I don’t have to apologize…

Ruby took her love to town and that town was Calico.

Nothing like a 70’s country-rock concept album about a California 19th Century silver mining town called Calico.

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This is not CSNY, The Eagles or even Poco. No new ground is broken here. It is a stand out oddity in the First Edition catalog though, each song follows a town member and their story in the western town.

Nice harmonies, 70’s country tinged rock and roll and the vocals are not dominated by Kenny, Michael Murphy writes all the lyrics and the music along with Larry Cansler, Kenny plays the bass and it is really a band album.

So if you have an hour in which to avoid going to work in the morning you could do worse things than listen to Kenny and the band tell you about the Ballad of Calico, ahead of them was the hits and the misses and the unfortunate duets.

There’s even a book so you can really procrastinate away.

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Kisses in the fallout shelter…

Concept albums get a bad name.  Since The Pretty Things wrote S.F. Sorrow, The Kinks knocked out Arthur and The Who jumped on the bandwagon with Tommy, they have been loved and loathed. There is however something to be said for the song-cycle. Woody Guthrie apparently started things off with Dust Bowl Ballads, it all got out of hand in the 70’s and Queensryche and Green Day have had a go in later years. It may be enough to say the format has had something of a resurgence.

There is however the niche post-apocalyptic Folk-Rock concept album. I will immediately be wrong in saying there are to my knowledge only two, both by Jon Boden.  Boden is more usually associated with his overbearing 3000 piece folk rock ensemble that split up just as they were getting big known as Bellowhead.

IMG_7698Which brings me to the album Songs from the Floodplain, released in 2009 and Mr Boden plays all the instruments himself, wrote all the words. all the music apart from the one traditional track and sang all the words. It is the essence of mid-70’s indulgence for the new millennium and funnily enough it is 8 years old already. What makes it different than Bodens other work is the understated singing, rather than his usual slightly hysterical theatric delivery he employs with Bellowhead that was to my ears annoying.

What you you get is a series of character studies as the modern world declines after some unnamed disaster, the sinister Preacher roams the land and the local folk resort to a return to a more pastoral if difficult life. It’s a melancholic and muted album that draws you  into the collapsed world of decaying factories and the search for petrol to mow the lawn. There are small things described in detail and the larger foreboding presence of something malignant just out of sight. It is the musical equivalent of the great English disaster novel such as No Blade of Grass by John Christopher or Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.

So maybe 2018 will be the year of the concept album.

 

Down at the well they’ve got a new machine…

O.K. the question keeps coming up for me does vinyl really sound better?

This article really sums up it up. No vinyl does not sound better but we sometimes feel better about the act of playing music on vinyl.

http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/29-vinyl-records-and-digital-audio/

So to all those hipsters out there it really is a fashion thing, and for all the older vinyl enthusiasts it is as I have always thought a nostalgia thing and well let’s face it it’s a whole lot more fun to collect than mp3 files or Spotify playlists.

This morning it was for me the best album by The Band that the Band never made.

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For a pop star Elton John sure makes a great concept album. He also manages to get a lot of that Band feel into this album especially on the track Son of Your Father, as Bernie Taupin’s lyrics cover his interest in Western mythology.

It’s amazing how beautiful and complex those early Elton John albums are in construction. I cannot imagine any record company putting so much effort into an artist these days. It really seems that the 70’s had the idea of music as an art form not a product down. It’s a beautiful album, gate fold textured, with a booklet inside that looks like it came form the old west.

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Nostalgia is flowing freely here in the household although Elton John is an artist I avoided with a passion in the past due to my own biases about pop music at the time. Just not serious enough was my thought, too poppy. Happily as I have grown up maybe poppy is not so bad. It’s really nostalgia for a time when we all took the time to sit and listen, a time when things just moved at a different pace and you did not have constant stimuli forcing it’s way into your life. Or maybe it’s just Friday and  I am beat.

Anyway happy Friday and the weekend beckons.

 

And all the earth is singing with life’s sweet hum…

After the other days horror show of an album cover I thought I would share this:

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See that’s much better a classic example of early 70’s folk-rock album cover, and the first example I think of the lost art of the folk-concept album. It is a truly dour picture though to go with the story of the man they could not hang.

The inner gatefold is even better:

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Complete with a copy of the John Lee story inserted to brighten the day.

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To round things off the quartet of Steeleye Span albums in preparation for the gig at the Triple Door in Seattle.

As you can see they all fade into the carpet in a lovely way, except for Rocket Cottage which may be one of those awful album covers that are best hidden away. Sepia was obviously the chosen tone of the 70’s folk-rock band as they folderol and hey nonny non their way through life.

Don’t get me wrong Babbacombe Lee and at least Hark the Village Wait are classics of the genre and Below The Salt and Now We Are Six deserve honorable mentions and Rocket Cottage has The Wombles connection in  Mike Batt.

Anyway there you have it my ramblings for the day and tomorrow we hike.

 

 

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.