Archive for March, 2007

20
Mar
07

Emerson Lake & Palmer “Works – Volume 1”

Side one is Keith Emerson’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1977 I was blown away– he had (re)invented classical music! We didn’t call this prog rock at the time, but “classical rock.” (This was before the term “classic rock”.) I think I may have used the word “genius” to describe this at one time, but it sounds pretty comic now– like a bad movie score– the kind of score where time is condensed. The settlers arrive and cut down trees, cut marble from the cliffs, and work together to build a great university!– and then we see the fresh graduates emerging, with robes and mortarboard hats! And that’s just the first movement– the second is a peaceful existance– but of course it’s short. The third movement is the great storm AND the villian (at the same time) but then there is triumph over the forces of evil and nature, and a soft snow falls, and then glorious spring! with little large-eyed animals bugging about.

Side two is all Greg Lake, and he starts by doing a bad Neil Diamond. Then more of the same. “Nobody Loves You Like I Do” is the standout song, it’s really a pretty good song, if you ignore the lyrics. I feel like someone else must have had a hit with it– it’s really familiar– or maybe this was the hit.

Side three is Carl Palmer, more movie soundtrack, but this is more like a geeky animated sci-fi fantasy battle scene that morphs into a beer commercial– it sounds like someone is playing “Rocky Mountain Way”– so I look at the credits and sure enough– Joe Walsh! Later there’s the “Theme from The White Coked-up Shaft” w/drum solo. The drum solo is awesome– that’s what Carl Palmer DOES. The last song on the side is “Tank”– it sounds like the soundtrack to a dated, short documentary on “commerce” that then somehow turns into a big screen musical version of a melding of Planet of the Apes and Jesus Christ Superstar!

Side four starts with cannon fire and a standard version of Aaron Copland’s overused “Fanfare for the Common Man” which is unbearable no matter how much (or because) they try to turn it into a Yes song. And then finally! the worst of all! “Pirates”– which sounds like a mini-movie, part National Geographic special, part rock opera, which in one long, long song goes from hilariously corny to dreadfully boring.

The best, and funniest, thing about this album is the overly serious, all black with somber white print three-panel fold-out cover, which when opened has three incredibly pretentious portraits of the geniuses responsible for this great work of art. Keith Emerson sitting at the far, far left of his portrait, tortured and dwarfed by an enormous grand piano. Greg Lake, the poet of love, silk shirt open, wind blown hair, wears a beautifully crafted acoustic guitar with a heart shaped sound hole.  And Carl Palmer sits on his throne behind his massive drum ensemble (we only see part of it and have to use our imagination) in a black muscle shirt, exhausted after a mighty workout, a sweat rag sitting crumpled atop a floor tom. This is when rock’n’roll was serious business.

16
Mar
07

Ian Dury “Lord Upminster”

1981, recorded in Nassau with Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar– it’s disco, reggae, pop– it’s slick, but at the same time it sounds like they’re totally stoned, and at the same time there is still a fair amount of Ian Dury’s insanity. The painting on the cover– a portrait of I.D.– is pretty amazing. As is the back cover photograph of I.D., Robbie, Sly, and Chasz Jankel in a parking lot. Lonely(Town) is an okay song. The real gem is Spasticus (Autisticus)– it’s a masterpiece of obnoxiousness!

14
Mar
07

Ian Dury and The Blockheads “Laughter”

1980. I barely remember some of these songs– but it sounds really good– worth going back to listen to, for sure. The worst song is a bad train number, well in the tradition of nearly unlistenable train songs. My favorites are “Uncoolohol” and “Fucking Ada”– which is the perfect song to torment a roommate or next door neighbor. “Pardon” is also very good– that’s one that I didn’t remember.

The album cover and inner sleeve both have lots of portraits of the band– which is nice, because it’s an excellent band– but they all look SERIOUSLY fucked up. There are a lot of these kind of formal black and white photos that LOOK LIKE they’re TRYING to look NICE (though, significantly, no one is smiling) but the way they all LOOK is (in contrast to the headshots on the compilation downtown NYC “No New York” record– where the psycho look is obvious and affected) they look like mass murderers!

08
Mar
07

Ian Dury and The Blockheads “Do It Yourself”

This one, from 1979, was kind of disappointing after that last record, but at least there’s another really good photo– on the back cover– of the band– in front of a men’s wig shop. It’s much more disco and pop, and slick, not as intense, but still, there’s something endearing about it. It’s also more about the band, The Blockheads, and not so much like a solo album. It’s a very good band.

My favorite song is “Quiet” which is a pretty goofy pop song that has these parts where the backup singers sing some nonsense word or phrase, never two the same. I mean, I don’t understand it, what it means, but any song where someone blurts out “PRUNE JUICE” at some point is going to be a special song for me.

01
Mar
07

Ian Dury “New Boots and Panties!!”

Another record from 1978! This is truly one of my favorite records of all time. The cover is amazing– Ian Dury and a little kid standing in front of a department store (there’s a Woolworth sign reflected backwards in the window, which I’ve never noticed before– is THIS a Woolworth, or is one across the street?) It’s a great black and white photo– one side of the store is men’s wear, and the other side is a rather risqué looking lingerie department. In front of the window stands Ian Dury with cuffed jeans, a white jacket, and an ascot, and he has a furtive, lascivious look on his face. There is a sign that says “Fitting rooms available” between Ian Dury and this really tiny kid, who’s half the height of the very small Dury. The kid’s wearing suspenders and pants with huge bells. It totally looks like Ian Dury is a child molester, and it shouldn’t even be funny, but then you look at the kid more closely, his hands in his pockets and the very grown-up look on his face– he looks like a little gangster! He definitely looks like the mature one of the two!

“Wake up and make love with me” was a song that alarmed me at the time, sounding, like a lot of Ian Dury’s stuff, fairly slick and somewhat disco-ish. But it’s so funny and dirty, I liked it. Then “Sweet Gene Vincent” which was my favorite when I got this album, when I was in high school, partly because of lines like “shall I mourn your decline with some Thunderbird wine?” I’ve got to resist the temptation to just quote lyrics here– there are so many good lyrics. It’s worth looking them up on the internet just to read them, even if you don’t listen to this. Amazing lyrics from beginning to end.

“I’m partial to your abracadabra”– what the hell does that mean? Every song on this record is weird and good– some of them are just great songs. “Sex and drugs and rock’n’roll” was even a hit, played on pretty mainstream radio. It’s the most accessible. Some of the songs are like dirty, pub sing-a-longs. A lot of the songs are very English, and have regional references, or maybe he’s just a very bizarre person, or both– you don’t know what he’s talking about, but it’s fascinating. “Plaistow Patricia” and “Blackmail Man” are just all out lunatic music.

There’s a book about him, I think, that I’d like to look for. Also, I read about him a bit in Wreckless Eric’s autobiography, “A Dysfunctional Success” which is very good– he helped out Eric quite a bit, and his excellent band backed up Wreckless Eric.

I want to go on an on, but there are a few more Ian Dury alubms I have to write about. None are as good as this one, though. He died a few years back, which is sad. If there is one guy I’d like to hang out with, and you know, Bob Dylan was busy, it’d be Ian Dury.




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