The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 was the very first Dylan I ever owned for myself. It was bought as a gift one Christmas by a beautiful woman, this is probably how everyone should get their first Dylan album. It should be a rite of passage that a person of beauty carry the first Dylan album to the supplicant on a red velvet pillow that they can rest their sweat wracked head upon after digesting the album.
This collection may have needed two red velvet pillows as it was a lot to digest at 58 unreleased versions of Dylan.
Here we are with Disc 5. Dylan on the cover looking like some punch drunk boxer fumbling his way through his first three chords in the Ralph McTell learn to play guitar book. This may be a good analogy for Dylan in the eighties heading towards the 90’s reeling from the blows he had taken to the head. Many saying his best days were behind him and he was a washed up has been, others lauding him as the great songwriter who cold do no wrong.
I wanted to hear Blind Willie McTell but I have a rule that you have to lay the whole album when listening to Dylan. Luckily this does not mean the whole box set.
On the way I was reminded how great When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky is from the much ridiculed and maybe rightly so Empire Burlesque album. It’s a brash hectoring song, full of great lines and attitude. Dylan is out Dylaning himself at times with his delivery.
Syd got into the woods again today, about a half second after this picture he ended up in the creek.
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Maureen had a daughter who loved Kate Bush called Deborah.
When Maureen visited I was forced to entertain the daughter. We both went to schools away from our neighborhood so didn’t have a close group of friends locally. This meant that during school holidays and weekends we both would get dragged along to wherever our respective mothers went.
Entertaining involved me listening to Kate Bush with her in the dining room. I was probably about 13 years of age and she was maybe 14. To this day I remember her long auburn hair and the scent of lavender soap and apple shampoo as she sat on the floor in the dining room with me and tried to explain why Kate Bush was so great. She had every album and single and endless copies of fan club newsletters. She also had every album on cassette for some reason. She knew every word to every song and would shyly mumble along as the songs played on the infamous 70’s radiogram.
We would sit together our foreheads almost touching as she showed me the album covers and the lyrics her pink fingernails following along to the lyric sheets. She would point out lyrics that were important to her and at times blush and explain the double entendres.
Our mothers would sit there drinking tea and smoking cigarettes in the front room and we would be in the corner playing records. At some point she turned up with a cassette player with headphones, she would turn the headphones around so we had one ear piece each and almost cuddle in the corner listening to Never for Ever, for years I associated that album with only the left hand channel as that may be how I heard it most on that small cassette players headphones. We would lean against each other companionably and listen.
Deborah would bring every new Kate Bush album to wherever I was living to play it with me first. Sometimes she was happy and sometimes sad but she always smelled of apple shampoo and lavender.
Our mothers always lived in the same road and Deborah remained a visiting friend up to me leaving the UK in 1994. This was a year after Kate Bush made her last record for 12 years.
In 2005 I got a package in the mail. It was a copy of Aerial, Kate Bush’s then new album. In the package was a foam headphone cover, and I swear I could smell lavender and apple shampoo. There was no note.
I sat on the floor and played the album and cried a little.
During these strange times these memories of people and music seem more important.
Deborah and her mum have been dead awhile, on some level I am glad they never got to experience these odd times. Maureen because she missed her husband so and Deborah because she always seemed a little out of touch with the real world, maybe that is why she loved Kate Bush so much.
Tonight I played Aerial and got lost in the otherworldly world of Kate Bush. It is a remarkable album to come out of nowhere after 12 years of silence. It feels timeless and out of step with whatever else was going on with music or me at the time.
Particularly as I sometimes get caught up in this idea that I should be listening to something more challenging. This week I have been truly enjoying the music of Elbow. These have at times been one of my so called “guilty” pleasures, maybe as they are from Manchester, not necessarily because of the popiness of the music. They are somewhat popular as they say, if not so much in the USA as the UK. Is it pop music though and does it matter at the end of the day?
I have a fond memory of seeing Elbow at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland Oregon, the stage is tiny, none of the audience seemed to know their part for sing along moments and were segregated by those who could buy drinks and those who could not. It was interesting to see a band as big as Elbow there in a venue that holds 700 people max. It was a great night, the band were on form and John Grant as support was pretty darn special. The audience was appreciative although maybe more subdued than the band are used to. This had the affect of making the band work harder to connect than they probably have to do at the mega festivals they are used to in Europe.
Asleep In The Back was sometimes touted as some sort of prog album. I have no idea what that may mean. Apparently it’s because the band cited Gabriel era Genesis as an influence. There are moments that this comparison makes sense and the song Newborn is apparently influenced by Entangled, which interestingly is not Gabriel era, go figure.
Now to the damned by feint praise moment. It’s all very pleasant, not particularly edgy and a bit too polite. It’s interesting there are textures, moments of beauty and epic crescendoes, at times it gets creepy and quickly gets cozy again. Maybe thats the point though, sometimes it’s nice to put on a nice warm overcoat and go for a walk in the cold weather. When the guitars do come powering in over the textures and smoothness they are like when your coat lets the cold creep in. It’s shocking, refreshing and exhilarating and you know the coat will cover your coldness eventually and you will be warm.
So is it pop music?
Well it’s popular, and I have to admit I like it, and you can’t fault a band for being consistent, or can you? Maybe the brilliance is in the erratic nature of creation.
My friend Guy who is a real musician, classically trained and all that good stuff, admires the textures and dynamics and the almost cinematic nature of the music, his words not mine, all I really know is I like it when I am a bit melancholic and don’t feel the need to be all frenetic.
It is a stone cold fact that Ragged Glory is the greatest Neil Young and Crazy Horse studio album ever made.
You can disagree with this statement and you would be wrong on many levels, none of which I will expound on in any way, shape or form.
It was also previously true that Live Rust was the greatest live Neil Young and Crazy Horse album.
Tonight Live Rust was replaced in my affections as the greatest Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live album by Way Down In The Rust Bucket. On this album Crazy Horse confirm the often suspected truth that they are without a doubt the most meandering, distorted, stoned, grungy, rusty, greatest live rock and roll band in the entire freaking world. Move over all the rest and bow down to the glory of four men noodling and plodding their way to glory.
What we have here is Neil and the boys rocking out at a home town gig before the overdriven feedback fest that the Ragged Glory tour become, don’t get me wrong I love Weld and all it’s noisefest moments and will rebuy the record if it ever gets re-released as I gave my copy away when I moved. This however is a less anxious and more relaxed looser band than the post Operation Desert Storm band.
I’m not going to ruin it by reviewing it, go buy it, stream it, steal it, however you can take the time to hear it. Play it in the bath, the car, on earbuds, headphones, the home stereo or those fancy blue tooth speaker things. Just play it loud. Play it in surround, stereo or mono I don’t care.
When I’ve digested it I may have more to say.
As a side note, I get dismayed every time I see my sone wearing my Ragged Glory Tour shirt as it doesn’t fit me any more, who knew that cotton would shrink that way with time. It seems like only yesterday I was wearing it.
Thomas described it as Hank Marvin and the Shadows on acid( I am not sure when he heard Hank and the Shadows, he surprises me most days.) There’s your review.
There are such things as perfect albums, After the Goldrush, Blue, Blood On the Tracks, many others I am sure. One of these is Solid Air by John Martyn.
Every song on Solid Air is classic, they range from blues to folk via jazz and rock. Martyn’s voice is expressive throughout, growling cooing and slurring expressively to seduce the listener. At times the music reaches some weird space that Floyd made their own when textures of sound are more important than notes or words. Songs of loyalty and betrayal and mental health and addiction and weariness and friendship all wrapped up in a production that wraps you in a warm loving blanket.
John Martyn could’ve quit after making this album and he would have gone down in history as creating one of the greatest albums of all time. I think this album justifiably appears on every list of greatest albums of all time, so go get one, sit down, relax however you do and wrap your ears around a wonder.
On a strange personal level, every Friday afternoon for years I played this album before heading off into the rock and punk and new wave bars of Liverpool to drink too much, laugh too hard and scream my lungs out at some live band. I for some reason figured this would either settle me down to get through the night or I would be able to channel John Martyn ability to our rowdy anyone. I think that at some point the lyrics to May You Never probably save my young skin on more than one occasion.
Snow turned to ice and then the trees started falling over, which in a state as green as the western part of Oregon is a significant problem. Then the phone rang, “there’s a tree across the road to work…”
Cutting a tree out of the road by car headlight and flashlight is an experience. Not necessarily a bad one, plenty of neighbors and willing hands to pull things out of the road. My chainsaw skills are rudimentary but acceptable. It was good to work with others, Covid is not real during a natural disaster. It was only the best day as I drove down the road that I realized exactly how big the tree was. Guess was right when she said it was a big tree.
We got home about 10pm and I texted to say it was out of the way and then the power left us.
The ice had finally come, we were lucky not to get with the heavy ice build up other parts of the county got, but electricity moves in a circuit and when the circuit is broken in many places that stuff all has to be put back together.
We all eventually had to come to terms with what the lack of investment in infrastructure really means. Or as my Dad would say “when the capitalists are in charge of what matters, worry…” no power, no cell phone coverage and obviously no internet. Suddenly we were in an agrarian age, and work was expected to continue. Get up with the sun and bed at sunset, reading books by lamplight into the evening.
Ultimately we were without power for 9 days, some people around us are still without power, including one of my programs. Generators hum away in the hinterlands.
Luckily we had a generator, that failed on day three and had to be replaced with a borrowed one, thankfully Eric got power back after one night so could loan us his, Eventually we could power two space heaters to keep the living room livable, the refrigerator and the coffee pot and when everyone had gone to bed the stereo for awhile. It was after all a small generator, just enough to keep us going and the coffee pot working.
Sitting in the lantern light listening to music without the other distractions that we fill our hands and time with usually, no reading interesting facts about what you are listening to or writing meandering ramblings about life or experiences however loosely connected to the music.
The power when it arrived came like a harbinger of problems, the septic system alarms blaring and discovering a leaking pipe below the sink, putting things back together in some semblance of normalcy was a chore in itself that took most of the weekend. It’s all good though at the end of the day.
So here we are still in the mud puddle of life taking a breath before another work week starts in too few hours. I dare not even wonder what may happen next as the horror may drive me insane. There is still the clean up going on and on, lineman everywhere hanging from their buckets putting the grid back together, of course it’s all above ground and subject to all the same problems
While friends and neighbors still manage to come out and haul tree limbs and make piles then it should be okay. Yesterday when the power came on one of the neighbors found all the ammunition he had been stockpiling for the insurrection and let of a salvo that could’ve been the start of something else, country life as they say.
We did however not have the problems Texas had/has, but that’s another thing depending on your news channel of choice. Syd likes the snow and ice, he thinks he is part husky. Of course give him a stick and moment of attention and he is happy wherever he is, regardless of the weather.
So it’s time for Blitzen Trapper and American Goldwing. It stomps along like Randy Newman playing in the Band pretending to be Queen at times. Banjo’s guitars and the myth of an America maybe we will see again, who knows. It’s warm in the house and there is the hope that things can get better, we haven’t watched the news in ten days and maybe we have kicked the habit.
Blitzen Trapper occupy that area of music that gets labelled Americana I guess. They are not afraid of to liberally steal form the all their predecessors, whether that’s the Allman’s or Neil Young add in a piece of Krautrock or Prog and mix it up with a liberal dose of psychedelia and the storytelling of the boss, put their foot on the foldback and rock.
Songs from the hinterlands of the American West, cowboys, murderers, drugs and the dirty underbelly of life, prior to the last administration even.
I’m not really good at reviews, however country songs about spacemen are hard to come by or forget.
John Martyn was a giant of music. A jazz. folk, rock psychedelic legend. He was not a particularly pleasant human being apparently. He did however make some of the most amazing and incendiary albums and possibly one of the greatest live albums ever.
Live at Leeds was originally an album released independently by John Martyn and sold from his own home. It has since been rereleased and repackaged on CD and vinyl expanded and Deluxed. I have a reissue of the original album. I am not sure how I feel about the deluxes of the world when I am so used to the album itself.
The music on Live At Leeds is loud and violent, soft and seductive and grooving and funky and sensual and dirty and aggressive and soothing. It’s all of those things at the same time. Meandering through the echoplex canyons of John Martyn’s mind. Three musicians, Danny Thompson, John Stevens and John Martyn make all that noise veering from jazz improvisation to psychedelic freak outs most of the album is improvised and on the edge of collapse at times.
Mostly tonight it takes me back to a field in Suffolk where in the space of three hours I saw Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Roy Harper at the gloriously titled Suffolk and Good Festival. There was oat ale and roasted goat on home made bread and it was so hot we ended up swimming in the river Glem I believe although I could be wrong. We arrived jet lagged and tired and had forgotten out flashlight, we had however remembered the Belgian beer and the infamous brown and orange festival tent. We had to fend off three or four offers to purchase the tent that weekend. It was a tiny festival 3,000 people and we had driven a considerable distance to see Roy Harper ostensibly, it seemed like a good idea I am sure. The downer of the whole event was the Strawbs that headlined, however how could they follow Jansch, Martyn and Harper.
It was a different Marty in Suffolk than on this album, the essence of the music was the same, exploratory and surprising.
Steven Wilson has released a new album. This would normally be greeted with rapturous applause by the geek squad of prog rock pimple poppers.
Instead there is confusion all around as the darling of the prog world has gone pop. Not since Genesis had a hit or Yes went all Buggley or maybe when Porcupine Tree became Steven Wilson solo has the world of the lonely male progger been so challenged. They have wiped off their moist hands pushed back their lank unwashed hair and straightened out their cargo shorts to scream betrayal through a mouthful of Mountain Dew and Cheetos, their toxic orange and lime spittle staining the bemused faces of the record buying public.
What may have happened is that their hero decided to challenge himself to do something other than meet their expectations. Maybe that became too easy and unfulfilling for him.
What may have happened is Steven Wilson finally left Porcupine Tree and all the expectations that went with that.
So when you listen if you listen closely you can hear 10CC, Wilco, Abba, George Harrison, The Beatles, Wings some McCartney, Giorgio Moroder, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, a little Nine Inch Nails, Duran Duran. XTC, Bowie, Tangerine Dream, Yes, Genesis, Madonna, Phil Spector, Sly Stone and a whole lot of other influences boiling up to provide a melange of one mans listening habits. Is it all great? No! Is it different? Yes! Is it enjoyable? Yes! It’s a great Progressive Pop album which is no way a bad thing.
Remember when Robert Fripp decided he wanted to be in a pop band!
I hated the new Bitzen Trapper album the first time I heard it.
I had pre-ordered and loyally waited and waited for what felt like the best part of half a first pandemic year.
Then it arrived all esoteric bull shit and muted guitars and vaguely psychedelic musings and I put it away. Like a loyal fan I kept getting it out and playing it and waiting for something to happen.
I am not sure anything really clicked or grabbed me or even made me sit up and pay attention, but again and again these past weeks I have pulled this off the shelf almost without thought and played it. This evening I found myself playing it again and just drifting away on the guitars and keyboards, it’s an album that feels muffled at times and subdued. It may be the perfect album for the times, some esoteric lyrics about the meaning of life and drugs, or maybe that the meaning of drugs and life, I have no idea what it’s about. It is definitely more of the navel gazing folk-rock side of the Trapper on not the foot on the fold back monitor guitar god Trapper though.
It’s almost a year since the last concert we all went to P.C.(pre-Covid) as we have decided to refer to the life before now.
It was Robyn Hitchcock at the Old Church in Portland Oregon.
We never saw Mario the Magician but Robyn was stunning.
This was one day after the first confirmed Covid case in the United States. A couple of weeks later the schools closed and life has effectively never been the same.
On that night I bought Robyns self titled latest record. It sat in its shrink until tonight because I wasn’t ready to break the seal and admit life had changed maybe forever.
I have always enjoyed Robyn Hitchcock’s quirky jangle pop extravagances, he has a vivid imagination that runs wild on occasion, on other occasions he is too wrapped up in his own love of his influences. That’s not the case on this album, there are influences from The Byrds, The Monkees, Barrett and the plethora of other wackiness he so obviously enjoys, they don’t however overshadow the excellence of the album itself. The songs themselves stand up as maybe the best new collection he has put together in a long time. It’s a light and breezy album that lifts the spirit and males you dance.
Now my favorite moment is Autumn Sunglasses which simultaneously sounds like it was recorded in 1967 and 2017 almost as if the Small Faces managed to time travel.
On some level I am sorry I waited almost a year to open this, however it is nice to commemorate a moment before everything changed.