Monday, May 21, 2018

Real Bowie Fans Preferred: Unlikely Hits, Part One (A Possible Series)

I really don't like or get "Fashion." It's bothered me since I first heard it in 1979.

Now, the title of this post is "Real Bowie Fans Preferred" because, I am sure I am not the only one who doesn't like "Fashion." But I am not looking for the casual Bowie fan who is ready to proclaim his distaste for everything since "Ziggy Stardust," or the obligatory cheap shot from a Bowie hater. I am looking for the Bowie fan who has stuck around through "Never Let Me Down" and "Dancing In The Streets" and who, like me, can find the good in Tin Machine. If you are that person, tell me what you think of "Fashion?"

I don't like the production, or the lyrics---it lost me on the very first line, "there's a brand new dance." Even Bowie's phrasing is odder than usual--"Shouting on the-UH UH dance floor." Then, the clincher is that awful chant at the end-- "Ooh ah, do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do, fa-fa-fa-fa-Fashion, la-la-la-la-ooh."

How the hell was this a hit and fan favorite? I find it all so cringe-making.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Songs Of The Week, 2018: 5/12-5/18

Two Magpies-The Fireman
Secret Love-The Balham Alligators
Romance In Durango- Bob Dylan
Think Back- Galactic w/ Chali 2na
Tennessee Jed- Levon Helm
Nothing Rhymed- Gilbert O'Sullivan
Touched By The Sun- Carly Simon


Two Magpies- The Fireman
Gave "Electric Arguments" a spin. Some of the more ambient stuff at the end slows things down a bit, but the first half is some truly terrific McCartney. Love the vibe of "Two Magpies."

Secret Love-The Balham Alligators
With a Nick Lowe E.P. on the horizon, I thought about this Cajun gem from his longtime keyboardist Geraint Watkins.

Romance In Durango- Bob Dylan
Was part of yet another discussion about Dylan's best work and I mentioned how "Desire" does not get enough credit. Love this track.

Think Back- Galactic w/Chali 2Na
When Galactic released their album "From The Corner To The Block," I wasn't too thrilled with the idea that there would be some hip hop elements to it. I just wanted some good ol' New Orleans funk and R&B. I was surprised by how well the whole record worked, especially this track with Chali 2na from the Jurassic 5. I just love the quality and phrasing of Chali's voice.

Tennessee Jed- Levon Helm
This is how you take an oft-covered tune and make it something special. Talking about Levon Helm and his underappreciated skills behind the drum kit, this is a classic Helm pocket.

Nothing Rhymed-Gilbert O'Sullivan
Hadn't heard this in a while and so I played it. A beauty.

Touched By The Sun- Carly Simon
Same here. Can't recall the last time I heard this tune, so I played it. Not sure what made me think of it. Stunningly powerful.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Weekend Mix/Greetings From The Crack Palace

Or BBJ drops a big one.
The week in demos has been the best possible introduction. Thanks, Sal.

2017 was a rough year for me. One reason being the band I'd played with for 18 years fell apart and burst into flames.
When I brought all my gear home from our rented studio, it had nowhere to go except the living/dining room.
"Use it or lose it" I thought about all the real estate it took up, and began recording what became this album.
I'm not going into what else made it a difficult year, all I can say is making this music is what kept me from having a nervous breakdown. No exaggeration.
It's my personal blues.

I have vivid memories of mowing the lawn when I was 13, in 1970, while daydreaming of someday having a recording studio and creating music by playing all the instruments like my hero Paul McCartney. The only problem being I didn't know how to play anything except school band trumpet. It's taken me 48 years to get here.

My plan was to make an ambient record, but it went where it wanted to. All I could do was hang on for dear life and ride it out. A few tracks come close.

At various times I play: Electric and acoustic 6 & 12 string guitars, "Loog" guitar, octave mandolin, bass, fretless bass, Vietnamese moon lute (Dan Nguyet), autoharp, bass pedals, Hammond organ, mellotron, piano, toy piano, glockenspiel, strings, modular synthesizers, rhythm machines, Drums, Gongs, bongos, conga, hand claps, sleighbells, misc percussion, trumpet, mellophone, sound effects, loops, samples, and a church pipe organ.

It's all instrumental. It's probably better that I didn't put anything into words or it would have been rather dark.
I think of these as sound paintings.
Here's the first "single":

And here's another possibility:

I had a band in North Carolina in the late '80's named The Crack. We rehearsed at my house, which we dubbed The Crack Palace. All my home studios have been called that ever since.
It was during my Crack years I became known as Baby Jesus.
I liked to introduce the band from stage:
"Over here on bass, we have Thumbs, on cello, Killer, On vocals we have Cousin Daisy, and Golden Throat, behind me on drums is, The Black Stallion, and I'm Baby Jesus".
When I moved to Jersey City, and formed what would become Foglizard, "Buzz" was added because I usually had one.

I finished "CLOSE INC" last week and knew this chapter was complete.
2018 is a vast improvement so far.

Greetings From The Crack Palace

Greetings, too


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Demos and Alternates Week, Part Four: Cheap Trick & Todd Rundgren

With the Todd Rundgren and Utopia reunion tour in full swing, I started listening to records I hadn't played in some time, including 1984's "Oblivion," which felt like a major disappointment at the time, coming after their 1982 self-titled, pop gem, "Utopia." 34 years later, it all played a lot better than I remembered it, especially the hit, "Crybaby." But back then, there was something about "Crybaby" that felt very familiar.

In August of 1983, Cheap Trick released their pop gem, "Next Position, Please," produced by Todd Rundgren. On it was a Rundgren original, "Heaven's Falling," which to my ears is actually "Crybaby." Different lyrics, different melody, but yet these songs feel the same. The structure, the way both Zander and Todd begin the first verse in a low register, the way they both cry out the chorus, the backing vocals. It all feels like the same song.

I don't know which was written first, and I guess it doesn't matter. But I have always been fascinated by the two. Both songs are favorites of mine, like getting two great songs out of one great idea.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Demos and Alternates Week, Part Three: John Bonham & The Purdie Shuffle

Lost, quite literally, in the shuffle of all that's going on in Led Zeppelin's "Fool In The Rain," is the absolute beauty of John Bonham's drumming. The rhythm is the Purdie Shuffle, so named because legendary drummer Bernard Purdie, created the beat with those damn ghost notes on the snare and funky as all hell hi-hat and bass drum hits. Hard to believe that Purdie was the very first drummer to employ this exact rhythm, but that research is best saved for another post. Right now, I am focused on the power of Bonham's attack and just how deep his pocket is. I could listen to this for days on end, and I have.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Demos and Alternates Week, Part Two: Jeff Lynne

The 80's output of ELO, barely three members at this point, is a trilogy of missed opportunities. "Time," "Secret Messages" and "Balance Of Power," each contain a half dozen classic Jeff Lynne tunes, filled with hooks and harmonies, but some of the most horrible, synthetic 80's production ever put to plastic. "Balance Of Power" makes Gary Numan sound like Judee Sill in comparison.

I know many of you just barely tolerate Jeff Lynne and his flatulent drum sound, but I am more forgiving. While he was responsible for ruining Dave Edmunds, he did a fine job with his Tom Petty and George Harrison productions, and his most recent release as "Jeff Lynne's ELO," was my favorite record of that year. I can't help it. The man can write a hook. I'm a sucker for a hook. As a drummer, I should hate everything Lynne touches, but again, his songwriting and melodies win me over every time.

That said, I've always loved the track "Secret Lives" from ELO's last, "Balance Of Power," even in its commercially release form, awash in videogame synthesizers, bells and whistles. But just last week, I discovered an alternate version added as a bonus track to the remastered CD. I've owned this CD for 20 years and I am quite sure I never played it. The cleaner, alternate is up top. The original album version is below. The alternate wins by a mile.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Demos and Alternates Week, Part One: Mabel Greer's Toy Shop

I won't claim the first record by Yes is the best record by Yes. I am not that guy who only likes Led Zeppelin's first, gave up on Clapton after the Bluesbreakers, and thinks "Quadrophenia" stinks. No, I think "Close To The Edge," the record that is universally thought of as the Yes masterpiece, is in fact their best. But man, do I love their debut! I had written about it before and what I had written had somehow found its way to Bill Bruford's eyes, which prompted him to expound on it a bit more. That was certainly a Burning Wood highlight.

While searching for one thing, I stumbled across a listing for an early live recording that featured Yes covering the Buffalo Springfield's "Everydays," which eventually was recorded for "Time & A Word," The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," which I assume was left unrecorded in favor of "Every Little Thing," which made its way to the debut, and The Rascals' "It's Love," which was news to me! The bonus material on this bootleg CD, included a BBC version of my favorite Yes song of them all, "Beyond & Before," the opening psych/pop gem from their debut. I had no idea this was ever performed live, so I dug a little deeper and found what is posted above--"Beyond & Before" as performed by Mabel Greer's Toy Shop, the pre-Yes band that morphed from The Syn with Chris Squire into Yes.

As I said mentioned above, I think "Close To The Edge" is a masterpiece, all three songs of it. But there is something about "Beyond & Before" that really does it for me. The whole of that debut really does it for me. This is what I wrote in 2010:

The songs are relatively short, with nothing clocking in over 7 minutes, and most less than 6. The band hasn't yet employed two of its most infamous members, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman, so the guitar and keyboards are played by Peter Banks and Tony Kaye, respectively. Musically, it leans more towards the heavy, psych-rock of early Deep Purple, as well as, dare I say it, the Airplane and, like this song here, "Beyond & Before," later Move.

I still agree with what I said.