Started out in Sausolito, They said “You talk just like the Beatles”…

Or you are not on the list.

So I made a list had a think, or thunk,  and thought what happened to Head Like A Rock? Why is it not on the list. So here it is too cool to be on time and always late to the party but actually brings the party with it.head

Ian McNabb’s masterpiece Head Like A Rock.

Actually I got an email from Dave stating that he would categorically come over and steal my records if I did not correct this travesty of justice and list making. He is also 6000 miles away from my record collection so that is a commitment to justice and this is the second time he has threatened my records this week alone.

Recorded with members of Crazy Horse it is one of the best guitar albums from the 90’s. Full of feedback and melodies to die for, it is a classic. As far as I know there is no vinyl version but there is a very cool expanded edition CD with all sorts of fun B. Sides and singles.

Supposedly a concept album but I got that from wikepedia and have never heard that idea before. My guess would be tortured artist form Liverpool overcome with angst plays loud guitar with his heroes band would do as a concept though.

In truth there are many styles on the album from country to gospel and pop but all with the McNabb wit and bite.

No I will not be removing an album from my 15 this is a kind of bonus disc and I am locking the doors securely to keep intruders away from the beloved vinyl.

15 is not enough…

15 Albums what a ridiculous number that is but keepsmealive picked the number.

Those ones you cannot live without. The Desert Island albums, the essentials etc. etc. etc. Or really the compromises you make when faced with an arbitrary number. At any time the list may change and I am already having regrets.

My rules,

1.Well they had to be records that meant something to me of course.

2. Compilations count because the two I chose are carefully thought out retrospectives ( not really, see rule 1)

3. I had to own them and be able to sing along in an out of tune but enthusiastic voice to every song (practiced this in the car all week)

4. Bootlegs count because I said so (see rule 1 again)

Neil Young  – Decade

decade

Fake country, psychedelic jams it’s all covered here. Neil’s greatests moments in noise production in his first ten years. I know it’s cheating as it is a compilation but it is the second best compilation made, covering ten years of creativity and soul searching.

Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays

holidays

The absolute best English Folk-Rock album from the 60’s. Yes better songs appear later in the band’s career but nothing ever holds up as a whole again. Traditional songs and original compositions all make for a perfect album. Yes Liege and Lief was more groundbreaking but everything on What We Did fits so well and the show stealing fiddle is not there yet.  

Hawkwind – Hall of the Mountain Grill

hawkwind-hall-of-the-mountain-grill-non-sticker-lp

Some claim this is Hawkwind lite but it is for me the best album, great songs enough blanga to melt the brain and electronic blips and bleeps as well as Simon House squawking away on electric violin. I almost went with Space Ritual but that can at times be too much Hawkwind.

Roy Harper – Stormcock

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Four long songs covering everything from religion to the gaseous emissions of critics. An album of contrasts and all acoustic, in fact it has Jimmy Pages finest acoustic appearance on any album as he shreds his way through Same Old Rock. This is one of those albums that you have to play all the way through.

The Beatles – Blue Album

blue

This may be cheating again with a compilation but this is how I first ever heard The Beatles, this album nestled in my parents radiogram as the only album from the Beatles. My mum sang along to every song and  I can play this album through in my head without it being on. I know there may be better or at least real Beatles albums but this is the one you need, or rather I need.

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks, the New York Sessions

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Again it may be a cheat, as it’s a bootleg, but the versions are so much better sounding, more direct and less muffled, also there is something about hearing Dylan’s buttons rattling against the guitar body that makes it special. It is essential at some point in every list it is important to be a little pretentious.

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

hunky dory

There are many other choices but this for me is Bowie right before he entered the stratosphere, still paying homage to his heroes and still with a unique voice. He is still a little wide eyed on this album if not innocent. The future however is there with the searing Queen Bitch and The Bewlay Brothers to end the album.

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name

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If you have this you don’t need another album from San Francisco. Containing most of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and CSNY this is an album that reeks of lazy afternoons and evenings smoking and jamming. It is a musical tour de force and no wonder it took him forever to record a second solo album this may have just run the well dry. Full of obscure guitar tunings and meandering vocal harmonies it is a wonder with Jack Casady’s bass holding it all together at times when it looks like it may disappear in a cloud of smoke.

The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin

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At times sounding like Burt Bacharach joined Pink Floyd with Neil Young as a singer, well that sums it up. They have never sounded so consistent although they have been more fun at times.

Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight

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A wholly excellent album at times uplifting other times harrowing and bleak. The whole album flows with a strange sense of completeness and spirituality.. Moving from one observation to the next with the constant searing guitar lines imposing themselves over crumhorns, mandolins and accordions and that is just the first track. Has there ever been a better beginning of a song than Calvary Cross? Also any album with a silver band on deserves to be heard

Pink Floyd – Animals

animals

Anger, angst and solos. Floyd’s best moment in many ways sandwiched between the musical genius of Wish You Were Here and the mega selling Wall. It was the second Floyd album I ever heard after A Saucerful of Secrets and the one I can return to again and again along with Atomheart Mother which almost made the list.

Genesis – Duke

duke

My go to genesis album, enough prog to keep a nerd happy and some really emotional ( sappy ) songs to keep you grounded. It also has in Heathaze one of the great Genesis songs nobody every really rates.

The Icicle Works – Blind

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A confused album ranging from all out Led Zep homage rock to Prince pastiche via a little Byrds flavored country rock. Somehow it all hangs together and is the best of the original Icicle Works albums, although a really good compilation may do it in, they have not made one of those yet.

I Often Dream of Trains – Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn_Hitchcock_-_I_Often_Dream_Of_Trains

An album that is difficult to define, songs about buildings, trains, personality disorders, death and insects. Need I say more really. It is the quintessential obsessive compulsive English album. 

The Yes Album – Yes

yes

Beatles references, harmonies, guitar solos switching speakers and a big big sound. Four of it’s songs are classics that still stay in the Yes live show and it has a delightfully creepy cover.

My head is getting broken and my mind is getting bust…

For years I was convinced that this was the only Purple album you need and I may have been right. Of course that may have been because it was advertised on TV as well and I was a sucker. I have been assured by many people over the years that there are other Purple albums I should own but I have to admit to not having bothered to buy any of them apart from Fireball.purple

The only problem with it is it is so long that it has to be played at volume, of course this is Deep Purple so volume would be required anyway.

It has all the hits you really need and is none stop fun from start to end. There is a really strange experience mid way through side 2, as Coverdale’s vocals come screaming at you for two songs with Burn and Stormbringer. There is nothing wrong with this as they are both great songs but I have yet to figure why they are mid way through a side of MK II.  It is a little jarring sound wise especially as you then launch into Demons Eye and Smoke on the Water to finish the album off.

Every time I listen to Deep Purple I am stunned by how great a drummer Ian Paice is and how important Jon Lord was to that sound. I am also reminded of the hours standing in the rain at Knebworth in 1985 waiting for them to come on and play.

At the time my girlfriend was a fan of Barclay James Harvest and Deep Purple and Purple were the more interesting of the two possible gigs. Of course after hours of standing in the rain, having had to listen to both Mama’s Boys and Meatloaf on the same day things got a little strange.  I remember the show despite I am sure hypothermia was about ready to settle in for my then beloved and she had to shelter her diminutive frame from the downpour, there may have been a fire and soggy bikers as well.

I ridicule myself for all the things those symbols stood for…

I waited a long time to get the energy up to listen to this. Some of it was the legend of how overwhelming and pretentious it was even though  I am not afraid of pretentious. oceanIt also may have been a badge of pride that I had never heard it all the way through in all my years of listening to Yes.

Sucking it up I placed the first disc on the deck and went with it. It is not that bad but it is not that good, an opportunity missed I think and that may conform to Rick Wakeman’s opinion as well and let’s face it he never ran screaming from the thought of overblown. Maybe his problem was there was no plan for the ballet, of course I bet Jon Anderson has had that thought.

There are some truly stunning moments that at times overcome the legend of the album but let’s face it there was probably a great single album here that was aching to get out.

In a real effort to overcome the 90 minutes or so of Tales From Topographic Oceans I took the well judged decision to immerse myself in the Icicle Works second best album The Small Price of a Bicycle, it does contain their best song with Rapids though.

horseJingle Jangle guitar rock to put their then peers to shame, their major problem commercially was probably that they never managed a consistent sound. Guitars and drums to die for was the signature noise the Icicle Works made but each song often stands alone. They rocked like gods live and sounded like a cross between Crazy Horse and the Byrds on record.

The Small Price of a Bicycle may be their most cohesive effort but not their best, that we save for another day if I find a copy of Blind. It does contain some of their best songs with Hollow Horse, Rapids and Conscience of Kings and Windfall sounds like Ian McNabb was channeling Hank Marvin on speed in the guitar playing.

Never as big as their contemporaries they don’t sound as dated now mostly I think because of that restless nature of their sound even though this was considered a setback at the time it has become a strength. Of course the biggest asset they had was Ian McNabb’s songwriting guitar which was based on a fans idea of what a rock band should sound like.

 

The winds they blew and the leaves did wag…

There used to be a record store at the junction of Church St and Bold St, it was up a narrow set of stairs and inside were racks of cut out albums. I have no idea what is there now but in the 80’s when the pubs closed in the afternoon this is where we used to go while we waited for opening time to come back around. This was in the days when the pubs closed around 3p.m. for a couple of hours so you could eat or in my case buy records.barrettmad

In that dingy store smelling of bitter, whisky and fish and chips my friend Dave and myself managed to stagger our way through albums by The Seeds, Country Joe and the Fish The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Ten Years After and one fateful afternoon on a whim and based entirely on the cover I picked up a copy of The Madcap Laughs.

Now if I had gone on to form a groundbreaking Liverpool band that had hit singles and albums and groupies I would say this was the afternoon that my life changed. Instead we went back to Dave’s flat on Kensington and tried to understand why this album didn’t sound like Piper At The Gates of Dawn.

This was in the days before the internet and so most of our information about rock stars was gleaned from vibrant conversations in The Swan on Wood Street as we attempted to gain the attention of Shirley behind the bar. After several attempts at understanding what was going on we simply gave up filed the record with Oar by Skip Spence and went to a gig.

This is probably why I have not gone on to international stardom or cult status. My lack of musical ability may have more to with this than I like to admit.

Of course as life moved on and experience matured me I have been able to understand the naive genius of Barrett and his two solo albums. It is something that clicked in my brain one afternoon as I played the Madcap Laughs during Dark Globe. Since that time I have had a deep affection for the music of Syd. I don’t necessarily think that he was the genius some do but he definitely even at his worst was able to touch a deep chord that resonates to this day.

Daevid Allen and Kevin Ayers are two other musicians that like Barrett were able to touch something very deep with their whimsy and at times silliness. They also like Barrett never got sentimental no matter how silly their songwriting seemed.

This afternoon I stumbled upon a copy of An Introduction to Syd Barrett. If things had been collected this way when I first started listening to Barrett I may have understood sooner.syd As it is, it does exactly what it says on the cover introduces you to the work of Syd in a way that is respectful and not sentimental.

It sports a nice cover by Storm Thorgeson and does not rehash the usual tragic Syd pictures instead having one happy looking picture of Syd and his cat inside and a nice performance picture on the back. The whole thing concentrates on the music and not the legend, no sleeve notes just the music.

It is well produced by David Gilmour who has made sure it seems that the whole album sounds as well as it could. Gilmour has always kept Barrett’s music alive, performing songs on his solo tours and making sure he is seen as he should be a songwriter, he never seems to sign off on the idea of the iconic nature Barrett has taken on. One of the most affecting things I have ever seen was Gilmour performing Dark Globe after Barrett’s death.

Trying to get my courage up…

It was 50c, honest I couldn’t help myself, it’s an addiction, help me. This was the internal dialogue which was inevitable after I made the fateful decision to enter the store instead of just dropping stuff off we had to get rid of at the door.

Then I bought it.

Night Moves by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and you know I have to confess it is a fine mid 70’s rock album. Night Moves is reminiscent of Van Morrison and the rest rocks along nicely. Also how could you resist these fine young men as they smile at you from the thrift store racks.

moves

That’s some special facial hair on display there. Also some serious coiffing went on right before this picture was taken like the year book picture for your favorite biker gang. They sure clean up nice many a mother must have said when seeing this picture.night moves

I am sure many a mom was also greeted with this clean cut young man pulling up out front in his Chevy pick up to take her beloved daughter for a root beer float in 1976.

The album also has a slight aroma that is to say the least herbal.

I think my one play may not  be enough I do like the song Night Moves and Sunburst is fun and Mainstreet is a classic. I have a soft spot for 70’s rock I have to admit hence the Steve Miller and Heart albums that came home as well. It also has the Muscle Shoals rhythm section making an appearance.

This album demands a glass of Bourbon and a cold Coors or Pabst to  go along with it. It should be drunk in a manly way none of that ironic hipster crap, this is all American blue collar working man music. It may be the little brother of the E-Street band and their singer but it rocks in a no less sincere way.

 

Circles, circles spinning round…

Hall of the Mountain Grill is 41 years old today. for some reason that seems important.

So happy swishy, whooshy, bleepy birthday to a record. And why not I say when corporations are people albums can have birthdays.

So here for your enjoyment is the spectacular Barney Bubbles artwork.

hawkwind-hall-of-the-mountain-grill-non-sticker-lp

In honor of such a momentous event I attempted to buy Space Ritual on Ebay but was outbid so bought Neil Young’s Decade instead and Bowie’s Lodger, the funny thing is they cost about the same as Space Ritual would have.

The lesson here is listening to too much Hawkwind can cause momentary lapses in judgement resulting in impulse buying of records.

Then there is the reading, what better way to celebrate such a birthday than the reading of some Moorcock:

Metatemporal_detective

The end to a perfect day, impulse buying, Space Rock and the Multiverse.

It’s an illusion…

Wallowing in a prog fog for the last couple of weeks as my mind reeled.

Three Sides Live by Genesis has been playing, not the prog overload from other days but still a little overblown. Of the Genesis Live albums this for me has the best opening sequence.3 live Turn It On Again into Dodo/Lurker and then Abacab with Mike Rutherford’s best guitar solo over the pounding Thompson and Collins drums. It may in fact be my favorite Genesis live album. After this it was not necessarily downhill but it was a different Genesis.

I was thinking I had gotten into a prog rut recently before I realized this is probably just the go to genre for me. It is the genre I grew up with funnily enough at the same time as I was listening to punk and pop with my friends. The common ground there was Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and Here and Now.

I think my cousin Tony is responsible for much of my musical palette as he would watch me and bring over his Bowie, T-Rex, Tull and Supertramp. I think his watching me whatever that meant was just an excuse to pay my parents stereo really loud. This led to a love of the short aggressive pop/rock song as well as overblown and overwrought epic.

There was not much space for the long form song in the late 70’s and early 80’s. King Crimson reforming in their new age persona allowed a little relief but they were refusing to play any of those epics live and the flared trousered prog gods were getting confused in a swathe of mulleted and be-suited attempts at relevance by writing pop songs, some of them very well.

It was funnily enough the time when progressive rock having something of a resurgence with Pallas, Marillion and Twelfth Night appearing in my friends record collections. That is why I cried out in excitment when I found this in a record store the other day.pallas I had spent a lot of time looking at that Pallas album in my friend Andy’s record collection but he spent more time making me listen to World Shut Your Mouth by Julian Cope than letting me listen to that enticing purple record. After finally thirty years or so later listening to it I think he made the right choice, although there is a very satisfying dramatic talk over on the track Rise and Fall about Atlantis and lost civilizations and malevolent computers which may save the whole album.

There were also really a lot of prog rock references in the music of the day, Magazine had some symphonic moments and other bands were taking time to stretch out, but the anti-intellectual feel of the times made it difficult to out yourself as a fan of the likes of Caravan or Camel, never mind Genesis or Yes. You also may never get a girlfriend that way or at least sit at the cool table in the sixth form common room.

In the end all of this has become almost irrelevant. People today are happy to dig into any genre to see what it is about. Metal has gone all prog and Tool have made the more obtuse elements of King Crimson almost popular. There is so much availability of music that it is a strange rich tapestry. Many of those musical anti-heroes are also turning up on any number of those tribute albums to their at that time bloated enemies.

The other week I was insanely excited to hear Gong, Jackson C. Frank, Steve Hackett and Lindisfarne coming over the P.A. at a Decemberists gig. There was much bemusement at my excitement as I sat among the hipsters. They seemed to enjoy the band as much for the references Colin Melloy talks about in interviews as for the music of the band. For many of them that is how they hear about Fairport Convention or Gong, never mind Caravan or Soft Machine. Musicians more so than ever are citing their influences instead or railing against the  stars. This may not necessarily be a good thing as the revolution may be too cozy.

So now I can admit it, I enjoy progressive rock openly. I write this as I am now listening to Spectral Mornings by Steve Hackett.spectral This has always been one of my favorite albums, Hackett was also the first gig I ever went to on my own. It was a strange experience sitting in the Liverpool Empire  listening to Hackett surrounded by other very serious young men in glasses concentrating so intently.

I also remember the excitement when he performed Horizons and Blood on the Tracks sat on a stool in the center of the stage. On the way out I bumped into two of my friends from school, normally they were seen carting around a Damned album or Joy Division. They looked a little embarrassed at being caught at such an un-hip gig. This moment led to a series of strange happenings at school when convoluted epics would turn up on the common room record player causing the tussle haired Cure fans to run in horror from the room and some pimply young men not know which way to turn at the time.

Maybe at the end of the day we have a more functional way of appreciating music but sometimes it all seems a bit too polite and a little disagreement may be a good thing.

You cry more than I do…

Sometimes the junk shop turns up a gem. Found today in the loveable and very grungy Salvation Army store was the Very Best of Grin featuring Nils Lofgren.

On the back is a wonderful essay explaining how Lofgren should pay with the Stones in fact he may be the perfect Stones member. It also recounts his career up to 1976, the sidekick of Neil Young, member of Crazy Horse and general musical prodigy. Unknown at this time was his future membership in the E. Street Band and his general ability to be the other guitar player probably really better than the other guy.

Anyway I have never heard anything by Grin but they are pretty darn fun rockers in the vein of all Lofgren’s heroes. A little Stones, Youngian rock out with some heartfelt and sensitive lyrics. Well worth the 50c and the time to clean up.

It also has a seriously creepy album cover that must have done wonders for sales in the late 70’s.

grin

The past ain’t no friend of mine…

It’s a week of Welsh music it seems.

Today I found these laying in a Goodwill store, so far from home it seemed wrong not to take them home, at least they could nestle up to the Man album and compare tales of home the mountains and valleys of North Wales.

Then you take a close look and those are some real 80’s rock’n’roll haircuts going on. alarmingIt is almost enough to make you put that record away and hide it at the back of the to be played pile. However if you suck it up and brave the fashion statements then you are rewarded with a real gem of the 80’s. The Alarm seem to have avoided some of the excesses of 80’s production and have interesting anthems sung with spirit. To my ears they don’t sound anything like U2 which is the usual comparison.

They managed to tour with U2 and support Dylan and then faded into relative obscurity.

Every song seems bigger than the next as if Springsteen grew a mullet declared himself for Welsh freedom and howled into the wind. Until today my only memory of the band was 68 Guns which may be enough but taking the time to listen is fun and rewarding and reminds you that the 80’s was not all Madonna, Whitney Houston and Dire Straits with a sprinkling of Sting and Collins.

All I need now is to find a Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci  album to complete the Welsh Connection or at least buy that Tom Jones in Vegas album.