I loved ELP’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
I loved Yes. I liked the Moody Blues. Fucking King Crimson.
Kelefah Sanneh wrote about prog rock in the New Yorker earlier this year. You can read his excellent piece here.
I loved much of this music. Virtuosity was important, but so was a big bottom. In my memory this was music that pounded was aggressive, like rock, but also exulted in notes and playing, and felt really good.
Sanneh gets that, which is why I’m here.
One thing I remember was that Scott Muni, the program director of WNEW as well as DJ, would often put on a whole side of Yes or the Moody Blues in order to take meetings while DJing. That usually worked, though WE knew.
There are lots of good suggestions about what you should listen to in Sanneh’s story, so go and listen to them. I’ve had three conversations in recent weeks about the Mahavishnu Orchestra. As Sanneh says, not prog, but passing.
And more than anything, you should listen to Bitches Brew.
I’m not sure about the premise of this slideshow in the Guardian, that these are the album covers that should hang in an art gallery, but it is a good reminder that album covers were an important part of listening to music back in the day of albums.
The big art of an album cover was a message about the product, often a statement about intentions or aesthetic purpose. Or just a lark, but one that connected the artist with the fans.
We lost that when we moved to CDs, and while vinyl sales are up, the vinyl elpee is no longer the face of a musical artist. That image has fractured into many competing versions, each shaped and colored for its particular audience. Which is why I think looking at nice reproductions of these album covers feels so fresh.
Dust is some nasty shit. Swear.
I did a lot of cooking this morning. I don’t really have any family in this country, so fortunately, my late wife, Cathy’s, family decided to hang onto me.
I say this because Cathy’s mom, Edie, turns 80 on Monday (go girl!), and later today we have a celebration planned.
Where the dust comes in is that Thursday morning, as part of the spate of rain we have been jonesing for in Northern California for the past six months, it got cold where Cathy’s brother, Eric, and his wife Jill (these would be Lindsay’s folks) live, and Jill slipped on some black ice. The results were a broken wrist and fractures to her cheek (hopefully she won’t need surgery there), meaning a nasty fall.
This meant a couple of things: first, Jill is on a soup diet for a spell, and second, Jill always makes birthday cakes (except for her birthday, when I do it) and well, no way that was going to happen.
So, I took it upon myself this morning to both bake Edie her cake (blueberry-buttermilk bundt with glaze), and also make some soft stuff Jill could eat (creamed spinach, honey-pepper-cheese grits, and tomato basil soup). If you don’t get this yet, I really love to cook, so I had a good time doing this.
But, inspired both by Peter’s posting of I’m in Love With My Car, and Tom’s Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White, I decided to fire up the turntable while cooking for a few hours, and listen to some stuff I had not heard for a while. Plus, I like vinyl.
I started with A Night at the Opera, per Peter, and it was so fun. Death on Two Legs is wonderful, as is Sweet Lady (“you call me sweet, like I’m some kind of cheese,” what a line), and then I went to the first side of Jesus Christ, Superstar (sorry, guilty pleasure, but the band is killer, and well, it is sentimental for Diane and me), t0 Their Satanic Majesty’s Request (who hoo, In Another Land, and Citadel), then Boston’s first (sorry, another guilty pleasure, but a fun guitar album), Idlewild South, and finally to Then Play On.
When I first bought it, Then Play On was my favorite album, and it was followed by Kiln House. I cannot remember which, but I believe one of those made my 50 essentials.
Then Play On is really Peter Green’s album, and a beautiful one it is. So vast and varied, and well, it has the iconic Oh Well, but that is not even my favorite cut on the album. In fact, I don’t know what is.
But, where the dust comes in is I have not played a few of these albums in a while, maybe 20 years, and I cleaned them before playing, but they had so damn much dust, it took playing the sides or songs a few times before I could get a real listen.
But, it was worth it. This recording is really just the studio one from the album, but it has two-plus minutes of stoned out banter and mistakes before the song gets underway (which was the song on the album after Show Biz, and I tried to find a pairing because the two work so well together), but it is pretty good fun.
We will get to more of the Mac, one of the most interesting bands of all time, another time.
For now, dig Peter A, whom if you listen, Santana got his sound from.
Christmas–in fact the holidays at large–is an excuse for excess.
I was trying to think of a fitting tune as such, that would reflect the panoply of things that represent the season–food, drink, gifts, money–while also remembering that for Diane and me, Boxing Day will be the actual gift exchange with the family for the first time. That is because Kelly, Lindsay’s sister, has to work the holiday and cannot get away. (It was the same Thanksgiving, the first holiday where she was so grown up she couldn’t get home because of work, so it is fine to stall a day.)
For some reason, the thought of Boxing Day must have triggered my thoughts of the band Boxer, and the song All the Time in the World. While checking out versions, I was reminded of Mike Patto, who headed the group Boxer, and played with Spooky Tooth, a band full of great musicians, but one that never really caught on in the states.
An art rock group of sorts, SpookyTooth included such personage as Chris Stainton, Henry McCullough, Greg Ridley, Mike Harrison, and Gary Wright.
In reviewing this information, I was reminded of the song The Mirror, from the album of the same name, released in 1974. I was in love with ELO at the time, and when I heard the song The Mirror, I thought it was close to perfect.
Fortunately, within three years, punk would arrive and save me from the horrors of second generation prog rock. In fact, when I played The Mirror, while concoting this piece, I was sort of surprised that I ever liked it at all.
Certainly the song is heavily influenced by Gary Wright and the Dreamweaver phase, and I do like the arpeggio guitars and the drums, and even synths, but the words? God help me, and the chorale influenced singing during the over-indulgent bridge makes awful even worse.
Still, an interesting look at Brit psychedelia during the era of Elton John
Mike Patto left Spooky Tooth to form Boxer, and I remember buying their album Below the Belt when it came out, not so much because I loved the band but rather because I thought the album jacket would make the record collectable someday (I was right as it goes for between $75-$100 on Ebay). I do think though, that this had to be what Christopher Guest and Michael McKean and Harry Shearer and Rob Reiner were thinking when they were imagining the jacket of Smell the Glove.
Either way, curiosity got the better of me, so I pulled up All the Time in the World and it was actually sort of raw, but a lot better than The Mirror.
Which I guess isn’t saying much.
Hope your seasonal excesses don’t get the better of you, and if you are doing the gift thing tomorrow, happy Boxing Day!
A story in the Independent has a story with an embed of a webcam pointed at the zebra crossing the Beatles and Red Hot Chili Peppers used as album covers. Seems that the spot is a tourist attraction and people stop traffic just to cross the street, and you can watch them!
There’s also a documentary about the crossing, which is fairly short and atmospheric and notes that the photo for the album cover was taken two weeks after Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon!
Andy Paley grew up in Boston and formed a band called Catfish Black with future Modern Lovers members Jerry Harrison (keyboards) and Ernie Brooks (drums). They renamed themselves the Sidewinders, added Billy Squier, and recorded an album produced by Lenny Kaye in the mid-70s. Cuts from the album, which is well worth hearing, are on YouTube, but you have to dig.
The highlight here is at the two-minute mark, when we see a closeup of the band on the back of the jacket and Andy plays an extended solo. They were regulars at Max’s Kansas City, Andy played guitar on Elliott Murphy’s Night Lights, and disappeared leaving little more than a trace.
After the Sidewinders, Andy and his brother Jonathan formed the Paley Brothers, signed with Sire and released an album produced by Springsteen’s engineer at the time, Jimmy Iovine. It’s a fantastic elpee, a staple on the Kreutzer turntable back in those days of collegiate love and squalor.
The brothers also recorded a cover of Richie Valens’ Come On Let’s Go, with the Ramones for the Rock and Roll High School soundtrack.
The Paley’s went on tour, opening in arenas for the similarly hair-styled Shaun Cassidy, but did not break out with the teenyboppers and did break up.
Andy played guitar on the Modern Lovers’ Back In Your Life album, which features Abdul and Cleopatra, and that live show at the Peppermint Lounge I posted last night (which reminded me of Andy and his career–which I’ve augmented by looking things up).
In the early 80s I was visiting a friend’s family’s big country house a little bit upstate in New York. A few of us went out to play croquet and ran into a long-haired guy knocking a ball around. I recognized Andy from his album cover, and we played. He was a friend of one of the cousins, I think. He was writing songs and producing Jonathan Richman records. Nice guy, though he loved to send people. But don’t we all?
I think he appreciated meeting some fans.
Why it’s a classic album cover created using emoji!
A story at Fast Company explains how the novelist Wesley Stace, concurrently the singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, has been creating these clever little icons of iconography and tweeting them out.
Didn’t guess the above album? Follow the link for the answer and more clever examples. Follow him @WesleyStace.
Parting album? Who’s Next.
A wife decides for some reason (I haven’t gotten to the beginning yet to learn why) to listen to all the albums in her record fan husband’s record collection and “review” them in a Tumblr called My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection. Her style is kind of cute, kind of cloying, sometimes funny, like the picture here. I don’t have an opinion yet.
She’s just started reviewing the Bs, and that led to a review of the B52’s eponymous debut elpee. She’d never heard Dance This Mess Around and is suitably impressed.
Her husband sometimes makes comments. He’s clearly a cool guy who seems unphased by explaining why he has free jazz in his record collection. He also recommended this cover of Rock Lobster by deadhorse, which was never released on vinyl so it’s okay to listen on YouTube: