Guide Vocal

I am going to say, well write, this in public for the first time ever.

Duke is the best Genesis album without Peter Gabriel.

I am well aware this contravenes common opinion, we are all supposed to bow down to the glory and pomp of A dukeTrick of the Tail or the flawed genius of Wind and Wuthering, we are not supposed to raise the three piece band up as excellent. It is ok to admire the longevity of the band or their pop sensibilities but we are not supposed to prefer their output.

Don’t get me wrong I love Mad Man Moon and One For The Vine but Trick and Wind and Wuthering would have made a great album if combined without the silly songs about mice and Squonks.

Duke is a classic album, it is the first that really breaks away from Gabriel and it thankfully has no songs on it about animals.  It even has a  concept for the old progheads among us.The strange story of the funny Duke guy Albert. It is often referred to as the Duke suite and was meant to be, Behind the Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocal, Turn It On Again, Duke’s Travels, and Duke’s End. On one side of the album and the other songs on side 2.

Instead of doing this the band decided to integrate all those songs from side 2 into the album proper and thereby in my opinion created a masterpiece, Songs of loss alienation, confusion and love all mixed in with some serious prog leanings and no songs about mice.

FullSizeRenderDuke was the first Genesis album I bought, I remember listening to it while my Dad watched the news to realize that the band were playing the Liverpool Empire that night and I did not have a ticket. So I never saw Genesis but I certainly played this album to death.

The German pressing I am listening to tonight does not have the crazy Duke guy running around the label like my old vinyl but it does have my favorite label of all time the Famous Charisma Label. There is that cray mad hatter going round and round on the turntable all out of focus and fun. I miss watching the little Duke guy running around though.

The Collins songs on this album are truly things of beauty as well, they are some of the simplest things Genesis had played they are also not as calculated as some of the later songs after Abacab.

There you have it then the word is out, I am out of the closet, Duke rocks it is the best post Gabriel album by Genesis and I shall continue to relive my teenage fascination with this album through the wonder of second hand German vinyl. Remember now Turn It On Again.

I defy any band to produce as exciting an end to an album as Duke’s Travels and Duke’s End, they are transcendent and worth the price of admission alone.

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John Renbourn

So John Renbourn died the other night, often overshadowed in a way by Bert Jansch he was very much his equal in many ways if not songwriting. Together they were magical and in Pentangle transcendent. Yesterday afternoon I found a copy of his album The Hermit and the Lady and the Unicorn in Goodwill,hermitjpg coming home I logged on to my Facebook account to discover he had died. I was not the biggest John Renbourn fan but this affected me a lot, the coincidence was meaningful.

Here he is playing the Bert Jansch tune Angie, some of you may recognize it from Paul Simon’s playing, and Candyman, He was a marvelous guitarist and apparently a nice man.

Also his marvelous version of Scarborough Fair:

Take me back way back home, not by myself, not alone.

ZZ Top released the greatest rock’n’roll album of all time in Fandango, at least at the age if 16 when I first heard the album that was my contention. Having just found a very very beaten up covered version of the album yesterday at Goodwill I can categorically say that as far as boogieing three piece bands from Texas, ZZ Top win hands down, no contest.fandangor The beards the hats the all out rock and roll. It’s a joy.

I found it with no inner sleeve and the cover is messed up royally by years of laying against other records in some stoners basement. The vinyl however is pristine and after a good cleaning plays fantastically. Don’t get the bubble gum version of the Top go for the full tilt boogie band that began with Tres Hombres, and peaked with Fandango before they learned how to cash in on the pop market. They always were a lot of fun but in the early days they seriously rocked.

Deguello was the last classic album before the synth laden 80’s. Apparently they have returned to form since then but I gave up and prefer to look back through those rose tinted Cheap Sunglasses at the trilogy of albums that preceded the decline. Of course if they get close to me why not go.

So there you have it one side live and rockin’ the other side studio and rockin’ ending with the awesome Tush. The common denominator being all out rock and roll honesty.

Now I’m Just A Cosmic Man

I have loved Hawkwind since the first time I heard them. I have been l at times completely infatuated with and then at other times totally dismissive of them. The first album I ever heard was Hall of the Mountain Grill and I was captivated almost immediately. Swirling mellotron’s, thunderous bass from Lemmy and the relentless guitar of Dave Brock all crowned with Nik Turner parping away on untutored sax and violin, rock violin. It is a cacophony that only one band can ever get way with, strange dystopian science fiction lyrics sung so seriously all surrounded by driving drums and an almost punk attitude.

Titles like Psychedelic Warlords, D-Rider and Paradox and You’d Better Believe It, do not prepare you for what you are about to hear never mind Goat Willow, the cover of a space ship crash landed in a swamp can only hint at the insanity inside. hawkwind-hall-of-the-mountain-grill-non-sticker-lpIt was a revelation to me, almost Floyd but too harsh, not metal, not pop it was something I later discovered is space rock, although that term can’t really do what you find inside justice. The best term I have ever heard to describe the music is BLANGA, for a full description of what the term means go here:

http://www.doremi.co.uk/hawks/index.php

For me it is that moment when the chaos settles, the beat goes on and all is well with the world, Crazy Horse can get there but Hawkwind do it almost without thought on a good day.

Hawkwind while a bunch of anarcho hippies did not have that slightly fey west coast hippy vibe, they looked like they may destroy your town when they arrived and you would feel good about it after they leave. They were more influenced by the metronomic music of German rock music such as Amon Duul, Neu and Can. They were relentless in their drive and their search for the perfect trance like moment. Space Ritual is the epitome of this but Hall of the Mountain Grill is my album.

I remember the strange days of my teen life crouched around a pye record player listening to a borrowed scratched copy of the album. Trying to understand what was going on and almost succeeding. I read the entire Hawkmoon trilogy by Michael Moorcock to this album.hawkmoon And then I got to that point in my Eternal Champion reading and I knew I had to get the album again before I started so off I went searching it out and buying it for the 5th or 6th time in my life. It is one of those audiophile 180gm vinyl versions, They have spread it over two albums and it has lost some magic because of this, they should have kept the original package. Audiophile and Hawkwind are two words that do not make sense.

The album sounds great from that 1st wash of synth and the riff to the ending insanity of Paradox but it was never a double album, it was 40 minutes of perfection and now we have extra tracks and alternate versions stretching it out.

Oh well it is still my Hawkwind, raucous and comforting, dangerous and safe all at the same time, as my friend Greg would say, it’s the dialectic man don’t you get it?

Or in the words if Dave Brock:

You think you know the answers but we don’t tell no lies
We can take you anyway thro’ seven different highs
World turned upside down now, there’s nothing else
to do, but live in concrete jungles, but they block up the views

Kicking around on a piece of ground…

New albums bought:

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd

Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, this was damaged and had to be returned.

Why new though? Mainly because it was cheaper and I am not going to obsess about that original Harvest Label Floyd that went in the big move. Every now and then I try to figure out what system I used to decide on the vinyl that made the intercontinental trip with us. Al Stewart but no Floyd, no Hawkwind, some Genesis, some Fairport Convention, but not all, what was that about, no Clash or Pogues, no Nick Drake and worse still  no Neil Young and then I loaned out all the Roy Harper years ago and never got it back. No Here and Now and they are impossible to get back so lost. All the good stuff gone it seems. Maybe I had a big party and gave everything away.

Then I gave a bunch of it to the adults in the basement, who are happily enjoying it at my expense as I try and find replacements. They are kind though and let me borrow that Richard Thompson or Sandy Denny every now and then.

I did discover Discogs, but some of that vinyl goes for silly money frankly and I am not ready to do that. Although I have been lured into parting with a fair amount of money so far.

So purchases this week:

Close To The Edge, Yes

Fisherman’s Blues. Waterboys

Quark Strangeness and Charm, Hawkind.

from the Goodwill store:

Afterbathing at Baxters, Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane

Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, The Wild The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and Born In The USA, all perfect condition, Springsteen

Honky Chateau, Madman Across the Water, Elton John

Aja. Steely Dan

Harvest by Neil Young, which is unplayable but it looked so sad, going on my wall at work I guess.

I am going back for the unplayable Rutles album tomorrow, it will go on my wall in my office along with Harvest.

ManassasssMany of these could and do make the list but the album I have most been enjoying this week has been the Manassas album by Chris Hillman, Stephen Stills and a cast of thousands. This along with the Crosby album always amazes me at how simple it seemed to be to get a cast of thousands to convene for the making of music. These guys actually did the whole band thing and went on tour. Take 30 min or so and watch this performance.

Some contend this is Still’s greatest moment and they may be right.

I have never had this on vinyl before but managed to find this a couple of weeks ago in a thrift store. I almost gave it to Chris in the basement but at that point realized how much fun I was having buying vinyl for him and could do that for myself. This was of course after I gave him the Blonde on Blonde I found and Bowie’s Stage and others that I now have to go borrow.

The other album that has been fun to listen to again has been Fisherman’s Blues a great slice of 80’s nostalgia. again it is an album I overplayed for years on cassette. It is like all the best albums timeless. It is helped by not being hampered by that relentless 80’s studio production. waterboys600Too much has been written about this album over the years for me to add anything meaningful to the conversation. It was a constant in my college dorm for the years I was there, my neighbor had it on reel to reel of all things. He was listening to the Waterboy’s and I was still obsessed with Genesis, Hawkwind and folk music, I hadn’t managed to mistakenly buy that Steely Dan album yet or travel much beyond the Grateful Dead in my experimentation with other music. The 80’s was the decade when I became aware of pop music but had not taken the lunge into actually listening.

It was folk enough but by a suspiciously pop band. Pop was something others did not me or my metal head friends, It was for girls and well dressed boys in puffy shirts and skinny pants.

It was part of my musical maturing, it also had the plus that girls liked the band and that did not strike a sour chord with me.

I saw the band once in the 80’s. It was before the album came out. They were powerful and captivating although the fans in the group were disappointed at the time I guess it was a transition time in the bands world. The song I remember most is the Wayward Wind.

The internet rocks and here is the set list:

LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY May 2 1986

Medicine Bow
Be My Enemy
Medicine Jack
Fisherman’s Blues
The Thrill Is Gone / And The Healing Has Begun *
Meet Me At The Station *
Old England
The Pan Within
Drunken Head Ghost Of Rimbaud Blues
We Will Not Be Lovers
Spirit / The 4 Ages Of Man *
Savage Earth Heart
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band *
You Gotta Move *
This Is The Sea
________
The Wayward Wind *
A Girl Called Johnny
My Generation *
________
A Pagan Place
Imagine(extract) **
I’ll Meet You In Heaven Again
Can’t Help Falling In Love *
________
Death Is Not The End *

That really is a great set list. In a couple of months I am going to see the Waterboys again supporting their quite exceptional new album Modern Blues. I am very excited about this and it should be an excellent evening. They are one of the few bands my wife will come see with me so the girls still like the Waterboys it seems. I just hope they have a similar set list, Wickham is still with the band and they have two of the Stax swampers on the rhythm section so soul meets folk in the ongoing Mike Scott experiment.

I crossed my old man back in Oregon…

This was the first time I ever consciously heard the name of the state I ended up living in. It’s from Don’t Take Me Alive on Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam. I know somewhere on the wonderful internet there is an explanation of the song:

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=20243

See told you so.

Royal Scam is the first Steely Dan album I ever heard, I bought it by mistake thinking it was a Steeleye Span album. I am going to bet I am the only person willing to admit this publicly. Imagine my dismay when I got home to discover the entire lack of fiddles and no Maddy Prior. I almost sold it so many times as it was way too different to anything I was listening to at the time, the only song I liked was The Fez, it was many years before I figured out what the song was about. Go on google it.

Over time and with perseverance it became a favorite. This was a time when the height of sophistication in my  record collection was Very ‘Eavy by Uriah Heep,eavy which is still a classic by the way or Steeleye’s Rocket Cotttage. Learning to appreciate such an uncool album led me to be able to listen to other styles of music that my friends mocked relentlessly. Suddenly Springsteen was attainable as an artist, I could listen to Zappa and when I learned that all pop was not Kylie Minogue I could hold my head high and listen to the likes of The Teardrop Explodes. So my willingness to listen to a diversity of music and deal with the ridicule is because of Steely Dan in a way.

That willingness to listen to just about anything eventually led to an overload of music with almost 400 gig’s on a hard drive and the current search to slow down and enjoy the tunes. Vinyl has allowed me to take a breath and really listen again. To take things in 20 minute chunks and then flip the disc. It has also raised a little anxiety at times, who knew a cat, a dog, a wife and three kids could be so heavy footed. Vinyl standards have improved as well, gone are those flimsy discs, replaced with heavy solid substantial discs that settle on the turntable with a solidity that is reassuring.

Incidentally not only is listening to vinyl more restful, Neil Young is right it sounds better and I have a ridiculously cheap set up that would be ridiculed by any audiophile. I did however buy a spinclean cleaner to deal with those dirty used records. And yes the thought has hit me to update my stereo already but I am determined to hold out.

That song about Oregon did however stick in my mind. Then I met a girl from Oregon, she told me they were pronouncing it wrong and it became even cooler in for me. Then I married that girl and all was lost.  You have to believe Becker and Fagen knew exactly what they were doing with their pronunciation, they new how much those granola crunchers out west would cringe every time they heard it. I bet they grin every time they sing it too.

So now I am in Oregon and have to pronounce my states name appropriately if I don’t it could well cause an international incident.

This weeks listening:

Fisherman’s Blues, The Waterboys

Royal Scam, Steely Dan

The Yes Album, Yes

Close To The Edge, Yes

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

Past Present and Future. Al Stewart

A brief question though, how many people when they see the sign, Rummage Sale Tomorrow 10am wonder if there will be vinyl??

 

What’s In A List?

So many lists, honey do’s and honey don’ts and things to think about.

  1. Sell the damn house.
  2. Move somewhere cheaper.
  3. Open a book store/cafe. Twenty years ago this would have been a bar but I don’t think I could stay up that late anymore.
  4. Listen to more records, yes records, those large pieces of plastic we used to carry around.
  5. Read more books.
  6. Take deep breaths.
  7. Eat more veggies,

No that isn’t really the list, well some of them are the list but not all. And at the end of the day it really is a list but not the A – List.

There is a budding list of what my vinyl play list should be, I started compiling it two weeks ago when the turn table took up residence. It has grown to 23 records so far and who knows where it will go. It is far from complete, although I assigned the completely random number of 50 as the top number so it may take some time to edit and get to where I want it. I am not even close to ready to share the number yet.

The list is symbolic of aspirations, what has made that more meaningful is the changing nature of the list. As well as how hard it is to find some of these albums. It is all tied up in hopes and how you get there. It is wonderful to have goals but sometimes they can be as hard to find as a copy of Solid Air by John Martyn. So the search goes on and the rummaging through Goodwill piles of vinyl and the online browsing. All I can do is sit here and wait for my much anticipated copy of I Often Dream of Trains by Robyn Hitchcock. An album I have not touched in excess of twenty years.

The wait goes on.

I have this image of this idyllic place, shady but warm, lazy and relaxing, Passersby stopping in to hang out and play chess or checkers, look at books and drink coffee. Every morning begins with a stroll  and every day ends with a stroll. In between there are conversations about music, books and the best place to sit and read. Neighbors stop to say hi and people care about each other. People lean their bike against the wall and stop to chat as children run down the street laughing.

Maybe it will happen one day, it is a good place to go though when needed. It is in the future somewhere, some when though.

Another thought. Why are there so many Gordon Lightfoot albums laying around in used record stores? If all the Gordo fans out there got rid of there vinyl did they then go out and binge buy all those records on CD again. I have the same thought about Neil Diamond, augit is not Frampton Comes Alive that was the soundtrack of the suburbs but Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Diamond. Hot August Night is an awesome album though, I hide it next to Gordo and Frampton so it feels happy in it’s suburban home, the only question really is why did Neil approve that picture, he looks like he is doing the robot dance or holding a very large… well let us not got there.

nowhereTalking about Neil’s. I have played Cowgirl In The Sand three times so far this week. Each time I focus on a different part of the song, the solo, the harmonies, the lyrics, the bass and the rhythm. It is a psychedelic anthem, a meandering statement, a gorgeous song and it fades out. I can’t help but wonder what did I miss every time I hear it. What happened after the fade, how much more was there that night as Neil and Crazy Horse played. It’s a song with a groove as much as any Motown or Atlantic cut, it meanders and travels like an old blues song but hits places the Dead never will and the Airplane only think about.

In fact Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere is a masterpiece in it’s own right. I remember sitting one evening playing Round and Round over and over again many years ago. It is probably the least of the songs on the album and I remember thinking that there must be some really deep reason Neil had placed it on the album. It surely must hold the secrets of the universe in its almost 6 minutes. But no, after hours of listening and consulting the lyrics it really is just a kind of cool weird psychedelic country song. Very fun but not so deep after all. Those hours may have been wasted.

The first time I heard Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere I was floored. The album is almost a force of nature. It was all the more powerful because I had just played the Neil Young album which at times sounds like poor mans Buffalo Springfield. I remember thinking he should have taken The Loner and squeezed it onto the follow up album, it would have been perfect with a little Horse injection. The first time I heard the big songs from Everyone Knows… I knew I would be a young fan forever.

So another week of vinyl ends. This weeks playing was:

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, Zuma, Neil Young

Now We Are Six and Bedlam Born, Steeleye Span

All Things Must Pass, George Harrison

The Icicle Works first album

The Royal Scam, Steely Dan

Beautiful Vision, Van Morrison

Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac

There you go another list.