Archive for the 'Stoner Album Covers' Category

31
Oct
17

The Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra “Chariots of the Gods”

This is the 1974 soundtrack album for the 1970 movie by the same name, which was based on the 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods?—which was an international bestseller that, for years, you used to see wherever you’d see used paperbacks. Roughly, about the theory that extraterrestrials came to Earth in ancient times and influenced our culture (which would explain a lot, especially if they brought along cats). I feel like we might have seen the movie at some point in high school—projected in a classroom in 16mm, which we did occasionally—but I’m not sure. If we did see it, I guess it wasn’t as memorable as Highways of Agony.

But it’s the soundtrack album, by German composer Peter Thomas, that I’m interested in here. On the cover, I believe, are images from the movie poster, with an Easter Island head watching a Saturn rocket take off over the Great Pyramids, etc. It’s got 19 tracks, with titles like “Popular Myth and Destruction of Sodom” and “Rocket Science,” and is somewhat a journey in itself. It’s kind of hard to get a handle on since it’s all over the place, though that probably is a reflection of the movie. Maybe the easiest way for me to come to terms with this record is to go track by track and describe my own movie, based on the feelings each of these compositions conjures in my imagination. For simplicity’s sake I’m not going to name each track, but go by number, and we’ll call the movie: The Chariot of Speen.

Side A, Track 1 finds our hero waking up with a wicked hangover, complete with flashbacks of the time he fell in love with the neighbor girl who was four years older (he was 12). A2 sounds like he’s at the dentist, and it must have been pulling wisdom teeth because a radical shift in tone takes him crossing the desert with Peter O’Toole and camels, and every time someone hits that gong there is a human (or camel) sacrifice. A3 is much lighter, thankfully, maybe riding a bike, at least until the post-traumatic flashbacks kick in. A4 has us looking out over the plain, maybe counting windmills or oil-wells, or maybe just mirages. Yes, it was all merely an illusion. A5 begins with graduation day and tricks us, because it ends there, too. A6 is that ephemeral space between remembering and not remembering that you’re not remembering. A7 evokes that feeling of being in a public place with absolutely no connection to humans. A8 is walking music, when everything is groovy, people in your neighborhood respect you, and you occasionally stop to tie your shoes (way too often, actually). A9 is driving music, and it would have to be in a convertible, with blue skies, and above the blue Mediterranean, on those twisty roads that people survive in movies but not always in real life.

Side B, Track 1 gets us back on track with the main theme, in this case soaring overhead, presumably in some kind of contraption and not just disembodied. B2 evokes the nightmare of the Industrial Revolution, or it might just be enduring a night of indigestion. B3 finds our hero in love, naturally all too fleeting. B4 is that always hilarious joke, “I think we should see other people.” B5 is more either eternal life or eternal nothingness, which I guess are two sides of the same coin. B6, for whatever reason, has us shopping in a sunny market, maybe with a Warren Oates character, exploiting our superior exchange rates. B7 is walking among the unburied dead, wiping away sticky cobwebs that block the path, and the horror is acute but brief. B8 is that one scene in the movie with “the man with no name” (who eventually kills everyone) where he isn’t killing anyone, but rather finding innocence and beauty in the unblemished face of a ravishing international starlet who is unfortunately underage and about to be (in the movie) brutally raped and slain. B9 is the same guy, heading off to meet his destiny, on horseback (minus the destiny). B10 is our hero (who never sailed a day in his life) piloting a sleek sailing ship, staring off over the blue horizon, thinking about dinner.

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01
Sep
17

Mama Cass “Dream a Little Dream”

I picked up this record because I’m a huge fan of The Mamas & The Papas—it came out in 1968, and I guess it was her first solo record after they broke up—and I love Cass Elliot’s singing—and there’s a formidable list of songwriter credits—John Simon, John Sebastian, Richard Manuel, Leonard Cohen, Graham Nash, and more. The cover is a nice photo of her with a little kid on a Norton motorcycle, which is (as is the back cover photo) collaged and altered in a kind of sloppy, drug-addled (or seemingly), hippie-art style.

It’s a frustrating record because some of it so good you want to keep playing it, and some so off-putting you want to never put it on again. “Dream a Little Dream” is what you’d expect, and then a John Hartford song called “California Earthquake” is excellent. The song after that, with the intriguing title of “The Room Nobody Lives In,” is odd, kind of like: “We’re now in a musical!” “Talkin’ to Your Toothbrush” is another nice one, but then “Blues for Breakfast,” (one of my favorite songs from The Basement Tapes) is sped up and jaunty, in a kind of musical review style, not good at all, and it’s a song I love, so that’s sad. Finally, “You Know Who I Am,” manages to start out being soulful, and then falter into a style that sounds like it’s an overblown production number from a TV special. Side two is similar (and I’m not going through it song by song) in that it wavers between excellent and annoying, from song to song, and even in the middle of the same song, from verse to chorus—even from instrument to instrument. Kind of a frustrating record overall. On one hand, I want to donate it to my thrift store, and on the other, I want to keep it, so I can forget it, and then have this whole frustrating experience over again someday.

23
Aug
17

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin IV”

I’ve got a new random number system for picking out records to write about, by the way, so there is no other reason for me putting this one on than that, though I still do thoroughly enjoy it—one of the more overplayed rock records of all time—every time I hear it. I don’t really need to talk about the songs or the music with this one, do I? My dream would be to meet someone who has never heard this record, then play it for them a few times while we talk about it and I take notes. But in what cave am I going to meet this person? My favorite song, no hesitation, is “Misty Mountain Hop”—one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs—especially the, “Baby, baby, baby do you like it,” part.

One of the funniest things is the disagreement over the title of this 1971 LP, the band’s fourth. I’m calling it, here, Led Zeppelin IV, as that, I think, is the most common way to refer to it, and what Wikipedia calls it. Discogs, however, insists that is has no title, which I guess is technically correct, but to call something “Untitled” strikes me as asinine, and that goes for anyone who has an artwork or something without a title, because then “Untitled” becomes the title and it’s no longer untitled. So please, people, title your shit. It just occurred to me, that since I’m writing about this now, in 2017, I may as well assign it a new title, and maybe it will catch on. I’ll think about this as I proceed.

I’m sure the album cover is considered some kind of a classic album cover, but I never liked it (except for there being no words on it), but when you open it up and look at the entire composition—the bleak landscape on the left, and crumbling wall with the painting hung on it in the foreground—it’s really pretty great. So I guess in that sense, I like it, which is more than I can say for the stupid stoner drawing on the inside, with a wizard standing on a rocky cliff looking down on a town (or maybe on a small, ragged figure of indeterminate gender, in the foreground). So little have I ever cared for this drawing, I feel like this is the first time I’m really looking at it. How many bags of weed have been consumed while the intricate, unrealistic rocks have been examined for hidden images and meanings? However, I just noticed, for the first time, that little white goat, grazing on an elevated plateau. I’m pretty certain the answer to the mystery lies there.

Okay, I’ve got it. Since this might be the most “Speenish”—(i.e., my last name, as an adjective, meaning the distillation of the R. Speen essence (sometimes, though not to be, confused with patchouli and burning sage))—of all popular rock ‘n’ roll records, I’m going to officially, as of this date forward, name this record: Led Zeppelin Speen.

20
Aug
17

Ramal LaMarr “Omens, Oracles & Mysticisms of Dance”

It’s not easy to find anything about Ramal LaMarr on the internet, and though, of course, I could dig deeper, I’m not sure if I want to, because I’m looking while listening to this record and starting to get the heebie-jeebies, because it sounds a lot like the music one would listen to while performing human sacrifices. I don’t know why I think that, really—I must have seen too many human sacrifice movies, though I can’t recall ever having seeing any. That level of creepiness is not my thing, really, though it’s kind of fun thinking about in relation to this record. The cover looks creepily homemade, with cut-out images of a belly dancer and a guy (Ramal?) who is wearing what looks like some kind of Satanic garb. The images seem to have been cut out with a very sharp knife (sharp enough to cut out a human heart?) and placed on a background that looks like a wall mural for a Middle-Eastern restaurant. There’s a feeling of finality to it, like the name of the album sounds like it could be his first, second, and final record all in one. Also, it’s very long, like nearly an hour in length, which… I guess if you’re in the middle of a human sacrifice you don’t want to have to stop and turn over the record.

Though maybe I’m overthinking things—the internet says he put out a couple of records after this one, and they all do have “dance” in the title; maybe this is essentially belly dance music. Which is what it sounds like, though on the sinister end of that spectrum. It’s from 1983, and the label is “Lotus”—out of Milwaukee. It’s instrumental, consisting mostly of synthesizer and percussion. Credits indicate that Ramal LaMarr plays everything except “Zills”—which are credited to “Chandrani”—who I’m guessing might be the belly dancer on the cover. Besides synth and bass, there are Arabian Drums, Kanoon, and Mbira listed. A few songs end with a really kind of creepy and ominous gong. As I listen to the whole record again while typing this, it’s actually starting to grow on me; it’s somewhat soothing on one hand, and kind of trance-inducing on another, and kind of anxiety producing on another. I know that’s three hands—thus the anxiety, I guess. But really, I could see this as really good music for writing, making love, or preparing an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner while the in-laws sit nervously in the next room sipping Brandy Alexanders, wondering just who their daughter got herself mixed up with this time.

07
Aug
17

The Association “Insight Out”

I never paid much attention to The Association but I heard the song “Never My Love” in a movie sometime fairly recently (can’t remember what movie) and it struck me as a great song, as familiar as it is, it was kind of discovering a new song. People must have went nuts for it when it was new and on the radio; it’s an undeniable pop classic—what does it take to write a song like that?—how much of it is just luck? The rest of this record can’t come close to that song, and most of it strikes me as annoying happy hippie bullshit. “Windy” was a hit when I was a kid (this record came out in 1967)—on the radio a lot, and I might have had the single—but I don’t really like it much. If I tried really hard I might find more to like about this record, but life is short (and LPs are long). The album cover is uninspiring (and way too familiar if you ever look for used records) but there is the address of The Association Fan Club: 24 N. Mentor, in Pasadena, which is now The Ice House, a comedy club.

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.




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