Saturday, September 16, 2017

We travelled so far (Mary Chapin Carpenter) (LP 144)

Mary Chapin Carpenter The Age Of Miracles (CD Zoë Records, 2010) *** 

Genre: Country

Places I remember: Virgin Megastore Dubai Mall

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: I Put My Ring Back On

Gear costume: Iceland is spookily good, We Travelled So Far and Zephyr will always remind me of driving in the Tiida with Jacky from Al Ain to Dubai.

Active compensatory factors: Because of that association with driving around in sunny Al Ain, it's my favourite studio album by MCC. 

It starts off with four terrific songs but things then get a little too hushed and maudlin for a bit (something David Crosby also suffers from periodically). Iceland gets the mix right before a strong close. 

Where do they all belong? Party Doll and other favourites is still the best way to approach her particular genius. 

It's got live stuff, studio gems, and beautiful cover versions of Mick Jagger's Party Doll and John Lennon's Grow Old Along With Me. It is superb!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Nobody listens to silence (Ryan Adams) (LP 142 - 143)

Ryan Adams Easy Tiger (CD - Lost Highway, 2007) ****
Ryan Adams Ryan Adams (CD - PAXAM, 2014) ****

Genre: Americana

Places I remember: Kings Recording (Abu Dhabi)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Pearls on a String (Easy Tiger); Trouble (Ryan Adams)

Gear costume: These Girls (Easy Tiger); My Wrecking Ball (Ryan Adams)

Active compensatory factors: Easy Tiger (as in slow down big boy) is a return to a Heartbreaker style sound that is easy on the ear. Some memorable songs and some great picking from The Cardinals make Easy Tiger a stand out in the vast Adamsverse.

Ryan Adams is a great companion album. It's a more electric sound with some great organ from Benmont Tench. That and other things give the album a strong Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers sound at times.

With all his outrageous gifts on display, the first five songs - Gimme Something Good/ Kim/ Trouble/ Am I Safe/ My Wrecking Ball are completely wham bam.

Because of his profuse output, Ryan Adams can be maddeningly inconsistent but when he gets it right, as he does on these two albums, he's hard to beat!

Where do they all belong? Some live stuff and the awesome Taylor Swift cover album to come. The late twenty teens have been fertile ground.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cosmic trip (Air) (LP 141)

Air Le Voyage Dans La Lune (CD - Virgin, 2011) ****

Genre: Progressive rock

Places I remember: The Warehouse (Hastings)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles/ Gear costume: Cosmic Trip 

Active compensatory factors: I wouldn't file this under 'soundtracks' on my shelves (and I haven't) as it's more 'inspired by' than anything.

I have a soft spot for the hippy trippy progressive sounds of Air. They are one of many bands inspired by the progressive, experimental sounds of Pink Floyd. And that can't be bad in my book (of rock).

They have definitely carved out a distinctive sound of their own and for my money (it's what I want) they are at their best when going the cinemascopic route, as they do here.

Where do they all belong? That's it for Air. Next stop in the prog department is on the heavier side of things - with some prog metal!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nothing to show (Badfinger) (LP 138 - 140)

Badfinger Airwaves (Vinyl - Elektra, 1979) *** 
Badfinger Apple Daze (CD - Raven Records, 1991) * 
Badfinger Head First (CD - Snapper, 2000) ** 

Genre: Apple/ Dark Horse Records

Places I remember: Respectively - Marbecks Records; Real Groovy Records; Fives (Leigh-on-sea, UK)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Love Is gonna Come At Last (from Airwaves)

Gear costume: The Dreamer (another Joey Molland song from Airwaves)

Active compensatory factors: Airwaves could have been called 'And Then There Two' as only Joey Molland and Tom Evans appear on it. When I got a glimpse of the album while working at Marbecks Records in the late seventies, my expectations were low as my favourite Badfinger songs mostly came from Pete Ham. 

Depending on your point of view, the album stands as either a brave attempt to move the Badfinger story on or to cash in. 

Tom and Joey were both strong vocalists in the original band, so it does have enough of the classic Badfinger sound to make it a brave attempt for my money. 

Whatever, given Tom Evans' suicide in 1983, it ends up as another sad chapter in the end (as is, I suspect, Say No More, a follow up by the duo under the Badfinger name which I have yet to find anywhere).

Apple Daze is an interesting interview disc with Tom Evans about Apple, Beatles, Badfinger related content. One for obsessives though.

As is Head First, recorded at Apple Studios. It was supposed to be the follow up to Wish You Were Here but was put on hold. It's no surprise to find that it's a miserable slog of an album - songs about the dire situation with management (Hey, Mr Manager, Rock'n'Roll Contract) don't help the situation one bit.

Where do they all belong? Next up is a brace of live albums by the original band.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

If I Fell (The Beatles) (LP 136 - 137)

The Beatles A Hard Day's Night (CD/ Vinyl - Parlophone, 1964) *****
The Beatles Something New (Vinyl - Apple Records, 1964) ****

Genre: Beatles pop

Places I remember: A Hard Day's Night came from a trip to Sydney with the family in 1973; Something New from Real Groovy Records (Auckland)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: A Hard Day's Night (From that first magic chord onwards - it's a perfect song!). Not sure how the whole film is on YouTube but there you go. Feel free to watch the whole kit and kaboodle.

Gear costume: Tell Me Why (oh, and all the other songs on A Hard Day's Night as well)

Active compensatory factors: Each song's a gem, but not only that - every song's a different kind of gem. An emerald here, a sapphire there.

Each song is seared into my consciousness, and has become a shortcut to scenes in the best rock 'n' roll movie of all time. 

Best. Of. All. Time.

Something New gets 4 stars because it's another weird Capitol version with some of the A Hard Day's Night songs, plus some EP tracks and the German vocal songs. Great great songs, but not a cohesive whole by any means. What were they thinking in that Capitol tower$$. Oh sorry. That should have been ??

Where do they all belong? Beatles For Sale/ Beatles IV/ Beatles '65/ Beatles No. 5

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuff E nuff (Johnny Otis) (LP 134 - 135)

The Guess Who Wild One (Vinyl - Pickwick, 1972 ) ** 
The Guess Who The Way They Were (Vinyl - RCA, 1976 ) ***  

Genre: Canadian pop/ rock

Places I remember: Wild One - Real Groovy Records (Auckland); TWTW - Music Box Record Exchange (Hastings)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Species Hawk

Gear costume: Tuff E Nuff is a load of hunky fun, as is This Could Be Love with youthful Burton Cummings vocals. On TWTW, Silver Bird and Palmyra hinted at greatness to come. The Answer road tests the distinctive harmonies.

Active compensatory factors: These two are bracketed because they both pre date Wheatfield Soul, their first 'real' album.

Wild One features the Chad Allan led version of the band. Strictly speaking, it's a compilation of material done between 1965 and 1967 but because of the narrow focus it sounds like a bona fide studio album. 

Weirdly, their first hit, a 1965 rendition of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' Shakin' All Over is not included in the package. Nor are other singles of this era!

Just to weird it out some more, Chad left in 1966 and so the band effectively continued as a quartet for the next four years with:

  • Burton Cummings (keyboards/ vocals)
  • Randy Bachman (guitars, backing vocals)
  • Jim Kale (bass, backing vocals)
  • Garry Peterson (drums, backing vocals)

The Way They Were is also an oddity, including as it does some good stuff recorded before Wheatfield Soul with Jack Richardson but not released until 1976 (after the original band called it a day).

Hope you're keeping up! 

That's the background. What about the music?

Wild One's sound is nowhere near the Burton Cummings' led band that we all know and love. Instead it's a tentative series of songs in thrall to American rock of the mid sixties, looking for a distinctive voice. As such, it sounds a lot like New Zealand music of the time. Outsiders both.

Chad Allan sounds like the American teen idol that, I guess, he wanted to be. Randy Bachman tries out surf guitar and some psychedelic licks at times, but it would have been going out on a limb to think these guys would evolve to mega stardom.

By the time they recorded the material on The Way They Were the band had taken a quantum leap forward. Burton had become a much more assured vocalist and Randy's guitar style had also undergone a transformation into a more distinctive heavy riffing style.

And the songs had improved! No more covers - Cummings/Bachman had become a thing.

Where do they all belong? Wheatfield Soul would prove itself to be a game changer.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hot 'lanta (Allman Brothers band) (LP 132-133)

The Allman Brothers Band The Allman Brothers Band (Vinyl - Polydor, 1969) *****
The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East (Vinyl (double LP) - Polydor, 1971) ****

Genre: American pop/ rock

Places I remember: Both from Marbecks Records (Auckland)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Black Hearted Woman 

Gear costume: You Don't Love Me, Whipping Post (on both albums)

Active compensatory factors: Sorry for the lack of chronology with my Allman Brothers Band albums. Blame it on the fact that I am travelling between my CD and vinyl collections. That explains why I've covered Idlewild South and Eat a Peach before getting to the vinyl copies of these two earlier albums.

The live album has come to be regarded as a classic and although nobody talks about the stunning debut much, it is also a classic album. Funny old world innit.

I remember coming across them in an import shipment Roger got from the States along with a host of other great albums including amazing stuff by Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna/Grateful Dead. I loved the covers and just had to have them!

I love live albums that sound and feel like a whole concert - applause leads into the next track. I'm less thrilled when the applause fades and the next track starts after a pause. That's the case with this album and weirdly the chronology of the concert is off anyway - side two ends with the first bars of Whipping Post (here placed on side four!). That explains the four star rating.

That said - the playing here is breath-taking. The lyrical In Memory of Elizabeth Reed is a spectacular guitar work out by Dickey Betts and Duane Allman before Gregg Allman embarks on some brilliant organ, then it's back to Duane and Dickey for a set of ascending wig outs. 

And that's just one high point amongst many on At Fillmore East.

Their first album is another example of a band seemingly fully formed on debut. Anyone who has heard tracks by Hourglass knows that they had a history before this album but by 1969 Gregory LeNoir Allman's rich vocals are fully there, the band are tight, the songs are all there, the two drummers and two guitarists are in place as well. Duane Allman and Dick Betts are particularly there!

Sidebar: a tad sad looking at those group lineups on these two covers - only Dickey Betts and Jaimoe are still around of the six original members of The Allman Brothers Band.

Where do they all belong? Back on track chronologically speaking - Brothers and Sisters (yes, another classic five star album) is next.