Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nils Lofgren - Nils Lofgren

Here I am digging way back again.  I guess it’s to be expected.  I’ve been listening to records for a lot of years, so a lot of my records are old.  I still like them, though.  Every now and then I go through my records and I get rid of things I either can’t believe I ever bought in the first place, or that I just don’t seem to like anymore.  There’s also the handful of things that I bought because I thought they had a cool cover and they turned out to be crappy (though that’s been a great way to get records for me for the most part).  This is one I like a lot, but I’m sure it was ten years old by the time I got my hands on a copy.

I guess Nils Lofgren was really well known in the 70’s by rock critics and people like Neil Young.  Me, I didn’t know who he was.  I kind of knew who he was, because they used to play Goin’ Back on the radio now and then.  Now I’m  not usually one to remember pretty songs with nice piano melodies, but this one is a Goffin/King song, so it’s catchy as hell and if you hear it once, you’ll never forget it.  So I can remember this one being on the list of records I should buy that I keep in my head (those of you that actually write those lists down are probably more successful at finding what you’re looking for, but I do okay).  I think this is the kind of record that record stores would generally special order after 1977 or so.  I never remember seeing it on the shelves.  So the first one I saw was on cd.

There used to be a pretty cool store call Maximum Compact that had a pretty unbeatable rock music section.  I can remember kind of the early days of the cd, which was a time I bought cd’s and records, because not everything came out on cd.  I think it was around 1990, and Rykodisk reissued this one, and I was pretty happy to find it.  Rykodisk is a great label, and their cd’s sound terrific.  I bet this was one of the first 100 cd’s I bought.  I remember when they came out, they were like 20 bucks – twice the price of a record, if not more.  So it took awhile to build up a reasonably large collection of cd’s.

So I really didn’t know much about Nils except I heard that one song, and I knew he was supposed to be a killer guitar player.  Well, I liked the songs, and you can tell that when he feels like it, Nils can wail with the best of them, but on this album he lets the songs do the talking, and that’s probably why I like it so much.  It’s mainly mid tempo rockers, and that’s the stuff that just keeps me coming back for more so long as it doesn’t all sound the same.  I really like stuff like Back It Up, which is about a girl that needs to give Nils a little more respect, which is kind of the theme of the album, I suppose.  I’m not sure Nils was feeling confident around the ladies when he wrote this one.  Or I suppose it’s more likely he knew his audience of record collector geek types and wrote songs to try to bolster Geek Nation’s sagging confidence.  I mean, titles like Back It Up and If I  Say It, It’s So might be misogynistic in the hands of someone else, but Nils has such a laid back delivery that it sounds like a tough guy façade.  Especially when he gets to I Don’t Want to Know, which is like the ultimate doormat song.  The façade is easy to see through.

I really like this album, though.  Sure, it’s not all monster riffs and guitar pyrotechnics, but for me, Keith Don’t Go is the rock n roll love letter that every fanboy would have liked to have come up with back in the mid 70’s when Keith Richards was getting really lost in the drugs, and his music was kind of being affected by it.  I’ll defend a lot of  70’s Stones, but hey, after Exile on Main St. they did follow things up with Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock N’ Roll.  So I can see where Nils is coming from!

Side two kicks off with Nils crying in his beer a little with Can’t Buy a Break, which has a funny line about his cash not pulling him through.  There’s a great song about not selling out called Rock N Roll Crook that was one of those songs I used to hear late at night on college radio and never figured out where it came from.  I think my favorite song on side two, beside the closing Going Back is The Sun Hasn’t Set On This Boy Yet.  Just the first line resonated with me back in about 1990, when I decided to start going back to school so I could get my shit together and get a job I actually enjoyed rather than tolerated.  But I was totally on board as soon as I heard I dropped out of high school, it bored me to death.  Hey, I did, too.  I went back pretty quickly and finished, and I didn’t fight for humanity or sink in the sand, or play guitar, but I got it (I still get it, and I still don’t think the sun has set for me yet).

I guess this is one of those albums that just really resonates with me.  I think it’s funny that back when it came out no one liked it.  It didn’t chart for shit, but if you look at critical lists these days, it gets called one of the best albums of 1975.  That’s kind of cool, but I bet Nils would have liked it if people had noticed how good it was then.  Because now it’s just the record geeks that know how good it really is.  So it’s kind of a shame that no one paid attention back then.

I found a vinyl copy of this last year in Canada at Dr. Disk in Windsor.  It’s in terrific shape (hey, no one listened to it – even the people that bought it!), and it’s a pretty quiet pressing.  I’ve still got my Rykodisk cd, too.  There’s no bonus tracks or anything, but I bet I never get rid of it even though I have it on vinyl.  If you can scare up either one of those versions, I think you’ll be happy with the sound.  I think you’ll be happier with the music.  It’s just a damned good record.  With lot’s of melody to it.  Whatever happened to melody?  Remember when that was important in music?

Monday, July 2, 2012

David Werner - Whizz Kid

Man, is a decent copy of this hard to find!  At least around Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which may be the only places you're really ever gonna find more than one copy.  It's only available on vinyl, but I bought it on cd once.  I was pissed when I opened the package!  The store I bought it at (which still exists and has since given me a few good deals so they're in my good graces again) the guy that owned it used a pristine copy of this to make the cd, and a slightly less pristine copy of David Werner's self titled album.  I just got too excited and didn't notice it didn't have a record label.  Hell, I was in a store, why would they be ripping OOP lp's and making cd's?  No one else does that, so I figured I was safe.  It's a clean copy and it wasn't all that expensive as I recall.

But I still kept buying copies of this album, trying to find better vinyl than I had. A girl I worked with gave me hers, which was toast but I played it for years.  Then I found a pretty decent one for a buck, and traded my beater copy in.  It was okay, but there's some quiet songs here, so it's kind of nice to have it be a quiet surface.  I found another slight upgrade, and I think I switched covers, but then I found a really nice promo copy at Jerry's in Pittsburgh.  It was really cheap, and Jerry knows he can get decent money for a clean promo copy of this, but the promo stamp is really hard to see, because it's just indented into the back cover. The stamp doesn't use ink, so I don't think they noticed.  It's a Dynaflex record, so you never really know what you're gonna get.  But this one is really, really nice, and I think it's about time I was able to cross that one off my list of things I really wanted to have!

So you're probably wondering, "What the hell is he talking about, anyway?"

Well, David Werner was a guy that WMMS and the college stations around here actually played a bit in 1974.  In particular they played the song, The Ballad of Trixie Silver, and 12 year old me was just in love with that song (to steal a line from Paul W.)  It starts off with this pretty piano and slightly country rock guitar, and it's about some girl that sells boutique trash, and she says "Hey, you look a lot like a cowboy," and I still think Trixie Silver is is like a cross between Goldie Hawn in The Dutchess and the Dirtwater Fox (which came out in 76, I checked), and one of my friend Chris' older sister's friends.  In other words, Trixie Silver is really cool.  Amazingly, I still think she's the same and I still think she's cool.  People thought this was David Bowie, so it was hard to find it when I was that young, and I never really had a copy until I was in my 20's and had a job where a handful of us just talked about music all day anyway.  One of the women I worked next to heard me mention that song, and she just said, "God I used to love that album!  I think I still have it and you can have it if you want."  So that was my first copy.  And Trixie Silver was still a great song.

The rest of the album is a little hit or miss, but that's because it's a little more mellow than a lot of albums I really love.  I get in moods to listen to this and just play it all the time for a week or two.  It kicks off with a song called One More Wild Guitar, and it's not all that wild, but it's cool.  I think Werner could have made it bigger if he had come out a year or two earlier, but then maybe he was just a little more artistic than most bands from Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Detroit.  Werner can write songs with wonderful melodies, something Rock and Roll can use to strong advantage, but it doesn't really need it to be great.  This isn't really a record to dance to.  It's a record to listen to, and I think the world can use some more of those.  This is really great stuff, and if you've never heard it, I recommend it highly.  Give it a few listens and really give it a chance and it will pay off.  The production is top notch, and while I won't quite go out on the Audiophile Alert limb, it's a nice recording (when you can find a nice one) and I bet it won't cost you very much money.