Archive for March, 2008

Paladin

March 28, 2008

Paladin were a curious cross betwixt the fermenting heavy progressive styles in the UK with the concurrently swelling west coast Latin Rock sound, much like contemporaries Jody Grind and Skin Alley. And much like that latter trans-Atlantic congregate, Paladin‘s foundation was marked with stateside footprints, formed as they were by British musical sidemen during a lengthy stay in New York. And in a further Concorde twist, Paladin‘s bassist Pete Beckett would resurface at the other end of the ’70s in the quintessentially Californian smooth rock band Player.

In any case, Paladin produced a bold if admittedly bumpy body of work over two fine albums, which could easily be distilled into one terrific long-player. Their eponymous vinyl arrival from 1971 contained their best song, “Dance of the Cobra”, a cascading organ shredder forwarded by a most curvilinear bassline which Beckett later morphed into gold as the backdrop to the 1978 Player smash “Baby Come Back”.

“Dance of the Cobra” (miss-titled “Well We Might” – ironically a lesser cut from their second album, Charge) can be heard on this page:
Paladin

For comparisons sake, here’s “Baby Come Back” (incase you haven’t heard it in a while):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn-enjcgV1o

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Murray Head – Say It Ain’t So

March 25, 2008

Talk of supposed “one-hit wonders” can yield all sorts of deeper insights in these informational times, including the following from yours truly upon the mention of actor and singer/songwriter Murray Head:

Murray Head‘s 1975 outing Say It Ain’t So was a phenomenal recording, and like Russ Ballard‘s 1976 Winning LP, another source of much-covered material. Roger Daltrey did a riveting cover of the title track on his 1977 One of the Boys LP, whilst Cliff Richard performed an earnestly heartfelt rendition of “Never Even Thought” on his superb Green Light album in 1978. But my favorite songs from Murray Head‘s ultimate longplayer would have to be the gems which he kept for himself, notably the heartbreakingly poignant “Boy On the Bridge”, the grippingly mournful “Don’t Forget Him Now” and the steamy erotica of “You’re So Tasty”.

Iguana

March 21, 2008

Iguana Iguana (UK, 1972)

I can’t believe how this only came to my attention recently. This one has it all – a provocative name, a brow-raising cover and a trusty vintage, not to mention some mighty fine music – yet somehow it was missed by Tapestry Of Delights, and has generally evaded the ‘Alex Gitlin Community’, until recently.

Anyway, another snappy brass rock band, this one bearing a mid-Atlantic approach that has me placing them somewhere between Brainchild and Gas Mask, melding melodic brassy swing with soulful Staxy sizzle.
Iguana

Stranglers sui generis

March 19, 2008

The Stranglers: Not only did they match a confluence of styles – prog rock, punk rock, psychedelic, art rock, New Wave – to their four highly idiosyncratic personalities, but they juxtaposed various elements of these styles in the most bewildering of ways, with many of their prime tracks pairing prog chops and metric twitches to psych/punk sonorities. More confounding were the ways in which their stylistic detours subverted the central tenants of a given idiom. How might one define “Peaches”: a funk song with the rhythm track wiped in favor of a metronomic beat approximated by drummer Jet Black? Is “Nice n’ Sleazy” supposed to be a reggae track, with Black forgoing that idiom’s side-tom taps to mimic guitarist Hugh Cornwell’s choppy 1/3 roll, above which bassist JJ Burnel and keyboardist Dave Greenfield sweep the proceedings into a steamy, sonic haze at the virtual gap betwixt the Doors and concurrent (Barry Andrews era) XTC?

Vocally, the Stranglers often forwent singing in favor of ‘play-acting’ the lyrics verbally, such as with Burnel’s drunken, lecherous tone on “Princess of the Street” and Greenfield’s snarling dark-alley drawl on “Do Ya Wanna”. Surely all these topics had been sung about by other bands before, notably the Rolling Stones. But Mick Jagger always sounded like Mick Jagger, whether he was shagging a tramp in the first person, or singing about a seedy nightwalker in the narrative tense. This play-acting of the words would have been dismissed as “goofing off at the mic” by earlier bands, because no one had theretofore succeeded in presenting such vocal characteristics in a musically solvent way, free from mawkishness and self-effacing irony (ala Frank Zappa.)

Furthermore, the Stranglers’ ensemblic interplay made for unique inversions to the lead vs. rhythm section norm. At times, the sinewy slabs of Burnel hammered down the front while Greenfield and Cornwell walked around them. In other instances, Burnel and Greenfield would interlock at the melodic mainframe whilst Cornwell splashed shapeless shards of sound from sideways, analogous to Eno. A chord was seldom strummed, but formed instead by the tonal sum of their arpeggiated, ensemblic interplay. Harmolodically speaking, the Stranglers were the most vertically-rich band this side of Yes and Gentle Giant.

Russ Ballard – Winning (1976)

March 18, 2008

The remarkable Winning LP has got to be the most well-tapped of Russ Ballard‘s much-covered repertoire. The title track was covered by Nona Hendrix, Pezband and Santana, “Since You Been Gone” was tackled by Rainbow, “Just a Dream Away” was rendered equally well by Roger Daltrey, and the (ur) Bay City Rollers tried their balance on “Cuckoo”. And on a more local note, a NuRo mime by the name of Sharkie used to do a routine to “Fakin’ Love” at Portland clubs back in the ’90s.;)

Maneige

March 13, 2008

Sputnik said: “I liked Ni Vent… Ni Nouvellle and Libre Service right away, but I have to say the first two are slower going for me.”

I too lean more towards Ni Vent… Ni Nouvelle (1977) from the Maneige catalog, but comparing their late ’70s recordings to the first two releases from 1975 is like comparing mallet-rich cubism to woodwind-laced impressionism – vastly different experiences for separate moods and times. Thing is, the former is a woefully underrepresented aesthetic, yet one which these ears can always use more of.

In any case, “Une Annee Sans Fin” can be heard and “Galerie III” can be seen at this page:
Maneige

The Big 5 (or 10): Current Listening Habbits

March 10, 2008

Only once in a blue moon do I listen to the Big 5/6/7/8, due to over-familiarity and my desire to hear all the thousands of other great bands from the creative renaissance spanning 1969-1984.

For a time-line of my honeymoon with each band in question:

Genesis – My all-time favorite (well, in a tie with ’70s-era Split Enz.) Hardly a day went by between 1988 and 1995 when I didn’t listen to something by them. Between 1989 and 1991, everyday was either a Foxtrot or Selling England By the Pound day. 1992-1993, same thing with Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering. 1994-1995, same thing with And Then There Were Three and Duke. All their other albums were variably slotted between those rotating obsessions.

Gentle Giant – My second favorite, though my concentration on them was mostly between 1990 and 1993, and again in 1998 when I finally defied the system and bought their final three albums, only to find that they were not only good, but that Giant For a Day was excellent.

King Crimson – I had the last two bands and taped them for my buddy, while he had KC and taped them for me (circa 1990). They took some time to grow on me, but I gradually fell in love with Lizard and “The Devils Triangle”, but never found In the Court of the Crimson King to be the masterpiece that others made it out to be. I never concentrated on KC as heavily, for I always found them better at innovating musical ideas than creating great music, and they were old news to me by 1994.

Yes – Liked “Roundabout” on classic rock radio when I was 12, then got into punk and hated the early ’70s, then slowly came back around after getting into Genesis. I was still put off by this band’s Spinal Tappish nature throughout most of my Genesis/Gentle Giant phase, because technical gymnastics didn’t float my boat (quirkiness and theatrics did.) Finally, in 1995, I decided to play catch-up, and when I watched their 9021Live video the following year, it endured them to me in a whole new way. They looked so cool in those spunky, colorful outfits, and that’s exactly the same kind of look I had back then.

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Same as with Yes – I liked “From the Beginning” from radio, then hated all things long haired whilst going through my punk phase, before coming back around as I got into Genesis. I actually bought Trilogy around the same time as Selling England by the Pound. But whereas 1973-era Genesis sounded fresh, flamboyant and innovative from my late-’80s perspective, 1972-era ELP sounded crusty, ham-fisted and archaic. I never really took ELP seriously until my mid-’90s catch-up phase with them.

Van Der Graaf Generator – I first encountered their name in the book I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol by Glenn Matlock in 1991, and finally bought my first VDGG album, Still Life, two years later. I loved the theatrics of Hammills vocals, but the soupy organ work of Banton took some getting used to. During 1994 and 1995, I amassed the entire VDGG and Hammill solo catalogues up through the late 80’s, though it took several more years for me to digest it all. For a long time I regretted not having first heard Pawn Hearts at the same time as Foxtrot (for if I had, VDGG would have been at the core of my musical coming of conscious.)

Renaissance – I’d known the name for years, but never actually heard them until January 1996, when I got Ashes are Burning and Scheherazade as part of a huge, single-day purchase of 30 cent LPs (a stack which also included the entire ’70s outputs of Hall & Oates, Chicago, City Boy and Al Stewart, all of whom I’d eventually become big fans of.) I played these Renaissance LPs a couple times, thought they were pretty, but they kind of wound up getting lost in my overbooked turntable time. Come November, I found a copy of Camera Camera for 50 cents and, with those cool jackets on the back pic, just had to hear it. Needless to say, I was now in love. Renaissance became one of my favorite bands during 1997 and 1998 as I went back and fourth through their catalogue.

Jethro Tull
– Bought Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play in 1992 at the prompting of my aforementioned prog buddy from high school, and enjoyed them in the lukewarm way that I liked Yes and ELP at the time. Didn’t explore further till 1997, when I instinctively picked up their two greatest subsequent albums, Songs From the Wood and A. The following year I went on a huge crash course, playing a Tull album a day and becoming quite familiar with their lengthy discography on a song-by-song basis by the time I saw them live at Washington Park in September 1998.

Camel – Not until 1997, when I picked up some albums of theirs in a cutout bin. Very easy on the ears, they were a frequent of my radio playlists during 1998.

Pink Floyd – Never really got into them. I bought Dark Side of the Moon in the Summer of 1986, just before getting into punk. Force-feeding myself that overrated album with the much ballyhooed chart standing left a bad taste in my mouth. In 1989, as I was turning into an Art Rocker, another fellow at school taped me the “cool Floyd” of Piper. Yeah, I liked it, but it never struck me as the eighth wonder that so many people made it out to be. During the ’90s I gradually picked up their albums in the cutout bins, and my favorite of all would have to be Animals. I never really listened to The Wall until 1999 when I was wrapping up my ’70s major label completist phase. I played it in the car whilst cruising around with this death rock couple that I used to third wheel with, and the guy knew all the lyrics. It annoyed me how so many of these younger goth and metal people would be so bread on the overreaching mediocrity of The Wall, yet be clueless in regards to ambitious double-album masterworks like Quadrophenia and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

Flash

March 2, 2008

Flash were a classic case of “lightning in a bottle” – a phenomenal first album, a fine follow-up, and a mediocre third.

Peter Banks, an avowed Pete Townshend worshiper, was unique amongst the post-Robert Fripp school of eclectic six-string virtuosos in that he retained the raw rhythmics of his mid-’60s mod roots, interchanging thunderous riffage with jazzy scales and acoustic filigree with the most spontaneous of ease. Colin Carter’s adenoidal vocal delivery could be a mixed blessing, emotively dramatic at its best yet strained and affected at its worst, and one could say that he was thee British vocalist to foreshadow the clumsy histrionics of many a stateside shrieker. But above all, Flash flew by the tightness of their material, which displayed an uncanny knack for pivoting the most disparate of thematic movements with smooth and satisfying ease, as the many corridors of their greatest songs – “Small Beginnings”, “Children of the Universe” and “Dreams of Heaven” – compellingly bear out.

Flash