I’ve trailed and sailed a silence which nobody knows

Lock a mystical vegetarian hippy away for the better part of a year to record his first solo album. Make him play and write everything on the album himself.

Allow him to be influenced by Tolkien an enigmatic mystic lady and the dude who paints the best album covers ever and what do you get?

oliasWell a concept album about a guy who builds a spaceship to escape the explosion of his planet. This is accompanied by the strumming of guitars the bleeping of synths and the rhythms of the world, or Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow which along with the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is one of the oddest and most compelling things committed to record and I still have no idea what the lyrics are about never mind how one man managed to compile this thing.

Apparently Mr Anderson went a little crazy making this fine piece of music and I can believe it.

After relaxing and basking in the overwhelming and soothing sounds of this the greatest solo album ever produced by a member of Yes I may be ready to tackle Topographic Oceans again.

I am also overcome with a sense of wellbeing and closeness to the planet. I may even add yoga to my health regime, although I will not become vegetarian, this much I have in common with Rick Wakeman.

 

The passage of my life is measured out in shirts…

A musical epiphany, a moment when you finally understand/hear things in a new or different way.

For years I had been on the prog-rock bandwagon, occasionally with detours to rock or metal on those days when i felt the need for the acceptance of my peers. I had also managed along the way to pick up an unhealthy fascination in folk-rock and for some reason The Clash and The Stranglers.

The said epiphany happened sometime in the 80’s as I staggered from the library with three cassettes, I was weighed down by the weight of the music I guess. All of them products of the 70’s, and none of them having anything particularly in common, although you could probably find a connection if you wanted to or tried and probably this would involve Fairport Convention.

Wishbone Ash’s Argus, Brian Eno’s Before and After Science and Real Life by Magazine. I have no idea why I picked these three albums. I may have been just determined to play something I had never heard before. I knew the name Eno from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, I had not paid attention to producers at this time outside of Genesis it seems so the connection to Bowie had not occurred, but the others were a mystery. All had been recorded in a 5 year period and showed some progression of popular music I guess. They all have ridiculous or elusive lyrics and a definite attitude in what they are, a swagger, stance that is mainstream but twisted. They all three have striking and memorable covers.

This day of sitting down on the last summer in my parents house while they were out to listen to these three albums though is a moment that has stuck with me. It was the realization that things were not going to be the same. I was leaving home and had no intention of going back, my life was changing and evolving and maybe would make less sense. I can still smell my parents house, lavender and cut grass with the ever present scent of tea.My cassette player propped in the corner as they had got rid of the radiogram and I had packed the stereo up to go to college.

threeIt was an uncomfortably hot day, they were gone for the weekend so volume was not an issue, especially as the neighbor was deaf. On they went and my ears were opened up. The Wishbone Ash was melodic prog without the keyboards, hints of folk and a whimsical fantastic lilt to the lyrics about kings and warriors. It was and remains a favorite when I am feeling a bit down, like chicken noodle soup it satisfies without filling you up.

Magazine would now be considered post-punk I suppose. Back then it was confusing to me. Hints of prog that made me feel comfortable and then the attack of punk would pop out. It had more in common with Calvert era Hawkwind though, Devoto had a sneer in his vocal that was comforting and there were keyboards and solos.

The real mess with you moment was the Eno though. I had no idea what this was supposed to be, funk, punk, pop. It was a mess, but a good mess. Side One was upbeat, rocking and loud, Side Two was more reflective and and quiet and hinted at other things to come for Eno. It was as if Lou Reed had a sense of humor, it was revelatory for me, it was a cold distanced sound but immediate. Fripp and Collins were there but this was not prog, Paul Rudolph was there but this was not Hawkwind and what the heck was that folky Dave Mattacks doing on the drums. How did one man manage to gather such a menagerie of musicians.

To this day Eno’s music that involves vocals has always caught my attention. It seems revolutionary, subversive and totally original while referencing other styles of music and subverting them to his own designs.

I guess these three album in one afternoon managed to take me from the safety of Wishbone Ash to the safely dangerous with Magazine and ending with the truly unique Eno, who after this album went on to influence rock music for decades while producing ambient music under his own name.

Maybe we ain’t that young anymore…

In a horrific dream I was transported back to 1985 as a young man named Russell  stood on the roof of a long boat on the Birmingham canal. He was bellowing the words to Born In The USA and throwing bad Springsteen shapes as the boat wallowed along the canal.

It was the year of Live Aid and the mega growth of Springsteen and the resurgence of Queen as a monster rock act. U2 managed to get some credibility and Jagger and Bowie gyrated, pouted and managed to unselfconsciously out embarrass the world as they danced in the streets.

All of this was brought on by my managing to find a copy of Bruce and the E-Streeters Live 13178760_10207978034362594_4119009996198978640_n1975-85 box-set of joy. I really dig Bruce, he is all machismo and sentimental sincerity. You get the idea he is probably a lot of fun to hang out with, worries about the little man and is a little embarrassed by his wealth as well as surprised at his popularity. It is a massive undertaking to listen to all five albums and I bet I have to stretch it out.

I did however find myself losing myself in the big sound of the E-Street Band and the Boss as they stroll though some of the best songs committed to record. Some of the mid song banter is a little cringeworthy, although my understanding it is this aspect of the Springsteen show that can really whip the crowd into a frenzy as he works them like a baptist preacher or snake oil salesman.

MI0003521606My biggest problem right now and then is getting the sight of that skinny white dude with the permed blonde hair in too tight, too short shorts dancing on that cheesy boat. At the time it was summer holidays and we thought it would be fun to putter up and down a canal. Russell managed to bring along hours of Live Aid he had copied from the TV. Everyone else forgot music and we had to put up with this onslaught. Until we pulled into a small town that had a WH Smith where I managed to find a copy of World Shut Your Mouth in the sale rack. Kolly Kibber’s Birthday never managed to drown out the memory or sound of Radio Ga Ga and Born In The USA though. It was however more successful than those slightly stretched live tapes at attracting the young ladies of the Midlands, it was also the first  and last time anyone ever said to me you sound just like the Beatles in the UK.

As I hit side 4 of the box set I am wishing a bit I had found the Cope album as it is a classic but my guess is almost impossible to find in the wild in Oregon.

 

Dirty old man…

papaThe sole purveyor of funk fiddle, Papa John Creach. This man plays like satan being chased from a whore house by Ted Cruz and his evangelical gangsters. He is an esteemed member of the Airplane/Starship and Hot Tuna and  in no uncertain terms an unashamed dirty old man.

The cover pictures Papa in his pimp outfit sitting on a lawn chair in the junkyard.

This album should come with a parental warning, it will cause licentious thoughts amongst the most devout and puritanical. Papa has a filthy mind which and not only does he know it he celebrates it. The album is titled Filthy and it heads for the innuendo gutter and stays there with a groove that is indescribably funky, Stax meet the Airplane via the Temptations in their best psychedelic mode, it will never be a classic but it is unforgettable. Yes that really is Keb Mo’ on guitar as well.

I was as I am sure you are all aware too embarrassed to type the song titles so here is the back cover.

back

I’m starting’ to see a bigger picture…

roamAfter all that Hawkwind it has really been time to calm down a little. So I took a breath and reached for Room To Roam by the Waterboys just to get my head straight.

It’s the younger brother of Fishermans Blues and sometimes to my mind may actually be slightly better and more relaxed. Traffic may have got it together in the country in the 60’s and early 70’s, The Waterboys managed to cause it all to fall apart in the Irish countryside in the 80’s.

It’s a shambolic affair and at times doesn’t quite work out completely but I have always enjoyed Mike Scott’s idea of navel gazing.

I saw a neon sign reflected in a pool of liquid sky…

In the late 70’s when I discovered Hawkwind at the insistence of my cousin Tony I took that journey in chronological order, enjoying the noisfest that the albums created up to Warrior. The blanga was in full flow and the Captain and crew could do no wrong.

My hopes were high as I bought Astounding Sounds and Amazing Music. Everything was in place, great Barney Bubbles cover, harking back to science fiction magazines of the 50’s and 60’s. The titles of songs, The Aubergine that Ate Rangoon, Kadu Flyer, Reefer Madness, Steppenwolf, it was all there.

Then I played it and felt a sinking feeling. There was no power here, it was kind of Floydy or maybe T-Rex or my god a little approachable. How deserted I felt by the peoples band, my Dad even looked pleased by Chronoglide Skyway and it’s soothing violin solo. Out of 7 tracks only 4 had lyrics and they almost made sense. There was a quirkiness there brought along by Bob Calvert but this had nothing to do with the all out assault on the senses that the earlier albums had been.

I promptly hid the album away and never revisited it as far as I can tell, at some point it left my collection never to be seen again. I have no recollection of selling it or giving it away. It’s a mystery.

astoundingThen last week as I rummaged through the racks at EveryDay music there it was staring at me. It is a wonderful cover after all. The front all early science fiction and the back a little fascistic and intimidating with the Hawk in it’s Germanic glory. I ended up buying on impulse and then having to gather my courage to listen. It’s a reissue from Atomhenge and they have even re-created the style of the old Charisma label. The sticker proudly claims it was cut from the original analog  masters so what the heck.

Thirty or so years later here I am once again listening to Astounding Sounds. It still seems a little distanced from other Hawkwind albums, transitional is the phrase normally associated with this type of album. Maybe it is, the follow ups all made sense in the Hawkwind story, poppy and punky leading up to the raucous joy of the 79 tour after Calvert had left the building again.

On reflection the album is an awkward move to a different sound, what makes it jarring is the fact it followed Warrior which was so masterful. It is also according to Brock the first album he mixed without tripping which may reflect in the clarity of the sound. Calvert’s lyrics are here for the first time for a whole album with the band, his sense of humor is not to the fore as much as on later releases. It is however not a lost masterpiece but it is better than that first time I listened.

 

Ha ha charade you are…

I always liked that doggy howling way on the Animals label.dog

I have always found Animals to have more in common with the early Floyd albums than it’t two predecessors and I often sit and wonder what it would have been like if they had all kept on with this direction instead of the Wall.

It’s late and I don’t have much to say apart from this was my first Floyd album and every time I hear it I am taken back to my 13 yr old self hunched animalsover the speakers with the lights off listening intently to every note. I borrowed it from the library, made  a tape and played it to death. Until today I have never owned a copy. It is in fine shape for an album that is almost 40 years old.

Last time in London my two sons and myself spent some time looking at Battersea Power Station. For a moment the whole moment took on the feeling of a pilgrimage and then collectively we shook ourselves and smiled. A couple of weeks ago my middle son texted me the link to the sale for the pig and for a moment I thought if I had enough money that is the one piece of memorabilia I would want. Then I heard it was being offered to the band and spent my $15 on the album instead.

Five classic songs with no filler, more guitar than any other Floyd album and the best response by the old guard to punk at the time and much more vital than the Wall.

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.

 

I never left you…

Name the  most infuriating Beatle ?

And the answer  is John, he is also the most fascinating, the most obviously scouse as well; a little edgy, cuddly and possessing of a huge talent that he seemed to be able to turn on and off at will sometimes just to annoy those around him he also may steal the silver not because he needs or wants it but because it would be a laugh.

My Dad will tell you tales of growing up with John, I am pretty sure he is not being truthful, especially as he is a lover of the tall tale. He also leans back smirks and then launches into a long convoluted story that rolls along adding in Liverpool landmarks at will. I think he does it simply to amuse/bemuse the American relatives who seem to sincerely believe that everyone from Liverpool of a certain age must have been close intimate friends with the Fab Four.

It is my contention that the only Lennon collection you really need to own is Shaved Fish. fishThrow in  a few other songs from the later albums if you need to and you have a perfect collection. Concise biting and a perfect distillation of the wit, romance and politics of Mr Lennon.

For the sake of full disclosure I own everything available by the man and the small beat combo he was a member of. I enjoy the majority of it even some of his experiments with the wife. However the album I return to most often is Shaved Fish for my Lennon fix as it hits all the necessary points. Yes there are things I miss when  listening, I want Working Class Hero or Watching The Wheels but the collection is complete without them too.

So yell shout and scream but I will remain true to my contention. Shaved Fish rules it is perfect.

Live in fear…

Richard Thompson is definitely a unique talent. I came to him by way of Fairport Convention at Cropredy banging out Fire In The Engine Room one hazy memoried evening in the 84.

I immediately ran out and purchased Across A Crowded Room and was not disappointed.  There then followed a series of gigs in Southport and Manchester and other places. That blood spattered guitar strap and the searing solos are still stuck in my mind.

In those days the purchase of a record was a serious matter, as a poor student who was more interested in beer and curry, buying a record dug into much needed finances. Usually an album would be borrowed from the library and recorded to one of countless C90 cassettes that ended up littering the floor.fly However in 86 Hannibal records re-released a record that looked so intriguing in a bizarre way, entitled Richard Thompson starring as Henry The Human Fly.

It was the oddest looking thing I had ever seen and inside was a strange mix of sounds ranging from lovely folk melodies to brass arrangements that are ever so slightly discordant.

The refrain however from the first track Roll Over Vaughn Williams of “Live in fear, live in fear, live in fear.” has always stuck with me. Fairport had been folk-rock but this was folk rock’n’roll. Yes there were folk songs like the Poor Ditching Boy and The Old Changing Way, there were however strange rock songs like Roll Over Vaughn Williams and the Angels Took My Racehorse Away. This was literally music made by a unique individual who saw the world through a lens that the rest of us could only guess at.

It is however the last song on the album Twisted that made me a fan and to this day I can’t really say why but every time I hear it I stop what I am doing and listen.

Over the years I learned all sorts of things about Thompson. I also learned that inexplicably to me this album was the worst selling record Warner Bro’s ever released. It is hard to reconcile the brilliance of the record, the strange confluence of harps, brass music, concertinas and electric and acoustic guitars and the failure of the record to sell.henry I have carried this record around for almost thirty years now, at some point it lost it’s sleeve so I had to borrow the picture from Amazon and now all I have left is the vinyl and a nice new inner sleeve to keep it in.

Tonight when my middle son called me up with some bothersome news I sat down and grabbed the old friend from the stack and listened to that strange comforting album. While it didn’t change things for me it did make me think that somewhere out there Thompson may empathise with the feeling of being  a little uncomfortable in the skin we wear and living in fear.