Thursday, December 22, 2011

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John...Fag of the highest order...Did that matter to me?  Nope.  When I was younger I used to swim competitively.  I was really good, and I'm not kidding.  We  used to swim all over at least a five state area, and that meant other guys on the team often had to bring their friends, brothers or sisters that didn't swim along to the meets.

This one definitely goes out to K.D.'s sister.  1973.  Youngstown State University.  I'm looking at a three or four hour wait to swim my next event, and we're decades ahead of an iPod, so I'm trying to find someone with a boom box .  K.D.'s sister turns out to be just that someone, and she's listening to Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Do I think this is a good thing?  Probably. She was a Stone Cold Fox, and I was at least three years younger than her.  Her friends were awesome, and just as gorgeous, if you asked me.

So their 8 Track of the moment that I remember was Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  I knew Bennie and the Jets, and I was way cool with that.  I also knew Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.  This was one of the first times I actually felt like I could talk to some girls about music and maybe stand my own ground.  I've mentioned before that a lot of my earlier influences on music seem to come from females, and I felt pretty comfortable talking to K.D.'s sister and her friends while she blasted this in an area where we didn't have to line up, sweat, or just be.  She found a spot where she could just be beyond cool with her friends, and guys would find her and her friends.

So I felt pretty lucky being able to barely talk about how much I liked Elton John.  I liked him a lot, but back then it wasn't like he was Manfred Mann or something.  But to girls, he was something along the lines of the late 50's Elvis.  I'm not kidding, he was truly revered by teenage girls, and if you were a teenage boy, he was one of the artists you might want to get in line with.  And I did.  And it was easy.

I mean, c'mon.  This is a truly classic album of the Classic Rock variety.  Let me lay it out for you.  So you're too young to drive, but you're old enough for a boombox (which used to be no big deal until they turned into suitcases), and you can buy your own 8 Tracks.  So you can rock with your friends most anywhere, but to smoke and stuff, a quiet stairwell  is best.  So that's where the kids go, and they listen to whatever the person with the boombox listens to.  If it was a girl, it was often Elton John, and the nice thing about Elton was that he could rip off something as cool as Bennie and the Jets or Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting with the same ease as some sappy crap like Candle in the Wind.  So Elton was one of those artists that almost everyone liked.

And Goodbye Yellow Brick Road wasn't some some bullshit double live album.  It was two solid lp's of studio work.  I'm pretty sure it had four hits on it (back when one was enough) and then it had this amazing knack of sticking with you even if you were way older than the days of wishing K.D.'s sister would notice you.  I can remember more than one friend letting this one rip loud and proud on a SuperTuner from the first notes of Funeral for a Friend ( if that isn't enough to make the album worth buying right there, then I don't know what is), all the way through Harmony years later when we started driving in cars.It's a timeless kind of album, and maybe it's kind of a shame that there isn't a record like this for teenagers to listen to now.  It's certainly full of adult content (Sweet Painted Lady, anyone?), but there's a vibe throughout the whole thing that this isn't a collection of songs, but a whole piece of work that spans two records.

This is one of those albums I can let nostalgia take over for the days when I thought K.D.'s sister and her friends were the living end because they loved Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Bennie and the Jets so much, but then just a few years later I can remember thinking Funeral for a Friend and Love Lies Bleeding (which never got any airplay) were real Rock Statements.  I mean, I can remember talking to adults that thought Grey Seal and Harmony were songs that we probably weren't even getting the half of, and they were the kinds of things we should have got out of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  I love that almost 40 years later I still think this is the kind of album that I find fascinating on so many levels.  They may be the same levels as in the 70's but as much as I like this album, I think I like it best with other people, or through other people's ears, maybe.

What a pinnacle achievement.  Elton really did it on this one.  I think this might be one of the greatest Rock albums ever.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Keith Richards - Talk is Cheap

So I finally get to a Stones related post!  You may have thought I was full of it when I said I was a Stones fan and got this far without talking about one of their records, but I'm going to start here, just outside The Rolling Stones, but also kind of right at the heart of the band.  I'm also going to add a new label, Audiophile Alert because there are some records that people just wouldn't expect to sound as phenomenal as they do. I won't put a Steely Dan album in that category, because everyone knows they sound great, even if you don't like the music, but a record like this one can just slip by and never quite get its due.

So in 1988 I was pretty hard into my fascination with The Stones, which had started about 1982.  I was working in a printing factory and by this time I was probably solidly on third shift, putting covers on books on a machine that confounded damn near everybody but just seemed to make sense to me.  The guy I spent most of my night next to ran the part of the machine that put labels on books, and we talked music non stop all night, until lunch, when we listened to music and burned one at lunch, then we'd come back in and talk music until morning when it was time to go home.  There was no Internet per se back then, so The Stones' Dirty Work album wasn't as despised as the Internet makes it out to be.  It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful (and I still say that).  So Keith Richards' first solo album was something I was looking forward to, partly because I knew Keith would blow away Mick's She's the Boss album, and partly because I knew Keith wouldn't have those shitty sounding drums that were on Dirty Work on his solo album.

There used to be a store called Maximum Compact that I bought cd's at back then.  It had a selection only beat out by My Generation, but when it came to Rock, they were the same.  I went in the day this album came out and bought it, and the distro guy had just walked out the door after dropping off a big stack of Keith Richards promo posters for this.  I managed to get one when I bought the album, and the owner said he was gonna give them away to anyone that bought the album until the guy came back and picked them up. It's really cool, and I still have it.  I took it home and made a cassette of it on my first listen to take into work that night.  I loved it.  I mean, I really loved it - like a Stones album kind of love.

Keith's backing band was the cream of the crop of American studio guys.  Steve Jordan helped write the songs, and Waddy Wachtel picked up all the right parts when Keith tries to play with no hands.  These guys sounded like they recorded the record live, and they sounded like they'd done this together forever.  The music has Keith's timeless style, in that it sounds like it could have been written and recorded today, or forty years ago.  The songs are among Keith's best of his later career and he sings much better than I think people expected.  The song that was supposedly a slap to Mick's face is You Don't Move Me, and if it is, it's not terribly cruel, it's more like he's disappointed in his friend (I mean, Mick foisted Primitive Cool on the world, so Keith could have been a real dick).  The rest of it is really just a bunch of loose, fun Keefchords with lyrics about girls and relationships for the most part.  I Could Have Stood You Up certainly doesn't break any new ground, but in 1988 no one could pull off a 50's rocker like Keith.

I suppose one of the only things I don't like about this is that Mick might have been able to really come up with some magic vocals on a few of these songs, like Take it So Hard, which coulda been a contender in the Stones' canon, and it's great here, but maybe with The Stones' touch it would have been even more.  Then again, without The Stones being in the state of disarray they were in, maybe these songs never would have happened.  The album ends really nicely, with a terrific ballad, Locked Away, which seems to be the kind of song Keith seems suited to sing in his dotage.  But after the mellowness of that song fades, the guitar rumbles, the snare drum strainer shakes under the power and then the drums and bass kick in on It Means a Lot and Keith leaves with a forceful statement.

It Means a Lot is one of those Keith songs that begs to be cranked up, pump your fist to and just get your ass rockin'.  Did I say Locked Away sounded like a good way for Keith to spend his dotage?  Well, it's pretty apparent he's nowhere near that on this album.  In fact, he's rocking as hard as ever, with a monster, big, fat riff that when Waddy Wachtel got to play it washed away all his memories of getting a softie on for Linda Ronstadt (who this blog loves, by the way), Stevie Nicks and James Taylor.  Here, the whole band just gets to rip it up on a loose, riff based groove that just kills it.

So if I'm talking about this cd, what's the Audiophile Alert for?  You've got to hear this on vinyl.  You can hear the snare drum strainer vibrating when the drums aren't being played, you can really close your eyes and "see" the soundstage in a way that just doesn't happen on the cd.  Songs like Struggle and Whip it Up just jump off the record and it's really something.  I talked to someone about a year or two after I had owned this on cd, and they were telling me it was one of the records they were taking with them to audition a new pair of speakers with.  I told them they could borrow my cd, and they said, "I've got the cd, but the record is a big improvement."  I was kind of a slow convert to the cd anyway, but I'm no Luddite and I want to have the best sound for my favorite guitar player ever, so I started scouring the bins.  It took a long time, but I found one that looked like it had been opened and played maybe once.  It was probably in the 90's by the time I found it.

Had I found this in 1988, I may have almost skipped the entire cd era.  Yeah, it's THAT GOOD.  The wax is flat and super quiet and the soundstage is spectacular.  Maybe it's because Keith is such a veteran of the analog days, and maybe it's because the vinyl companies were trying to come up with what they may have perceived as one of the last of an era, and they made sure to do everything right.  Whatever it was, if you find a nice copy of this on vinyl, I wholeheartedly recommend grabbing it.  The music is great and the sound is spectacular!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Be Bop Deluxe - Futurama

Wow, my counter spun over 1000 hits, and they're mostly not mine! Thanks for reading, or I suppose by looking at the logs not cussing too much when you find out I didn't give you a copy of Neil Young's Decade for free. I kind of figure you can buy your own music. You're welcome to come over here and listen to it, but records are pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things, so buy your own.

Anyway, I have no idea where I got this. It's in a hard plastic sleeve like libraries used to use, but it's a British pressing, so I'm sure it's not from a library. It has a "3" sticker on it, so maybe I bought it for three bucks, or someone at some time did. Like I said, I don't remember buying this one. It's in nice shape, and plays wonderfully, which is nice because it gets pretty quiet in places. I don't remember ever hearing it at anyone's house when I was younger, but I do remember a guy that I knew that liked Crack the Sky and Be Bop Deluxe having Live! In the Air Age and playing that for me a few times. A couple of the songs from this album are on that one, so maybe that's why I bought this.

Bill Nelson is the guitar player and songwriter for Be Bop Deluxe, and I lean towards him being better at the guitar than most of his other duties as bandleader here. He's an okay singer and the lyrics are generally pretty good, especially because these guys could get labeled with the dreaded Progressive Rock label, which has never really been something that bothers me. Sure there's some beyond pretentious artists in that style, but no more so than the Punks who thought they were "taking back rock n roll," as if it needed to be taken back from anyone.

I generally like this album, and other than Jean Cocteau I enjoy it because the guitars are pretty frantic, and like on Stage Whispers, Bill's guitar does not lie. In fact, I kind of wish I had heard this back in 1975 when it came out, because I'd have fell for the this guitar does not lie, the great deception is not my achievement lines totally. I would have found that really deep, man. Because I was 13 and I really thought Rock 'N Roll was gonna change the world. The great thing is that Bill's guitar is busy not lying all over the place on this album, and he can really wail.

I think Maid in Heaven is probably my favorite song on the record, because there's lots of room for Bill to stretch out if he wants, or play a nice, fat riff if he wants. It's pretty short, too and that tends to hold my attention. The next song is Sister Seagull, which starts off like an old Black Sabbath song, with a nice big riff and lots of cool guitar playing throughout it. It's not quite as heavy as Sabbath, but it's fun.

Be Bop Deluxe is certainly at their best when Nelson is tearing things up, and he's not shy and he'll throw a couple hundred notes at you every time he gets a half a measure to squeeze them in to, but he's not overbearing. He's just really fast. He's got good taste, though. It's not like this sounds like a music lesson or anything. It's not much of a dance album either, but it's a nice way to kick off a cold afternoon of listening to records.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Allman Brothers - Beginnings

Man, this dude's gettin' all Classic Rock on us, man....

Sorry, that's the way it goes. I'm old, and I've got a lot of these Classic Rock things, and the fact is, I would like to make sure that the new stuff I write about gets a fair shake and I don't look at what I said about a record in five years and hate myself for it. But this is a good one, I promise.

I bought this copy of Beginnings - The Allman Brothers Band probably just a year or so ago. I had it for a long, long time, but mine was partied out, and partied out bad. Wanna know what I mean? Go look for a used copy of this. It will be beat to snot! Really, it's funny. This is one of the most partied out records you'll ever find, I swear. I don't know why, other than it was a relatively cheap way to get the first two Allman Bros. albums. I suppose it was a gatefold as well, which led to uses that went beyond just holding the records. So finding a used copy that sounds great and costs five bucks or so, takes some work. Keep at it, and you'll find one. Mine has the yellow ATCO labels, so I don't think it's an original pressing (I think those had Capricorn), but it sounds pretty terrific.

The great thing about this album is that when the kids my age got old enough to get into The Allman Bros., this was in print. It consists of their first two albums, The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South. Now, I'm not a huge die hard fan of these guys, and for me the first album was the best, the second was really good and then they kind of lost me. So this was like the only deal a record label ever gave fans back in the 70's. $6.98 list for these two great albums? No wonder it had so many kids digging it. I used to be able to tell from a glance over at a person's record crate how we were gonna get along, because number one, if this was in front it usually meant that the person A - Liked guitar bands, and B - Alphabetized their collection (a pet peeve of mine - I hated when people would say, "Grab this record" and I had to look through every album to find the one they wanted).

Getting to the record, man, these dudes were just way ahead of the curve when it came to jamming. I really can't stand pointless noodling and guitar wankery, but Duane Allman and Dicky Betts don't just blast away to hear themselves. They find out what the song needs and they put it there. Dreams I'll Never See is so cool. I can remember just spacing out to that one, and then the bass riff to Whipping Post would fire up and inevitably some zonked out friend (or me) would jump up and just spin that volume knob up to 11 faster than anyone would have thought possible.

I still think Whipping Post is their best song, and this is the best version. They can stretch out too long in concert for me. It might be cool when you're there, but it doesn't work for me on records. Besides, Whipping Post is a pretty brutally emotional song, and five and a half minutes is enough, especially if you're having the kind of day (or week or whatever) where that song really hits home. It's always a killer song, but have one of those bad fights with your woman and you'll really understand Gregg Allman when he lets loose with that Sometimes I feeeel...

Idlewild South is a great album, too. I can remember that BLF Bash or Len Goldberg would play Midnight Rider in the middle of the night, and I would stay up when I was really young and listen to my headphones and hope they'd play it. I still love it and I can space out pretty good while I'm listening to it. The whole first side is like an AOR staple. It's got one of the few instrumental songs I really like a lot, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and I think that's saying something. I can listen to instrumental songs, but not a whole albums worth or anything. But with these guys you can hear so many different layers of music going on that it's hard not to get wrapped up in it.

If you don't have this, you should really consider it. Sure this kind of music can get bloated and boring fast, but these guys are the best, and they don't let that happen here. These albums are beat to crap for good reason, because they're great and you can listen to them over and over without getting sick of it. If all the 70's Southern Rock were this good, I'd be a big fan.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

David Bowie - Pinups

I really loved David Bowie when I was in high school. I still really love the guy, but I can remember arguing music (as I was wont to do back then) and really getting a lot of shit for liking, "that fag." So not everyone liked the guy in suburbia, but I did, and a lot of my friends did (when I get around to Ziggy I'll have a story for ya). Pinups wasn't exactly a smash hit, and I think it was kind of the record that separated the people that had Ziggy Stardust and maybe Hunky Dory from the mildly obsessed Bowie fans of which I was one of.

Pinups is a really accessible album, and even though the whole thing is covers, there's not many musicians that can cover a song like Bowie. He can take a signature song by someone, and twist it around until it's a Bowie song. He almost always seems to get it when he covers songs. Way back in 1978 or so when I was really getting into this album I had heard The Easybeats and Pretty Things, but just in small pieces on weird radio shows. To me, Friday on My Mind was all Bowie, and so was Rosalyn. I loved (still do) those songs and thought they were just a killer way to open up an album side.

My favorite song on the album is Sorrow, and I had never heard The McCoy's version. I don't think I heard it until I was in my 30's, and I essentially hated it. It wasn't the version Bowie had in mind (which was The Merseys), but in my mind, Sorrow is a Bowie song, and one of the best Bowie songs at that. The other one he just owns is See Emily Play, and I like Syd's Pink Floyd so that's saying something. Bowie just seems to be able to keep the weird just under the surface so the song has some room to breathe.

The record itself is a Dynaflex, and I like it. It sounds terrific but I can totally understand the detractors of those types of records. Some of them sound like hell from the get go, and they seem more fragile than standard records so they can get noisy fast with less than careful handling. I've even still got the original inner sleeve, which has a couple of pictures of David in a suit with a saxophone. The front cover is pretty iconic, with Twiggy and Bowie in their makeup masks. One thing I really like is that the record tracks songs right up against each other, so there's hardly a break. Which means when one song ends, the snare crack or guitar riff of the new song just sticks in my memory so when I hear Rosalyn on the radio (once in a very great long while), I immediately hear the controlled chaos that's the beginning of Here Comes the Night, even if they don't play it. Which leads me to what is obviously Bowie's favorite song on the album, Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

I can say that because it's the only song the lyrics are included for, and it's the only song with a pause before it. It always seemed obvious to me, but a friend of mine always said that was just a guess and he probably liked The Who and Pretty Things better because he included two songs by them, but I've always felt that asking the guy that mastered the record to put a pause in front of the last song spoke volumes. I assume that Where Have All the Good Times Gone is Bowie's nod to nostalgia. That's the song that reminds him of those old clubs and people and that's the song that puts him right there in the days before he was famous. Kind of like Sorrow puts me right back in the days before a driver's license among friends was common. Pinups is a terrific album. Not many people can pull off a bunch of covers, and Bowie doesn't miss a step.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Reigning Sound - Break Up, Break Down

I really love The Reigning Sound. I think they're my favorite of Greg Cartwright's bands, because they play more different styles than The Oblivians or The Compulsive Gamblers did. I love this album, but I hate this record.

Whaaaaat? You say? I hate it. Really. It pisses me off.

Why? Because it sounds like shit. The sibilance and distortion of the vocals is absolutely unbearable. My cartridge is aligned quite nicely, thank you, so let's not go there. But I'm gonna keep the record because I love these guys so much. And, luckily, the cd sounds fantastic.

The thing with this album is that when it came out it was a much more low key affair than Cartwright had been up to, so I had heard bad things. All those bad things were stupid. The songs here were easily the best Cartwright had ever done, and they still stand up with the best he's done since. I could listen to I Don't Care all day. The lyrics are deceptively simple and heartfelt, and if this isn't the best way to handle a break up, then that song hasn't been written yet (and it really hasn't - blame her and get a new girl is still the best remedy).

The best song on the album is Take a Ride. It's just nothing but sad and the music is perfect. It's one of those songs that when I hear it I think, "This would be a good song to get to listen to right before I die." But then I start thinking I'd like to listen to a whole bunch of things on that day, and I'd like to make sure I get in one last spin of Exile on Main St. I know, that's kind of morbid, but Take a Ride is about your last ride and while it's sad, it's not depressing. That's a fine line to walk when you're singing about dying, cuz let's face it, dying just isn't all that appealing.

The album as a whole isn't overtly concerned with Big Things. Waiting for the Day is a happy song that follows Take a Ride, and while it's kind of an I'll Be Your Doormat kind of song, Cartwright sounds like even though he's a doormat, he's okay with it. As Long is another doormat song (Greg is a total lost cause on this one), but the country shuffle and wailing steel guitar just bring this one home in such a winning way.

There's not a lot of really great albums to cry in your beer to. There's a lot of great songs, but a whole album of crying in your beer is hard to take. Break Up, Break Down is the kind of album Waylon Jennings or Merle Haggard used to make. The kind of album that can turn into parody and stereotype if not handled just so. The Reigning Sound nail it on this, and make a classic American record for the ages.

Now if only Sympathy for the Record Industry could press a record!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Runaways - Queens of Noise

OK, I know The Runaways are a terrible joke foisted upon us by the evil Kim Fowley in order for Kim to make money and be famous. I really don't care. I never did care. I just thought they were cool. They're one of those bands that I tried to follow when I was a kid, but you couldn't just go get their albums. It's not like every record store just had them. They didn't get any airplay, when they came to town they played small places like The Agora, which meant 18 and over, and I wasn't old enough to drive so I couldn't even find a record store that had their records. So I found this at a record show many years later. I used to have the cd, but I got rid of it (and the first one) to get myself to put more effort into having them on vinyl. I found a really nice copy with just a couple of pops in Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin last weekend at a record show, so I'm pretty damned happy.

When The Runaways came out they were just a few years older than me. They looked like girls I knew (for the most part - Cherie dressed a little less than girls I knew), and they played loud Rock N Roll with big guitars and songs about partying and doing things you weren't supposed to do. I still love those things. I generally do what I'm supposed to, but at this point it's because that's what I want to do, not what someone else expects me to do. So I still love the attitude on this record.

I really like that Joan Jett did so many of the vocals. I like Cherie's voice, but Joan really has a great voice for this kind of music. I've always felt that I Love Playin' With Fire was their best song, and I still think it holds up as a great song on its own. I've never seen Joan Jett live, but I hope she still plays this. Lita Ford adds a nice crunch and even though it's a little rough around the edges, I just can't get enough of it.

Speaking of Lita Ford, I like how the album closes, with Johnny Guitar and just Lita blasting away on her own for a minute or two. No one would mistake her for Jeff Beck, but I think it's a pretty memorable solo and it's obvious that the girl had talent. Maybe not the skills yet, but she definitely had talent. I never cared for her solo career, but I'm really glad she made it big on her own because she deserved it. They all deserved it. They got zero respect because of Kim Fowley, but they also got all their attention because of Kim Fowley (at least at the beginning).

I mean, in 1977 Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was definitely the 800 lb. gorilla of the charts, but as much as I still like it (really), it's pretty tame. Especially compared to the other side of 1977's coin, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. I've already said that changed everything for me, and it did. But somewhere between those two massively influential albums, this little record came out. The initial shock factor was gone, and they needed to come up with the songs to back up their look, and I think they did. Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin is kind of a classic Runaways song, and Take It Or Leave It is pretty groundbreaking in that Joan's lyrics about a one night stand aren't like most women of the era would sing. She's the one laying down the law about the whole thing just being a one nighter for her, instead of the usual lament for a guy using a poor girl that was pretty much the accepted form in the 70's. I mean, was Joan loose or something?

But I think that's the whole point of The Runaways. They didn't want to be one of the boys, or treated like the boys. They wanted to be girls (young women, I suppose), and they just wanted to be treated with respect. They mostly got treated like crap, but I'm glad that so many of them managed to make successful careers, often in music. I think that The Runaways are a pretty strong common thread between The Bangles, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Lita Ford. Their success outside of The Runaways was massive, because they had talent and vision. It's a shame so few people had the vision to see the talent when it was so young and raw. Bravo ladies, what a kick ass album you left us!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Leon Russell - Carney

I think this is one of those albums everyone should own. I'm sure these days a lot of people have only heard George Benson's version of This Masquerade, but Leon Russell wrote it, and he released it on this album a few years before George did. If you have read a few of my posts so far, you may be wondering, "What the hell is he talking about This Masquerade for?" and I'd say that's a legitimate question. It doesn't have screaming guitars, an extra bucket of fuzz, and it's certainly not a fun song. That's like the three things I kind of look for and this song has absolutely none of the above.

Which I'd like to say shows that I have wide and varied tastes, but I really don't. I just like how how utterly hopeless this song seems to be. I mean, I don't like it, but Leon certainly leaves it all on the table here. It just seems like when he finished singing it he knew the next thing he was doing was going home and ending a relationship that seemed like it was good most of the time. Maybe that's why it takes almost a minute and a half to really get started, but once it does it's just about the saddest song of all the sad songs. Mine is a used copy (I believe it's the second pressing, with yellow labels for you nerds keeping score) and it took awhile to find a cover that looks suitably used for my blog post. My cover is a little nicer, but I wouldn't trade my copy for the world because I like the clicks and pops on this song. They just seem to fit and make the whole thing seem so much more hopeless.

The whole record isn't a total downer. In fact, it starts off with Tightrope, which has always seemed to me to be the kind of song that's kind of a relationship song, but there's more Leon in the song than his partner, so it doesn't seem so serious. Maybe it's the weird, bouncy piano, but nothing seems fatalistic here. It kind of seems like the kind of thing Tom Waits would be able to do well. Keeping things a little lighter is Roller Derby, about the Queen of the Roller Derby. I love Roller Derby. I think it's one of the coolest things ever, and you can't say anything bad about it. Maybe you can say you don't know how they score, but I do, and it's certainly less complicated than baseball. And singing about Roller Derby in 1972, when I was 11, just means that you were tapped into my Saturday morning world, and how could I not "get" this song?

I kind of worried a bit when I put this on last night to listen to it for this article and side one started off with ocean noises, but Leon gets right to the songs and then kind of gets to the weird for the rest of the ride. That's a good description for this album. It's weird. Leon looks weird on the cover, the Rolls Royce pulling the little pull behind trailer on the back is weird and the recurring carnival organs are weird. I like it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Slickee Boys - Uh Oh...No Breaks!

OK, so one look at this and you can tell The Slickee Boys are a deadly serious band. You know how serious they are because of song titles like The Brain That Refused to Die and Jailbait Janet. You know Bob Dylan wishes he had come up with a line like, Jailbait Janet, she's the best girl on the planet. It's too bad for Bob, people may have been able to get behind him if he had. Well, maybe not, but I'll be damned if The Slickee Boys aren't at least a hell of a lot of fun!

I found this at Music Saves, probably last year or early this year. I knew that these guys were an 80's band, and with the hilarious song titles and their sort of mid 80's Rockabilly-ish garb, I figured this had to be a winner. I was so right, too. Almost my whole life I've just bought albums because they looked cool to me, and the Jr. High comic book feel of this just appealed to me. I figured it had to have at the bare minimum a great sense of humor behind it, and it really does. If I had had cable back in the early 80's I'd have probably seen a Slickee Boys video, but I didn't, so I had to kind of go by memory of old college radio shows. I was sure I'd heard them and then when I put this on and the big riff from Disconnected kicked in, I remembered right away.

Man, there used to be some really great college radio shows in Cleveland. I bet Wainstead All Night played this once in awhile. You never knew what you would hear him play. Police blotters, hardcore punk, Zappa, goofy shit. Just the kind of place for a band like The Slickee Boys to fit in. I'm gonna go listen to Dream Lovers again. Did you know dream lovers live in a dream? They do. Just ask The Slickee Boys.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Who - Quadrophenia

I have an internet friend (whom I've met in person) that will post "Quadrophenia blows doors!" on message boards and other such places every now and then. I suppose you can take it any way you like, but I'm pretty sure he means it kicks ass and blows the doors off the house when you do it right. I always used to pick it up at the record store, and I never bought it because I had heard it at an older friend's house, and reading the track listing in the store always makes it look like this could easily be a single record.

I suppose that line of thinking isn't too far off, but awhile back I found a really nice copy, but not with the booklet, it's a later MCA copy with blue rainbow labels, but it's a gatefold cover. The records are nice and shiny and flat and if I recall correctly it was less than five bucks. That's a hell of a deal, if you ask me.

I always thought it was kind of funny that when Jimmy goes to the concert in the album, he hears The Who playing The Kids Are Alright, which to my ears is better than anything on this album. But I'm not going to go so far as to say this album isn't really good, because it is a really good album. I just have to be in the mood for it, because there are a few things I can find irritating about it. The first thing is that this is one of those double albums where one record is sides one and four, and the other record is sided two and three. I've had a turntable that only plays one record at a time since I was in high school, so this kind of layout means I have to get both records out of their sleeves twice to listen to the whole thing. It just bugs me.

The contents of the records is generally awesome, but after the first listen or two, I really don't need the ocean sounds, and Love, Reign O'er Me tends to show up in little snippets too often for me. I also tend to think that the whole Rock Opera thing adds some cachet that's supposed to make me feel like I'm listening to something that's much more as a whole entity than it is when I'm listening to the individual parts of it. Pete Townshend is a true legend in the land of Rock N' Roll, deservedly so, but Pete's not one of his generation's Great Thinkers. Sometimes, when he's working on his Great Thoughts, I squirm a little. The story behind the Opera here could literally be told in a single song.

But if you discount all that (Pete's not the one that said he was a genius, it was Rock critics that said it), and just listen to the music, it really works a lot more than it doesn't. The record starts off with ocean noises and a brief look at the music that's to come (no great shakes to me), but then The Real Me fires up, and Pete just has that tone, and John Entwistle and Keith Moon just have that groove and you know there's something special even before Roger Daltrey almost steals the whole show. The song starts strong, and just builds a momentum that helps Cut My Hair and The Punk and the Godfather be better than they'd be on a side without The Real Me.

But then I have to put my record away and get out my other one so I can listen to side two. And side two is mostly disappointing. It goes a long time before it gets good, and it never really gets great. At least for side three I can just flip the record over. And side three is kicked off by 5.15, which is the best song on the album, but then at the end there's more ocean noises and Sea and Sand starts off promising but kind of bums out the high of 5.15. Drowned saves the day, though. It's everything The Who does right, and maybe that no one else ever really even seems to have figured out. You hear people saying a band "did a Stones song," or "rewrote a Beatles song," and even "had the garage feel of early Kinks," but no one seems to quite capture The Who at their best.

Side four is just epic, though. I wouldn't change a thing. It's huge in its approach and in its sound. It touches a little too much on Love Reign O'er Me, but we also finally hear that song as a whole, and it's one of the absolute best songs to ever close an album out with. Dr. Jimmy has always been one of my favorite Roger Daltrey performances, and that's saying something.

Could it be a single album? Probably. But it's fun to listen to the whole thing once in awhile. Side four may be the best side of music The Who ever made, so I think it's probably the kind of record everyone should own. I'm glad I grabbed it. It really does blow doors.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes

I'm not a huge Tom Petty fan, but this is a hell of an album. You never had to buy it back in 79 when it came out, because they literally played every song on it, all the time, for a year. That says a lot. I know, some of you are saying, "They played all of Frampton Comes Alive, too" but that's different just cuz I says so. Damn the Torpedoes is the record that fully established Petty as a Big Star in a Big Way. It may seem like he was all over the place in the late 70's in retrospect, but his first album had a couple of pretty popular AOR songs on it, and then You're Gonna Get It! had a completely forgettable first side, but a second side that was really something. On Damn the Torpedoes it all gelled together into a complete album that just grabbed the whole country's attention and didn't let go.

They played this on all the AOR stations (like WMMS and WWWM here in Cleveland), and they also played at least four songs on the Top 40 stations. Which kind of took Tom "away" from his teenage fan base and spread him out to everyone, but songs like Century City, Shadow of a Doubt and Louisiana Rain were so good that even the over saturation of the hits on this record could still get it played at parties with no complaints.

I can still remember my friend singing Here Comes My Girl, and I swear, he always cranked it way up and just belted out the line "I can tell the whole wide world, shove it!"

Man were we rebellious. But I know I felt the same way he did back then, though I have to admit I always liked Even the Losers the best. Just the opening lines made me a fan, and while I said I'm not a huge fan, that song is so good that I'll always give Tom the benefit of the doubt and see what he's up to. He's never grabbed my attention like he did with this album, but it's just so good that maybe I just can't get past some of his filler like I used to be able to.

I know I also said you didn't have to buy this one, and I meant it. If you want to hear Century City these days though, you'll probably need to get a copy. The used record stores always have a copy or two, but finding one that isn't partied out is the hard part. I think I found mine in a rummage sale for pocket change, and I may have got one from the kid that didn't like Tom Petty in 1979. So I appreciate that kid never playing this so I can enjoy it now!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Suzi Quatro

This album kills. It really does. For some reason, quite possibly because when I was a lot younger my biggest rock n' roll musical guides seemed to be older sisters of friends, I have a pretty good selection of records by and/or featuring women. Suzi is one of my favorites from way back when I was just a little kid. I mean Masonic Summer Camp, 12 and 13 year olds at their first dances kind of kid. That was a good summer! I'm pretty sure 48 Crash and Fancy's Wild Thing were my idea of the greatest things ever recorded back then. I had this album at some point in my youth, but it disappeared.

But the great thing about flea markets is that sometimes you can find a guy selling a pristine copy of Suzi's first album for around thirty cents. That was a few years back these days, but it was a pretty good day, too. I forgot how much my mom disliked the cover of this one. Look at that dude drinking a beer with his hand in his pants! What a reprobate! The other two guys looked obviously high and that girl couldn't be anything but trouble. I still think it's a great cover, and I even like that it's textured. It was probably a pretty expensive cover for Bell Records.

The music is all slashing guitars and sex. I'm pretty sure I hardly played this one when my parents were around. I think All Shook Up was okay, because it got some airplay, I think. So my parents could live with that because they had heard it. Primitive Love was another story. I knew that was a non starter in the living room the minute I heard it. I bet this is one of the first albums that lit a fire in me to get a stereo for my room.

I was pretty surprised to see that this was like a top 150 album in the US. I really thought 48 Crash and All Shook Up got a lot of airplay. Maybe they did around Cleveland and just not as much in other places, but I can remember turning 48 Crash up every time I heard it on the radio (I'll come clean - I still do). I thought All Shook Up was a top 10 kind of hit, because I heard that one all the time. But the Internets don't seem to back up my memory on those.

My favorite songs are still Skin Tight Skin and Can the Can. Skin Tight Skin is just one of the great late night/early morning songs. I remember playing it really quietly before going out to do my paper route so I'd have it in my head. Back then portable music wasn't nearly what it is today. You pretty much had to play what you wanted right before you left so it would stick in your head real good. I could get that one stuck in there real good. Can the Can was another one that I could get stuck in my head, but it's kind of similar to 48 Crash so I'd get them mixed up.

So I suppose this one sounds like a nostalgia trip for me, but it's really not. I guess it's just the kind of simple, straight to the point rock that still really appeals to me. I liked that bit in The Runaways movie where the vampire girl that plays Joan Jett gushes about "Suzi Fuckin' Quatro!" and I think if anyone from 1974 deserves to be remembered for kicking ass and taking names, it's Suzi Quatro and her reprobate band. I could listen to Len Tuckey strangle his guitar on Shakin' All Over every day.

Iron City Houserockers - Love's So Tough

I've got a promo copy of this record. I would bet just about everyone outside of Pittsburgh has only ever seen a promo copy of this. I actually ran across it in a Half Price Books recently and they wanted $8.00 for it. No way! It's a decent enough late 70's blast of midwestern Rawk, it's not super collectible or anything. You can find them at record shows for two or three bucks all the time. I must have liked mine at the time, because it's a little noisy here and there, but I'm gonna stick with it.

The Houserocker with the biggest claim to fame is Joe Grushecky. He's still out there plugging away in Pittsburgh and I know a guy that still goes to see him. The drummer was Art Nardini, and I'm sure his brother was Norman, he of the Tigers. When push comes to shove, my being a Clevelander probably means I should like my local guys better than these guys, but that's just silly. I have more Iron City Houserockers albums than I do Michael Stanley Band albums, for good reason.

That good reason is that while these guys can be a little heavy handed and plodding, when they're good, they're a lean and tight Rock N' Roll band. The band was managed by Cleveland International, so that means Steve Popovich, and I have to say that I'm surprised how dense this record sounds. It's not like these guys were studio pro's, but Popovich always seemed to know what he was doing. So my bitch about this album is pretty much related to sound. These guys were obviously a bar band, and this record quite solidly reinforces that. The production has no subtlety whatsoever, and the piano and harmonica could have used a little more air around them so they could shine a little more.

But that may have been part of the style of that midwestern sound back then. If there's anything that's similar I'd think it's the Pub Rock scene of which I'm so fond of. The bands in both scenes are singing about things that really happen to real people and the biggest difference seems to be that the midwestern scene had this huge specter of Bruce Springsteen hanging over them. Fortunately, The Iron City Houserockers played up their guitars more than Springsteen did. If you like guitars, there's plenty of them on this album, and the production favors them over all else.

The songs hold up pretty well, even after all these years. Maybe it's because they weren't shooting for that arena sound (except maybe on Hideaway, which is still pretty good), and they generally kept the arrangements the same as they probably sounded at the bars around Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Youngstown four nights a week. I've really got to hand it to them on Turn It Up. It's a quintessential midwestern blues rocker, carrying all the heavy lyrical weight of turning up the rock n' roll and forgetting about your boss for awhile. It's also the best recorded song on the record.

I think it's funny that these days it's like this music never happened (sometimes). But it was there, and it was fun. A lot of people that listened to this kind of stuff liked Punk, but might just as easily be found at a blues festival the next weekend. It was a funny music scene around here then, and people seemed to pride themselves in being eclectic (though how eclectic are you really when you listen to guitar based rock n' roll?). It's too bad more people never got a chance to hear these guys, because their next album was terrific.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Rumour - Purity of Essence

I always liked Graham Parker, at least when he was first coming onto the scene in the late 70's and early 80's. The guy had a clever turn of phrase and attitude to spare, but he also had a real crackerjack band behind him, The Rumour. I had heard things about Brinsley Schwarz and I still haven't really checked out much of his career, but I found this awhile ago in a used record shop and the cover is just cheesy enough that I figured it had to be good. I wasn't too far off. This is a real nice record (with just the occasional click on a couple of tracks), and the cover doesn't give a lot to peruse while listening, but it does let you know who recorded the album and who played what, so it's helpful in a Rock Nerdy way, but just barely.

The opening track, Tula is a real keeper. Mid tempo rocker, with nice sounding guitars. I think that's pretty much coded in my DNA to like, so things get kicked off nicely for me. I like the reggae infused Writing in the Water, too. I really struggle with authentic reggae and get bored very quickly with it (I know, I'm a douche. I can live with it, you'll have to too). But there's a lot of music I seem to like reinterpretations of more than the original. What's nice about this is that it's done before it wears out it's welcome. C'mon, admit it - some of those reggae classics would be interminable at four minutes, and at eleven they seem like they've taken a day of your life. Three minutes is okay for anything.

I can never get enough of Randy Newman's Have You Seen My Baby? I think The Flamin' Groovies did it best, but The Rumour does a great job with it, too. Isn't the line about talking to strangers one of the best ever? I could maybe stand Newman more if I could get to those lines more easily in his music, but I always seem to need someone else singing it for me. side one wraps up with a real fun version of Rubber Band Man, and that's just a song I can't imagine anyone not liking.

Side two kind of gets a little lost with Depression and I Think it's Gonna Work Out Fine. The first is just a little depressing, and while I can try to empathize, I just wander off. The latter just never gets up and goes anywhere. So there's kind of a dead spot on side two here, but how many albums are perfect from top to bottom? Houston is a keeper, and it ends with the completely swell Name and Number, which has some nice, snarling vocals and a nice, fat guitar sound. It's definitely a nice, fat sounding track that came during a time when music was getting real lean and mean. I don't think Purity of Essence is anything you'll play everyday for a month after you get it, but it's definitely worth keeping and there's plenty of times when it will hit the mood just right. Besides, the band is spot on throughout, and even when the song doesn't have much going for it, the musicianship is just top notch.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Guess Who - The Best of the Guess Who

I'm not big on greatest hits types of records, but The Guess Who is the kind of band that's just perfect for these types of records. Some of their album cuts are atrocious, but their hit singles were fantastic, at a time when you had to be fantastic to get a hit record. In 1969 and 1970 they were a hit making machine, and almost every song on this album comes from those records. One of the best things about the album is that it just gets right into American Woman, because there's no way anyone in retrospect thinks it was cool for Burton Cummings to actually spell get the idea. If it were Utah Woman it wouldn't have been so bad, but who wants to listen to a spelling bee? But this record just cuts right into it.

And that always reminds me of a friend I used to have. He passed away a few years ago in a pretty sad and lonely death, but I don't think anyone was surprised with the amount of alcohol this guy needed just to get up in the morning. It's too bad because there was a time when this guy had it all. Anyway, we used to drive around in his car instead of going to work or school way back when, and this was one of his favorite tapes. He could listen to it three times a day, and once in awhile I'd actually let him. I think he played it every time they had a party during the time he was married, and I was actually kind of surprised they didn't play it at his funeral. I asked his sister about it and she said it was just a low key affair, but she couldn't believe I remembered how much he liked this record.

And luckily for me, it really brings back good memories of my friend. I can still hear him singing. "Unh!" in American Woman and totally acting like an asshole and laughing like a maniac during the end ofLaughing. Or shouting "I think I missed it!" in Hand Me Down World. He had his own lines for half of the songs, but he didn't mess it up all the time. Sometimes he'd just stay quiet and actually listen to this one, and that was cool because he obviously liked it so much. I don't know if I'd have ever really liked this album as much as I do know if he hadn't just played it so often. I always liked Bachman Turner Overdrive more, but then I was just a little younger and they were just a little heavier, and besides, Randy Bachman left these guys and he was my favorite thing about them, anyway.

The whole first side of this album as singles probably sold like fifteen million records. The second side gets a little bogged down by Bus Rider and Do You Miss Me Darlin' (which might not have even been a single so far as I know), but it's still got Share the Land on it, and that's a pretty monster hit, so there's still plenty of reasons to flip the record over. I think at the time Anne Murray was Canada's biggest musical export, so it was nice to see that there were some guys with guitars up there that could write a catchy song and not chase the kids away in droves. Even though it sounds like the end of the road for the band (to me) during Hang on to Your Life, at least it was a good 70's rocker of a song that didn't sound like it was trying too hard, but it gets kinda corny. I'll probably never upgrade this old record for a quieter pressing because the pops and clicks don't bother me and I think they remind me it's mine.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Police - Reggatta de Blanc

When was in high school, these guys were the coolest damned thing in the world, I swear. I don't know why, but pretty much everyone listened to them. Some people thought they were a Punk band, and I'll admit trying to use them as a gateway drug to get people interested in more Punkish music, but I never really thought of them as a Punk band. They were always more of a band that should have fit in well with the Classic Rock of the day, and helped Classic Rockers bridge the gap into real Reggae. The Police certainly seemed closer to getting a Rock friendly sound with a reggae feel than, say The Rolling Stones. Don't get me wrong, The Stones are easily my favorite band in the world, and I'll write about them here, but they don't always seem to get their views of reggae across well. The Police just seemed to be operating in some weird reggae/rock world that almost anyone could enjoy.

I know that they have lost a lot of their luster from back then, but if you ask me, they had five damned great albums in five years. At the time, I thought every album just got better and better, but in retrospect I think they regressed from record to record. But that's probably just because I'm an old fart now. I don't think that means I think Reggatta de Blanc is their second best album, but then I don't think it means I don't think it is, either. I just think it's an interesting record. Mine's a promo, and it's super clean. I think most of my Police albums are promo's, and I don't remember why.

I have to say that they definitely started each side off with the best song on the side, which was probably smart, because then people will flip your record over. If you think that's not the way people listened to albums, then you're wrong. If side two sucked, you just never listened to it. but when side two had a crackerjack like Walking on the Moon opening it up, then you'd flip it over every time. Side two also has The Bed's too Big Without You, which had everything a good Police song should have - crisp guitar, tasteful bass and really great drumming. I think it's interesting that the music coming into the beginning of the decade found it's way to where The Police were. They were one of the last bands that I remember having big hits, but still getting some play on college radio.

That's a pretty fine line to ride. The underground Rock Snob doesn't like to share, and the above ground civilians don't like things that aren't familiar. I think The Police did a nice job on this album of coming up with songs that could get them some airplay, keep their core fans, and grow the fan base all at the same time. That's pretty impressive. Message in a Bottle still gets airplay, deservedly so. Contact seems to be half the blueprint for Synchronicity, so I was pretty bummed when that came out and people said they hated it. It was all laid out right there in 1979, so I never understood the bitch about that.

I like this album. It's the kind of record you can enjoy by yourself, and you can play it when friends come over and it's still enjoyable. Try doing that with a King Crimson album sometime.

Artful Dodger - Babes on Broadway

Artful Dodger is one of those bands that people that grew up in Cleveland in the 1970's often have ingrained in their Rock N Roll DNA. It's not a bad thing to have ingrained in your Rock DNA, either. They were a good band that just never caught a break, even with the backing of what seemed like every teenager in Cleveland, and the biggest radio station on the planet, WMMS. I guess some things end up working out, and some things don't. What's great to me, is that this band in particular sort of belongs not just to a time, but to a place. That time and that place are both long gone, but this little band from Fairfax, Virginia can kind of help you get back there if you were from there, and they were good enough that even if you weren't from that time and place, the music is pretty damned good.

Babes on Broadway isn't Artful Dodger's best album. In fact, it's probably their worst, but it's still a good record. I gave it to a girl named Sue for her fifteenth birthday, and I'd bet she doesn't have it anymore. But at the time, she seemed genuinely happy that I'd try to give her a record I liked a lot in the hopes that she'd like it. Remember when I said "every teenager in Cleveland" was into these guys? Maybe it was just some of us. But damn it if we weren't loyal! I remember a series of shows over a weekend they called the Dodger Blitz (WMMS was as subtle as a drunken bull), and Artful Dodger played Spanky's out West, The new CSU Arena downtown, and I think some bar out East, unless it was the Agora. I saw all three of those shows, and I think I still have a button. One of their other records I'll tell you about some of the things that happened that weekend.

But not right now. Right now I want to tell you that even though this wasn't the most beloved Artful Dodger album of them all, I belove it quite a bit. I gave away my copy to friend, thinking I could just go get another one, and they were out of print. Here in the Cleveland area, that meant that if you find one, you were gonna pay $25.00 for it. I remember just hoping I'd run across it at an out of town used record store for a dollar, but that never happened. All you people out of town were keeping your copies, I guess! So I saw this one at a Record Exchange on the west side, and they wanted 25 bucks for it. Back then I used to buy jewel cases from them all the time, and when they decided to get out of the vinyl business and start carrying video games, I noticed they were selling any record for a dollar. Babes On Broadway was still up on the record shelf that went around the store, and I asked the kid behind the counter if it was a buck, and he says "Yeah. You want me to get it down?"

Hell yes, I did. I had checked it out before and it was clean enough that if I had paid $25.00 for it, I wouldn't have hated myself, but for a dollar, I knew I was in all the way. I couldn't wait to get home and hear Who in the World and Can't Stop Pretending. I'm not always a big ballad guy, but Who in the World is one of the great make out songs of all time. Can't Stop Pretending was a catchy little rocker that everyone seemed to like, and the title track was just one of those songs that I couldn't understand why it wasn't the biggest thing on the planet. I still don't know. I'd be a lousy program director I guess, but Babes on Broadway is just one of those mid tempo rockers with just enough guitars and effects that it just fits right in my wheelhouse and I just completely love. Where this may not be their best album, Babes on Broadway may very well be their best song. At least to me.

And I think that's what's important about my records. They might not mean anything to you, and some of them don't mean anything to me (eventually those get tossed out), but on a rainy day like today, I was really glad I have a copy of Babes on Broadway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wild Flag

So I think you can tell I'm not a kid when you look at the records in my record collection. But I really do try to keep up, but I just keep up with what I'm interested in. No one sends me free records and I'm fine with that. I actually like to go shopping for records, and I always have. When people just give them to me, I don't seem to get as interested.

On an old blog I deleted awhile back I picked Sleater-Kinney's The Woods as my album of the year. I hadn't really listened to them before that, and someone told me I should check that out because Carrie Brownstein is a kick ass guitar player. I figured what the hell, I may as well check it out, because they'd be a band that would be easy to trade back in if I hated it. Well, I didn't hate it. I loved it. I thought Carrie was more than just a kick ass guitar player, and I thought Janet Weiss sounded like a train hauling ass through a tunnel on the drums. So when I heard that Carrie and Janet were forming a new band after the apparently pretty amicable breakup of Sleater-Kinney, I figured I was in for sure.

I don't know what I think of the album cover, and I gotta say, colored vinyl would have made it much cooler, but if I were a teenager, I'd have hung the inner sleeve on my wall, thus proclaiming Carrie Brownstein one of my true Rock N Roll guitar gods (I suppose goddess in her case, but she'd have been there next to Rick Derringer and Steve Howe, for sure). Do you know why she's smiling in this picture? Because she can jump five feet in the air while making a hellacious racket on an electric guitar.

Getting to the album - Wild Flag is a band effort. Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole add the second guitar and more lead vocals and keyboards respectively. Timony's guitar isn't as tuned down as Corin Tucker's was in Sleater-Kinney, but there's still plenty of bottom end on this. My favorite thing about the album (besides Carrie's guitar) is that these are songs that don't seem half baked, or disconnected from each other because one seems to be Mary's or one seems to be Carrie's. They seem like a team effort, and Wild Flag sounds like a band with a purpose and not just a vanity project. I wish more songs had the attitude of Romance. It's fun. There's catchy sing-along parts and cool keyboards and it just sticks in your ear all day. By the time I'm done listening to it I've got the volume knob cranked to ridiculous levels because it just hits all the sweet spots, and the louder it is, the harder it hits them.

Future Crimes has this great guitar/keyboard part that is just begging to be played loud in a little bar, and Short Version is an electric guitar fan's dream. It's not some classic rock wankery, it's noisy and busy and coupled with Weiss' drumming it just packs an awesome wallop. Ending with the damned near epic Black Tiles is perfect. Maybe it's not a Sleater-Kinney album, but that's okay. It's a terrific first album, and even though all the reviews keep calling them a "supergroup," I think it sounds like a band that knows what it wants to be, without a bunch of egos getting in the way. This may be my favorite album of the year when all is said and done, but even if it isn't it's my favorite album I've bought lately.

Well, maybe second favorite. But that Pagans album cost me a lot of money and part of the reason it's loved so much is I couldn't believe I found it! Rock on, Wild Flag. Oh, and I hear it's Carrie's birthday today, so happy birthday!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Neil Young - Decade

I first owned this on an 8 track tape. It was actually two 8 tracks, and I think I got it from Columbia House. I remember when I was 16 we went on vacation in North Carolina, and my dad let me drive the rented motor home one day. I drove it like 500 miles that day, and I don't care what you think, that's a long day behind the wheel (and I still drive a lot for work, so I know). I had all my 8 tracks, and my dad really generally hated Rock music, but he let me play my tapes because it actually seemed to matter to me what music we were listening to. I think dad could take or leave Neil for the most part, but some of the softer songs seemed to keep him happy enough. But I had no idea he was paying that much attention until right after the part in Campaigner when Neil sings, "even Richard Nixon has got soul." My dad laughed and said, "I like Neil Young. I think he knows more than you think."

Now I'm not sure what the old man meant by that, but I think it was obvious to him that I liked the noisy stuff like Cowgirl in the Sand and Like a Hurricane more than songs like Campaigner or For the Turnstiles. I still like Neil at his more noisy, but I always remember my dad when I hear Campaigner, and sometimes I play that side just cuz I miss him.

Nowadays I've traded in my cd version of this album and I've got a really nice vinyl copy. Three record sets were expensive in the 70's, so it was nice to find a decent copy of Decade at a garage sale a few years ago for a quarter. I mean it was really decent! It plays fine, and I'm gonna trade it in sometime soon and some record store around here will make a few bucks off it for sure. I paid a little more for the copy I'm keeping, but it's a real peach.

There was a time when I was a teenager that I thought Neil Young was almost godlike. Then he got real weird and released Trans and that International Harvesters crap, and I tuned out. I was fine with my cd of Decade and my vinyl Live Rust and that was all the Neil I needed. I've since been moving back into my Neil is awesome mode, and Decade is really one of the reasons why. I always loved Walk On, and On the Beach used to be an expensive album to get if you could find one, and Cowgirl in the Sand is still one of my favorite songs ever, even though it's like an hour long.

It's kind of funny that this album was so important to me when I was a kid, and as I've been getting into Neil again lately, it's still an easy "go to" album for me. Yeah, I've got On the Beach and After the Goldrush and other albums, so I can play the "proper" versions if I want, but I like the way the songs go together on Decade. I like that Love is a Rose is followed by Cortez the Killer and I love how Neil tracked side four, with Ohio, Soldier and then Old Man right in a row. I may decide I'm bored with Neil again someday, but I'll probably never get tired of Decade. I can't think of many other albums that bring me a sense of nostalgia, but also seem to have something for me right now like this album does. Maybe it's because the more the world changes the more the same old bullshit floats to the top, but then again maybe Neil really did know more than I think he does.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Eddie and the Hot Rods - Teenage Depression

This is another album I found out about from a friend's older sister. My friend Dave and I were caddies for a couple of summers, and lemme tell ya, that was some seriously good money! On days when we only felt like carrying 18, we'd generally head back to his house and listen to records and smoke. We liked bands like Angel and Bachman Turner Overdrive but in 1976 we were 14 and starting to branch out a bit. Dave's sister had some cool records, and Eddie and the Hot Rods were two of her coolest. She had the first ep, Live at the Marquee, which had a killer version of Bob Seger's Get Out of Denver on it. We listened to that a lot, and then shortly after finding that one, she had this new album, Teenage Depression. Teenage Depression was different because it had more songs, and they weren't all live. I think we found a fanzine with a review of the album, and like with damned near every band in the 70's they'd say, "it's good, but you need to see them live." Well, when you were 14 and lived in the suburbs in Ohio that wasn't gonna happen. Those little bands played in bars, and you had to be 18 to get in most bars. Some of them you had to be 21. So the records are what we had.

So I didn't actually own this one until Captain Oi! rereleased it in 2000. Ya know what was cool about that cd? It had that live ep included, so I got Teenage Depression and I got Get Out of Denver, and that was really great. I loved the sound of the guitars and I especially liked the broken glass on the title track (a trick that generally hooks me to this day). I had no idea what Pub Rock was, and I certainly didn't know what Punk was, but the appeal of tight, fast songs like Get Across to You and the killer hook in Double Checkin' Woman just stuck in my head for decades. I could have ordered the record, but I just don't do that very often. I like to find the records I buy, so sometimes I do without. I really shouldn't have done without on this one. I still love it to death, and it's not just nostalgia. I hate when the only thing a record has going for it for me is nostalgia. This one has a little nostalgia, but mostly I just think it's a killer album.

The one thing that bums me out about the British Punk scene is how quickly the kids disposed of great bands like Eddie and the Hot Rods and Dr. Feelgood. These are great songs. They're tight, they're fun and they're raucous. What more would you want from your Rock N' Roll?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Slammin' Watusis

OK, so in 1988 I was 26, married with a second kid on the way and working on the night shift in a printing factory. I ran big machines that put magazines together. Actually, I ran any of the machines that did that, but I was still pretty early on in that phase of things so I was the third shift guy that put the covers on the books. In doing this, I worked pretty much hand in hand with the guy that did the mailing end, and he ran the stuff that put labels on the books. We talked about music all night. I'm not kidding. Music. All night. Last night, the night before, tonight and tomorrow night. George and I would grab Hit Parader's and cut out pictures of metal bands and hang them all over out machine. It was actually pretty cool looking. I liked Metal in the 80's, but not like my first love, garagey punk, lo fi noise. Which brings me to Slammin' Watusis.

We used to either get lunch at 3:30 AM or we'd get off work at 11:30 PM, depending on how things were going. We'd go listen to cassettes or college radio, and WCSB played all sorts of odd stuff at night. I can remember there was a guy that would play Some Sex now and then and I loved the plodding bass and drums, the loud assed guitars and saxophone that was all over the place. I suppose it's mostly early hardcore punk, but that sax just adds a texture of weird to it that I find really appealing. We'd be out there drinking beer by the little cluster of pine trees with the trunk lid up on one of our cars and the stereo blasting (I locked my keys in the car once, with the stereo blasting, and had to call the cops to open it for me), with a huge cloud of smoke hanging in the trees. George and I pretty much called the shots on music, so no one else would give me any crap for cranking up Slammin' Watusis when they came on, but I'm pretty sure no one liked them.

I never could find any of their albums, but last year I found the first one, with Some Sex on it and I bought it instantly. I think it's a solid blast of noise, but my wife and the cat hate it (she says the cat hates it, I'm not so sure). I can't recommend this to everyone, but if you thought Roxy Music should have played ten times louder and faster and got a singer that could yell you might find this enjoyable. I'm really glad I found it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Peter Case - Wig!

I really like Peter Case. I know his time in The Plimsouls is what he's best known for, but his solo stuff is always a treat. The guy has consistently made great music for decades now, and The Plimsouls are really just a brief period in his career. This album came out in 2010 on nice 180 gram vinyl with some extra songs to download as mp3's. The recording itself is kind of a lo fi affair, but if you ask me, that's usually the best way to go. I think I actually hear real life in a kind of lo fi way, so a recording like this sounds like I'm in the same room as the band. That's what it's all about, right?
I've always liked the fact that Case seems to be able to put a whole album's worth of decent songs on his records. He never has a "one side and done" record, and Wig! is more than decent. It's entirely fun to listen to the whole way through, with serious subjects like health care and shelter for the poor and relationships and a revisit to Old Blue Car and Case just kills every song. I think this was easily my favorite album in 2010, and if I ever own a radio station, I'll make all my DJ's play Peter Case songs. One day, when Peter is 75 they're gonna finally trot him out for a Grammy and the 20 somethings of that era will fully embrace him. That's bullshit because he deserves some support right now. If you like lo fi bluesy goodness, you'll love this.

Did you ever read This is Not Pitchfork?

Well, that up above is not a Pitchfork. It's a strange Russian tractor. But This is Not Pitchfork is a pretty fun page where a woman with far better writing skills than me goes through her record collection. Unfortunately, she stopped and went to Tumblr in 2009 or so, so there isn't much new stuff. But she's exactly my age, from the US and from the north. Granted, she's from a big city and I'm here in Cleveland (or close enough), but I like the way she reviews her records. You may not get any idea what the record is all about, and I like that. I mean, if I decide to review Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, I may hardly mention the music at all. Why should I? They still play every song on it on oldies radio all the time. Everyone is familiar with it. But it's interesting to get a different take on it, like what was happening when it was popular. It's interesting to me, anyway.

So if you get time (and really, if you're reading my blog you've apparently got plenty of time), check it out. I'm mildly inspired by it. Hell, someone should take its place, and I'm someone.