Weather’s fine…

I pick up Todd Rundgren albums when I find them. It’s not that I am a fan. He does however fascinate me. He is at times prog master, pop singer, soul singer, electronic pioneer or that guy who gets so much music on one record you will destroy it if you play it. He seems an odd man, pretty genuine, a maverick and an iconoclast. He also is honest enough to take a gig as it will pay the bills, see his work with the New Cars or Ringo’s All Starr Band.

I’ve been listening to Rundgren in his various guises since I borrowed Hermit of Mink Hollow from the library on the basis of he played guitar on Bat out of Hell. The only song that really stayed with me was Onomatopoeia, which may be the worst song on the album, I then moved on to Initiation which I got used and was virtually unplayable because of the amount of music he crammed onto both sides but was fun enough if forgettable. I then moved onto his prog work with Utopia, I think he may be the only US musician who really got prog, of course this is based on exhaustive research that resulted in it being the only US prog I liked. He has obviously written some great songs produced some great albums and got into arguments with Andy Partridge which is way more than I have ever managed, but I find myself liking the albums while they play but I may not ever need to hear any of them again.

IMG_7479So the other day I found this oddity and it made me think of Bruce over at Vinyl Connection and his recent ’77 series, as well as his posts about albums released in ’67. Basically Todd did the same thing in ’76 but being a musician and not a blogger he dedicated a whole side of his album to songs he loved from 1967. He missed the decade connection by a few months but what the hell that would be too perfect. The A-side covers are Faithful, get that recreations of the originals, the B-side Todd Rundgren originals.

As with all Rundgren albums it’s a fun listen, the originals are much better than the covers, some guitar histrionics, sardonic lyrics and great production but at the end of the day I have no real connection to it other than I know it is well produced sounds great while it’s playing and will sit on the shelf until I want to hear my other White Album.

Here is the track list for those interested.

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Who’s driving my car now?

I was heading for the ditch and hit a detour.

There is no musician more ornery than Neil Young. Known for his rocking excursions into extreme feedback and his gentle acoustic meanderings he is fairly predictably going to do something that will confuse, anger and energize you. The bizarre wilderness that was the Geffen years was a period of pastiches and dead ends, variously hillbilly country, big band blues and rockabilly nightmares not to mention the computer vocals of Trans.

IMG_7472Which brings me to one of this weeks impulse buys, A Treasure, one of the Neil Young Live Archive releases. I may have bought four or maybe five this week. The tour prior to recording Old Ways in 1984/85 took place while Young was being sued for releasing music that was not representative of himself by his record company. A Treasure is taken from this tour and it sounds like it was a whole lot of fun, especially as he was on tour with no album and no support from the label.

So what we have is a rock musician playing with some ace country session players and the rest of the band being made up of the usual suspects like Ben Keith and Spooner Oldman. What really changes the sound though is the fiddle and mandolin, what makes it different from Harvest though is Young’s attempt to sound like a country band rather than country rock but that’s a country band with Young’s psyched out feedback drenched guitar firmly seated in the middle of the mess.

This is all brought to fruition on Grey Riders the last track on the album, this is psychedelic country at it’s best, fuzz guitar feed backing solo’s mandolins and fiddles and Young howling at the moon.

Did she wake you up to tell you that it was only a change of plan…

I was planning on this massive ditch trilogy/quadrology whatever you call it post. In preparation I  thought lets listen to the reason for the ditch first.

So I sat myself down and listened to Harvest, then I listened again and remembered that fine crisp day in the late 70’s when I struggled home from Woolworths with my new recently purchased copy of Harvest. This was my go to album for years when unhappy, in love, happy drunk/stoned or just tired. I would play it when I woke up and before I went to sleep. I lived this album in all it’s schmaltzy at times over the top glory. I burned through countless copies, at one time I had it on CD, cassette and the record so I could play it on the car, wondering around and at home. It was stolen by more girlfriends than I can imagine, I must have single handedly kept Neil Young in cocaine the number of copies I bought.

Anyway today I celebrate the album that was the precursor to the ditch, the towering pinnacle of country rock or whatever it’s called the album that gave us the phrase More Barn!!!

So I am staying out of the ditch for now and listening to Harvest.

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Neil has finally confirmed the more barn story;

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You’re very nearly human you’re so well disguised…

There are bands that go in phases, that ebb and flow as a singular member becomes more prevalent or a relationship changes. People come and go and the sound changes or develops or stagnates.

There are band members who have been on the periphery and then are suddenly in the ascendance. Bob Calvert had always been around Hawkwind, adding lyrics, poetry and if you believe the books instability in all areas. A cross between Biggles, Lawrence of Arabia and some fictional English lord, although he was South African. Go read about him he is a fascinating/challenging man. For a brief few years at the tale end of the 70’s he was the stylistic and lyrical driving force of the band along with Dave Brock’s metronomic riffs and the electronic bubbling that went along with the Hawkwind sound.

Between Space Ritual and rejoining Hawkwind Calvert released two solo albums. IMG_7390Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters and Lucky Leif and the Longships. Both are patchy. The first a comedic rock opera of the US’s sale to Germany of somewhat defective military hardware. The second a tale of the viking discovery of America with the wonderful Lay of the Surfers sounding like Hawkwind covering the Beach Boys and Michael Moorcock appearing on the banjo for Moonshine in the Mountains. Both albums contain great songs and have an eclectic cast of musicians including all the usual Hawkwind and Pink Fairies alumni and Brian Eno. They do not seem fullyIMG_7422 finished though however fun they are, my preference ins Capt. Lockheed with it’s Pythonesque interludes with Vivian Stanshall and let’s face it it has Lemmy on bass.

I believe Calvert’s strength to have been the fact he was not really a musician, he was a writer. He was also bonkers and suffering from challenges that made him unpredictable and a dangerous performer. Listen to the recording of Over The Top when he wants to sing Master of the Universe and the band goads him into an improvisational piece that flowed out of his mind straight to the mic. A band and it’s lead man not necessarily in sync but definitely heading in the same direction, two forces opposing each other to create. Of course by this time Hawkwind were not Hawkwind but the Sonic Assassins and preparing for another incarnation that unfortunately only included Bob for a short time as they became the Hawklords.

IMG_7421So for the best part of three Hawkwind albums and the Hawklords album Bob Calvert and Dave Brock led what was left of Hawkwind on a merry trip through some of the best space rock you can find. Gone were the endless riffs and Lemmy’s pulsing bass, instead we had something coming close at times to Bowie in a punk band. In fact Bowie stole Simon House for his band from Hawkwind around this time. Preaching a dystopian vision of the world that was terrifying before dystopias became the last comfy bastion of the young adult novel. High Rise, Uncle Sam’s on Mars and Damnation Alley paint a terrifying picture of a world in disarray.

The music at this time feels a little restrained. It’s as if the excesses that the band were known for were being held at bay by the control necessary to get the ideas out. It’s not as anarchic musically, although lyrically the chaos was still there. Songs are stories not chants to anchor the music, experiments are a little more controlled and the bleeps and swooshes while still there are the background and the songs would still exist without them, they are dressing not integral to the whole unless you acknowledge those bleeps and farts along with the rhythm guitar is the Hawkwind sound.

I never saw Calvert with Hawkwind, I heard the stories from those grizzled old fans in the pub though, the Atomhenge stage design, the machine gunning of the audience the waving of scimitars and the strange uniforms for the Hawklords tour. I did however see Calvert, due to some poor decision making I do not however have any memory of the gig apart from talking to strange man smoking outside before the show started. To this day I swear it was Calvert and he whispered the secrets of the universe to me as I stepped inside. Of course the bad decisions I was making may have caused this memory, it’s fake news I tell you. I also cannot remember the secrets of the universe, although I know for a fact I knew them once and s our glorious orange leader may say they were the best secrets.

There’s only one course of action…

There is a moment when you are browsing, wasting time not really looking and then it hits you. The need to buy.

IMG_7390It’s usually when you find something out of place. It doesn’t seem that you should find a copy of Bob Calvert’s Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters still in it’s shrink in a thrift store in Oregon City, even if it is only the Back on Black reissue which is probably a transfer from a CD.

Of course I had to buy it, it would be unconscionable to leave a Hawkwind alumni record alone in a thrift store. So I bought it, yes it is not an original but it sounds plenty fine to me. Monty Python meets Hawkwind, gloriously over the top German accents and Lemmy’s bass thumping away with most of Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies playing away.

Of course the knock on effect is that Lucky Lief and the Longships is now winging its way to me as I write.

My hair’s electrically aware…

I’m a collector I guess. A completist sometimes, especially if I suddenly discover I am a fan. Now I have not reached the point of obsessive yet but some days I can feel it approaching, still searching for two or three Mott the Hoople albums, a strange fit of spending resulted in the arrival of several Tull albums and now I am considering an upgrade on some of those Fairport Convention records and don’t mention the Hawkwind or Neil Young collection.

This seems to be a constant struggle. The late night buying, the attempt to make it home before the mail, the momentary shame and then satisfaction. Fortunately my wife understands somewhat this strange obsession to complete a collection.

Sometimes however it takes a wholly new tack, a desire to complete the Whitesnake prior to 1980 collection, a need to own every Faces album or any number of  needs that may just suddenly rear up late at night or early in the morning. The real problem is the almost immediate access to shopping online, then the interminable wait for the record to arrive, while you are waiting the bug hits and you buy another record/records, then the fear that they will all arrive together and someone will recognize this for what it is an addiction.

There is also walking through the door to discover a tottering pile of album mailers waiting there for you, then the decision to figure out which one to play. Which is  my greater need? The record I have never heard, the old favorite discovered at a reasonable price or the record that just became a brain fart that got bought. It could have been reading a review online that resulted in a purchase or a link from a link to a link as you came to terms with a gap in the collection that is out of your price range. So many things, so many records.

I have spent most of my life until this month having never bought a Led Zeppelin record. I bought a CD collection once but I have never felt the need to own the albums, then one day trolling in a thrift store I found III, Presence and Houses of the Holy. All of a sudden it became a mission to find the other records, but not the live one. After weeks of delving and searching and digging I had them all. I looked smugly on my collection and smiled and then realized there was one missing, not the live one but the other anomaly, Coda was not there. This became a fruitless quest. I searched I rooted in dark corners of thrift stores and used record emporiums to no avail, eventually I succumbed to the online world and before long Coda was winging it’s merry way to me.

IMG_7380And now there it sits on the to be played pile, looking at me with its baleful glare daring me to play it. There are however other records waiting to be played too and it does not have the greatest reputation as a record.

So here I am now with a conundrum, what to play, so true to form I have picked something that is not even in the to be played stack. Astounding Sounds Amazing Music by Hawkwind, the transitional album when the mayhem merchants calmed down discovered melody, hooks and irony all in one go. Of course the all pervading riffs are present as the Brock works his metronomic magic on the guitar. Sometimes I wonder what would it have been like if Brock had joined Can for a weekend.

And here we have the bigger problem.

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Here I am, I ‘m very fierce and frightening…

For years every Sunday morning I would play Seconds Out. For some unknown reason my dad hated this album. It was my small piece of rebellion  at being forced to wear real IMG_7355trousers not jeans as we got ready for church. Being only twelve this was the best I could do. Later in life my rebellions got better and more extreme but as a 12 year old singing along to the Carpet Crawlers was the peak of insolence. I think it was the synth solo’s he really hated and that damn flower song.

My precious school army surplus backpack had my name spelled out in the same writing style as Seconds Out, I have to admit that this may be because it was easily replicated with a ruler and a permanent marker for an artistically challenged pre-teen. I remember  I had to draw it out first in pencil so I didn’t mess it up, if I had I would have had to continue to wear that  backpack regardless as it had been bought and would have to do. Imagine the 12 year olds shame, having the obviously unhip writing style of a progressive rock band on his backpack in the post punk age and then  the writing is messed up. Not only is this unhip but it’s badly done unhip, the kids at school would crucify me rather than just heap the usual ridicule on me.

For many years due to the paucity of funds available  these were the only versions of the Gabriel era songs I had heard, apart from a French copy of Foxtrot that I had inherited from cousin Tony. As I sit here listening tonight its like sitting down with an old friend. The arrangements are polished and comfortable. The playing is urgent and I have to say I find myself enjoying the version of that damn flower song more than the Gabriel version.

It’s also Sunday and I keep expecting to hear my dad bellowing up the stairs to turn off that damn song about a flower. Instead it is my wife who asks why do we have to listen to this loud music. No wonder some have a designated listening space. I however have the living room, which is strangely comforting as prior to moving out of my parenets my listening was confined to the cramped space of my bedroom. This does mean that when I take a left turn musically the family are forced to go with me, like some deranged road trip with the hitcher in tow.

All this reminiscence is because of Bruce at Vinyl Connection getting all 40 years ago with his 1977 moment. It’s here if you want a good read  1977.

I am however mystified why this album never made the cut or maybe that’s for part 2.

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