Ten Most Lasting Albums From Your Teen Years

Yes, it’s an internet thing. The prompt goes like this, and is irresistible: List 10 albums that made a lasting impression on you as a TEENAGER, but only one per band/artist. Don’t take too long and don’t think too long. I turned mine in last week, before I knew it was a thing. I made two mistakes in my first pass, listed two elpees that hit when I was 12, though I suppose maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into them until the next year. Hard to know. List 10 albums that made a lasting impression on you as a TEENAGER, but only one per band/artist. Don’t take too long and don’t think too long. 1. Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen – Lost in the Ozone 2. Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street 3. Allman Brothers – Live at Fillmore East 4. The Who – Who’s Next 5. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions 6. Johnny Winter – Johnny Winter 7. New York Dolls – New York Dolls 8. Jethro Tull – Benefit 9. Paul Kantner – Blows Against the Empire 10. Kool and the Gang – Wild and Peaceful Originally had Cream’s Disraeli Gears and Blood Sweat and Tear’s Child is the Father to the Man, but they were released before I was a teen. As I type this I realize that Blind Faith should be on, but I don’t know what to bump. I’ve written about all of these here before, except Benefit. And I’ve seen all these bands live, too, which may explain some of the attachment, except Jethro Tull. I once saw Commander Cody open for Jefferson Starship in Santa Monica. Weird show. One odd thing to note is that I’m older than most everyone who made lists I’ve read. I turned 20 before punk broke or new wave hit. Feel free to add your list in the comments. In the meantime. https://youtu.be/VqW-zMSrQr8

Some Sound Advice

Just finished reading a book that was a Christmas present from my girlfriend. It’s called There, I said it – Bob Dylan is overrated. She knows the author/editor (Joshua Shelov), I forget how. Maybe she knows somebody who knows him.

Anyway, for me, the book concept gets an A. The execution, maybe a C. It’s some disappointingly short essays by different intelligent folks (some ESPN people, film people, actual professional musicians, etc.) each taking a personal crack at an untouchable artist.

The Dylan essay is good (by the author/editor, presumably where the entire project began). I like the Steely Dan essay. I think the Stevie Wonder essay is well done.

On the contrary, the Beatles essay never gives any kind of concrete reason whatsoever for not liking The Beatles. The Billy Joel author’s essay proves to me that the guy knows way too much about Billy Joel’s music to hate it. (Plus, he tries way too hard to be funny, as do some others.)

Frankly, I think the four founding Remnants would do a much better job producing the same book.

Go buy it if you’re intrigued. My girlfriend would be happy you supported Joshua Shelov. It’s certainly a quick and easy read.

Within the book, there’s mention of “a bit floating around the internet, with Dave Grohl railing against American Idol, how it’s destroying music, and so on.” As sad as I think it is (in more ways than one) that Dave Grohl seems to be the only official spokesman for rock ‘n’ roll anymore, I had to find it.

This is the best match I could find. Perhaps you’ve seen this a million times already; I had not. Although I wish it were nastier and more direct, as a guy who certainly believes the popular music of today is firmly in the shitter, it speaks much truth.

Extra Song of the Week – Let’s Spend Some Time Together, The Rolling Stones

It was 50 years ago tonight that the Rolling Stones appeared on Ed Sullivan and changed the words to Let’s Spend the Night Together to Let’s Spend Some Time Together in order to satisfy Sullivan’s puritanical ethics.

Due to copyright issues the televised Sullivan performance isn’t available on YouTube, but a bootleg taping of the rehearsal is. Here it is but you have to watch “Ruby Tuesday” first (and tolerate the girls’ screaming).

Enjoy!

Song of the Week – Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon, Jefferson Airplane

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Humanbein-pToday is the 50th anniversary of the Human Be-In that took place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Saturday, January 14, 1967.

Some historians credit this “gathering of the tribe” for kicking off the 60s counter culture revolution and the precursor to the “summer of love.”

The celebration attracted a crowd estimated to be between 20,000-30,000 people for an afternoon of lectures, poetry and music provided by LSD advocate Timothy Leary, beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the popular Bay area bands – Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.

At the end of the day’s events, Ginsberg requested that everyone do their part to clean up the park to make sure it was left as clean as it was when the day began. True to the ethos of the day, the participants happily cooperated and left the park in pristine condition.

Today’s SotW is “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon” from the Airplane’s third album, late 1967’s After Bathing at Baxter’s. (I once read that Baxter was JA’s code named for LSD making the title’s translation After Tripping on Acid.)

“Saturday…” was written by Paul Kantner – who passed away a year ago – to commemorate the essence of the day.

Saturday afternoon,
Yellow clouds rising in the noon,
Acid, incense and balloons;
Saturday afternoon,
People dancing everywhere,
Loudly shouting “I don’t care!”

It’s a time for growing,
And a time for knowing love;

Saturday afternoon,
Saturday afternoon;

It has often been reported that Kantner’s lyrics were inspired by a column in the San Francisco Chronicle written about the event by Ralph J. Gleason. I’m not sure that’s the truth although Gleason’s article does make references to LSD, incense, balloons and dancing; but those things would have been observed by anyone that was there. You can read the article at the link below and make your own judgement.

Ralph J. Gleason – The Tribes Gather – January 16, 1967

The “Saturday…” parts of the song are less about the music and more focused on the trippy harmony vocal arrangement.

The band would reprise the song to capture the vibe at the Woodstock hippie festival (“three days of peace and music”) a couple of years later in the summer of 1969. The song was not included in the original release of the movie or the 3 album set. But it was on the less successful Woodstock Two and the longer director’s cut of the film seen here.

Enjoy… until next week.

Make that Sir Ray

I was having my monthly Skype conversation with my cousin Eve, and her husband Jim last Tuesday when they mentioned that the wonderful Ray Davies had been knighted.

Eve and Jim live in London, and Jim, in particular, is as huge a Kinks fan as am I, and Eve is not that far behind, I suspect.

So, I thought that alone was worth mentioning, but in deference to Coachella and what seems to be a lack of anything creative or new or interesting–at least to us–in the music world, I thought going back to this great Kinks cut from a vastly underrated Kinks album, Muswell Hillbilly was perfect.

I do think of all the songwriters to come out of the rock era, Ray was the cleverest lyricist and social critic while also being the Noel Coward of the last wave of pop tune-smiths, hence the knighthood is really appropriate.

As for Jim and my love for the Kinks, my grandmother’s house, on Holders Hill Road, was in Finchley, just up the road from Muswell Hill, so I always think if Granny and the Davies family being neighbors.

Way to go Ray! Love ya forever.

 

BF Shelton

I was listening to the Bristol Sessions tonight. There was an open mike recording session in Bristol Tennessee on July 29, 1927, hosted by the Victor Talking Machine Company. They made record players, and wanted to make records.

Singers, songwriters, musicians from all over the south travelled for an opportunity to record their work and sell it. These were the beginning days of the record industry. The Carter Family and the Jimmie Rodgers recorded their first sides that day. That stuff is gold.

But the tune that caught my ear was a standard and classic murder ballad, Darling Cora, recorded by a guy named BF Shelton. This song is something of a banjo requirement, and it is irresistible because of its structure and chorus, but this early version does something wonderful and hypnotic with the sound. Singer and banjo, alone, play and sing with a hypnotic rhythm, and the banjo sounds like a trance instrument and chime, rather than a, well, banjo. That’s good. Check it out.

Although Shelton went on to record some other sides, the only surviving cuts of his are from the Bristol Sessions. So there is the chance that his lovely spectral banjo sound is an artifact of the recording process, but when you listen to another of his recordings that day, a less captivating song by spades, his picking is still pretty awesome. Here’s Oh, Molly Dear:

These old cuts bring so much extraneous noise they alienate us from the start, but when you dig in it is revelatory to find pickers and players who are rocking new sounds out of the traditional. Shelton is doing that for me. Which is why it excites me to listen to old stuff.

 

Song of the Week – Break on Through, The Doors

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

album_large_86_4e3a4db5a58a2Today’s SotW will recognize another important milestone in Rock history – The Doors’ self-titled debut was released 50 years ago this month. Most rock fans agree that it is one of the best and most influential albums ever released.

In the summer of ’66 The Doors were “discovered” by Elektra Records producer Paul Rothchild during the band’s residency at LA’s Whiskey A-Go-Go. He was impressed with the rock and roll stew they concocted – Ray Manzarek’s classically influenced psychedelic keys, Robbie Krieger’s jazzy guitar runs, John Densmore’s Latin influenced drumming and, of course, Jim Morrison’s charismatic baritone vocals and poetic lyrics.

The SotW is the lead track, “Break on Through.”

“Break on Through” was the lead single from the album but flopped as it stalled at #126 on the singles chart. It wasn’t until an edited 3 minute version of “Light My Fire” (shortened from the 7 minute album cut) was released and reached #1 in the Summer of Love that people started to pay attention to The Doors and their album.

It is common knowledge that The Doors took their name is tribute to Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception – an essay documenting his experiences on mescaline. “Break on Through” then is the perfect salute to lead off The Doors’ classic album.

Check out the complete track list:

Break On Through (To The Other Side) 2:25
Soul Kitchen 3:30
The Crystal Ship 2:30
Twentieth Century Fox 2:30
Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) 3:15
Light My Fire 6:50
Back Door Man 3:30
I Looked At You 2:18
End Of The Night 2:49
Take It As It Comes 2:13
The End 11:35

An eclectic mix of styles and not a dud in the bunch.

The Doors was recognized by Rolling Stone as #42 in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Mojo has included it in their list of the Greatest Albums of All Time as well.

It is hard to disagree.

Enjoy… until next week.

2017 Coachella Acts Announced

Please go find them yourself.

Headliners are Radiohead, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar. If any of these bands(?) were playing in my backyard would I bother to look out the window?

There are certainly plenty of acts.

Are any of them good?
Are any of them rock ‘n’ roll?
How many of them do you know?

My over/unders are zero, one and three.

Wasn’t Coachella originally an alternative rock festival?

Does music suck today or what?

Angel Olsen’s Problem

Until a few days ago, I didn’t know about Angel Olsen. But then I noticed her album, My Woman, showing up on end of the year Bests lists.

I assumed someone named Angel Olsen was a country singer. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I’d already listened to the highly acclaimed Miranda Lambert album, The Weight of These Wings, and appreciated a lot of it, but if Olsen’s album couldn’t beat Lambert’s, I wasn’t that excited.

Eventually, I played Olsen’s elpee. She has a quavery voice. She sings like a folk singer. The mix gives her a fuckload of reverb or tremolo or whatever you want to call it. And it isn’t country music. Not at all. So I listened again.

Here’s the standout song. I think I’ve heard this on the radio.

Standout, but not great. Weird, and it turns out, a much bigger performance than Angel Olsen usually delivers. For instance, her early tracks were kind of folk-weird. Nothing wrong with that, but the minimal setting was a far cry from Shut Up Kiss Me.

I’m a fan of poetic women poeticizing, but on both the minimal early recordings and the recent best of year disk, I’m concerned by the reverb that enriches her voice, and diminishes our ability to process it.

In any case, I’m not expert on Angel Olsen. My interest is in her highly-touted 2016 release. And here there is a weird disconnect. On the song that precedes Shut Up, Never Be Mine, she taps a Shangri-Las vibe, but the band never gets into it. Her vocals are strong, but the band fades into the back. A song that needs giant strings, and epic ambitions, fades into who cares.

And when I listen to Not Gonna Kill You, I hear a hard backing track that turns into muddle because of the soft reverbed vocals. I think of how Debbie Harry might have handled these words, this arrangement. How PJ Harvey, who built a career singing against a rock guitar, would have confronted the sound of the band. But Angel doesn’t. She’s too folkie for her band, and it hurts.

I have to try to understand why rock critics buy this flawed presentation. I think it pushes the rock referential buttons, and everyone loves a pretty young woman fronting a rock band. Even a wimpy one. And this band isn’t that wimpy when it’s allowed to play. Another reason critics might get into it. Not Going to Kill You rocks once the you get past the vocals.

But that’s the key. I think Angel Olsen is one of those folkie talents who ends up rocking, because that’s the best shot at being something. Even if the business doesn’t fit. Or maybe she’ll make it fit. That would be a subject for a David O. Russell film.