Saturday, May 26, 2012

Well all right then (Big Joe Turner/Pete Johnson)

While I was away I really missed being able to reach into my collection and play a lot of great songs.

Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner's It's All Right, Baby is definitely one of them and one of the first songs I put on the turntable when I unpacked my records from storage.

It's on a great double LP called The Great Blues Men on Vanguard with an amazing cover collage by Eric Von Schmidt.

Pete Johnson is the awesome boogie woogie pianoman and Big Joe Turner is the awesome blues shouter. What a combination.

Sadly youtube doesn't seem to have that particular song but it can be downloaded via various interweb sites like this:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The half-time air was sweet perfume (Don McLean)

Don McLean's album American Pie is one of hundreds of albums reviewed by Lester Bangs for Rolling Stone magazine in the early seventies. I've just reread his review and he gets it pretty much spot on.

It's definitely the one important song in Don's oeuvre (he's written other good ones like Vincent and Winterwood but they aren't important ones in my humble opinion).

Lester Bangs describes it as a 'metaphor for the death and rebirth of rock that's at once complex and immediately accessible'.

Many people have written about the song's meaning (for a funny line by line blow by blow account you could try but I have to disagree with Lester.

For me there is no rebirth going on within the narrative. Built around the central image of Buddy Holly's death, the song traces the major movements and bands of the 1950 to 1970 rock era (Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Byrds all make an appearance). The journey from the plane crash to Altamont, Charles Manson, and the end of the Beatles is all pretty depressing.

By the end of the song Don is asking quite naturally for some 'happy news' (after all the music has stopped, no one is dancing any more and Satan is laughing in delight). But in an enigmatic way, there is none (she just smiled and turned away).

Where does Lester find rebirth in any of this? Of course Don's song itself may be seen as a kind of rebirth and that may be what Lester means. After all he accurately says that it's an immediately accessible song. As we all know - it's impossible not to sing along with all this tale of death and evil doers.


Friday, May 18, 2012

I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles...(The 'Oo)

I've reorganised my collection again and moved all the Greatest Hits compilations into their own section.

These compilations are often record company marketing decisions rather than artistic statements by musicians so I (mostly) feel justified in separating them.

There are always exceptions, though, where either the artist has an input or the collection just clicks or else the band is so great that every song is a must have. These are the ones I want to focus on. Here are some of my favourites.

The Who - Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy. When Pete Townshend reviewed the album for Rolling Stone magazine in 1971 he called it 'the greatest of Who albums'. As a celebration of 'Oo singles it is without peer. Hit after hit after hit after hit...

Favourite moment: My name is Bill and I'm a headcase (from I'm A Boy)

Neil Young - Decade. A bespoke collection from Mr Shakey himself. A perfect collection of his best moments, a lot of which were first released on this triple album!

Favourite moment: Winterlong.

The Raspberries - The Raspberries. Capitol put this out in 1991 under their Collectors Series banner and it scoops up all the hits by the best U.S. power pop band (Badfinger are, of course, the U.K.'s representative). Twenty tracks and every one delivers.

Favourite moment: Baby don't go!! Eric Carmen's heart felt cries (from If You Should Change Your Mind).

The Beach Boys - Ballads. The number of Beach Boys compilations must easily exceed the studio albums as repackaging of hits has continued throughout the years in a helter skelter fashion. Ballads contains twelve tracks and it goes without saying that all twelve are superb creations. The thematic idea of just including twelve ballads works brilliantly, much better that the Beatles' Ballads collection which had far too many tracks (20).

Favourite moment: Warmth Of The Sun captures the feeling of the warm rays in song. Everything great about the group is right there - the unique blend of voices, Brian's musical genius, Mike Love's succinct lyrics.

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Party Doll and Other Favorites. I've bought quite a few of her albums and so far none can compare to this compilation. It really shouldn't hold together as well as it does - there are live tracks, studio tracks including Jagger's weird title song and her brilliant version of Lennon's Grow Old With Me mixed in with the hits and album tracks.

Favourite moment: This shirt.

Ricky Nelson - 22 Golden Greats. This compilation is perfect - all the timeless hits from the whole of Ricky Nelson's career. Often because bands appear on different labels their career best collections fail to include all the good bits, frinstance I've not yet found a good Small Faces compilation. This one is a thorough and brilliant collection.

Favourite moment: Lonesome Town.

Lindisfarne - The Best of Lindisfarne. There are 16 reasons why Lindisfarne are an important band on this CD. Sixteen tracks is about perfect. I really much prefer a succinct CD like this to double CD bloated efforts.

Favourite moment: Lady Eleanor.

The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. Like The Beach Boys, The Hollies have been compiled to death. I have a number of them and this is the best somehow. I think it's the sequencing of songs (it's definitely not a 'hits' collection). Again it shouldn't work - there is no chronology or even reason behind some of the selections and there are some notable omissions, instead, it's that unpredictability and depth that I like.

Favourite moment: The kitchen sink drama of Too Young To Be Married


Sunday, May 13, 2012

I'm just a prisoner of rock'n'roll (Scooter and The Big Man)

The No Nukes triple live album from 1979 is a wonderful collection which in retrospect was the last musical gasp of the 60s/70s hippy counter culture movement. When the big stars came out to play after this they did so for Saint Bob and for starving Africans but there was no live album at all!

No nuclear energy/weapons is a really hippy cause, and by the mid Live Aid eighties the music business was a different corporate beast.

The album is a real period piece - no one is going to sing songs like Jesse Colin Young's Get Together or Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' during an event like this again without a huge dollop of cynicism being attached to it.

I do love this album though. The highlights are many and evenly distributed over the six sides:
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Jackson Browne
  • Raydio
  • James Taylor with and without The Doobie Brothers
  • Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band
all turn in amazing performances and the lowlights are few:
  • Chaka Khan
  • Jesse Colin Young's aforementioned naive Get Together
I remember going to see the film of the concert with friends who were really turned off by the Springsteen section - the James Brownisms turned them off but I loved his performance.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh yesterday came suddenly (Paul Ramone)

There is something very reassuring about being surrounded by familiar objects. I speak of my record collection, of course.

It's a rainy old day throughout the length and breadth of Nu Zild and I'm at home in Abbey Road Two with some old friends - John Paul George and Ringo to name a few.

The Wings Over America live triple album (remember them?) seemed to pick itself. I'm up to side four. Side three featured acoustic versions of some Beatle favourites: I've Just Seen A Face, Blackbird and Yesterday. Side four is classic Wings.

I love live albums - especially triples - tons of room to wig out and throw in surprises like the rare live outing of Go Now. Buying a triple album was always a treat anyway. Three albums, six sides, in the one package!! Woh daddy.

My top triple live albums (no doubles or CDs allowed!)
  • The Concert For Bangla Desh
  • Wings Over America
  • Yessongs
  • Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends - Ladies and Gentlemen: Emerson Lake & Palmer
  • Woodstock
  • No Nukes - The MUSE Concerts For A Non-nuclear Future
The thing with the Wings' triple is that Macca's genius gets the proper treatment. So many great songs over those six sides - even allowing for the generosity that resulted in Denny Laine getting a few spots centre stage.

My favourite moments - the one two punch of Silly Love Songs and Beware My Love on side five with Paul playing some stonking bass guitar. Silly... is not one of my favourite Macca moments generally, but this version rocks with some great brass behind the bass and a really nice harmony section.

Next post - that brilliant No Nukes triple. What a line up!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My wave length (Patti Smith)

The Patti Smith hold is still pretty tight. I am now reunited with my records and books and so a Patti-a-thon was a natural place to go.

Wave is maybe the forgotten child in the canon but for me it's a joy from start to finish. The affect it has on me is very similar to Jefferson Starship's Earth album. They make me feel great.

Frederick immediately puts a smile on my face with its bouncy pop-a-rama. It was released as a single, at the time, backed by a weird version of Fire Of Unknown Origin.

Fire... started out as a poem in her Seventh Heaven Collection:
A fire of unknown origin
took my baby away
swept her up and off
my wave length
swallowed her up like the ocean
in a fire thick and grey.
Blue Oyster Cult took the lyrics (but nothing from Patti's B side song) and ran with it on their album of the same name. They know quality when they see it.