Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Golden Earring - Moontan

Well, I guess ya can't get more Classic Rock than the album that gave us Radar Love, can you?  I have had this for years and years and years.  I think my original copy is a late 70's US pressing, but I saw a really nice German one in Florida a few days ago in an altogether boring record store, with an altogether bored clerk who wouldn't hardly talk to me at all.  I hate that!  I figure if it's just you and me in the store and you're just reading the album cover for the record that's spinning (Bowie's Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture Soundtrack), then maybe you could use someone to make your day go a little faster.  But I guess this dude was really interested in knowing what address the record label was at.  Besides, it was a shitty, beat up copy of a pretty dull album.  I mean, the movie works okay, but if you wanna hear The Spiders live, you really should be doing Santa Monica 72, doncha think?

The cool thing about the German one is that it has the cover with the girl on it instead of that awful picture of a woman's ear.  I guess the other cool thing is that the track listing is different than the US version, too.  What makes this album confusing is that in the US original versions came with the US tracklisting and the girl on the cover, but it was soon replaced with the dumb ear picture.  The songs stayed the same, though.  That record usually seems to command a pretty good chunk of change, and if you ask me, the imports have better songs, so I always wanted to find a reasonably priced import version.  Problem is, most places just see the girl on the cover and stamp a twenty dollar (or more) price tag on it.  So I never got one until a few days ago.

The US and import versions have four songs in common, Radar Love, Candy's Going Bad, The Vanilla Queen and Are You Receiving Me.  The US version adds Big Tree, Blue Sea to these.  The import adds Just Like Vince Taylor and Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock).  The former was available in the US on the flipside of the Radar Love single.  My brother had that 45, and I always liked that song, though I had no idea who Vince Taylor was.  I was a little disappointed when I bought the album and got Big Tree, Blue Sea, which is easily the least of all these songs.  It's not bad, it's just not memorable.

So this is another of those albums that came out in 1973, and that year seems to be one that really worked for me.  Maybe the songs on the charts had good guitars in them that year.  We used to hang around at the pool in my friend's development all day, every day.  The lifeguards played the radio all day, and I could just hang out and listen all I wanted back then.  I used to get in to the pool even when my friend wasn't there because all the guards swam for my dad at the high school, plus I'd be a ringer on their swim team and if I was on the team, they'd win four events.  The only time that wouldn't work is if some kid I swam against in AAU or the YMCA lived in another development and recognized me and whined to his coach.  It was pretty fun for me because it was the only time I ever raced and really didn't feel any pressure to win.

Dad used to drive me to swim practice or meets sometimes.  Mom or the other kids' parents did it more often because swimming season kinda meant my dad was busy with the high school team.  But I remember being all ready to go and sitting up front with dad and punching in G98 or whatever the FM Top 40 station was back then and Radar Love came on one day.  My brother and I are like, "Yeah!  Turn it UP!"  So dad does.  He liked music and always thought it was actually important, even if the music I listened to was pure crap.  He figured I'd eventually like "good" music if he encouraged me with the music I already did like.  So anyway, we're digging Radar Love, in a car, the way you're supposed to dig Radar Love.  And our Dutch singer, George Kooymans, tries to get his Dutch tongue around "and the longing gets too much," and dad freaks out, and changes the station to anything that comes next.  I'm incredulous!

"Dad!  What are you doing?  That's Radar Love!"

He looks pissed and says, "I won't have any swearing on my radio!  You're not allowed to listen to that!"

I couldn't believe it!  My dad was censoring something?  I got in trouble for taking a Playboy to school because my dad always let me read anything I said I could understand (his Playboy subscription mysteriously ran out soon after I took one to school).  I knew that he was thinking he said "bitch" in there, but no amount of my pleading would get him to understand that.  I really fucked it all up when I told him my little brother had the record, man!  I got the stinkeye from him for awhile, but I don't think dad took the record away.

Good times, huh?

So anyway, I like this record a lot.  Especially the import version.  It opens each side with the two best songs, Candy's Going Bad on side one, and Radar Love on side two.  Both of those songs are catchy, just the right length and hold up pretty well over the decades that have gone by.  We used to get Are You Receiving Me and The Vanilla Queen now and then on the late night radio shows (and college back then) and I just always loved when they came on.  They're both a little Prog Rockish, and maybe a little psych and some hard rock.  It just works, and I always thought it was weird that they really seemed to blow everything that had on this one record.  I remember seeing them do Radar Love on Midnight Special or something and the drummer jumped over his drum kit after the song was over.  Keith Moon never coulda done that!  At least not without biting it in a big way.  It was weird that Golden Earring just never seemed to go anywhere after this one really good album.

So both of mine are in really nice shape.  I'll usually play the import version because I like the track listing better than the US, but I also think it sounds better.  The US one sounds okay, but the import just has more dynamic range to it.  I've heard some people kind of disparage this in the intervening years, but it's really a pretty darned good record.  Yeah, it sounds like the 70's, but there were some really cool things about the 70's.  Besides, who can keep their foot off their accelerator when Radar Love comes on, anyway?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - Couldn't Stand the Weather

I think the one thing I regret about Stevie Ray Vaughan is that I never saw him.  I'm not some huge fan of his, in fact this is the only album of his I have, but I wish I'd have seen him so I could compare him to some of my favorite guitar players.  Not because I think any one guy is really any better than another, but Stevie Ray was really great and I always liked a lot of his songs.  He could kind of veer off into that super blues Rawk territory sometimes, but I'm from the Midwest, and I can relate to that.  The dude made some great beer drinkin' and hell raisin' music.

I still kind of remember the first time I heard the title track.  Shit, I was in love!  I love the drums, I love the air around everything and I think it's just a terrific song.  Stevie doesn't just have the drummer and bass player hold something down while he wails, he actually sets a mood with them and they hold it for the whole song.  I think that's hard for some primarily Blues kinds of guitar players to do.  They're the star of the show, and especially with a three piece band they can turn things into a major wank-fest.  But Stevie doesn't do that on Couldn't Stand the Weather.  Everyone has a place to be and a job to do, and everyone does it together. I think it's great.

Now I kind of think things become a little more wankish on The Things I Used to Do.  This is probably the kind of song I expected.  That is, a vehicle for Stevie to wail and his fans to hold up their lighters and worship him.  I kind of hate that stuff sometimes.  Not all the time, because I like hearing a guy wail as much as anyone, but too much can be a bad thing quickly.  Since the next song is a Jimi Hendrix cover, I think one would be correct in assuming that things may be about to go bad, soon.

But like Jimi, Stevie stays within the song.  I mean, if you're gonna play Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), and even add the (Slight Return) to the album cover, then I think the assumption of rote imitation is warranted.  That's certainly not the case here.  Stevie plays his ass off, and I guess he'd better seeing as how this is like a signature Hendrix song, but the band is just as important, like Jimi's band was.  It's cool to hear Stevie inject his own style into one of Jimi's signature songs.  This could easily have been pure crap, but it's just wonderful.

The second side opens with my second favorite song on the record, Cold Shot.  I think Classic Rock radio plays it now, and acts like, "Oh yeah, we played the hell out of this back in the day."  Well, they didn't. They played Voodoo Chile and once in awhile Couldn't Stand the Weather.  The guy that doesn't think radio is pure shit in me thinks we should cut them a break for catching up with the fans, but the guy that knows better in me hates the fact that they only play Tim Pan Alley at 4 AM.  I hate even more that they play Tightrope 99% of the time they play Stevie Ray, so their occasional playings of some of these songs is too little, too late.

Hey, Stevie was a nice break in the 80's.  Double Trouble was a great backing band, and this guy managed to make a really rigid formula work for him.  He did it by being himself, and I don't play this all that often, but every time I do, I think one thing.

I should have went and seen Stevie Ray Vaughan play.

Well, my record is nice and flat.  It's probably the original 1984 pressing, and like I said, I hardly ever play it, so it's really quiet and sounds like a million bucks.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King

Ever buy records because you're supposed to?  I mean, everyone says that this record is a game changer, a life changer, the pinnacle of the genre.  Ever buy one of those?  Well, I've done it, and I continue to do it today.  I'm not sure if it's because I never learn my lesson or if it's because sometimes I agree and think I hit the Mother Lode.

Then I hear some stupid flute.  Just merrily fluting away?  No.  This stupid flute is just kind of aimlessly honking.  And what's so special about this flute?  It keeps coming back!  That's right, all the music comes to a stop so we can all hear Mr. Flute fuck around yet again.

And this record starts off so promising.  21st Century Schizoid Man is totally cool.  I'm positive this is the song that got me on board with King Crimson, but somewhere along the line someone had to have heard I really liked Yes, and since that instantly made me a Prog Rocker, then this was about to blow my mind.  I knew I had hit the Mother Lode!  21st Century Schizoid Man has abrasive guitars, loud drums and weird, other worldly vocals.  I love it!  It's the kind of thing that while I understand other people not liking it, I kind of can't understand it, ya know?

The thing is, then every other song has titles like The Court of the Crimson King including The Return of the Fire Witch and The Dance of the Puppets.  It should say, The Court of the Crimson King including Some Stupid Flute Shit, then Going Back to the Song, and More Stupid Flute.  Every time it seems like something good is gonna happen they wreck it with some boring shit.  I know this is supposed to be a classic record by a classic group of musicians with few peers, at the peak of their game...

But outside of the opening song, I think it kinda sucks.

Mine is really nice.  Probably because I've hardly ever played it.  I think it may be one of the half speed mastered versions from the 80's, so I'm probably not hearing it right, and if I had another pressing or super high definition digital file I'd understand it more.  The cover is cool as hell.  The record is nice and flat and pretty quiet.  It's the songs that I have issues with.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jacobites - Robespierre's Velvet Basement

I was in the record store a few weeks ago just checking stuff out and I came across this, and a few other records related to Nikki Sudden.  I guess they're reissues from Numero Group (the guys that did all the Shoes albums awhile back).  So I'm looking at the cover and there's two guys that look like fans of Keith Richards circa 1972 or so.  Numero puts these cool Obi strips on their reissues, and I was reading it and it has mentions of The Stones, Faces and T Rex.  So I read further and the last sentence is what sold me:

Nikki Sudden cut a string of raw, inspired rock 'n' roll records etched with double-edged travel melancholia and hard bitten punk dejection.

Well, how the hell do you pass that up?  So I guess Nikki Sudden was in a Post Punk band called Swell Maps with his brother, Epic Soundtracks.  I usually admit that I have no idea what Post Punk is really supposed to be, other than not the original Punk stuff that I like so much, so I'm not really interested.  But Dave Kusworth and Nikki Sudden just have such a great look on this cover and Numero seems pretty solid, so I bought it just because I thought it looked cool.

I'm really glad I did.  I still get the same feeling I always did when I hear a new record that I like.  If I actually knew anyone that really listened to music anymore, I'd have them come over and drink a few beers and check this out.  To me, these guys picked a better era of Stones to get into than Brian Jonestown Massacre, and they didn't stay so true to their influence and felt free to be themselves, and that's the way ya gotta do it.  So this record is just a slice of goodness from 1985 that I completely missed.  Probably because I was really digging Stones bootlegs back then, and they were expensive so I was kind of focused on something else.

So now I'm listening to Ambulance Station, and I'm wondering how I ever got along without this song.  Hell, not just this song, but Big Store, Snow White, Fortune of Fame - hell, all of side one.  I absolutely love this!  These songs all have big acoustic guitars, nice drumming (provided by Epic Soundtracks) and a really great vibe not unlike Beggars Banquet.  Not totally like it, but like a cousin.  The first time I listened I kind of thought maybe I recognized some of it, but I think it's really because this is the kind of record I can immediately get in to and move right into my regular listening routines (whatever those are).

The second side is great, too.  I don't think there's anything quite as great as Snow White for me, but that's just one of those songs that presses all my buttons.  Numero Group did a great job on this, so every time I listen to it, I hear some guitar or instrument I missed last time.  I mean, you do the oooh la la's from She's a Rainbow and I'm gonna be all in.  Side two might be a little more contemplative, I suppose.  I like it because it sounds sad.  My wife will hate it because it's slow and makes her sleepy.  That's an argument we have.  Apparently I like slow music.  I disagree vehemently, but I've found she says the fast music I listen to is just people banging on things really fast and she doesn't like that, either.

So since this is new, it's obviously in really great shape.  Numero Group did a great job on it.  The cover is neato.  The record is flat and really quiet.  The sound is really nice if you ask me.  You can hear the picks on the guitar strings and like I said, there's stuff to pick out that you didn't hear the first time through.  I think it's a shame that I missed out on this twenty years ago, but at least I found out about it now.  Did you ever think about how much music there is out there, and how much of it is probably something you wouldn't believe you wouldn't have found by now because you like it so much, and the odds are good there's ten times that (or more) that you're never gonna hear.  That's kind of a drag!  But it's okay.  Just keep looking.  Find as many great things as you can.