Tuesday, October 17, 2017

World's away (Jesse Cook) (LP 152 - 154)

Jesse Cook Nomad (CD - Norada/Virgin, 2003) ***
Jesse Cook Frontiers (CD -  Virgin, 2007) *** 
Jesse Cook The Rumba Foundation (CD - EMI, 2009) ***  

Genre: World

Places I remember: Virgin Megastores in Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai.

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: 
La Llorona (Frontiers)

Gear costume: Cecilia (The Rumba Foundation), It Ain't Me Babe (Frontiers).

Active compensatory factors: Canadian guitarist, Jesse Cook, is huge in the Middle East. His flamenco guitar has a number of Middle Eastern and European flavours and so I had no clue he was Canadian until I checked out his biography for this post.

The tasteful Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel covers are the only nods to pop influences on these CDs - mostly some great Latin jazz style rhythms are the order of the day.

Frontiers is the pick of the three studio albums featured here, in case you were wondering.

Where do they all belong? He traverses a variety of genres - world, jazz, even pop at times but resides in the 'World' section of my collection. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

So much things to say (Bob Marley) (LP 151)

Bob Marley and The Wailers Exodus (CD - Tuff Gong, 1977) *****

Genre: Reggae

Places I remember: The Warehouse (Cambridge)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Jammin'

Gear costume: Natural Mystic, Exodus, Three Little Birds

Active compensatory factors: Why feature Jammin', you ask? The answer dates back to a performance by an Auckland reggae band at Mt Albert Grammar the year after I left school. 

beautiful sunny day in 1977, and the school was having a gala. I went along, maybe with Greg? Not sure. We'd both had our final year at MAGS the year before and so, we'd been part of plans for the gala, or at least, the planning for it was in the air.

What I am sure about is the brilliant song I heard that day from some anonymous band. I never found out their name but they did their version of Jammin' and it sounded amazing.

Not only that, but seeing a joyful bunch of pacific island guys in dreads speaking of jah and other phrases foreign to my ears was something of an ear opener!

Pretty sure this was my first experience of the cool reggae groove as well. I eventually found the source - Bob Marley and he's been soundtracking my summers ever since.

For this album, Bob's singing sounds more mature, more confident to me. 

Where do they all belong? Next up, a clutch of live BM albums of variable quality.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Affirmation (George Benson) (LP 150)

George Bens0n Breezin' (CD - Warner Bros, 1976) ***

Genre: Jazz

Places I remember: The Warehouse, Hastings NZ

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles/ Gear costume: Breezin'

Active compensatory factors: When I was working for Marbecks Records during a 1981 University holiday, George Benson's double album The George Benson Collection came out. Oh my my! Did it go off!! We're talkin' mega!! I lifted a ton of those beasts onto the racks!

At the time the smooth jazz guitar stylings were a bit too poppy for my tastes. Plus I had/have this thing about stuff that everybody is buying. 

Instead I picked up a compilation, in the Columbia Jazz Profiles series, that is much more to my taste, being pre-pop stardom Benson.

Anyway. Breezin' had come out in the mid seventies and my old buddy (as in he's been a mate for yonks), Greg Knowles, taped a copy for me and I fell for the first few tracks, before the strings take over. It became a guilty pleasure of sorts.

And now, here it is some 40 years later and I picked up a CD copy cheap from a clearance bin at a red shed. It still has that lovely glow of familiarity about it - a re-acquaintance with an old friend!

Where do they all belong? George's pop/jazz niche is pretty much his own, so, kudos George. Next up it's back to Anouar Brahem in the jazz genre.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm OK, you're OK (Boyz II Men) (LP 148 - 149)

Boyz II Men Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya (CD - Universal, 2000) ***
Boyz II Men Full Circle (CD - Arista, 2002) ***

Genre: Soul

Places I remember: The Warehouse (Cambridge)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: The Colour Of Love (from Full Circle)

Gear costume: Beautiful Women

Active compensatory factors: These albums are okay. Nothing startling here like the first three albums but enough quality signature Boyz II Men moves to keep me interested.

Colour Of Love is a classic Boyz II Men chune, and, while the rest is pleasant, they were treading some well known terrain here.

And yet, and yet...those harmonies!!

Where do they all belong? Full Circle was the last album with the original members, as Michael McCary had to leave for health reasons. A covers album was their way back in as we will see in due course.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Gonna take you for a ride in my Tarotplane (Captain Beefheart) (LP 147)

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Mirror Man (CD - Buddha Records, 1971) ****

Genre: Alternative

Places I remember: Real Groovy (Auckland)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Tarotplane

Gear costume: The other long one - Mirror Man.

Active compensatory factors: Rarely did the Captain tease out songs into lengthy blues rooted riffermanias. But he does on these Mirror Man tracks.

Given these songs were abandoned at the time, they may never have seen the light of day without the record company (Buddah) being avaricious.

Mirror Man is a kinda weird album even in the weird world of Don Van Vliet. It gets a bad press but it's one I play a lot. 

It kicks off with Tarotplane, a lengthy 19 minute blues jam that includes some wonderful harmonica from the Captain. The other three tracks use the same tactics - a basic blues riff that are vehicles for the Captain's startling vocals and lyrics.

Originally recorded in 1967 - it took four years for it to emerge (and even then with a Magic Band photo that is out of date). I'm not sure what the good Captain's reaction was to it at the time but I'm glad it exists.

Where do they all belong? A shiny, bat chain pulling beast is coming!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Travelin' light (J J Cale) (LP 146)

Eric Clapton Reptile (CD - Reprise Records, 2001) ****

Genre: Blues

Places I remember: Kings Recording (Abu Dhabi). 

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Superman Inside

Gear costume: Travelin' Light is in the zone.

Active compensatory factors: The novelist,Haruki Murakami, is responsible for me owning this somewhat underrated album by Slowhand.

I'd picked up on Haruki's mention of the album as a great album to listen to while jogging. Of course, he's spot on.

Bookended by two EC instrumentals, there is nice overall feel to the album - it's relaxed, easy on the ear, oozes confidence, and is personal in a way that EC is seldom personal. 

Nothing incendiary on offer though, no guitar wig outs, but, yes, Haruki, great for jogging.

Where do they all belong? Back to vinyl next for EC - loads to come, solo, Blues Breakers and Cream of course.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Honour and praise (Fairport Convention) (LP 145)

Fairport Convention From Cropredy to Portmeirion (CD - Eagle Records, 2007) *** 

Genre: Folk

Places I remember: The Warehouse Whangarei

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: London River is a great singalong!

A live version during a 1990 full concert is great viewing as well. Go to the 29.09 minute mark for all the fun.

Gear costume: Red and Gold

Active compensatory factors: Unlike Steeleye Span and Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention is an English electric folk band that I've never really cottoned on to. Maybe the forever shifting line ups (checkout the list here) without a charismatic front person post Denny, or maybe the lack of a killer couple of tunes. It all contributes.

I picked up this live momento from a tour in the early nineties cheaply from The Warehouse and it's okay, but nothing that special. From a tour without a female vocalist, they really miss the variety and strong presence of a Sandy Denny type.

Where do they all belong? Along with Fotheringay and the Spans.

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.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Stuck in the middle (Stealers Wheel) (LP 131)

Stealers Wheel Stealers Wheel (Vinyl - A&M, 1972) ***

Genre: Scottish pop/ rock

Places I remember: Slow Boat Records (Wellington)

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Stuck in the Middle

Gear costume: Next to Me

Active compensatory factors: Stealers Wheel (no apostrophe employed) come with some clear Beatle connections.

  • Geoff Emerick on engineering duty
  • Recorded at Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London
  • Joe Egan/Gerry Rafferty harmonies that are very reminiscent of the Fabs at times
  • Songs that are very Beatle-esque  

Gerry Rafferty, of course, went onto some bigger hits (Baker Street anyone?) but this debut album of Stealers Wheel does have its moments. Most notably the hit song Stuck in the Middle (as it's labelled on the cover) and some lovely mid-paced songs like Next to Me and You Put Something Better Inside Of Me. 

The rest is nothing less than pleasant, distinguished by those smooth Rafferty vocals and those harmonies.

Where do they all belong? This is the only Stealers Wheel album I own. I do mean to pick up Ferguslie Park at some point though.

Monday, August 7, 2017

All around man (Rory Gallagher) (LP 130)

Rory Gallagher Against The Grain (Vinyl - Chrysalis, 1975) ****

Genre: Irish pop/ rock

Places I remember: Marbecks Records (Auckland) 

Fab, and all the other pimply hyperboles: Souped-Up Ford

Gear costume: All Around Man, Out on the Western Plain

Active compensatory factors: Another nice one Rory!

It's 1975 and Rory's been at for seven albums as a solo artist (before that he was the main man in Taste, of course). He's Mr Consistency.

The blueprint had long been established and not much had changed since 1966 - Rory is still playing amazingly varied guitar (lyrical at times, hard as nails at others), his vocals are still right on the money, the band is still tight as a fish's bum (Gerry McAvoy - bass, Lou Martinkeyboards, Rod de'Ath – drums) and the songs have always been there.

Suddenly though, Against The Grain hit the right vein with Americans and it became more well received than previous albums. 

Rory hadn't changed, it's just that critics and audiences had started catching up with a good thing.

Where do they all belong? More good times coming, Calling Card's next up.