Archive for the '1970s' Category

30
Jul
17

Michael Franks “The Art of Tea”

I had never heard of Michael Franks, saw this record in a thrift store and bought it against my better judgment. The picture on the cover, of him, doesn’t tell you much, unless it tells you this record is 1975. There are some familiar names playing on this record: Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, and more, and I’m listening to it as I look for him on the Internet. He’s a jazz singer/songwriter; all the songs here are his, and there are lyrics on the back, and there’s some good ones. On second listening the record is already growing on me. I like his voice a lot—it’s equal parts a little odd and way smooth. He’s been putting out albums pretty regularly since 1973, and he’s got a website, looking pretty good, now in his seventies, and still playing. Don’t know why I’ve never heard of him. One song here, “Popsicle Toes,” I’ve heard before—I believe done by Diana Krall. How about these lyrics from that song: “You must have been Miss Pennsylvania/With all this pulchritude/How come you always load your Pentax/When I’m in the nude?” Or how about this one, called “Eggplant”: “When my baby cooks her eggplant/She don’t read no book/And she’s got a Gioconda/Kind of dirty look/And my baby cooks her eggplant/About 19 different ways/But sometimes I just have it raw/With mayonnaise.” In the lyric department, he’s definitely got it going on, at least here in 1975. And did I say that the whole record is smooth?—something that might have put me off at one time, but now I’m into it.

25
Jul
17

Archie Ulm “Archie Ulm at the Yamaha EX-42”

This is apparently a private pressing record from around 1975 of this organ wizard from Milwaukee, Archie Ulm, playing some supper club standards on the Yamaha EX-42, accompanied by percussionist Paul Hergert and guitarist Ar Kriegel. I don’t know anything about the Yamaha EX-42—“an electronic marvel” without looking it up, and I’m not going to (it’s an early 70s big-ass electric organ) which he plays, as well as an ARP Odyssey and a Carnaval electric piano. (The cover photo, of Archie sitting behind a bank of keyboards, is pretty great.) This whole record is a pleasure to listen to, just because he’s taking the organ a little (and sometimes a lot) beyond what you’ve heard anyone do (I think… well, I haven’t heard everyone… but then everyone hasn’t heard this). It’s kind of unfortunate that a lot of songs here are popular numbers (“The Hustle,” “Pink Panther”) that I kind of wish I’d never have to hear again, under any circumstances. (Though I don’t mind so much the “Rockford Files” and “NBC Mystery Movie” Themes.) When he goes off from the familiar parts of the songs, though, it’s pretty amazing and makes you think it’d be great if we could just hear his own compositions, or better quality, less cheesy standards. (“The Cat” is a standout; and he doesn’t hold back.) But you’ve got to make the people happy, I guess, and for some reason the people get nervous when they’re not hearing something they recognize. The cool thing is, because he is apparently satisfying the popular familiarity button, he sneaks in quite a lot of playing that should be making people nervous—because it’s completely insane.

18
Jun
16

Lee Hazlewood “The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides (1968-71)

I don’t want to get into an entire bio of Lee Hazlewood but I do have to include this legal disclaimer that he’s like my all-time hero, at least based on his style, singing, songwriting, and legend, and also the fact that he did the tile song (sung by Dusty Springfield) for my all time favorite movie (The Sweet Ride) as well as having a cameo part in that movie. If there are stains on his reputation or tales of bizarre behavior, there are other forums for that, but here I’m discovering this odd double LP with a much too specific title and questionable album art. Not because there are naked women or they are kneeling, looking up at him (you can only think about this humorously, right?) but because the women are all sporting fake LH-esque moustaches, and I’m sorry, but that’s where I draw the line.

This album is dated 2012, about 5 years after he died, and LHI stands for Lee Hazlewood Industries (his own record label in the late 60s) and it’s got a booklet with extensive notes which I unfortunately don’t have time to read, and it’s on this super heavy vinyl that someday is going to be cursed by the aching back survivors of record collectors (at least until they start selling the stuff off). Two records, 11 of the 17 songs written by LH, but they all sound like his songs. He sure knows how to pick songs to cover. He is joined singing, on a few songs, by Suzi Jane Hokom, Ann-Margret, and Nina Lizell. All the songs are good, most are weird, and several have those crazy kind of spoken introductions. Because of this modern packaging, it’s hard to remember that these were records that came out at about the time when I first started buying 45s. It would be cool to find the old versions. Pretty much, if you ever see a Lee Hazlewood record, no matter how dusty and scratchy it is, it’s worth picking up because it’s like a an artifact from a parallel pop music universe.

 

17
Jun
16

The Band “Islands”

Even though I’m a HUGE fan of The Band I know very little about their records  except “Music from Big Pink” which is my favorite, though I didn’t listen to it until decades after it was released. It wasn’t until the movie “The Last Waltz” that I really knew anything about The Band, but that movie is one of my favorite music documentaries ever; I’ve probably watched it a dozen times and will hopefully watch it a dozen more. Sometimes when I think about The Band I wish they had called themselves “The Honkies” (as Richard Manuel, in that movie, said they’d considered)—I don’t know why, the name “The Band” always seemed kind of unfortunate to me, but then, I guess most band names seem a little silly for anyone over 12 years old. The Honkies, though, that would have been kind of amazing. Maybe I’ll just call them that from now on, and anyone who knows me will know what I’m talking about.

It always impressed me how much these guys were ahead of their time, though in this case it’s not necessarily a good thing; I can often predict the general date of a record by looking at the album art, and I was thinking this nailed the dreaded 80s, but no, it’s 1977. If you didn’t see the words on the cover you’d guess it’s sunburned margarita sipping easy listening from the Miami Vice era, and in the picture on the back, the guys look like they all just had their hair styled. This very much sounds like a record recorded to fulfill a record company contract, especially the instrumental, “Islands.” Still there are some really good songs here that you would not get confused with anyone but The Band. The thing I always liked about them is their three singers. I’m always happy hearing Levon Helm sing, even on not that great songs. I like Rick Danko even more, and just because of his singing and some nice accordion I was really enjoying the last song on the first side until I actually listened more closely to the lyrics. And I like Richard Manuel most of all—there’s a special quality to his voice, and I hate to think it has anything to do with pain. Maybe it’s just that he really loves singing. I love him in “The Last Waltz”—he seems like this grizzled old-timer, but he was what, like 33? What’s really shocking is that he died when he was only 42. I’m kind of getting depressed. Time to move on to something else.

01
May
11

David Bowie “ChangesOneBowie”

This record, which came out in 1976, seems to want to mark a change from sci-fi androgynous freak to good-looking mature artist, but it just rubs me the wrong way. It comes off more as midlife crisis, even though Bowie should have been much too young for that. It’s essentially a “greatest hits” record that doesn’t have a cheesy title like “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Very Best of…” But rather than approach it in context of the records the songs came from, I have to (I mean right now, for the sake of writing this) listen to it as the complete and unique art object it is.

“Space Oddity” is pure nostalgia for me, like everyone is sick of me rehashing. Blacklight posters and rootbeer incense and bad pot. But it’s just a good song, right? I’m sure there is a story behind “John, I’m Only Dancing” but I don’t care, because I can’t listen to it because it’s crap. Though, I would, some day, love to write a song with the title, John, comma, something. “John, Help Me To A Toilet So I Can Throw Up,” or something. “Changes” is a great song, and I suppose worth creating this particular record to get it out to the record buying public in a new format. “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”–more nostalgia, but this time there is beer drinking involved. Whenever “Jean Genie” comes on, I’m just glad it’s the last song of Side One so I can take it off without listening to it and go directly to Side Two. White blues, but really white, and not blues at all.

Everyone who knows me is sick to death of me talking about how “Diamond Dogs” is one of maybe six favorite songs of all time. For some strange reason I just NEVER GET TIRED OF IT. I made the mistake, once, however, of looking up the lyrics on the internet, which almost ruined it for me, because they were NOT CLOSE to what I’ve been imagining all these years. I’ve been slowly deprogramming myself to go back to the way I used to hear it. “You’re dead,  they call them the Diamond Dogs.” Maybe it’s the cowbell, maybe it’s the way it sounds like the soundwaves are coming through some kind of viscous fluid. Maybe it’s nostalgia. I wouldn’t mind, however, NEVER hearing “Rebel Rebel” ever again. “Young Americans” has that 1980’s, Saturday Night Live, vapid entertainment sound. I think of Chicago (the city), comedy clubs, and those big pretzels, which, last time I ate one, I threw up. “Fame” is up next, White Funk, but REALLY white, and not funky at all. “Golden Years” is like a non-song with a non-hook, played as blandly as possible, and pretty much the perfect fit to end this record. It occurs to me that the lyrics might be interesting if I listened to them– after all, how do you justify calling a song “Golden Years?”– but I can’t even listen to the lyrics because I can’t listen to the song.

26
Jun
10

Boston “Don’t Look Back”

“Don’t Look Back” is Boston’s appropriately titled second album, from 1978—I mean appropriately for me, since that was the year I traded in my cap’n’gown for the ball’n’chain. I guess I never really thought I’d enjoy the success of a #1 on the charts album, but I did believe, at that time, that I could pursue a life of partying—which was my course of study at Kokomo Community College. This record went virtually unnoticed by my friends and me, I suppose, seeing it as pretty much a continuation of the first record, which we weren’t much interested in after its initial novelty. We were listening to the Sex Pistols at the time, and these bands seemed like night and day. Only now do I realize they weren’t all that different, at least musically: melodic, driving, hard rock with pop hooks. Of course, the vocals have little in common, though I have to admit, today, June 26, 2010, I’m more in the mood to listen to Brad Delp’s voice than Johnny Rotten’s. That said, lyric-wise is really where the difference lies. I’m maybe listening to Boston lyrics for the first time right now. What’s all this about a “golden rabbit” on the title song? Fortunately, this record contains a sleeve with lyrics, so I’m able to see that what sounds to me like “golden rabbit” is actually: “I finally see the dawn arrivin.'”

Side two really picks things up with the terribly catchy “Feelin’ Satisfied”: “So come on, put your hands together/You know it’s now or never, take a chance on rock’n’roll,” which is pretty insipid, but then followed by: “Come on let us give your mind a ride.” Which preceded, by six years, my groundbreaking ‘zine novella, “The Mind Ride.” The next song, “Party” is also a standout. Like I said, were I to answer the classic job interview question at that time—”Where do you see yourself in ten years?”—I guess my honest answer would have been, “Halfway between the keg and the men’s room.”

This album cover opens up and contains some pretty typical snapshot sized concert portraits of members of the band. The credits state that the record was recorded at “Tom Scholz’ Hideaway Studio” which I think meant his garage or basement, or his bedroom, I don’t know. He certainly had it going on as far as recording a hard rock band. You feel like he could have put anybody on the charts. One really interesting thing is there is a little note that says: “No Synthesizers Used/No Computers Used.” Now as far as the synthesizers they are talking about at the time, those now seem quaint and old-fashioned. But it’s an interesting sentiment for the time. As far as computers, though, what exactly was he talking about? Computers weren’t being used in rock music in 1978, were they? It’s not like he’s talking about Protools. When I think back to 1978, computers were like things that took up whole floors of some laboratory somewhere. Bill Gates was still in diapers. Just what, exactly, does “No Computers” mean? Was it a joke? Could Tom Scholz look forward 30 years and see Boston still playing, with considerably less hair and looser pants, and the opening act is some asshole with a laptop?

The album cover is even better than their first one. It takes me right back to our basement party room, with black lights and root beer incense. It folds out to show the spaceship—which was escaping the exploding Earth on the first album—is now landing on another world (you know that because there are two moons). This spaceship, which is like flying saucer with a dome covered city—and says “Boston” on it, so presumably it contains the city of Boston—is designed after an electric guitar, and it has what looks like a tail, which is the guitar neck. They may or may not be taking along the Red Sox, but there sure as hell will be hard rock. (Oh, and the lyrics on the record sleeve are printed over engineering drawings and diagrams of the spaceship, some of them quite detailed!) This new planet seems to be covered with a forest of nasty looking crystals, but the spaceship has found a grassy clearing in which to land. And if you look closely, off to the side, around the base of the crystals, there appears to be some gnarly shrubbery—but I believe it is, in fact, actually, an endless supply of righteous looking bud.

05
Jun
10

Boston “Boston”

It’s really hard to criticize something like this album–I mean it’s like criticizing The Dictionary–though, when I say that, I’m assuming “the dictionary of the English language,” and if you don’t speak English, the book isn’t of much use.

Listen to the record!

That was an attempted allegory. Note: edit out that first paragraph before posting.

Listen to the record!

Everyone knows the story of how Tom Scholz, MIT grad and scientist, was working for GE developing the Doomsday Machine when, while tinkering in his basement workshop, developed all those compressors and distortion devices that– when built into what are known as “guitar pedals” –have allowed future generations of mindless wankers to pick up an electric guitar for the first time and in fifteen minutes learn how to make noise like a goddamn god. When Andy Warhol said that “fifteen minutes of fame” thing, this is exactly what he was talking about.

Listen to the record!

That “Listen to the record!” business is from the liner notes, and I just love liner notes. It makes me so sad to think about all the young people and their MP3s and how they don’t even have an idea of the concept of liner notes. These liner notes discuss how the guys got together, first called their band “Springfield” and when things weren’t happening, changed the name to “Boston” and the rest is history. There is also a discussion of “technology,” but I’m just listening to the record. The song “More Than A Feeling,” despite being seriously in the top ten of alltime overplayed songs, is surprisingly fresh sounding–I mean considering– with that acoustic part and the hard rock part– I know it should sound more stale than it does– well, maybe it’s just been such a “Long Time” since my stereo needle touched vinyl. The song, “Long Time” incidentally, was used in studies. It was found that people of a certain age group (my age) could pick up a guitar for the first time and play the opening guitar part nearly note for note, particularly guitar store employees.

I’m making fun of this record a little, but I have to admit I’m actually enjoying listening to it, so if you’re a fan, old or new, and you want say “Speen thinks it rocks” go ahead, it won’t bug me too much. Really, it’s not entirely these guys’ fault that some of these guitar flourishes are what many of us will hear as we’re dying, coming out of a coma, having sex, or every time we turn the ignition of a car or open a can of Pepsi. Maybe Scholz DID invent the doomsday machine after all. Look at the cover art closely, if it doesn’t cause flashbacks to commence. It looks like the Earth is exploding and entire cities are being saved by being jetted off into space by dome-topped flying saucers. The one closest to us, of course, contains Boston. One wonders if Kokomo made it.

Lyrically–there are no printed lyrics on this particular sleeve, so I’m trying to make them out. Smokin’ indeed rhymes with tokin’. It’s interesting, with all the millions of times I’ve heard “More Than A Feeling” I never heard the “Mary Ann slipping away” part. Who is this “Mary Ann”? Seeing how this record came out in 1976, you have to figure the lyricist must have been watching endless Gilligan’s Island reruns, and how many people had a crush on that Mary Ann? I know I did, but it’s interesting, once I got to a certain age, I switched over from Mary Ann to Ginger. I really believe that’s a sign of maturity. Ask your friends who they prefer– it’s a good test to separate the men from the boys. I’m trying to remember who the eighth person on that island was… Anyway, you KNOW that The Professor could have had a short wave radio rescue transmission going in about five minutes, but he obviously didn’t want to. Thurston had Lovey and The Skipper had Gilligan (don’t pretend you didn’t know) so who else was there to satisfy the two hot women other than Russell “Magic” Johnson (not his real name) who– well they couldn’t really show it on TV then like they could today– got more ass than a makeshift bamboo outhouse.

I would apologize for that last paragraph, but you’ll never see it. I just started drinking coffee again and I’m getting carried away here. Memo to Speen: DELETE the paragraph about lyrics before posting.

Side two starts out with a really corny, compelling, unoriginal and utterly awesome rocker called “Rock & Roll Band” which is probably about playing in a rock & roll band, but I’m not going to fall back into that listening to the lyrics trap. I wasn’t actually able to get to the end of side two because this particular record, which was found on “the street,” seems to have about a kilo of cocaine encrusted in the later grooves of the second side. I would take the initiative to clean it, but I can’t find a hundred dollar bill.




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