Posts Tagged ‘Classic Albums’

Unhalfbricking front

“Unhalfbricking” was the third album by the British folk rock band Fairport Convention and their second album released in 1969. It is seen as a transitional album in their history and marked a further musical move away from American influences towards more traditional English folk songs that had begun on their previous album, What We Did on Our Holidays and reached its peak on the follow-up, Liege & Lief, released later the same year. 1969 was a roller-coaster year for Fairport Convention. In January of that year they released their second album What We Did On Our Holidays, the first with singer Sandy Denny. In May they hit rock bottom with a tragedy that killed two people including one of its members. Miraculously they recovered and released the album that defines the British folk rock revival of that period, the iconic Liege and Lief. By December Sandy Denny and bass player Ashley Hutchings had left the band to form Fotheringay and Steeleye Span and the classic Fairport Convention lineup was no more. And that was not all, for these events book-ended one more album that the band managed to record and release during that prolific period, One of the classic records from that era, “Unhalfbricking”.

The band was going through a Bob Dylan phase at the time, resulting with three covers of his songs on the album. Dylan’s version of Million Dollar Bash, later to appear at the Basement Tapes album but at that point not yet released, came to the band through producer Joe Boyd’s song publishing company which had access to Dylan’s new recorded materials. The great mandolin accompaniment is courtesy of Dave Swarbrick, who made a number of excellent recordings with Martin Carthy between 1965 and 1968, and was called by  Joe Boyd to guest on a number of songs on Unhalfbricking. Another Dylan cover was for a relatively unknown song, If You Gotta Go, Go Now. Dylan recorded it in 1965 for his Bringing It All Back Home album but decided not to include it in the album, instead releasing it as a single in the Netherlands in 1967. Manfred Mann covered the song soon after Dylan recorded it in 1965. Fairport Convention gave it an interesting twist by singing it in French, translated to Si Tu Dois Partir.

Fairport Convention 1969

Fairport Convention was playing a gig at the Middle Earth and thought it would be amusing to do Dylan’s song in French Cajun style, so the band called for volunteers from the audience to help with the translation. Richard Thompson: “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very Cajun, French or Dylan.” The studio version is a better attempt at the Cajun style, featuring Dave Swarbrick on fiddle, Richard Thompson on accordion and Trevor Lucas, who later formed Fotheringay with Denny, on triangle. The band was quite inventive when it came to producing interesting sounds in the studio. Joe Boyd, from his book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s:Martin created the Cajun washboard sound for “Si Tu Dois Partir” by stacking some plastic Eames chairs and running his drumsticks along them. The percussion break was supposed to feature an empty milk bottle lying on the topmost chair, but when the time came it fell and smashed on the floor. I signaled frantically to keep playing. The crash of broken glass was absolutely in time and worked perfectly, a good omen for the session.” The song was released as a single, reaching #21 in the UK singles chart, and got the band its only appearance at Top of the Pops on August 14, 1969.

Of the three Dylan covers Percy’s Song, recorded by Dylan in 1963 for his third album The Times They Are a-Changin‘. The song did not make it into the album and was released some twenty years later on the Biograph collection. The song lyrics are a futile plea to a judge to reconsider a harsh sentence given to a driver in a fatal car accident. Sandy sings a beautiful harmony with Ian Matthews who left the group after their previous album had been the band’s male vocalist Matthews left during the recordings for Unhalfbricking to make his own album Matthews’ Southern Comfort, after recording just one track, “Percy’s Song”, and her interpretation is the best I know for this lesser known Dylan tune. Guitar player Simon Nicol said this of Denny’s vocal on the song: “It needs a voice like Sandy’s to get the shades of emotion across, from moodiness to compassion to outright fury. There’s not many singers can do that.”

One song on Unhalfbricking points to the direction that the band will take on their next album. A Sailor’s Life is a traditional song brought to the band by Sandy Denny. The song, indexed as Roud 237 in the English Folk Dance and Song Society, was previously covered by Judy Collins on her album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961 and by Martin Carthy on his second album from 1966.
Fairport Convention’s version is a milestone in British folk rock, maybe the first time a serious rock interpretation was given to an old ballad. Sheila Chandra, who was inspired by Sandy Denny’s delivery of the song and later covered it herself, found similarities to Indian music in Fairport Convention’s version: “The track is actually a microcosm of 2,000 years of Indian music – it goes from Vedic chanting on two or three notes right through to full improvisations on a fixed note scale. All in one take. The band have realized that all folk music is based upon a drone, and shares a common root. For instance, the way the violin comes in with an insistent repeat of the drone note is reminiscent of the Indian wind instrument the Shenai, and its distant relative the shawm in Irish music. It all connects.” That violin is played by Dave Swarbrick, his finest contribution to the album.

Fairport Convention’s version of this poignant traditional song marks a pivotal point in the development of folk-rock, representing as it does a brilliant fusion of a traditional form with all the dynamic, exploratory approach of modern rock playing. The song had been a part of Sandy Denny’s repertoire when she joined Fairport. As a traditional song it had been known in many forms. A Sailor’s Life starts as a plaintive lament on the fickleness of sailors and the agonised waiting endured by their sweethearts until their return. The terrible irony of her rather bitter condemnation of the sailor’s life as ‘merry’ is brought home by the subsequent tragedy. The singer extols her beloved’s virtues before she sets off to find him. She hails a passing ship and is told that he is feared drowned. Beside herself with grief and despair, she runs her boat against a rock. This could be seen as a metaphor for another tragedy as she takes her own life. The song then echoes the stormy course of the bereaved woman’s grief, as it takes off into a passage of terrific ensemble playing, all instruments interweaving, building to an overwhelming intensity, before settling to a sombre resolution. There are echoes of everything from dirges to hornpipes in an extraordinary composition. The Unhalfbricking album, from which A Sailor’s Life comes, foreshadowed the more overtly folk-rock album Liege & Lief, often considered a classic of its kind. The title Unhalfbricking was taken from a word Sandy Denny came up with in the word game Ghost. The track A Sailor’s Life was done in one take.

Fairport Convention

John Wood, who was the principal sound engineer in the studio, recalls the recording of the song: “Richard and Sandy came in and said “we really think we can only do this once”. They already got Dave Swarbrick in to play on it. We put Sandy in a vocal booth (she had an awful cold that day too) and everybody else in a big semicircle. When you want to cut that sort of track, its not easy for people to work if its all sectioned off, so it was very open and that was it, one take, done. No overdubs.” Dave Swarbrick was given no specific instructions as to what to play on the song other than to just come in when the singing stops. He had fond memories from the session as well: “Sandy had a great band to soar over and a great bunch of musicians who were sympathetic. Richard and Sandy worked closely together. Richard was awesome, of course. That should be his middle name. But the band was cohesive and so special, the chemistry worked and the line-up was sensational.”

Who Knows Where The Time Goes hand written lyrics

I have two favorite songs on this album, and one of them is Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes?. Denny wrote the song early in her career with the original title The Ballad Of Time. She was not yet 20 years of age when she wrote the mature lyrics about the passage of time. She sang it during her short stint with the Strawbs in 1967,  accompanied by Dave Cousins on guitar. Judy Collins gave the song an interpretation in 1968 on her album of the same name and as a B-side on her single Both Sides Now.
The song became one of Denny’s most enduring and beloved songs, and in 2007 it was voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners as their favorite folk rock track of all time. It was the last song to be recorded for “Unhalfbricking”, and the last drummer Martin Lamble will ever record with the band.

The album was recorded in the early months of 1969 at Sound Techniques and Olympic Studios in London. Sound Techniques was a go-to studio for many great psychedelic, rock and folk British acts of the time, including Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter), Incredible String Band (The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion), Jethro Tull (This Was), John Martyn (Solid Air), Pentangle (Cruel Sister), Pink Floyd (Arnold Layne), Steeleye Span (Parcel Of Rogues) and Fairport alumni Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. John Wood assembled a roster of first-class musicians who acted as the house band for a great variety of recording sessions. Not surprisingly, many of them were associated with Fairport Convention, including Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway on drums, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg and Pat Donaldson on bass, Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue and Simon Nicol on guitars.

“Unhalfbricking” was released in July of 1969, several weeks after the fatal accident on the M1 that killed drummer Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklin (“Genie the Tailor”, who designed clothes for west-coast pop and rock elites), Richard Thompson’s recent girlfriend. The event questioned the band’s resiliency, and was followed by an amazing period of recovery that gave birth to Liege and Lief. Franklin was immortalized a month later when Jack Bruce dedicated his debut solo album Songs for a Tailor to her, and Elton John’s Tiny Dancer is likely about her as well with the telling lyrics “Blue Jean Baby, L. A. lady/Seamstress for the band”.

Fairport Convention accident news clip

“Unhalfbricking” climbed to a respectable #12 in the UK album chart, its name penned by Sandy Denny who came up with the made-up word in a game of Ghost the band was playing while traveling in their beat up van to shows. Uncharacteristic for its time, the front cover features a single photograph with no indication of the band or album name. Two people, Sandy Denny’s parents, are standing in front of their house on Arthur Road, Wimbledon in the autumn of 1968. In the background we can see the band lounging in the front yard. Even more uncool is the back cover with a picture of the band engaged in the domestic task of having a meal. The whole package smells of looking back at days of yore, keeping a distance from current trends.

A&M Records, who distributed the band’s albums in the US, found the album cover’s concept abnormal and instead decided in a curious creative burst that the average American consumer’s palate might appreciate a photo of three dancing circus elephants with a girl dancing (balancing?) on top. Underestimating the American record buyer’s tolerance to the unknown, the band and album titles were slapped on the US album cover.

The B-side on the single Si Tu Dois Partir went unnoticed at the time but over the years became one of Richard Thompson’s favorite performance songs. It is also my favorite tune on the album, achingly sang by Sandy Denny. It is one of the first in Thompson’s career-long strike of beautiful melancholic songs, the album opener Genesis Hall. Thompson on the topic of the song: “Genesis Hall was the name of a building in London that was occupied by squatters. The police went in and were far too brutal in evicting the people. My father was a policeman at the time, and although he was not involved in this operation, I could see the situation from both the squatters’ and police’s points of view. This was conflicting for me, and I tried to express that.”
The August 1969 issue of the underground newspaper International Times mentions an incident that took place in the Drury Lane Bell Hotel involving police and squatters. It happened in March of that year, when Fairport Convention was in the process of recording Unhalfbricking:  Thompson covers the song from time to time on his live shows, giving it a fantastic acoustic version. A great example is from the first episode of the BBC Songwriter’s Circle series from 2010.
Several reasons why this song moves me: The lyrics, again so mature for a 20 year old who has not written too many songs up to that point. The sad yet somewhat detached mood in which Sandy Denny sings them. The part where the whole band is soaring with her when they sing “Oh, oh, helpless and slow”. The dual guitar work by Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. Martin Lamble’s drumming, sadly not discussed too often, demonstrating his ability to play very interesting patterns behind the melody as if he was playing a melodic instrument himself. Only a month after the band finished recording the album Lamble died in that car crash. The band went through a rough period of mourning and healing and came out on the other end with the album that defines British folk rock. Check out Richard Thompson’s biography, written by Patrick Humphries. A great resource for Thompson’s fans and an interesting chronicle of Fairport Convention during the time Thompson was with the band.

Ashley Hutchings said in relation to the album cover photograph:

My memory of it is bound up with the terrible car crash. On the back cover we’re all eating around a table. The shirt and the leather waistcoat I’m wearing are what I had on when the crash happened. I can clearly remember them being bloodstained. You don’t forget things like that.

Martin Lamble, a talented musician, died in 1969 in a crash while returning from a gig, aged 19. Dave Swarbrick, a highly influential fiddle player, has had health problems but joined Fairport on stage for a number in August 2010. Simon Nicol has been the band’s lead singer and guitarist since 1975. Ashley Hutchings, an outstanding bassist, has been a major force in music and helps make folk accessible to younger listeners. Richard Thompson has composed many acclaimed songs and tours regularly. He appears in many polls for the greatest guitarists of all time. Sandy Denny composed many great and enduring songs. One of the greatest of English folk artists, she died 21 April 1978, aged 31, following a fall.

Unhalfbricking back

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Big Star- Radio City, cherry red & white split vinyl, Ltd to 500 Pieces, Out 2/16

Big Star have the tagline of “cult band” following them wherever they go. It’s tragic considering their world conquering ambitions – embedded in their album titles like #1 Record-and how they wanted to be the first and final word on Beatlesque pop. The challenge with Radio City was to see if guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Chilton could prove he could carry on without songwriting foil Chris Bell, who left after the commercial failure of #1 Record. The relief with hearing Radio City is how Chilton not only rose to the occasion but arguably superseded #1 Record in the process. It’s a looser, sparser affair in parts yet his (and the rest of his bandmates’) grasp on melody and songwriting hadn’t regressed: the track sequence “You Get What You Deserve” to “Morpha Too” has some of Big Star’s best pop writing on record.

Chilton had his best ballad yet in the chiming “September Gurls,” with its guitar arpeggios straight from the Byrds’ songbook while the drums push it along with a peppy stride. It’s an approach that’s been tried many a time by imitator bands looking for some of Big Star’s magic but none seem to have nailed that idyllic yet angsty feeling that Chilton does here.

An exclusive version of Big Star’s classic second album ‘Radio City’! After Chris Bell’s departure, Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel dug in to produce this urtext of power pop, with alternate universe hits like “September Gurls” and “Back of a Car”.

‘Radio City’ is pressed on Cherry Red and White Split Vinyl in a limited edition of 500 pieces.

Belly was an rock band formed in 1991 by former Throwing Muses members Tanya Donelly (who was also in The Breeders) , joined forces with the Gorman brothers Thomas and Chris (on guitars and drums respectively) and bassist Fred Abong to launch Belly Star” was their debut album by this American alternative rock band Belly.

It was released in 1993 and was an unexpected success. With their jangling, over driven guitars and breathless, mysterious vocals, Belly suggests the hard/soft edge of electric girl groups and power pop bands like The Bangles.

Much of Star is like looking through the world from the otherside of the glass. From the ominous foreboding of “Low Red Moon” to the heady frenzy of “Slow Dog”, the whole thing drifts and jumps majestically. Marbled and distorted colours and sounds make new, hypnotic shapes. It’s the realm of dreams made into music.

The energy and infectious indie-pop hooks still have me dancing around the kitchen whenever it makes one of many outings. The guitar jangles are still as elastic and rawkus as ever and Tanya Donnelly’s otherworldly and haunting vocals still intoxicate me.  Using the trance like harmonies of dream pop as a foundation, Donelly expands the genre’s boundaries, trimming away its pretensions and incorporating a flair for sweet, concise pop hooks and folk-rock inflections. She also spikes her airy melodies with disarmingly disturbing lyrics. Images of betrayal and death float throughout the album, but what hits home initially — and what stays after the album is finished — are the hooks, whether it’s the rolling singalong of “Gepetto” the surging “Slow Dog,” the melancholy “Stay” .

Belly’s second single ‘Gepetto’ taken from their debut album ‘Star’ – featuring Tanya Donelly (formerly of Throwing Muses and The Breeders), Chris Gorman and Tom Gorman. Bass on the first Belly album comes from former Muses bassist Fred Abong, who was later replaced by Gail Greenwood.

Donelly named the band “Belly” because she thought the word was “both pretty and ugly.”Their EP, Slow Dust (1992), made it to number one on the UK indie chart. Soon after, their single “Feed the Tree” made the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart and their first album, Star (1993), hit number two on the UK Albums Chart.
In the United States, the album was certified gold, largely based on the success of “Feed the Tree” played on Modern Rock radio stations and MTV, where the video was featured as part of MTV’s Buzz Bin videos and Alternative Nation video show for much of 1993. Two follow-up singles were released, “Gepetto” and “Slow Dog” but neither matched the initial success of “Feed the Tree.” Star was consequently nominated for two Grammys. The album went on to sell over 800,000 copies in the US alone and two million worldwide.[citation needed]
In the spring of 1993, they embarked on a US tour supported by Radiohead

Recorded Sound Emporium Studios, Nashville, Tennessee
Amazon Studios, Liverpool, England .

The Cars’ 1978 self-titled debut, issued on the Elektra label, is a genuine rock classic. The band jokingly referred to the album as their “true greatest-hits album,” but it’s no exaggeration — all nine tracks are new wave/rock classics, still playing regulary on rock radio. Whereas most bands of the late ’70s embraced either punk/new wave or hard rock, the Cars were one of the first bands to do the unthinkable — merge the two styles together. Add to it bandleader/songwriter Ric Ocasek’s supreme pop sensibilities, One of the most popular new wave songs ever in america, “Just What I Needed,” is an obvious highlight, as are such familiar hits as “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.” But like most consummate rock albums, the lesser-known compositions are just as exhilarating: “Don’t Cha Stop,” “Bye Bye Love,” “All Mixed Up,” and “Moving in Stereo,” the latter featured as an instrumental during a steamy scene in the popular movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. With flawless performances, songwriting, and production, the Cars’ debut remains one of rock’s all-time classics.

The Cars first album has been about four decades since they committed this effort to disc. It’s not a bad record; there are some songs I really like and Elliot Easton is an outstanding lead guitarist. The songs are basic rock songs disguised by cheeky but often nonsensical lyrics and heavy use of a decorative synthesizer. I say “decorative” because like so many bands in the late 70’s and 80’s, the synthesizer was used to make songs sound more important and cool than they really were. I don’t know who chose the track order, but opening with the weakest song on the album isn’t the best way to make new friends. “Good Times Roll” is hardly an original title, and the music hardly evokes good times. The chord structure is simple enough but the choice to use a declining pattern tends to make the song a downer, especially in contrast to the promise of the title. I suppose the dour chord pattern could be a statement of New Wave ironic chic , but if irony was the goal, one would think there would be some confirmation in the lyrics. But no, they’re just silly:

Let the good times roll
Let them knock you around
Let the good times roll
Let them make you a clown
Let them leave you up in the air
Let them brush your rock and roll hair
Let the good times roll

Ric Ocasek employs his soon-to-be-overused pouty vocal style to the point of irritation, and the harmonies used on the last line of the chorus are a pale imitation of Queen . The intrusion of synth-produced strings causes even more damage. When you have as natural an opening song as “Just What I Needed” in your possession, failing to place it in the lead spot is tantamount to criminal negligence.

While the opening is so Tommy James, “My Best Friend’s Girl” is at least a more coherent composition. We get to hear Elliot Easton’s lead guitar more clearly, and he gives a pretty impressive all-around performance on the fills and in the solo. Ocasek’s lead vocal isn’t much better, and his occasional Bolan-esque grunts lack sincerity and seem out of context. The harmonies here are stronger, and the rhythm section of Benjamin Orr and David Robinson keeps things moving at a nice pace. The song definitely encourages you to sing along, so overall I think “My Best Friend’s Girl” is a plus.

Then there’s “Just What I Needed,” a song on a much higher plane. The opening passage is fantastic, with its strong forward movement dramatized by single then double power chords that vanish in the seamless transition to the bass-and-drum drive of the first verse. Though I definitely would have whacked the synth and replaced it with more Elliot Easton, this sucker rocks so hard even the synth can’t kill it, and when Elliot gets his shot in the spotlight, he nails it with a perfectly-arranged solo that ends on an exciting upward run. Benjamin Orr’s lead vocal is outstanding, expressing the contradictory emotions of self-loathing and desire with just the right amount of tension:

I don’t mind you comin’ here
And wastin’ all my time
‘Cause when you’re standin’, oh so near
I kinda lose my mind
It’s not the perfume that you wear
It’s not the ribbons in your hair
And I don’t mind you comin’ here
And wastin’ all my time

The way to read the lyrics is as follows: the guy is lying in six of the eight lines. The only directly-spoken truth is “‘Cause when you’re standin’ oh so near/I kinda lose my mind.” All the other lines reflect the exact opposite of what he’s feeling. It is the perfume, it is the ribbons, and fuck yeah, he wants her to be there. The spot harmonies on “ribbons in your hair” are inspired and always give me the chills. As an exposition of male paralysis when overwhelmed by desire, there is no better song than “Just What I Needed,” and the fact that it kicks ass.

“I’m in Touch with Your World” is the most quirky song on the album, and I rather like quirky. Interestingly, the guitar duet establishes the beat, while the percussion instruments (drums, cymbals, bells and ratchet) make the whole thing sound like a mechanical fun house. Ric Ocasek’s vocal is shoved into deep background by the heavy reverb, adding to the mystery of the sound. Both the narrator and object of his one-sided conversation are virtual shut-ins who have created alternative realities through either psilocybin, science fiction or both, and so the message “I’m in touch with your world” is an attempt by Party A to encourage Party B to air his weird thoughts in a safe space. The closing lines, “It’s such a lovely way to go” could imply suicide but the music doesn’t communicate darkness—it’s “music for those whose inner compasses are out of calibration” or more conventionally, those whose cranial containers are “a few bricks shy of a load.”

We leave the introverts in their artificial cocoon and return to the equally complex world of sexual interaction with “Don’t Cha Stop.” Given my perpetually horny nature, one might think that I would love a song that opened with these lines:

Right here I’d like to melt inside of you
Right here you kiss is totally new
Right here your hands are soft and creamy
Right here your mouth is wet and dreamy

Wrong! Of all the songs on the album, “Don’t Cha Stop” is by far the most irritating, a song that turns sex into the aural equivalent of a Disney tune. The sickeningly sweet chorus sounds like it was written for pre-teens who have no idea what those funny feelings in the nether regions are all about

“Just What I Needed,” a song that exposes the moments of desperation experienced usually by those held in the thrall of mating season and gives them legitimacy as a natural step in the rite of passage. The narrator of “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” is in a real bad way—so horny he has no problem being used, abused and lied to, and he’ll do it anywhere you like. Ric Ocasek finally finds some discipline and delivers a performance true to the character, and there’s more than enough excellent work from Elliott Easton throughout the song to make you forget the synthesizer had ever been invented. This album would have been a thousand times better had The Cars realized what a great lead guitar player they had and let him loose.

“Bye Bye Love” features another unoriginal title, another round of flanged guitar and really annoying synth fills that detract from a comparatively strong vocal from Ocasek. What I notice most in this piece is the outstanding drum work from David Robinson, but underneath all the college-level lyrics, this is really just another song that blames it all on the woman. It’s followed by the darker tones of “Moving in Stereo,” a song about failing to face reality that goes absolutely nowhere. We end our journey with “All Mixed Up,” an odd combination of medieval English folk and off-day Queen.

In the interest of supporting your right to hear both sides of the story, you can head over to AllMusic and read a glowing review of The Carswhere you will see the album described as “a genuine rock masterpiece” and that “all nine tracks are New Wave/rock classics.” What I hear is the sound of a band addicted to the latest toys to the point that they forgot about the real talent they possessed in their quest for trendiness.

thanks 50THIRDAND3RD interesting view

Quicksilver Messenger Service Follow The ‘Happy Trails’

This was the day 49 years ago that San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service unveiled their finest hour, at least in commercial terms. March 17th, 1969 marked the release of ‘Happy Trails,’ their second album for Capitol Records and their one LP to win gold certification in America. When it comes to groups graced with two lead guitarists, one often earns more ardor than the other. Sometimes that’s understandable, like when one player takes more of the solos. But in a case like Quicksilver Messenger Service, it’s a mystery. In their heyday, John Cipollina tended to get more attention than Gary Duncan, though they both made dazzling contributions to their albums and concerts.

Cipollina’s distinctly ringing tremolo, a kind of sonic special effect that achieved a shivery resonance on the highest notes. In fact, Duncan has his own distinct tone and his overall work showed nearly as much invention and scope as his partner’s. You can hear their interplay best in the band’s oceanic jams,

Quite unusually for a sophomore record, ‘Happy Trails’ was a live album, taken from performances by the band at the famed Fillmore East and Fillmore West venues. Even more ambitiously, the first side of the disc was a suite of songs, running more than 25 minutes in total, based around the theme of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love?’, in no fewer than six episodic interpretations. Quicksilver’s version divided into seven sections, with different sub-titles. One dubbed When You Love, featured a long, and highly creative, five-minute jaunt from Duncan that drew from jazz as well as psychedelia, underscored by a Latin-influenced bass line. It’s forceful and ruminative at once. Cipollina took the reins during the How You Love segment, letting his chilling tremolo spin through loop-de-loops, broken by distinct cries phased to shoot back and forth between the speakers.

The first and last of these were versions of the song itself, with notable roles for the band’s guitarists John Cipollina and Gary Duncan. The first even nudged into the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 91. But the middle passages were all written by the members of QMS themselves, titled (with a hint of humour) ‘When You Love, ‘Where You Love,’ ‘How You Love’ and ‘Which Do You Love.’

Quicksilver goes into it at full speed,” wrote Greil Marcus in his Rolling Stone review at the time, “John Cipollina’s guitar alternately harsh and sweet, clashing with Gary Duncan’s rhythm, Greg Elmore’s drumming simple and solid, never an iota of sloppiness, not a note missed.”

Who do you love and Mona are excellent examples of QMS live , the audience interaction is exciting and enervating, Cipollina’s guitar playing is ecstatic and moving. Calvary is like a psychedelic spaghetti western and is quite in place and a good ol’ boys yippee ay yay ending in Happy Trails means a great trip is guaranteed for all you heads out there

This is simply the San Francisco live,’acid rock’, sound at its best. Obviously comparisons with the Dead will be made but for reasons well expressed by the other reviewers here they are pretty meaningless. I can understand why opinions are divided over this album, It is one of the great, maybe the greatest, guitar album(s) flowing in a way that no other has ever equalled. Don’t look for structured songs here just, to quote the Airplane,”ride the music”. One of the two or three albums that would be in my top ten whenever you asked me.

The second side of ‘Happy Trails’ started with another gem from the Bo Diddley catalogue, ‘Mona,’ and three more band compositions including Duncan’s 13-minute instrumental ‘Calvary.’

The album artwork was designed by Globe Propaganda, described as “an advertising agency specializing in hip, progressive material.” Soon afterwards, Globe designed covers for the Charlatans and It’s A Beautiful Day. 23 years after its release, in 1992, ‘Happy Trails’ went gold, testament to the lasting contribution of Quicksilver Messenger Service as was the fact that it landed at No. 189 on Rolling Stone’s all-time top 500 albums.

At their most guitar-centric Fleetwood Mac, featured not two but three players on the guitar. In 1969, the group hired 18-year-old Danny Kirwan to add a new hue to the palate created by the original line-up featuring guitarist Jeremy Spencer and star player Peter Green. To Spencer’s rockabilly flair and Green’s hard blues power, Kirwan brought more melodicism and nuance. Their three-way frisson came to fruition on the band’s third album, ‘Then Play On’, especially in songs like “Oh Well” which presented a blues riff so tight, Mac kept it in their set through multiple personal changes for decades to come. Another song from that album, “Searching for Madge,” let Green and Kirwan spar in a ten-minute free jam. A particularly hot version of another song from that era “Rattlesnake Shake” , appeared on the band’s “Live In Boston” the guitars slashed and burned with a violence the band rarely achieved in the studio. On the other end of the spectrum, Kirwan and Green made their instruments sweetly entwine in “Coming Your Way” , a song the former wrote which opens ‘Then Play On’.

The whole set is more like a seamless `suite` of songs, with two instrumentals dedicated to a devoted Mac fan named Madge punctuating them. I bought the original LP and played it a lot. It sounded unlike anything else at the time, and it still has a unique feel to it. What is such a relief is to find how wonderful it still sounds, after so long.

The interplay between Spencer and Kirwan came to the fore on the 1970 studio next release “Kiln House”, cut after Green left. One year later, Kirwan found a new sparring partner in the American-born Bob Welch.

 

Neil Young - on-the-beach

On the Beach is the fifth studio album by Neil Young, released in 1974. It was unavailable on compact disc until it was released as a HDCD-encoded remastered version on August 19th, 2003 as part of his Archives Digital Masterpiece Series.

Recorded after (but released before) Tonight’s the Night, On the Beach shares some of that album’s bleakness and crude production—which came as a shock to fans and critics alike, as this was the long-awaited studio follow-up to the commercially and critically successful Harvest—but also included hints pointing towards a more subtle outlook, particularly on the opener, “Walk On”.

While the original Rolling Stone review described it as “One of the most despairing albums of the decade”, later critics used the benefit of hindsight to conclude that Young “[w]as saying goodbye to despair, not being overwhelmed by it”. The despair of Tonight’s the Night, communicated through intentional underproduction and lyrical pessimism, gives way to a more polished album that is still pessimistic but to a lesser degree. Much like Tonight’s the Night, On the Beach was not a commercial success at the time of its release but over time It’s attained a high regard from fans and critics alike. The album was recorded in a haphazard manner, with Young utilizing a variety of session musicians, and often changing their instruments while offering only bare-bones arrangements for them to follow (in a similar style to Tonight’s the Night). He also would opt for rough, monitor mixes of songs rather than a more polished sound, alienating his sound engineers in the process.

[The best song on the album…] Ambulance Blues:

“Ambulance Blues” closes the album. The melody ‘unintentionally’ quotes Bert Jansch’s “Needle of Death”. In a 1992 interview for the French “Guitare & Claviers” magazine, Young discussed Jansch’ influence:

“As for acoustic guitar, Bert Jansch is on the same level as Jimi (Hendrix). That first record of his is epic. It came from England, and I was especially taken by “Needle of Death”, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good. And years later, on On the Beach, I wrote the melody of “Ambulance Blues” by styling the guitar part completely on “Do You Hear Me Now?”. I wasn’t even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it.”

The second side of On the Beach ends with “Ambulance Blues,” it’s a stunningly brilliant, stream-of-conscious epic that ranks as one of Neil Young’s greatest lyrical achievements, taking on everything from Richard Nixon (“I never knew a man could tell so many lies”) to the sad state of Crosby, Stills and Nash (“You’re all just pissin’ in the wind/You don’t know it but you are.”) But it begins in a better place, looking back on the “old folky days” when “the air was magic when we played.” But time made that magic fade away, and sorrow mixed with pity quickly seeps into the verses. The song sat dormant for a good many years, but in 1998 he made a shocking return at the Bridge School Benefit and then he played it every night on the 2007-’08 theater tour.

If there’s any doubt that Neil Young was super bummed out when he made On The Beach in early 1974, listen no further to the title track that kicks off the second side of the LP. “The world is turnin’,” he sings in the opening lines. “I hope it don’t turn away.” It only gets worse from there as he contends with a radio interview where he winds up “alone at the microphone” before he decides to simply get out of town. “I head for the sticks with my bus and friends,” he sings. “I follow the road, though I don’t know where it ends.” The road took him to a disastrous CSNY reunion tour later that year that did little to lighten his mood, though by the end of the year he met future wife Pegi Morton and things turned around. He played “On the Beach” at a bunch of 1974 CSNY shows, though it’s a super rarity this days. Since 1975 he’s only played it twice: at a 1999 solo acoustic show in Chicago and in 2003 at a Greendale acoustic show in Hamburg, Germany.

“Good times are coming, I hear it everywhere I go,” Neil Young sings on 1974’s “Vampire Blues.” “Good times are coming, but they sure are coming slow.” Featuring guitarist George Whitsell (who played with Crazy Horse in their 1960s band the Rockets) and bassist Tim Drummond scraping a credit card on his beard for a cool sound effect, “Vampire Blues” is a typically bummed-out On the Beach song where Young compares himself to a vampire bat seeking out “high octane” blood. The only time he ever played it live was at an Eagles show in 1974, though it has been rehearsed for his upcoming summer tour.

David Crosby got roped into playing guitar on this creepy On the Beach tune, but the tale of a Charles Manson-like figure freaked him out and to this day he says he doesn’t care for the song. It’s certainly hard to imagine the former Byrd writing a song from the perspective of a murderous psychopath with lines like, “Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars/But I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars.” But it was a reflection of the difficult time when the (supposedly) peaceful 1960s had given way to the violent, coked-out 1970s. Young hasn’t touched the song since a one-off Crazy Horse gig in 1987.

Personnel:

  • Neil Young – guitar on 1 3 5 6 7 8, vocal, Wurlitzer electric piano on 2, banjo on 4, harmonica on 7 8
  • Ben Keith – slide guitar on 1, vocal on 1 4, steel guitar on 2, Dobro on 4, Wurlitzer electric piano on 3, organ on 5, hand drums on 6, bass on 7 8
  • Tim Drummond – bass on 2 5 6, percussion on 5
  • Ralph Molina – drums on 1 5 6, vocal on 1, hand drums on 7 8

Additional personnel

  • Billy Talbot – bass on 1
  • Levon Helm – drums on 2 3
  • Joe Yankee – harp on 2, electric tambourine on 8
  • David Crosby – guitar on 3
  • Rick Danko – bass on 3
  • George Whitsell – guitar on 5
  • Graham Nash – Wurlitzer electric piano on 6
  • Rusty Kershaw – slide guitar on 7, fiddle on 8

On the Beach was savage and, ultimately, triumphant. “I’m a vampire, babe,” Young sang, and he proceeded to take bites out of various subjects: threatening the lives of the stars who lived in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon (“Revolution Blues”); answering back to Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose “Sweet Home Alabama” had taken him to task for his criticisms of the South in “Southern Man” and “Alabama” (“Walk On”); and rejecting the critics (“Ambulance Blues”). But the barbs were mixed with humor and even affection, as Young seemed to be emerging from the grief and self-abuse that had plagued him for two years. But the album was so spare and under-produced, its lyrics so harrowing, that it was easy to miss Young’s conclusion: he was saying goodbye to despair, not being overwhelmed by it.

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Violent Femmes is the band’s most successful album to date and achieved a rare feat by going gold, four years after its release, and then later platinum, four years after that, without ever having yet made an appearance on the  album chart. After achieving platinum certification on February 1st, 1991, eight years after its initial release the album finally entered the Billboard album chart for the first time on August 3, 1991″. Quite simply ,the Violent Femmes’ self-titled album was the quintessential hymnal for the disaffected youth of America in the ’80s. With its jangly folk-punk frustration and venom-spitting lyrics, the debut featured tracks  “Blister in The Sun,” “Kiss Off” and “Add it Up,” arguably the three best Anthems of the proudly maladjusted ever penned.

Most of the songs on both this album and its follow-up were written when the songwriter, Gordon Gano, was 18 years old and still in high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its one of the most distinctive records of the early alternative movement and an enduring cult classic”, noting that “the music also owes something to the Modern Lovers’ minimalism, but powered by Brian Ritchie’s busy acoustic bass riffing and the urgency and wild abandon of punk rock, the Femmes forged a sound all their own

Nothing sounded like it before and nothing has since captured the sublime and perverse joy of teenage angst and adolescent anarchy like the Violent Femmes. In fact, just listening to “Add it Up” has been known to cause acne, awkward haircuts and ripped jeans

In 2002, Rhino Records remastered the album, filled out the disc’s length with demos, and added another disc of live tracks and a radio interview for a 20th anniversary special edition, with liner notes by Michael Azerrad.

Violent Femmes
  • Victor DeLorenzo – snare drum, tranceaphone, drum set, bass drum, backing vocals
  • Gordon Gano – acoustic and electric guitars, violin, lead vocals
  • Brian Ritchie – acoustic and electric bass guitars, xylophone, backing vocals

Country singer Emmylou Harris had no idea what she was in for the day she arrived at Columbia Studios to sing backup on her first Bob Dylan sessions. Emmylou Harris had just received the lyrics to “Romance in Durango” and was practicing when she realized the tape had already started rolling. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can fix anything that sounds funky or out of tune with the engineer later,'” she says. But there would be no second takes. “That album was like throwing paint on a canvas. And whatever happened was what it was supposed to be. I guess that’s another part of the genius of Dylan: He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Dylan thrived on chaos and chance while making Desire, a process that was a far cry from the heavily labored recording of his prior LP, 1975’s Blood on the Tracks. One night, Dylan was walking around Greenwich Village and was approached by Jacques Levy, a playwright and director who had previously written songs with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Dylan invited Levy to hang out that night at the Other End, a long-standing folkie haunt; later on, at Levy’s apartment, they wrote “Isis.” “He said these magic words, ‘I’d like you to write some stuff for me,'” Levy recalled before his death in 2004. They continued work at Dylan’s summer home in the Hamptons, writing songs with a much different flavor than the reflective tone of his last album. “I guess I never intended to keep that going,” Dylan said. “Sometimes you’ll get what you can out of these things, but you can’t stay there.”

The album’s centerpieces were rooted in real-life drama. The album’s opening track and highlight, Hurricane,” was based on the plight of boxer Rubin Carter, who was charged with three murders in 1966. A decade later, his case was protested by activists, who claimed that racism drove both his arrest and trial. Dylan picked up on Carter’s story and wrote an eight-and-a-half-minute song about him, which was both controversial and eye-opening. (In 1985, Carter was released after a judge found that he didn’t receive a fair trial 20 years earlier.) It also — surprisingly, given its subject matter and length

Instead, these were sprawling narratives of outlaws and wanderers, with clearer storylines than anything Dylan had written in more than a decade. They included the cowboy-on-the-run tale “Isis” and “Joey,” the 11-minute saga of fallen gangster Joey Gallo. “I thought ‘Joey’ was a good song,” Dylan said in 1981. “I know no one said much about it.” Perhaps it was overshadowed by “Hurricane,” the story of former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who had been convicted of triple murder in 1966. “I read his book and it really touched me,” said Dylan. “I felt that the man was innocent.” Though Dylan and Levy’s lyrics were riddled with factual errors (as was “Joey”), the song helped turn public attention to Carter’s case; his conviction was overturned in 1985. Cover version of the 1976 classic.
Guitars, Vocals and Bass by Elliott Smith recorded at home in Barnard Castle Co. Durham, England.

The album’s atmosphere was also affected by a trip Dylan had taken to the South of France, where he had gone to a “gypsy festival” on his birthday. The gypsy imagery marked songs like “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Durango.” “I think ‘exotic’ is a good word to put on it,” said Levy. The only personal song on Desire is perhaps his most personal ever: “Sara,” a plea to his then-estranged wife, Sara Lownds, to return to him. According to Levy, Lownds showed up at the studio the night they recorded the song. “You could have heard a pin drop,” said Levy. “She was absolutely stunned by it.” .More than two dozen musicians were initially gathered — a violin player, an accordion and mandolin player, even Eric Clapton at one point — to work on Desire, but by the time it was released on January  16th, 1976, its scale had lessened by quite a bit.

During recording, Dylan kept several studios going at once, filled with musicians (including Dave Mason and Eric Clapton) and non-musicians. Says bassist Rob Stoner, “They had opened up all the adjacent studios to accommodate all these hangers-on and buffet tables. It was just like a huge party. And it wasn’t conducive to getting any work done.”

Eventually, the rooms were cleared and a core group cut the entire album over two long nights. “There was just a level of excitement,” says Stoner. “Sessions were called for 7 p.m., and we only stopped at seven in the morning because that’s when they tow your car on that street. We didn’t want to lose the vibe. No drinking, no drugs, no nothing. It was pure adrenaline.”

Scotland’s Incredible String Band combined traditional music of several cultures and brought that mixture into the hippie era, giving birth to freak folk. Among the ISB’s many fans is Robert Plant, who once cited the group’s “The Hangmans Beautiful Daughter” as a major influence on Led Zeppelin. The 1968 Elektra collection is ambitious and eclectic, applying a wide array of acoustic instruments (including sitar, oud, hammered dulcimer,  pan pipe and harpsichord) to the frequently surreal lyrics of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. These songs of minotaurs and amoebas are psychedelic in the broadest sense of the term, and make excellent use of multi-tracking and overdubbing, guided by the capable hand of producer Joe Boyd. A commercial success in its native U.K. as well as a Grammy nominee, THE HANGMAN’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER is considered the Incredible String Band’s finest album, and it still works a strange magic on listeners.

For an album with lyrics like “If I were a witch’s hat, sitting on her head like a paraffin stove” and “I hear that the Emperor of China used to wear iron shoes with ease;We are the tablecloth, and also the table;also the fable of the dancing leaves”?
Just goes to show we baby-boomers had a damn sight more musical appreciation sense than we’ve been given credit for! This is, granted, the most mysterious, wordy, other-wordly of the Incredibles albums, but it Never loses its’ way musically, even in the key and tempo changes abounding in Williamson’s opening Keoaddii There or Heron’s 12 minute A very Cellular song, which, over 15 years on, Talking Heads adopted as a concert closer-now you know David Byrne was no fool either.

The best bit about this is you don’t need to be any of these things to enjoy this-stoned/hippy/old/living dead. It probably goes without saying that the duo’s instumentational abilities are great on any of their first 4 albums-this being the 3rd-but here the sheer variety of what they play and what they get out of those instruments defies belief. You could almost listen to the album for that alone, or for the poetry of the lyrics.