Shaking the Tree

Primarily a lyricist, it’s usually the words that draw me to a song. (My primary beef with country music is that the lyrics tend to be trite or on a subject I find uninteresting or just poorly written. This does not apply to Brad Paisley, in case you were wondering.)

It’s always fun, then, to love a song for the music, then discover its message.

Continue reading “Shaking the Tree”

Strange Wonderful Crimson King

I painted one side of the white paper liner: a walled pond in a garden with three paths approaching and crossing from different directions; all very Seussian and psychedelic.

King Crimson’s music is not an acquired taste. I don’t think it’s possible to acquire it. Your DNA connects with it instantly or you never will. Feeling compelled to paint the liner is a symptom. Continue reading “Strange Wonderful Crimson King”

2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees: All Over the Place

As requested, my random opinionated rant about the 2012 inductees. If this is your first visit, I feel compelled to warn you that I write about music I like, and when I have a reason to write about music I don’t like, it’s brief and to-the-point without feeling the need for explanation.

My blog, my rules. So there.

  • Guns & Roses—Not a fan. It all feels so angry. I’ll get arguments on this one.
  • Red Hot Chili PeppersAirplane and Dani California are huge fun. Otherwise, not a fan.
  • Donovan—Can’t even say his name without a visceral reaction of joy. While the rest of popular music was turning angry and antisocial, he was singing songs like I Love My Shirt and Atlantis and Wear Your Love Like Heaven. And don’t forget his rock, and I don’t mean folk-rock. I mean Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later in this band called Led Zeppelin; you may have heard of it) on Hurdy Gurdy Man and psych-guitarist Jeff Beck on Barabajagal, one of the strangest blistering weird rockers of the era. Finally, the version of Catch the Wind from his Greatest Hits is the primary track on the heartbreaking soundtrack of my youth. There is no finer song about unrequited love. (Alas, the best version only appears on the vinyl version of the album; all others have the original acoustic version which is less powerful by far.)
  • Laura Nyro—A songwriter’s songwriter, tragic early death, yet I’ve never made an emotional connection to her songs.
  • The (Small) Faces—Two iterations of the group, fronted first by Steve Marriott, then by Rod Stewart. Marriott doesn’t get his due today; his vocal on Humble Pie’s 30 Days in the Hole is a match for anything Rod ever sang in his famous raspy drawl (which I also love, by the way.)
  • Beastie Boys—In retrospect, I see they were in the vanguard of something big. Back then, I though they were a parody . . . I just couldn’t figure out, of what?
  • Freddie King—You’re not a rock guitarist if you can’t play Hide Away. In true blues fashion, King stole it from a muddy blend of others, who had nicked it elsewhere and no one really knows who wrote it. The parts you recognize were borrowed from King’s arrangement later by Ted Nugent and others. Clapton and Beck both list Freddie among their influences.
  • Don Kirshner—One night when I was supposed to be in bed, I discovered that you could watch rock and roll on television. (Hey, I was born in the woods in Wisconsin; we didn’t even have a television then.) Seeing people I’d heard on the radio actually doing what they did . . . I was mesmerised. Kirshner also helped bring us The Monkees, which I consider a plus primarily because it gave Nez a launch pad.
  • Cosimo Matassa—Had to look him up, and glad I did. Virtually every R&B recording from New Orleans from the mid-40s to the early 70s came out of one of his studios.
  • Tom Dowd—Engineers getting their due. Real engineers, as in, the man worked on the Manhattan Project before turning to music. You’ll have a hard time finding an album from the 60s or 70s that doesn’t have his name on it. An incomplete list of folks he recorded, produced, or both: Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton and Derek and the Dominos, Allman Brothers Band, Cream, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Chicago and the James Gang. In a seminal moment in rock and roll history, Dowd gave Ginger Baker the rhythm that became the core of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love.
  • Glyn Johns—Okay, if you looked for albums not engineered by Tom Dowd, you found this name. The Eagles’ first three albums, f’rinstance. The Who’s Who’s Next?. Zeppelin’s first album (their 3rd and 4th were engineered by his son Andy. Nepotism FTW.)

I’m more interested in engineering these days, as I finally get serious about recording my first album. I know I have good ears, but I need to train them, and learn more about the equipment. Plan to take a course in recording so I can do my own recording, mixing and mastering on the first album. After that, let’s hope I can turn it all over to the professionals and just do what I love best: write emotionally evocative songs.

Stuck in the Middle Without You

There are a small handful of songs which clutch tragically at my heart every single time I hear them. Whatever’s Written in Your Heart, from Gerry’s City to City, is one of them.

G erry Rafferty is gone.

63 is not old enough for anyone to die. No age is, but that’s another conversation.

There are a small handful of songs which get turned up, and turn up a smile on my face, every single time I hear them, whenever, wherever. Stuck in the Middle with You, one of Gerry’s songs with Joe Egan as Stealer’s Wheel, is one of them.

There are a small handful of songs which clutch tragically at my heart every single time I hear them. Whatever’s Written in Your Heart, from Gerry’s City to City, is one of them.

There are a small handful of albums which make me yearn and cry and shout and laugh and wish and dream. That same album, City to City, is one of them.

There is not enough time for all the music; not enough for all the musicians; not enough for what I wanted.

Goodtimes and the Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller Song is one of that rare breed that has my feet tapping and head bobbing simultaneously, and that’s even during the third repeat.

P erky, yet crunchy. Or is it crunchy, yet perky? And oh, look! It’s 70s slide guitar, in the best possible sense. “I’ll sell you dreams you never knew you wanted . . . ”

Yep; it’s Goodtimes Goodtimes once again. I swear, Franc puts something in your tea that’s instantly addicting. I have, in my 50 years of constant ingestion, heard a lot o’ music. The Fortune Teller Song is one of that rare breed that has my feet tapping and head bobbing simultaneously, and that’s even during the third repeat. (I also love that the opening guitar riff is, um, an ‘homage’ [as in, lifted directly] from the Smith’s How Soon is Now?.)

You should go get your own absolutely free copy (well, it costs signing up for his newsletter; oooh) and be ready to snag a copy of the new album when it’s out.

And now that Best Beloved and I are going nomad, perhaps I’ll finally see Goodtimes Goodtimes live in its native habitat, which appears to be hip dives in London town.

Winwood Compilation with a Beatles’ Name?

S ince I already own much of what’s on this 4-CD compilation I won’t be buying it (I’ll just get the few Winwood albums I don’t already own) but if you’d like a broad sweeping view of a rare musical wonder, Revolutions is stuffed full of songs you’ve heard forever, or never heard but should have.

It has all of John Barleycorn except Every Mother’s Son; funny to leave off just that one track.

Only a single track from Winwood’s eponymous first solo album (Vacant Chair.) I would have included (also, or instead) Let Me Make Something in Your Life; Steve has this knack for down-to-earth love songs that feel more like real life, and less like ethereal fantasies. (Perhaps I should play this for Best Beloved. Perhaps I should confirm I still have my vinyl copy.)

Over half of Mr. Fantasy shows up; just less than half of Traffic. Hard telling who made the decisions, or why; some fairly obscure stuff is included, some obvious choices like Feelin’ Alright didn’t make it.

Doesn’t really matter, in the end. Just be sure you have as much Winwood around the house as possible, and play it often, and, once in a while, loud.

And, tell your less educated friends. This is a man who has gotten far too little recognition for a stellar body of work.