Posts Tagged ‘1977

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.

26
Dec
08

Jeff Beck “with the Jan Hammer Group Live”

If that title makes you say, “Uh-oh,” you’re right. You’ve got to love the live album, though. By 1977 people still weren’t embarrassed by it, I guess. The rising crowd noise, obviously manipulated, the out of breath utterances of the rock star… There was never any need to make “Spinal Tap 2” because you have all the endless, endless shit that Spinal Tap was making fun of.

This is the Jan Hammer that did the excellent Miami Vice Theme, so I don’t think he’s so much to blame here. There are these sections of pretty listenable light funk, but it always devolves into some kind of pretentious, unpleasant statement of virtuosity. Every song seems like two songs, an okay one that teases you, followed by utter crap. During one song on the second side they momentarily go into the “Stoll On/Train Kept a Rollin’” thing, and it sounds just right and heavy, but it’s just like the sugar to attempt to make palatable the unbearable jazz/rock fusion to follow.

Most notable is the back cover of the album with a photo of Hammer and Beck, presumably playing live, slapped down with the most amateurish cut and paste technique I’ve seen in recent memory. I mean, these days, even quickly done grocery store newspaper inserts are pretty sophisticated, but this bit of nostalgia is back from when it was done by hand. But was it done by hand WHILE DRUNK, or what? It literally looks like the photo was cut out in about three minutes– a six year old would do a much more careful job. And weirder, great care was taken to cut out the microphone that is over the drums, but where is the drummer? Cut out completely! It is actually too weirdly bad to accept that it was just sloppy; I have to think it was purposely evoking cheap Kinko’s flyer style of the time, and in that, it’s pretty excellent!




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