Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Serious Case Of Classic Rock-itis!

I've been on a CD acquisition binge lately, trading in a bunch of stuff to get a different bunch of of stuff. While most of it is old music, much of it is new to my ears. It's been very fun and rewarding, but it's also a bit overwhelming. There is so much music out there! But I'm down with that. I'm not sure why the bug has bitten me so hard lately, but with the trade-ins and such, I really haven't blown a huge wad of bills on these. And fortunately, I'm very happy with all of them, with just a couple exceptions!

I did a little bit of research on these by visiting various music sites and listening to small samples of selected tracks. I usually buy "blind" (I guess that should actually be "deaf") but this way I can be more informed and it definitely reduces the amount of take backs. I am saddened that most of Argent's catalog is out of print..After hearing bits of several of their albums, I decided I must have All Together Now and Ring Of Hands (in spite of a tune called Cast Your Spell Uranus....) I will keep searching.

There has been only one title I didn't keep, though...(I will duck as I say this)..The Byrds - Sweetheart Of the Rodeo. It just didn't do it for me at this time..and I will probably try it again, but hey, I did keep The Buffalo Springfield CD!

Here are some thoughts on these. A serious case of Classic Rock-itist.

Donovan - Troubadour The Definitive Collection (1964 - 1976)
Groovy: Much of this is new to me, with the exception of 2 45's I had as a kid: Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. Disc one is awesome. I love Donovan's voice and upon hearing the really early folkie stuff wished that Dylan's voice was as pleasant! The Trip is just the grooviest song ever. London Town is the prettiest song ever. This was also the first time I have heard his version of Season Of The Witch! Thanks to a heads up via Peter Holsapple's blog,
I have now heard the Super Session version (awesome), but the one I was most familiar with was the jaw droppingly bombastic but really earnest version from the Vanilla Fudge's 3rd LP! And I still love Sunshine Superman.
Bummer: Anything containing the words "Barabajagal" and/or "Riki Tiki Tavi". I don't care who's playing on it.

Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield (1966)
Groovy: Half of this record sounds pretty good to me. Lots of guitars and nice vocal harmonies . My faves are Sit Down I Think I Love You, Flying On The Ground Is Wrong and Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It. There's a folkie/pop/country/rock thing going on here and I think they can usually pull it off.
Bummer: The other half of this record. It doesn't sound tight to me and I think it's recorded terribly. To my ears, some of the playing sounds sloppy. I also wish Stills sang leads more. I'm not a big fan of Furay's vocals.

Traffic - Smiling Phases (Compilation 1967 - 1974)
Groovy: Well, most of this is in fact pretty damn groovy. The only full album I was familiar with was John Barleycorn Must Die which I had as a kid. This is a pretty comprehensive compilation and will do quite nicely for the time being.
Bummer: Nothing yet.

The Steve Miller Band - Sailor (1968)
Groovy: My first toe-dippin' into this band, but better late than never! I really love Dear Mary - very pretty chord progression that sounds very Hollies - like, but I'm cool with that. Quicksilver Girl is the standout track for me. Just gorgeous. I thought Living In The USA came from Miller later than this, but it's a good one to show off their more rocking side. Even though Dime-A-Dance Romance borrows...liberally..the guitar riff from Jumping Jack Flash, it's a pretty great tune with a very fine vocal performance.
Bummer: The above mentioned Rolling Stone's riff and I'm not sold on the instrumental fog horn cut of Song For Our Ancestors as being the best way to kick off the record.

The James Gang - Yer' Album (1969)
: I love Joe Walsh. I love the way he plays and I really love the way he sings! As a kid, I had The James Gang's "Third" LP (which I need to find on CD), and of course I was familiar with all those Funk #40whatever songs, but the pleasure for me are the cuts with the pretty melodies and his unusual but very endearing vocals. On this record, my faves are Take A Look Around and Collage. Covering Stephen Stills' Bluebird is a pretty inspired choice, and I'm thinking it works out pretty well.
Bummer: All those irritating little studio soundbites in between the songs. I don't like hitting the "next" button that many times!

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country (1969)
Groovy: This is my first CCR album! It's taken me this long, but I'm very glad I finally got one! Swampy, snakey grooves and I'm most impressed with Fogerty's vocals. Penthouse Pauper and Born On The Bayou are two great examples of his powerhouse pipes. This reissue contains some live tracks that rock very hard. I'm loving this. Must get more!
Bummer: I never need to hear Proud Mary again, and good heavens - the one chord rhythm guitar track on Keep On Chooglin' ! Poor guy's hand must have been killing him...

Z.Z. Top - Z.Z. Top's First Album (1970)
Groovy: Surprisingly, this album is the one that has completely blown me away. I'm shocked as to how great is. It rocks so damn hard! Of course the guitar work is absolutely searing, but the biggest mind blower for me is the drum sound! The snare drum is right in your face. I really cannot think of any other rock records from 1970 with such a big, almost contemporary sound. Check out Certified Blues! It's huge! But it's just not the drums..the whole band plays really well together, and there's even some very surprising tricky stuff going on, in particular the drums and bass on Bedroom Thang. Very cool.
Bummer: The use of the word "squank".

Joe Walsh - The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get (1973)
Groovy: Of course Rocky Mountain Way rocks very hard. His songwriting is getting a bit more complex on this, and it works for me, esp. on the very fab Meadows, regardless of the Woman From Tokyo riff. It's a hell of a lot nicer here.
Bummer: Sometimes this one gets a little unfocused and maybe too ambitious (Days Gone By dips it's toe into Steely Dan world (which isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't quite work for me here.), but I may upgrade this one to groovy any moment now...I want Barnstorm next!

Jethro Tull - War Child (1974)
Groovy: With the exception of Bungle In The Jungle, this album is new to me. It seems that I am a huge Jethro Tull fan, esp. the first 5 albums, and of those, esp. the first 2. This one sounds good to me - very proggy and ornate. I love Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day.
Bummer: Though hinted at since Minstrel In The Gallery, Ian Anderson's voice is starting to sound weird and a bit forced. I'm pretty sure this is where I'll stop with Jethro Tull, and I'm fine with that.

Chris Squire - Fish Out Of Water (1975)
Groovy: I got this when it came out and absolutely loved it! My favorite bass player and drummer together! I think it's the best of the first round of Yes solo efforts, and listening to it now, I'm shocked as to how pop some of this sounds! You By My Side is a glorious, bouncy pop tune. Bonus points for Squire's voice, which can hit the high notes as well as Jon Anderson.
Bummer: This time around I find Bruford's drum parts a tad uninspired. Not much meat for the old boy, but the snare sound is still there, tight as a gnat's ass.

U.K. - U.K. (1978)
Groovy: I LOVED this album when it was released. Prog Rock was certainly dying a slow death by this time, so this was a super treat for me. A true proggy supergroup! Of course the main appeal for me was Bill Bruford's drumming. More of his signature snare sound reunited with John Wetton. The playing is awesome, but not as improvisational as King Crimson. In The Dead Of Night is the standout track for me. Lots of prog-riffage throughout with the help of Alan Holdsworth (with a very liquid sounding guitar) and much keyboard coloring and soloing by Eddie Jobson.
Bummer: This time out, Bruford is primarily using roto-toms which display pretty precise tuning capabilities, but they sound a little cold to me. A far cry from his bizarre multiple sized regular toms (not set up in the usual descending size) he used in King Crimson. I also find a little bit of Holdworth's style goes a long way. The noodling and liquid sound is a little too jazz-rock fusion for least for now...

XTC - White Music (1978) they've grown! I love this stuff. Along with Gang Of 4 and Devo, this record in particular convinced me there was a future with no future, for a progressive rock fan like myself. Crazy, energetic and very quirky. Not too far removed from prog rock really, but it was so new sounding and exciting! What the hell???? A cover of All Along The Watchtower? This Is Pop, Radios In Motion...fantastic. Cross Wires...unbelievable. I love this.
Bummer: The crappy bonus tracks that are shoved into the middle of the album. Unfortunately, all other XTC CDs I have suffer from this irritating practice. Hideous.

Jamie & Steve - English Afterthoughts (2009)
Groovy: Well, it's a duo effort by my pal Jamie Hoover and super bass player/writer Steve Stoeckel from Charlotte's insanely popular The Spongetones. These two have been playing together for almost 30 years and it's pretty obvious that they can play and write quite well together! On this release, I'm kind of hearing Jamie in an Andy Partridge mood with Steve being in a very smooth Colin Moulding state of mind. I love Between The Lines and the bouncy Do Be Cruel. A very good release and everyone who is reading this should buy one - it could help us finally getting around to releasing a very nice Happy Eggs CD!
Bummer: I miss Jamie!

Ennio Morricone - Quentin Tarantino Movies (2009)
Groovy: I love Morricone. I particularly love Italian film composers (Nino Rota!). I must have at least 20 Morricone soundtracks. He is so much more than just his spaghetti westerns!
Bummer: I think this one will be traded away soon. Boo! I find this uninspired. Sorry!

The Magnetic Fields - Realism (2010)
Groovy: I love this. I adore this. I'm really glad Stephin Merritt made this record at this time. I suppose The Magnetic Fields will always be judged by their breakthrough album 69 Love Songs ( which I consider one of the best 3 albums of the 90's, along with The Loud Family's Interbabe Concern and The Flaming Lip's The Soft Bulletin), and this new release sounds comparable to me, and I think that's a good thing. The wonderful and glorious chamber music instruments are back and sound in fine form and are breathtakingly charming. I especially love You Must Be Out Of Your Mind, I Don't Know What To Say (with it's fabulously Goffin/King type melody and song structure), and the deliriously beautiful Better Things. Whoa. The cello. The melody. I'm in heaven. On the more adventurous and somewhat goofy side, I adore the absolutely insane The Dada Polka.
Heaven. And it's actually new!!!
Bummer: Nothing.

Crazy. My faves are Z.Z. Top and The Magnetic Fields. Go figure!


Tim Walters said...

Warchild came before Minstrel, though. And while Too Old To Rock & Roll... is skippable, Songs From The Wood is good (if you don't mind a RenFair vibe), and Heavy Horses is my favorite of theirs. After that, yeah, not so much.

Anonymous said...

Tim's and my take on Tull is (on this evidence) nearly identical. Who'da thunk!

Gil said...

Man..I thought I had the correct order! I tried Songs from The Wood a while ago and didn't care for it, but I might check it out again. Heavy Horses for sure!

Tim Walters said...

I believe Brian Block is also a Heavy Horses partisan. That said, some of their earlier albums are more groundbreaking, interesting, etc. HH just happens to warm the cockles of my heart with every track (in the case of "Moths", to the boiling point).

Matthew B said...

Fabulous post, Gil! A lot to think about. I'm nowhere near this proggy (yes to Yes but not to Tull or King Crimson), but great tips on going deeper into album tracks by early Steve Miller and ZZ Top and James Gang. And yes, the first disk of that Donovan collection is fantastic.