Archive for the ‘Classic Rock’ Category

Cherish the Maximal Trilustrum

October 6, 2010

A frequent question occurs amongst young musical aficionados when comparing the meager last two decades to rock’s halcyon days of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s: will there ever be a fourth awakening? But when it comes to great music spawned from the golden goose of rock, I suggest that people not seek more, for there’s already a preexisting lifetime supply.

There won’t be another Zeppelin, Stones, Who, Dylan or Beatles (note: the OP’s* picks) because the creative cycle of rock music – which sparked in the late 1950s, swelled during the mid 1960s, matured during the late 1960s and early 1970s, thrived into the early 1980s, and climaxed in the wee years of MTV – has long-concluded. It had all wrapped up by 1985, when rock’s cross-generational elite assembled for their curtain call at Live Aid. Everything that’s emerged since that proverbial impasse has been nothing but a diluted rehash or mongrel melange of rock’s former glories.

This generation may lack the objectivity to see it clearly, but in two-hundred years time, when they look back upon the rock era of the 20th century, the 1990s will be universally condemned as the heinous decay of a once almighty art-form.

I once read a quote attributed to a member of the Moody Blues which, to paraphrase, stated how the 1970s embodied an artistic renaissance in the annals of music, the likes of which only comes around every five-hundred years. Most of us here may have just missed it, but our proximity to rock’s golden time-frame makes it our duty to preserve the musical riches of the Maximal Trilustrum (1967/68-1982/83) for the people who’ll have ‘really’ missed it: those born centuries after that fabled era of honor.

So instead of just crying “more, more, more”, one needs to delve beyond the surface of the Maximal Trilustrum and immerse in its lifetime supply of riches. You might just decide that rock variations of the twelve musical notes sound most satisfying when sprung from the Maximal Trilustrum, and even the thirty year life-cycle of rock as a whole. Considering how busy the Maximal Trilustrum has kept me, I can proudly say that I’m not mourning rock’s subsequent dissolution, having long-acknowledged the latter as a done deal already.

*Originally posted on the rateyourmusic discussion forums.

Advertisements

Maximalist vs. Minimalist Aesthetics in 20th Century Rock Music

April 20, 2010

Maximalists – value dynamic showmanship, idiomatic breadth, instrumental eclecticism, heroic virtuosity, harmolodic complexity, compositional grandeur and lavish sonorities. Maximalists essentially view showbiz as a meritocracy of virtuosity; the libertarian capitalism of rock.

Minimalists – value amateurism, sparse arrangements, a paucity of notes and chords, rudimental skill, compositional simplicity, rawness/underproduction and abrasive sonorities. Minimalists generally spurn showmanship, stressing D.I.Y. activism at the localized scene level; the collectivist socialism of rock.

Aesthetic Breakdown

Origins

  • Maximalism – The progression from high foundationalism, which peaked in 1966 with the release of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and Revolver by the Beatles. Officially launched with the June 1967 release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles.
  • Minimalism – The step beyond low foundationalism, as embodied by the mid-60s garage rock compiled in the Nuggets series. Accidentally spawned by the February 1967 release of The Velvet Underground and Nico, the debut album by the Velvet Underground.

Timeline

  • Maximalism – Rose in the late-60s, triumphed in the early-70s, reached its broadest global latitude during the mid-70s, and slowly decelerated between 1978 and 1983 amidst the reinstatement of foundationalism via disco and dance pop.
  • Minimalism – Had little influence as maximalism ascended, but congealed slowly between 1969 and 1977 from disparate sources, finally emerging as the dominant subterranean aesthetic in the aftermath of punk.

Genres

  • Maximalism – Progressive Rock (Prog), Heavy Metal (early), Brass Rock, 70s Funk, Fusion, 70s Electronic, Pomp Rock/Arena Rock, New Romantic
  • Minimalism – Garage Rock, Proto Punk, Kraut Rock, Punk, Post Punk, Industrial, Pop Metal, alt.rock, Grunge

Performers

  • Maximalists – Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Who (post-1968), Jethro Tull, Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire, Deep Purple, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, Mike Oldfield, PFM, Tangerine Dream, Magma, Harmonium, Supertramp, Al Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Rupert Holmes, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, Steve Harley, 10cc, Styx, Kate Bush, The Stranglers, Ultravox, Magazine, Japan, U2, Simple Minds
  • Minimalists – The Stooges, The Shaggs, The New York Dolls, T.Rex, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, Neil Young, Graham Parsons, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Faust, Can, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Pere Ubu, James Chance & the Contortions, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Smiths, Wire, Bauhaus, Gang of Four, AC/DC, Nerdvana, Violent Femmes, Suicide, Throbbing Gristle

Epicenters

  • Maximalism – London, Birmingham, Chicago, Montreal, Rome
  • Minimalism – London, Manchester, Berlin, Cleveland, Seattle

Philosophical Antecedents

  • Maximalism – Classicism, Romanticism, Objectivism
  • Minimalism – Naturalism, Existentialism, Postmodernism

Noted Champions

  • Maximalists – Musicologist, professor, author and composer Ed Macan (born 1961) – “The whole underlying goal of progressive rock – to draw together rock, classical, jazz, folk, and avant-garde styles into a new metastyle that would supersede them all – is inherently optimistic.”
  • Minimalists – Sociologist and critic Lester Bangs (1948-1982) – “The first mistake of art is to assume that it’s serious.”


Secret Understanding: The Idiomatic Breadth Between Maximalism and Minimalism

March 3, 2010

Over the course of a creative cycle spanning the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, the incendiary musical form known as rock underwent a series of categorical reductions. But since most of those categories were devoid of musical concretes, their meanings were all but trivial. For when rock is broken down to its core foundations, there are merely two distinct outgrowths of the music: maximalism and minimalism. This is not to say that those two streams were devoid of any stylistic range; but that the developments were more associative than the factionalists cared to recognize. Therefore, I set out to chart the genesis of maximalism and minimalism in the annals of rock, and examine the variables of idiomatic breadth which the two streams attained.

First we need to define the traits which embody minimalism and maximalism within the context of rock. Minimalism in rock is an eschewal of musicality, marked by skeletal, abrasive and atonal sonic scars of the rawest nature. Skeletal traits are bore through a paucity of instrumentation and compositional breadth; rudimental songs played by tiny combos. Abrasiveness stems from tunnel frequency, in which traits like bludgeoning volume and fogbound murk are employed to lock listeners into a single state of mind. Atonality is symptomatic of carpus inertia, in which the player’s lack of tactility obliterates the fundaments of musicality for un-centered and often shapeless noises.

Maximalism in rock is an embrace of musicality, embodied through expressions of complexity, eclecticism and grandeur at the highest level. Complexity is achieved when musicians maximize the elements of composition and musicality, exploring variant song structures to the utmost extent, with full regard to melody, harmony, rhythm, sonority, lyrics, meter and counterpoint. Eclecticism is mastered when musicians achieve a synthesis of styles with adept instrumental latitude, fusing various idiomatic impulses in the spirit of creation. Grandeur is reached through presentational dynamism, in which performers transcend themselves through theatrical showmanship, elaborate stagecraft and heroic virtuosity; frozen through time in lavish, state of the art productions.

Background: From Static to Flexible Foundationalism

Rock n’ roll coalesced during the mid-1950s, as touring blues and country players throughout the eastern and southern regions of the United States fed from the musical breadth of the cross-cultural landscape; mutually radiating this explosive new form. The music swiftly caught hold because of its accessibility to upstart musicians, who could easily adopt to this raw idiom and cut cheap records with their own lean combo’s; free from the constricts of formal training and costly orchestration which had been the requisites of pre-rock pop. But rock n’ roll rescinded after a few short years due to its stylistic limitations, with performers having exhausted the twelve-bar blues structure inherent to this primarily rhythmic form. Likewise, the American public shifted upstream, for rock n’ roll started to sound uniform once the racy novelty of its chief performers had worn off. In retrospect, rock n’ roll of the 1950s could be viewed as the makeshift form of budding musicians who ultimately aspired to attain mastery of their formative idioms: country, bluegrass and blues.

Rock didn’t die entirely, however, for its torch soon passed overseas. By the dawn of the 1960s, rock itself had become a formative idiom for the young musicians of England, who stripped the music to its unfettered core, dressed it with the flexible strum of folk, and applied the melodic idiosyncrasies of their own music hall tradition, thereupon fusing a new and revitalized form of rock which, owing to its locale of origin, became known to the world as Merseybeat. Given the broadened musicality now embedded into rock, the music could only progress from this point forward. The static nature of 1950s rock had rendered the music a passing fad; the expansive richness of 1960s rock transformed the music into an art form of global vitality and cross-generational sustenance.

The rock generation’s march to the maximalist summit commenced in 1964, spearheaded by the worldwide outbreak of Beatlemania and the attendant British Invasion. Buoyed by the notion that rock could now comprise a multitude of shapes, thousands of new musicians arose during the second half of the 1960s to expand upon this vast creative template. Over the ensuing lustrum, dynamic strides were made in developing the musicological tenets of melody, harmony, sonority, meter and compositional syntax within the framework of rock, with each successive year comprising an epoch unto itself. (more…)

Who By Numbers

December 18, 2008

Informal PE musings on the album which had the unenviable task of following up the mighty ‘Quadrophenia’.

Along with It’s Hard, this has got to be my least played post-‘60s Who album. Nevertheless, three songs were queued into the ten hour m3u list for 1975* which I assembled last week, and they are:

1) “Imagine a Man” – A beautiful acoustic ballad, very much in the vein of Pete’s 1972 solo debut Who Came First, but sung by Roger. This was the only song I liked from this album during its initial shelf life with me, some twenty years ago.
2) “How Many Friends” – With its grand, swelling chorus, this might be the only cut on par with The Who‘s other mighty ’70s albums, Quadrophenia and Who Are You.
3) “Dreaming from the Waist” – Another diamond in the rough, this emerged as a new highlight last week when I auditioned the album (barring the two limp singles) for cuts to include in that m3u list (also referenced in the Maxophone thread.)

J Geils Band

October 18, 2008

Like Genesis, Hall & Oates, Kool & the Gang and REO Speedwagon, the J Geils Band had been cranking out albums since the wee years of the ’70s, yet only achieved a sustained commercial run at the dawn of the ’80s. Their lengthy ’70s discography can sound rather repetitive, for there’s admittedly only so much one can do with cartoon boogie. The band’s innovation, if any, was to inject more of a ’70s rock dynamic and compositional flexibility into an antiquated rock/pop/soul aesthetic indebted to the sounds of ’60s Detroit, especially Mitch Ryder. Their best studio albums from this period were Ladies Invited (1973), Nightmares…and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle (1974) and Monkey Island (1977).

Befittingly, the introduction of goofy New Wave elements into their sound (shades of The Cars and The Boomtown Rats) would usher in their greatest run of chart success, and their amusing videos for such ingratiating hits as “Love Stinks”, “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” added to the myriad of wonderful lifelong memories that the golden age of MTV provided for its lucky viewers.

But what took them so long?

It was a common line throughout their first decade that the J Geils Band were ‘the greatest live act’, yet by now this was being leveled with the charge that their live prowess was the only thing they had going for them, and that they’d never mature into a sufficient studio act.

Incidentally, their contract was in jeopardy by the time they commenced with the Monkey Island sessions in 1977, and their fears of impending termination prompted a concerted effort towards creative, exploratory songcraft. And while it didn’t give them their desired commercial breakthrough, this fine album would nonetheless show that they were capable of producing more than just jukebox music for ‘funky retro diners’, and it appeased their coffers well enough to afford the band’s renewal. Intermittently, their 1978 Sanctuary album proved to be a step sideways rather than forward. But the fruits of their redoubled creative focus, in tandem with their unabated stage power, would ultimately sprout to the surface. For as Rolling Stone said in a 1980 article on the band, Love Stinks was making “more noise out of the box than any of their albums in years,” – the last point perhaps being a reference to their only prior (albeit minor) hit, “Must of Got Lost” in 1974.

Stadium Rock

October 4, 2008

Discussions have arisen concerning the renewed appeal of AOR, pomp rock and stadium rock, which has steadily grown as the self-effacing ironies of the misbegotten ’90s fade into the trash can of history, and people re-embrace dynamism and heroism from their performers. A recent thread on this phenomenon aroused the following enthusiasm from yours truly.

AOR/melodic rock and west coast/soft rock have become the areas of Anglophone music spanning the late ’70s through mid ’80s that I’m most enthused about now that I’m in my thirties. Funny enough, I hated this stuff in my teens when I was a full-fledged punk/new waver. Now I’ve mostly lost passion for the latter, save for the divine rarity of ‘pomp wave’ (The Stranglers, Ultravox, Magazine), the distinguished stylists of the NuRo/synthpop movement (John Foxx, Gary Numan, Dalek I) and the lifelong charms of the Second British Invasion. The more abrasive, amateurish and mopey purveyors of punk and post-punk (i.e. hardcore, alt. rock and anything produced by Martin Hannet) tend to really get on my nerves nowadays.

But onto some AOR…

Silver Shoes said: I always liked “Feel It Again” and “What Does It Take” [by the Honeymoon Suite].

Side one of Honeymoon Suite‘s 1985 The Big Prize LP is totally awesome, with “Bad Attitude” and “Lost and Found” lending further exhilarating blasts of Night Ranger-esque pomp rock superpower. Canuck contemporaries Glass Tiger were another great band of like-mind, forging a unique brand of martial-tinged pomp rock on their Thin Red Line LP, which they contrarily plugged with the two most uncharacteristic songs, “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” and “Someday”.

Silver Album

June 20, 2008

The album-rich legacy of Hall & Oates has rapidly grown as aficionados like yours truly have combined our knowledge through the facilities of Web 2.0. In regards to their fourth album…

Side one is patchy, with “Out of Me, Out of You” and “Sara Smile” being the only songs I really like from that half. But side two is one of my favorite Hall & Oates album sides of all. Every song – the proto-New Wave choppiness of “Gino”, the snapshot sentimentality of “(You Know) It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, the ’50s stroll of “Ennui on the Mountain”, the psychedelic music hall ride of “Grounds for Separation” (replete with the “oxygen=high/die” refrain which Sweet later aped) and the Jamaican folk pop of “Soldering” – is an exquisite art pop creation. The reissue also contains some mighty fine bonus tracks from that era.

Hall & Oates – Hall & Oates [The Silver Album] (1975).

Oreb said: “You also need a good compilation that includes the wonderful “Adult Education””.

An even better compilation is No Goodbyes, which Atlantic (who foolishly dumped Hall & Oates after War Babies) released in 1977 to cash in on the act’s newfound success over at RCA. That compilation of 1972-1974 material includes three leftovers from the Abandoned Luncheonette sessions, of which “Love You Like a Brother” – one of the most poignant and revelatory songs to deal with the awkward woes of being a third wheel (in fact, one of the only songs from that era to address the topic of being confined to the “friend zone”) – ranks as one of my top 15 cuts by Hall & Oates.

“Love You Like a Brother” is included on the Abandoned Luncheonette page so it can be more widely heard, as I’m not sure it was ever re-released in any format.

Hall & Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette (1973)

Love Sculpture

April 20, 2008

Hey you prog/pomp/AOR/fusionoid maximalists, did you think the name Dave Edmunds would never register a modicum of interest to your lavish listening appetite? Well here’s a bit of history to consider, as recently discussed in a thread concerning his early blues rock outfit Love Sculpture, in which Endmunds played some firey fretwork in advance of John McLaughlin, Bill Nelson, Tommy Bolin, Bill Connors and a host of other lightning virtuosos. As one progressiveears inquirer wrote: “I like both the Love Sculpture albums-but think Forms and Feelings has the edge and yes I think its all as good as The Land of the Few with just 1 track I dont like much.” My response:

Well, I just gave Forms and Feelings another twice-over.. could the fellow above have been referring to the rockabilly thrash of “You Can’t Catch Me”, or to the Mersey-style balladry of “People People” as the track he didn’t like?

In any case, the first side of the album – including the heavy psych waltz of “Nobody’s Talking”, the rupturous syncopation of “Why (How Now)” and the lightning-fingered frenzy of “Farandole” – are as equally compelling as the two well-known tracks. I’d sum up Love Sculpture‘s sound on Forms and Feelings as a cross betwixt the ominous psych of early Spooky Tooth and the proto-speed metal of the Gurvitz brother’s Gun.

Progressivewits of yore wrote: “Supposedly, Edmunds has disowned his Love Sculpture work…
If I was him I’d disown the later rockabilly stuff.”

Well said.

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