even the running order is important to the experience of listening to these songs, and now I immediately know what will come next.

Tucked away at the very end of the LP is a song that just hits me like a ton of bricks every time I listen.   I'll Be Back is John Lennon at his early peak.  Not the upbeat closer that one would expect, but rather a thoughtful and beautiful exploration of how tenuous love can be.  The acoustic guitar work is just amazing, what with the three-against-four rhythms.  John sings it with a compassion that perfectly fits the lyrics.  A real hidden gem on an album full of first class song writing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I know that I miss you, but I don't know where I stand

Fairport Convention is one of those limey bands that flew under my radar for years.  Sure, I agree that Sandy Denny was a fine vocalist, but their music just never really clicked for me.  Recently I discovered their first album Fairport Convention (UK only), recorded in 1967 and release in 1968.  Prior to the arrival of Ms. Denny, Judy Dyble was the female vocalist.  And wow, does she ever have a lovely voice.   The Wikipedia article on this LP mentions that blueprint for the early version of Fairport was Jefferson Airplane, and sure enough the album is a veritable smorgasbord of summer of love songwriting.

My favorite from this LP is their cover of Joni Mitchell's I Don't Know Where I Stand.  It kicks off with a sparse guitar intro, then suddenly transforms into a Byrds-ish take on Joni.   From the opening verse, the lyrics are filled with that pensive feeling when you want to take that next step and let someone know how important they are to you, but you are not sure if the feeling is mutual.

Funny day, looking for laughter and finding it there
Sunny day, braiding wild flowers and leaves in my hair
Picked up a pencil and wrote "I love you" in my finest hand
Wanted to send it, but I don't know where I stand

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It's a Crash Course for the Ravers

Today's post is a time travel trip to the near future, a time when humans have forgotten how to procreate.   They watch old porno flicks to understand how it was done.  From 1973's Aladdin Sane, Drive-In Saturday is one of my favorite glam-period David Bowie songs.   From the odd doo-wop opening to the fantastic sax solos, this was a never-to-be-repeated experiment in arrangement and mood.   The chorus is just perfect with its complicated walking chord progressions and hilarious lyrics referring the stereotypical hunk in the old sex films - "His name was always Buddy!"  "She'd sigh like Twig the wonder kid" is a reference to late 60's fashion model Twiggy.

There are two version here, the first the original release, the second a much more recent live recording, which starts with David explaining how Mott The Hoople turned down the song and he was so pissed that he shaved off his eyebrows.   It is a very different arrangement that he sings with a real passion, and the cutesy backup singers really bring a 60s girl group vibe to the proceedings.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Coca Cola Is All You Ever Drink

In the pantheon of power pop band, The Records are way up there on many aficionado's list due to their classic first single Starry Eyes.  And rightfully so, for that song manages to marry The Byrds with Big Star.   And it has some of the finest guitar work ever committed to vinyl.

However their follow up single Teenarama is just about as good in my book.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is quintessential power pop.   Jangling guitars, power chords, heavenly harmonies, and one of my favorite choruses.   Ever.   The Records had a decent initial run in the UK but did not make much of a dent here in the States with their singles, although their first LP The Records (aka Shades in Bed in the UK) made it to 41 on the Billboard charts.  But I have to brag a little for having the original 45rpm singles with picture covers for their first two releases.   As a dedicated follower of Stereo Review back in the day, I latched onto an amazing amount of great music in the 1970s.

Monday, February 24, 2014

But I couldn't stay away from you

From 1965, here is the most exquisite of lost pop treasures.   Brian Wilson wrote Guess I'm Dumb, one of his most touching and sublime songs in 1964.  The instrumental track was recorded late that year during the Beach Boys Today! sessions.    Inexplicably the band passed on recording it, and as a returned favor for taking Brian's spot on tour, he gave the song to Glen Campbell.   That turned out to be divine providence for Glen had exactly the right voice to send the soaring melodic twists into the stratosphere.  Of course, the single tanked and failed to chart.

The instrumental work is quite a foreshadowing of where the band would be headed in 1966 with Pet Sounds.   When Glen's voice climbs to the heavens with the line "I'm not on top like I used to be" my heart just melts.  The lyrics speak for themselves:

The way I act don't seem like me
I'm not on top like I used to be
I'll give in when I know I should be strong
I still give in even though I know it's wrong, know it's wrong
I guess I'm dumb but I don't care

And breaking off wasn't hard to do
But I couldn't stay away from you
I feel love but not the way I did before
This time girl, has got to be forever more, ever more
I guess I'm dumb but I don't care

And baby since we've been apart
Maybe I've found I had a heart
I couldn't let go even if I wanted to
You must know baby now it's only you, only you
I guess I'm dumb but I don't care