The laughters ever present in the camp of the beguiled…

So this whole on-hit wonder thing has resulted in me listening to these two albums.

One is The Icicle Works 1984 debut album which funnily enough does not sound dated as an effort but the band look about 12 on the cover. It is a remarkably cohesive album considering it’s age, I am ever surprised they did not do better as a band, maybe too diverse, to odd, to arrogant who knows?

I think I prefer the UK version of the sleeve without the snapshot imposed over the original artwork. Maybe some advertising dude in the USA decided the pretty young men on the front would sell records, who knows.

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The other is inspired by Bruces post over at Vinyl Connection Play It Again Tim  I have no Buggles but I do have Drama by Yes. I spent much of my teen years detesting this album. It does however with more mature ears sound fine and fits right in with the rest of the Yes album up to this point. Trevor Horn really does sound remarkably like Jon Anderson and Geoff Downes has always been a great addition to any band.

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Maybe throughout the weekend I will be further inspired who knows?

I want more, more, more, more, I want some more sweet satisfaction to soothe my soul…

Long ago and far away before I became the enlightened man I am I was a little rougher around the edges. I was influenced no doubt by my peers who were of a crasser less refined variety than me and one young woman who wore an Italian combat jacket a Deep Purple t-shirt and leather mini skirt with combat boots. My guess is that young woman had more influence than my crass friends.

This influence resulted in me attending the Come an’ Get It Whitesnake show at the Royal Court in Liverpool. Little did I know this was the last time Whitesnake would tour as the sweaty blues rock band they used to be before finally morphing into something much more glamorous and acceptable to the US market and MTV.

I have no idea how good or bad the show was as I was distracted, nothing can compare to combat boots and mini skirts for distraction, throw in a combat jacket and long curly brunette hair and the teen male mind cannot pay attention to the Moody/Marsden guitar interplay, Jon Lords organ or the power house Ian Paice drumming, add the attitude of Suzi Quattro next to you and all hope is lost.

In fact to this day I cannot remember a single song played but when I hear the track Ready and Willing I have a very strong sensory memory. The smell of sweat, cheap beer and perfume mingled with the scent of marijuana. It’s a heady mix to be sure. Whitesnake play to most of the lowest common denominators in their lyrical content and once Coverdale traded in the working rock band for a collection of easier on the eye spandex clad musicians things got better for him monetarily and the image improved and the videos are legendary.

IMG_6536So this week I have been listening to the legendary in it’s own time Live In The Heart of the City which along with Ready and Willing is enough Whitesnake for one man. I still to this day have no idea why Mr Coverdale and the boys are so jaundiced in their appearance.

I can sit here and bask in the memories of that sweaty Royal Court show. I assume there was double entendre’s a plenty, suggestive thrusting from the stage and some stellar slide guitarring. It was for a long time the only way you could get to see so many ex-members of Deep Purple in one place, I really wish I had better memories of the music.

Luckily probably for me my combat booted siren later that month fell for the charms of a young man with a job and a Triumph motorcycle as I fell under the say of a patchouli scented Tangerine Dream fan. This brings me full circle to tonights listening pleasure of Tangerine Dreams Alpha Centauri which is definitely more terrifying than Whitesnake and may cause nightmares for the rest of the night.

 

 

Don’t let me down…

“I was born six-gun in my hand.” only if there is a sudden influx of guns to Middlesborough. This line has always jarred with me, now there’s some nice imagery in it all moody and long live the western hero, “Bad Company ’til the day I die “and all that type of thing.

So I just got back from watching the remake of The Magnificent Seven, which seems to have intentionally removed all depth the original may have had and replaced it with a shoot ’em up fest that barely holds your attention. I was in need of purging my brain of all that was there now, they even took classic lines from the original and made them pap.  So in order to help the purging I went for some class rock ‘n’ roll that has been sitting on the shelf for two weeks since I found it.14457411_10209077145639689_8166761008197857994_n

The album cover looks like it has been through several drunken parties when it was used as a coaster for a whiskey bottle, there are some concerning scuffs on the vinyl and it looks like it may be a noisy album. However it plays just fine with some light surface noise, cue John Peel quote here. It looks exactly as a Bad Company record should look, slightly the worse for wear, as if it has been played and heard.

Bad Company for my entire life have been a kind of guilty pleasure, not as hip as Free and then Rodgers went on to mess with Queen, who’s ideas was that travesty but they are grown men they can do that type of thing. However as a band they produce exactly what they should, melodic rock that can be both heavy and soulful, enough testosterone on show to keep the meatheads happy and lyrics that can either make you grimace or smile. The perfect band to purge the crap from your head that life can put there. Now if I was twenty years younger I may be on my fourth or fifth shot of whiskey by the time it came to flip the album, nowadays I just get the faint desire to do that and realize I have to be up for work tomorrow, in the old days I would be planning on calling in, how life has changed me.

Not much to say here apart from, don’t go to see the Magnificent Seven, I did so you don’t have to, watch the original instead and get your rocks off with a little Bad Company it’ll do you good in a relatively safe if slightly confusing way. Those English boys and their six-gun fascinations.

Remember me…

I find Mr Lydon a little insufferable, I got the joke and then it stopped being funny.

There was a time that listening to PIL was intolerably hip, many people did it because you were supposed to do it, it made you appear a little more smart than the average early twenty year old. About now is the time I tell you some story about an attractive and yet serious young woman who would stare into the middle distance as she smoked her roll ups and swigged out of a stolen red wine bottle as the  fire sputtered in the fireplace burning old pallets that barely warmed the damp squat we shared with her sartorially inelegant pals.

Tfullsizerender-2here may really be a story there but the thing is it is all bull, the real truth is when you heard Jah Wobbles bass on Metal Box, or Second Edition as I just found it, and you grew up on Hawkwind and Amon Duul you managed to connect with PIL on a guttural level. It’s the missing link a sprawling mess of a missing link that has all the idiocy and social commentary necessary to be serious with a nod and a wink, it’s art rock for the working classes. It’s minimalist with maximum bass.

There really was a serious young woman in a donkey jacket and shrink to fit levi’s. We were going to change the world in the struggle against Thatcher and the fascist state she was creating, we went to festivals, hitched around the country and slept in ditches, sometimes sober. We listened to all the right records and went to all the right gigs, well the ones we could afford, we did dumb stuff together. Then she decided to become an economist and eventually a banker and I went on to run a non-profit for disadvantaged teens. I bet she votes conservative now.

Funnily enough now my need to impress is gone I really  need to hear Jethro Tull now the glorious mess that is Second Edition is over.

They know who they are…

Some artists have a hold over us. Either it’s a period of time or an ability to connect with us on a level that is so real, close, uncanny even that it is as if they see into our deeper darker recesses. It is something that goes beyond an admiration for the music or poetry, it’s something that talks for us not to us. This type of artist has not just written a song we love but has a whole catalogue of material that connects with us and can make us pause.

This is what I was thinking as I pre-ordered three vinyl reissues by Roy Harper, Flat Baroque and Berserk, Stormcock and Lifemask, I saw them advertised a couple of days ago and managed to hold out for some time, actually about three days. Eventually crumbling and hitting the order button to finally shut the voices in my head up. These three albums are part of my history, my growth as a human being and at times almost an obsession.

They are not the only Harper albums that have a hold on me. They are however three albums that are astonishing in their ability to make me pause and listen. But more of that for when they arrive I guess.

I have been looking for a copy of Stormcock I could afford for a long time. The reissue of all three is slightly less than good copies of Stormcock are selling for so what’s to lose really. Now I am trying to figure out how long I have to wait until they are in my hands.

They are here if like me you can’t resist: Harper albums.

Harper is not particularly easy to like. A deeply flawed individual, arrogant, abrasive, haunting and brutally honest he can be a difficult listen. My experience of him in person has always been positive, the few times I met him he was incredibly kind to a somewhat gushing and flustered fan, luckily for me. So how does that go with his writing and his reputation for unpredictability, I have no idea.

As I sit here and listen to his last album Man and Myth, I realized something. Harper is one of the few mainly acoustic musicians that needs to be played loud and very loud at that. Which when you consider this is an album that is looking at life from the perspective that time is running out is pretty amazing. The music is big, all encompassing overwhelming almost. It is at times delicate, brutal and IMG_5505terrifying. Simultaneously incredibly intimate and fearlessly public. Harper like his music at the best is a force of nature. He is often seen as a folky but has as much in common with Zeppelin and Bowie in the drama and grandeur of his music. He is also one of the few musicians of any genre that has truly managed o integrate the orchestra into his work.

It seems at some point he has influenced many musicians who went on to greater success because they were willing to compromise. He however, forever uncompromising remains the ultimate obscurity and underground sensation. Lauded by many of his contemporaries and current musicians he continues to forge his own path and stand alone as a truly unique force in music.

Over the years I have sat and pored over the lyrics, searching for truth about the man and the human condition. Sometimes shaking my head at the lunacy of the whole stupidity of the music and lyrics or smiling at the cynicism and then in the very next track marveling at his ability to capture the fragility of life in a way that hits you in the gut and then he writes something that may shock and cause you to pause, closely followed by moments of beauty in a fragile song recounting the end of a relationship.

So what have I taken form Harper? Well I stopped wearing a watch, I always tell my love that I love her and I always try to speak my mind, sometimes when I should shut up. Also if it’s good turn it all the way up and don’t worry about the neighbors they need some culture.

 

My momma said she can’t understand…

There is something really amazing about the RCA Victor label I just realized. Every time I look at it I am 12 or 13 opening that Columbia record club box with my Dad to see what was inside, usually it was Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones or even John Denver. One fateful day however we opened it up and inside was a copy of The Kinks Preservation Act II.

In no way is this even close to being considered a classic Kinks album. It is a strange musical concept that I still to this day have no idea what it is about, gangsters, molls, politics and big brother watching is as close as I can ever get.

I have no idea how this strange record got ordered by my Dad but he never sent it back, maybe it was just too much trouble. I cannot recall any of the songs on the album, I can however picture that lurid cover with it’s purples and pinks and slightly deranged Ray Davies on a billboard. It was part two and it took about 20 years before I heard Part I. Part I is a better album and contains one of the Kinks great lost songs in Sweet Lady Genevieve.

The point of all this was I was trying to decide how to pack for my return visit to the UK this year. How much stuff do you need to bring really was going through my head. No I haven’t begun to pack, this was just the getting myself ready mentally to do the act.Yes sometimes I have a tendency to overthink this stuff.

In order to calm down I thought some music would do it. Reaching into the pile of to be played records I pulled out Mussel Hillbillies, it has after all one of the most English album covers ever, inside however is a strange blend of musical genre’s from music hall to, jazz to country and rock, a melange of sounds to blow your mind.

IMG_4815However what blew my mind was that RCA Victor label staring back at me.

Once again I was 12 or 13 stood next to my Dad, smelling his after shave and Old Holborn tobacco as he opened that box and placed the album on the Philips radiogram. The days when your turntable was a piece of furniture that was likely to become an heirloom.

Yes it is a better album than Preservation Act II but for a moment it may as well have been that album slipping onto the mat and spinning. I shall have to ask my Dad why that album and not a Greatest Hits compilation. It’s likely he will not even remember the album unless it is up in the attic space for me to discover.

This was a nice grounding album after the week I have had listening to Dick’s Picks 10,11 and 12,  but more if that later, unless I am up at some god forsaken time again.

“Better records were never made…”

Insomniac’s unite to the strains of acoustic guitars. It was 4:15 am when I began writing this and then I took the doors of the jeep and drove around in the building heat waving to other IMG_4806idiots and smiling a lot as I drank my morning coffee. Sunny days have that affect on me it seems as does ice cold water in the heat and Fatboy Ice Cream sandwiches.

I own a fair bit of Leo Kottke but absolutely too little John Fahey and no Peter Lang. You have to love any musicians who’s genre is American Primitive Guitar. I have an image of Fahey and Kottke wondering the woods tracking down game to slay with their guitar licks, dressed in loin cloths and hairy bare chests naked to the world as they scream their defiance to the woods.  The truth is Fahey spent the last part of his life in a cheap motel about 10 miles from where I am sitting and Kottke is touring still, I am not sure about Lang although Wikipedia tells me he is still around.

It is not too funny to think of the genius of Fahey wasting away in cheap motels, this afternoon I drove along 99E and looked at the line of cheap motels filled with transients and those too poor to pay for better but not poor enough to join Portland’s homeless. No I did not trawl the mean streets in a voyeuristic way, I was on my way to something boring to do with work and then home.

IMG_4805The other day rooting around in the crates in the back room I found a Takoma Records sampler featuring Fahey, Kottke and Lang. It has fast become my go to late night/early morning album although the playing is not exactly quiet at times as Kottke finger picks the 12 string like a demon. Fahey’s four tracks at the end stand on their own as being unique and totally different. Lang and Kottke are great players but Fahey’s tracks have an otherworldliness that makes them transcend the others. He also has a nice way with a title, On the Sunny Side of the Ocean and Revolt of the Dyke Brigade being my two favorites.

There is something a little disconcerting about Fahey’s playing. It is almost as if he drank from the same well as Robert Johnson but managed to evade the consequences for longer. All of this when listened to right before bed makes for some interesting dreams.

 

Don’t you mind people grinning in your face?

There is something about those moments when you are alone and listening to music. I am not lucky enough to have a designated place to listen to music, maybe this is a good thing. I have the stereo in the living room as my parents would call it, even my parents kept the radiogram in the “sitting room” how novel that would be now to have a room just to sit in.

I have no man cave or rumpus room, the wonders of music all happens on full display. Apart from those times when the rest of the household is asleep or out. Over the last couple of days I have been for some reason waking at 4a.m. or so, today I managed to 5:18a.m. must be a Sunday thing. I can find no reason for this other than I wake and want to get up. I feel reasonably rested and my mind is no more pr-occupied than normal.

grinningSo for the last week or so I have had a solid couple of hours alone to sit and listen. I have made the conscious decision not to watch the news, this can be an upsetting experience as the tragi-comedy that is US politics unfolds in all it’s glory. I also have to play at a lower volume than I may normally choose or these moments of solitude will change to less than pleasant experiences as I explain my decision to my wife. Somewhat for this reason my choices of listening has been on the quieter spectrum.

When you have to listen at a lower volume then it becomes almost an intentional practice to hear everything as well as you can. Todays choice was Martin Simpson’s Grinning In Your Face. The album I finally managed to really hear the banjo, also my re-introduction to Dylan in the 80’s and the first time I ever heard Peter Gabriel’s Biko performed in an acoustic format. Somewhere along the way I lost the cover but kept the vinyl. I have a few of these lost souls in my collection and have to wonder is it like socks in the dryer or something.

This was also the album that opened my mind up to country and blues. Yes I had dabbled and pretended to appreciate all these types of music but remained loyal to prog and rock, with occasional forays into folk. I remember being spellbound watching Simpson playing in his red boots sitting surrounded by three or so guitars and a banjo and then he played slide on his guitar and the world changed. There is a difference to sitting listening to someone play slide on a record and then experiencing this in a room with the player.

There is so much on this album to discover and the odd thing is I had forgotten until this morning as I slid it out of the dust jacket and placed it on the turn table.

To end a few pictures of last weeks visit to the high desert as I was thinking about that as I sat listening and sorting through pictures on my phone.

So there you go, last Saturday’s hike in the desert which was considerably cooler than it is going to be here today and we still never managed to get to the river yet.

 

We all have to fly some day…

A landmark moment happened today as I wandered the thrift store aisles searching for that special brand of black gold that is vinyl. I found a copy of Freedom by Neil Young. This was the first Neil Young album I bought on CD when it was released, it is now the most recent Neil Young I have bought on vinyl.

This may be one of my favorite Neil albums. It still has the horns from This Notes For You IMG_4783and that weeping pedal steel from Ben Keith, some heartfelt lovelorn songs, social commentary and the apocalyptic guitar solo on Don’t Cry. I have loved this album since the day I sat next to the speakers in my flat in Brighton intently absorbing it all as I was afraid of playing it too loud in fear of waking the neighbors.

I also have an indelible image of a beautiful woman swaying along to Eldorado one evening as I tried to explain my somewhat obsessive devotion to Neil Young, and she still married me after all that and still sways along to Eldorado. She has also braved many a Neil Young show and been very patient as I recreated a collection of albums she remembers me tearfully handing to Dave as we packed for the USA.

So here I am full circle and 27 years later with a pristine vinyl copy of Freedom in the dim evening light, trying to remember why I got up at 4am and considering going to bed but realizing that I may have to play this again.

 

Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day…

Damn it’s 4a.m. and I can’t sleep. Maybe because I went to bed at 8:30 last night and I am now rested, the downside of this is that I will be tired again by 8 tonight.

What to do? Of course the answer is brew some coffee and listen to the Dead.

So year of the Dead part?????
Dead in the amI have always associated music with dark smoky bars or concert rooms. The Dead however have a real morning feeling about them.

Especially the American Beauty album. All killer and no filler this may be the Dead’s most satisfying studio album. Some serious Crosby help with the harmonies apparently and the band are tight and Jerry rocks the pedal steel throughout.

Every time I hear this album I am reminded of the deep desire I have to get back to the country and raise goats and organic produce somewhere in the foothills of the Cascades. The album opens up possibilities for the future that are idyllic and somewhat inspirational, so maybe one day you will find me a grizzled mountain man raising hemp, goats and kale in the shade of an old growth fir tree.

The triple whammy of the first three tracks opening from Box of Rain, to Friend of the Devil and ending with Sugar Magnolia may be the most satisfying musical statement made by any band in 1970. Side two has the guitars and mandolins of Ripple the reflective Brokedown Palace and Attics of My Life and ends with the hit Truckin’ which although I have heard it so many times still manages to be an enjoyable listening experience.

Here I am then on a quiet, maybe before the storm of work, Thursday morning .As I gather my thoughts with American Beauty I have to get ready for the day, I almost put the news on but who needs more Trump and Hillary in their lives.

That first line of the album really speaks to me this morning as I prepare myself for another 80 plus degree day here in the Pacific North West as we plunge into a weekend that may get lose to 100 and the climate goes crazy. It may be time to head upriver and soak in the snow melt for awhile and get away from the phone so I can “listen to the river sing sweet songs.”

So here I am now at 5:20 as the grey dawn light comes through the windows. I really think I need to get an outdoor speaker so I can sit on the deck these mornings, this however may annoy the neighbors which is just another reason to get back to the country.