Archive for the ‘ Classic Rock ’ Category

Todd Rundgren “Something/Anything?”

Something /Anything

Released in 1972 as Todd Rundgren’s 3rd solo album, all the parts were played and produced by Runtgreen himself, excluding side 4 which was performed with a backing band. Though most of it would feel about right on Lite 97, there’s no denying the cool, and when people doubt you for throwing it on, they miss the point.

The big hits here are “I Saw The Light,” easily recognized from pop radio, and the beautiful Nazz redo, “Hello It’s Me.” Electric bass guitar, piano and electric keyboard, clean drums, a variety of percussion instruments, large-scale vocal layering comprise some elements on these familiar, warm tracks. Furthermore, some rockist yelps in “Slut” and “Piss Aaron” and straight up weird songs like “I Went To The Mirror.” It’s a long double record, so we have tracks like the vocoded “Breathless,” the Wurlitzer (?) led “Carousel Burnt Down” with its psychy meltdown. Elsewhere: bits of dialog and blubs, tricks with analog tape, all sorts of things you would do with a pet project, I guess.

This is one of those records that if trimmed from a double album to a single album would have been utterly perfect.

Todd Rundgren is a gift to the history of recorded music and we better just buckle down and get used to the record. The Beach Boys are universally cool now, so there’s no reason to deny this light pop masterpiece. Previously we covered Todd’s brilliant A Wizard, A True Star.

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“The Night The Carousel Burnt Down”

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Shoes “Black Vinyl Shoes”

Black Vinyl Shoes

Black Vinyl Shoes is one of the holy grails of underground power pop. This album was recorded and released in 1977 but sounds much closer to early 70’s power pop giants the Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star.

Shoes released their solid, underproduced debut in 1975 (Un Dans Versailles) and have some earlier recordings circa 1974 reissued years later as the double As Is disc. Most people if any, remember Shoes for their great songs and lo-fi production, which I have to say sounds much more authentic than 90’s bands Guided By Voices and Sebadoh. The group hailed from Zion, Illinois and were fronted by Jeff and John Murphy. Many of their earlier albums were recorded in Murphy’s living room making the production rough and ready. Fans consider Black Vinyl Shoes to be their peak, a private press album that eventually saw a larger indie distribution due to local popularity. The fuzz guitar riffs and underproduced but smooth harmonies would resonate with 80’s rock pioneers REM and the Replacements.

Garage and psych fans will find much to love about this highly influential cult record. Many of the tracks here sport huge fuzz guitar riffs and solos (check out Tragedy and the brief Boys Don’t Lie). The band also conjures up a lean, icey hard rocking sound that fit in nicely with the punk era, as heard on Do You Wanna Get Lucky?

But when it comes down to the wire, many of these songs display a dominant Beatles influence with plenty of boy meets girl lyrics and catchy guitar hooks. One mini classic, Not Me bears this out, and is highlighted by some ghostly vocals and great surgical fuzz guitar riffs. This album is a cornerstone for early indie rock and a monster power pop album that really deserved a richer fate.

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“Not Me”

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Buffalo Springfield “Again”

Again

Buffalo Springfield recorded three albums from 1966-1968 and the first two are essentials. Again is their 2nd and affords some improvement over their near perfect debut. This is the group that launched the careers of Stephen Stills and Neil Young; Buffalo Springfield is a must for fans of Manassas, the Byrds, CS&N, Neil Young. At times, it’s almost as if they were all the same band.

Neil’s “Mr. Soul” is like the Byrds and the Stones with Neil Young on vocals, a great song along with the orchestral “Expecting To Fly.” “Bluebird” sounds like a CS&N preview with its hard riffin’ acoustic guitar lead, solidified by its postscript: an acoustic ‘take two’ on the track, genius. “Hung Upside Down” is a great track that caught the attention of Colin Blunstone (check out his rendition here). “Rock and Roll Woman” is total Manassas preview material and Neil closes it up with the lovely “Broken Arrow,” maybe the nicest track (and certainly most interesting, with its sound collages) on here. There are different directions on Again, but its all still cohesive enough to contain some magic.

What really drives this record for me is the rhythm section. That plucky electric bass and the punchy airless drums, it’s just the sound you want from the rhythm section on any rock record. If all you know of Buffalo Springfield is “For What It’s Worth,” get your shit together and find this record. (Don’t settle for Retrospective.)

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“Bluebird”

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The Pretty Things “Parachute”

Parachute

In our world, the Pretty Things are as big as the Pink Floyd, and Parachute is our Dark Side of the Moon. And while this analogy works in terms of production values and signature albums, Parachute really owes more to The Beatles and Abbey Road.

The Pretties’ early material is strong and bluesy. They were pioneers in the style that influenced the Rolling Stones in the 60s. In 1968 they recorded the seminal rock opera S.F. Sorrow, known to have influenced Pete Townshend in recording Tommy. Parachute followed two years later and, unlike most albums reviewed here, was a critical success, receiving the Best Album of 1970 accolade from Rolling Stone magazine. It’s an amazing leap from Sorrow as well. While I love S.F. Sorrow for the gutsy and no-holds-barred psych bomb that it is, I must confess that I believe Parachute to be the better album for its intricate production, dynamics, and developed songwriting.

The opener tears it up with massive drum sola and intimidating rhythm section. Abruptly, we are swept into a soothing number that rallies into the next, The Good Mr. Square into She Was Tall, She Was High. And though we may not have a concept record here, the flow of Parachute continues as such, a dramatic experience, seamlessly passing from heart-pounding rock anthems to smartly arranged acoustic-based gems.

If you are a fan of rock music, this is a completely essential album. Bonus tracks are excellent quality.

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“Grass”

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The Move “Shazam”

Shazam

The Move are more of a household name in the UK, unlike in the US where most folks have never even heard of the Move or Roy Wood. Shazam is a prog rock/power pop tour de force that skyrockets to 11 from the opening lick and teeters at (and nearly over) the top throughout; you can hear a theatricality in Shazam that would hint at the band The Move would become, ELO.

This record comes off as a blueprint for heavy metal, glam rock, hair rock and all its derivatives (I can picture Jack Black singing these tunes), and as it was released in 1970, it most likely was used as such, though the album is definably progressive rock. The magic is in the album’s transitory sound: it’s probably one of the heaviest albums that still retains the glimmer and style of the 60s.

Hello Susie busts it open like a Yes climax, right off the bat, and lead vocalist Carl Wayne sets the tone with his gnarly shout. Beautiful Daughter is probably my favorite track from this set, with it’s clever phrasing and chamber orchestra. Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited is the real eye opener, it always catches my attention when this album plays. If you can’t make it past the first few minutes (this album is NOT for everyone) just wait until the middle where there’s an excellent prog reworking of Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and other classical melodies (can’t quite peg them, anybody know?). The 2nd side of the album consists of three cover songs, with The Last Thing On My Mind sounding surprisingly byrdsian.

Shazam was considered a snapshot of the eccentric Move’s live act. You can allow yourself to judge this one by the cover.

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“Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited”

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Neil Young “Tonight’s The Night”

Tonight’s The Night

Easily my favorite Neil Young record.  I grew up not listening to Neil because I had never latched on to the sound of his radio hits. But a while back I got into his records (starting with On The Beach) and realized what a miss I had made. If you made this same mistake, go start with above record and make amends.

It’s a bit seedy and a little drunk;  Neil tells it like it is on “Borrowed Tune”: “..singing this borrowed tune…too wasted to write my own.” When I first heard this late night piano confessional, a tribute to the Rolling Stones’ Lady Jane, the final lyrics gave me the chills. Then they come in with “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown,”  a remake of the rollickin’ Crazy Horse tune, and you’re sold. Easy as that.

It was recorded in 1973 and released in 1975. The whole record feels as if it was as loosely constructed as possible, like they just wrapped a couple of one-take sessions in newspaper and dropped ’em off at the video store. It’s a masterpiece, on about loss, sorrow, and drugs. Apparently, this album was part of the ‘Ditch Triology‘, an unofficial grouping of three experimental albums recorded after his initial commercial successes.

The first of the trilogy is a live record called Time Fades Away which still hasn’t seen release. Give it a look @ aquariumdrunkard.com.

I love this song “Albuquerque.” It make you think every city should have a song.

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“Albuquerque”

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Iggy Pop “The Idiot”

The Idiot

Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot” is a record that breaks a lot of rules musically. It’s sweet but classless. It’s reminiscent as well as groundbreaking. Its sound is timeless as it is dated. This album will make you as confused as the mad men who wrote it. This is classic Iggy for the main reason that it’s nothing like he’s done before. It’s immediately likable for that best of reasons: because you don’t have a clear-cut idea of why you like it.

As soon as “Sister Midnight” kicks in, the influences of the album’s co-author are evident. David Bowie (specifically of the Berlin Trilogy variety) touched this project. The man produced it and shares writing royalties from the first to last track, and it’s heard throughout.

This undoubtedly had a major hand in pop’s new direction, but that’s not to undermine the growth of Iggy as an artist.

This record showcases a lyrical prowess that wasn’t always expressed with The Stooges. Maybe it was the lack of the machine gun guitars, presence of the more soulful Bowie (prevalent on the track“Tiny Girls”) or the stay in the mental hospital that changed him, but pop music morphed.

“Nightclubbing” has a heartbeat intro that slowly bleeds life into the rest of the arrangement. It rises like a sedated Frankenstein and moves heavily towards Iggy’s lyrics – which have him sounding like he’s singing in an S & M themed karaoke bar. The song, along with “Funtime” and “Dum Dum Boys”, sets the stage for the new theme of the record – Iggy’s taking his time. He’s going to sing these songs slow and steady, fused with a new baritone and an amazing grasp of minimalist songwriting. “China Girl” is a perfect example. Take in the lines of any of these songs at face value and they can be dismissed just as easily as they were ingested. Accept the flaws and you will be rewarded.

Some may long for the frenzied sound of Raw Power. Some may dismiss the otherworldliness that reels in “Mass Production” – the closing track. But deserters will miss out on a lot of what makes The Idiot such an iconic album…the mood.
Iggy would make another record (the also brilliant Lust For Life) with Bowie at the helm the same year before moving on. Both are poignant because they accomplish a true rarity: a recording that is testament to a time when an artist had nothing to lose.

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“Baby”

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Little Feat “Little Feat”

Little Feat

Drop any preconceived notions you may have about this band and get this debut record. It’s a unique sound in their discography. A bluesy, roots rocker masterpiece with the loose feel of Exile on Main Street and the all around good presence of Manassas.

Formed under the wake of Frank Zappa, and even including former Mother, Roy Estrada on bass, Little Feat would go on, after their poorly selling debut record, to release albums with a different sound, featuring iconic sleeves by Weasels Ripped My Flesh artist Neon Park. I think it’s impossible to flip through a stack of used vinyl without finding that lady duck on the cover of Down on the Farm. Later Little Feat has its place, but we recommend this beast.

Some gems: there’s the beautiful, stripped-down Willin’, the song Zappa supposedly fired Lowell George over (either because it was too damn good for a session man or because it championed “weed, whites, and wine”). This song would be re-recorded by a later incarnation of Little Feat and become one of their most loved songs. A ripping Howlin’ Wolf tribute medley in Forty-Four Blues / How Many More Years is a nice feature. The album is great for a first listen because it just fills up the room with rock, but it is truly better as you delve in and listen more.

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“Snakes On Everything”

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T-Rex “Electric Warrior”

Electric Warrior

I grew up thinking T-Rex was mad lame. See, you hear this “Bang A Gong, Get it ON!” song on classic rock radio all the time, and somehow everybody knows it’s T-Rex. But that’s it… pretty lame, man. Pick up the nice digipak release of Electric Warrior, however, and you’ll experience your first bout of T-Rextacy.

I’m just writing this one up in case. Everybody in the UK is sick of this album, but I didn’t know about it until a few years ago. It simply can’t be missed. From the moment Mambo Sun sets the kicked back groove, Electric Warrior is an album with immediate resonance. It carries on to the beautiful Cosmic Dancer (watch the great film Billy Elliot for a healthy dose of Rextacy) before taking off with the rocking Jeepster. The album continues this way dynamically, but every song is so simple, every melody so smart, every lyric so strange, and every sound so classic.

It’s no wonder Marc Bolan was in love with himself. Check out the Born to Boogie DVD to see him perform next to a giant cutout of himself while wearing his face on his tee shirt. Electric Warrior is the album when Bolan took the folkier, mystic Tyrannosaurus Rex to the next level. Basically, he wanted to rock. So he brought out the electrics and the drum kit, but kept the bongos and added some strings. Just go get Electric Warrior, then The Slider. Then, if you’re up for it, old buddy Sergio will tell you about TANX.

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“Life’s A Gas”

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