Posts Tagged ‘drugs

19
May
13

Traffic “Mr. Fantasy”

I’ve been aware of the band Traffic without knowing a thing about them for my entire adult life, so when I let the needle hit the vinyl and the room filled with aural imagery, I thought, wow, there’s probably a few experiences for me left in this fully lived life if I bother to open my mind and somehow come up with the money to pay for it all. Nowhere on this record is a date, but my sources tell me it was released in 1967 and was indeed the band’s first album. This is one of those album covers that open up, and inside there are a lot of pictures – what looks like a misconceived photo session with a jester, and then portraits of the band members. Dave Mason’s is the most pretentious of the four, sitting in a stark room, back to the camera, playing some instrument (he’s credited with sitar, tambura, shakkai, and “meletron” – as well as guitar, vocals, and “bass guitar.” The photos of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood are classic “hey girls!” dude-in-band pics. The fourth photo is uncredited, but process of elimination tells me it must be Steve Winwood; he’s in a meadow, an axe held high above his head, about to take a vicious swing at something just off camera – one might assume the art director, or jester, or perhaps Dave Mason.

The songwriting credit is spread around and the songs are all over the place, exercising show-off virtuosity while maintaining a whimsicality that pushes the message: “We don’t take ourselves all that seriously, we’re just having a good time! Though actually, you should take us seriously.” False starts, Cheech and Chong joint lighting sounds, wacky lyrics (“My bed is made of candy floss, the house is made of cheese”). Each song is a new adventure. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” steals that riff from the Jimi Hendrix version of “Hey Joe” – though, who knows where these things originated. Maybe Hendrix is Mr. Fantasy! We needn’t assume “Mr. Fantasy” means “drugs.” Though side two does start out with a song called “Dealer” –  a bit of a corny “south of the border” thing. The song “Coloured Rain” starts out sounding just like “Pinball Wizard” (which didn’t come out until a couple years later), but then it goes into a really nice, heavy saxophone, organ, and percussion dominated jam that’s my favorite thing on the album.

You’ve got to wonder about the name of the band, as I generally don’t think of “traffic” as something in any way good or unique. It would be kind of like naming your band “Headache.” Which I’m sure someone has done. I wonder if back in 1967 they thought of traffic differently, like how they would always have the photo of the huge highway “cloverleaf” in the grade school social studies books, like those were the coolest things ever, and not the ecological and aesthetic nightmares they are. Then again, there is drug “trafficking” – not to keep on about the drug references here. Oh, and the final thing – the album cover is a pretty remarkable photograph – and it’s one of those that opens up, so it’s like 24″ x 12″ – with a fire blazing in a brazier on the left side (or back) and the band members on the right, with candles in Chianti bottles. The band members are all looking at – seemingly in awe – in the middle of the photo – a guy sitting cross-legged with an acoustic guitar – and if I’m not mistaken, it’s “Papa” John Phillips! Now why would these guys, Traffic, put John Phillips on their album cover? Hey, this was The Sixties.

 

15
Apr
08

Aerosmith “Draw The Line”

I guess this is Aerosmith’s 5th album, and when it came out in 1977 I had already decided that they sucked– I don’t remember why exactly, because I never DIDN’T like the two earlier records I had– though I never liked “Dream On” from their first record. I remember when “Rocks” came out, I just hated it– I don’t remember why– just because of the cover with the diamonds. Or did I actually hear it? Anyway, I don’t recall ever hearing any of this record, or ever being much aware of its existence. I think when I got into punk rock I just really cut a lot of stuff out of my world.

It starts out almost sounding like the Aerosmith I remember and liked so much. The second song, “I Wanna Know Why” is pretty good– it actually sounds a lot like something from the first solo David Johansen record from almost the same time. It goes on for too long, though, and has too many elements– and the record just goes downhill from there. Though the Joe Perry song is kind of weird; it really reminds me of that Klark Kent (Steward Copeland) song, “Don’t Care” which came out about the same time.

The first song on side two, “Kings and Queens” just totally reminds me of everything that went wrong with rock music in the 1970s and why we (punk rockers) rejected all of it. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry will be the first ones to tell you that they did too many drugs, but I don’t want to presume that drugs are the reason this sounds so bad. Maybe it was too much touring, or too much eating at Taco Bell. At any rate, most of this record is like an aural representation of constipation.

The cover, a pathetic caricature of the band by Al Hirschfeld is just really… sad. It pretty much says “end of the line.” They probably should have called this record “End Of The Line,” or R.I.P. But I love Aerosmith! I’m glad they didn’t OD and die, and I’m even glad they kept playing and recording. I just never want to see or hear this record again.




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