Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jethro Tull, Aqualung

 The song Aqualung, as a 70's rock anthem, is right up there with Stairway To Heaven. Although Ian Anderson denies that this album is a concept album, one wonders. There seems to be a distinct message running through it, a liberal anti-church and state rant, and side one seems to be about six distinctly different characters. I'm a flute lover and Ian Anderson on stage doing his thing is a pretty cool thing to behold. Some of the songs on this record are heavily layered. complex, deeply messaged and all the rest a girl like me looks for in anthem rock. Others, Cheap Day Return, Wond'ring Aloud, Mother Goose, are more acoustic. The album artwork, a painting of the Aqualung character is something that you don't forget, definitely a cover for the ages. This was the first album recorded at Island Studios in London. Ironically Led Zeppelin's fourth album was being recorded simultaneously in a different, smaller studio. Although it's difficult to describe the listening experience one encounters while this record is playing, I can say with great confidence that there is nothing else on earth like Aqualung. Dropping acid while listening is optional.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Byrds- Mr. Tambourine Man- 1965

The Byrds always follow the Beatles on my record shelf. Mostly because they both take up some serious space. Also because, in the beginning, the Byrds were inspired by the Beatles. Roger McGuinn was a total folkie at the time but he brought that unmistakable jangly 12 string sound that the band became famous for. Gene Clark wrote all those great tunes that you still hum in the shower and then the band's vocal harmonies became synonymous with the Southern California coast where it all happened. I like this first album a lot, the staff: McGuinn, Clark, Hillman, David Crosby (Pre CSN) and Michael Clarke on drums changed as the years passed and we'll get to that when I  talk about "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" and the Gram infusion . "Mr Tambourine Man" was embraced at first for the Dylan covers but, as time passed, songs like Here Without You, and I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better and I Knew I'd Want You garnered the attention they deserved. Gene Clark should be partly credited with making the early Byrds (get it) what they were, He wrote some very enduring songs. For the rest, they were a tight band with stellar vocal harmonies and great musicianship.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The BEATLES- Rubber Soul

Recorded in just over four weeks, "Rubber Soul" was released in 1965 and  immediately regarded as an artistic achievement of the highest level. I don't know about any of that, I just love how it jump starts your groove with Drive My Car and then it takes a sharp right turn into Norwegian Wood featuring George on Sitar (This was about when he was inspired by Indian music and took lessons from Ravi Shankar). Apparently, the song is about an affair that John had, written cryptically so his wife wouldn't figure out (Uh, how dumb was she?). That, and Girl might be Lennon's best ballads. Michelle, Looking Through You, and You Won't See Me are what's become enduring classic Paul McCartney and In My Life was the last song that John and Paul wrote together before their friendship turned sour, and, considering that, how very poignant. Rubber Soul seems to me to be the mpoheads emergence from Beatlemania and marks their plunging themselves into serious, ponderous, thoughtful songwriting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Doors- Strange Days

Moving along to other 40(ish) year-old albums. I present to you "Strange Days". People might say that the Door's first was their best but those of us who like to cross over to the dark side and wallow in a Morrison induced funk seem to enjoy "Strange Days". Besides the catchier and more accessible Love Me Two Times and People Are Strange, there's a mixed bag of Morrison at his most poetic and theatrical and visceral. The atmospheric Horse Latitudes is like being at a Poetry Brawl and the eleven minute When The Music's Over is erotically political and self-indulgent in a way that only Morrison could pull off. It's hard to listen to the Doors and not feel the tragedy that befell Morrison but I sometimes think that it adds to the poignancy of their work. Ray Manzarek's signature organ is everpresent on this album and I think he added so much more to the doors than he's often given credit for. It must have been hard to watch Jim gyrate in his tight leather pants while he plunked away at his organ behind him. This LP is one of those timeless things that I'll be listening to till the end of time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Van Morrison- Astral Weeks 1968

What happened? How'd it get to be Thursday? God, that is what day it is, right? I lost a couple of days to the Pogues. Once I got started with those knuckleheads I couldn't stop.
 I've been wondering about Van Morrison. He recently revisited "Astral Weeks" at the Hollywood Bowl a full FORTY years after it was first recorded  (I'll be reviewing that for and I was thinking about the original. Recorded in 1968 when Van was in his twenties, this album showcases all that he was and, for the most part, still is. His voice has clarity and unflinching direction and he's over-confident and richly gospelly/bluesy and you can lay back and listen to this record for as long as it takes to ge there. My top cut is The Way Young Lovers Do. It makes me miss the sixties even though I was far from being born. Next best is Madame George and then Cyprus Avenue. A lot of people like Moondance but I think that's because it's more tuneful, more of a sing-along in the car kind of record. Astral Weeks is like you get in the car but you gotta let Van drive, because he knows every curve in the road.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The POGUES- RUM, SODOMY, and the LASH-1985

I LOVE the Pogues....LOVE them. They're a rollicking, brawling, In-your-face Celtic, Punk-Ass, bunch of buffoons but they are SO good. Rum, Sodomy & the Lash was produced by Elvis Costello and he brings out the band's best, most notably Shane MacGowan and most notable of the cuts, "Dirty Old Town" and "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" both covers, but Brilliant. On "The Sick Bed of Chuchulainn", You'll forgive Shane everything and maybe even lend him money, knowing you'll never see it again.  After Shane left, I dunno, seems like  a lot of the Pogues spirit left with him but you can only take someone barfing on your shoes and sleeping with your girlfriend for so long I guess. This album is an easy find and a gem.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy Vinyl Collecting in 2009. Below I've assembled a list of raddest re-issues of 2008.

1. Cannonball Adderly-Soul Zodiac (Capital)
2. The Beach Boys- Pet Sounds (on 180 gran vinyl, Capital)
3. Jimi Hendrix- Band of Gypsys (limited edition fiery red 180 gram vinyl-Capital/EMI)
4. R.E.M. - Document (Capital/EMI)
5. Van Morrison- Tupelo Honey
6. Cream- Disraeli Gears (Polydor)
7. Cat Stevens- Tea For The Tillerman (A&M)
8. Supertramp- Breakfast in America (A&M)
9. Nick Drake- Pink Moon (Island)
10. Charlie Mingus- Mingus Ah Um (originally issued  in 1959, now on 180 gram vinyl, audiophile)