Monday, September 26, 2016

I Call Do-Over!

I have had Jeff Lynne on heavy rotation since the release of his solo LP, "Long Wave." My initial reaction to that record of standards was not good. I thought it was a waste of time after not hearing any proper new music from the man since 2001's criminally ignored ELO record, "Zoom." But once I listened, I realized that I am a fan, through and through. I can't help it. I love his voice, his style, his harmonies. I love the guy and this was something new. What can I say? I love "Long Wave." Once the comeback was complete with last year's stellar "Alone In The Universe," I was lost for good.

During this spell of heavy rotation, I went back to some of the later, lesser ELO records, like "Secret Messages" and "Balance Of Power." They made me understand why so many are turned off by Jeff. It's one thing to create a band that mixed Beatle-esque pop with classical music. But by the 80s, Jeff Lynne was taking Beatle-esque pop and drowning it in synthesizers, plastic strings, phased vocals and crappy drum sounds. Those wonderful pop songs were still present, but you needed a HazMat suit to find them. Truth be told, I still love those records, but I understand why so many got off the spaceship. Those overblown records also add to my bewilderment over why "Zoom" was so ill-received. It's got both George & Ringo on it, the production was softer, and one song is better than the other. It was the record Jeff Lynne fans needed and somehow, no one cared.

But that's not why I am here.

The song "Confusion," from ELO's 1979 hit "Discovery," is my choice for a song that I would love to do-over. Its gorgeous melody did not need background vocals sung by a choir of robot eunuchs. I am hearing this song with two acoustic guitars, two voices and a nice organic rhythm section. Actually, I hear all of Jeff Lynne's songs post-1976 this way, but once again, I am a fan. Plus, I think if given the opportunity in some fantasy world, to actually redo this song with Jeff, he'd grow tired of me after one session, so I will have to be satisfied with just one.

Is there one song by your favorite artist, you wish you could do-over? I might have done this before, so apologies for

Friday, September 23, 2016

Weekend Mix: Sonic Bloom

When Sir John rang me up he was in bad shape. Obviously drunk.

"I'm fucked, mate," was all he could say at first, then, "I can't finish me bloody album for fuck's sake!" He always sounds Irish when he's drinking.
"It's the Irish talking", he'll say, pointing at the word on the bottle above "Whiskey"

He was working on a solo album after giving most of his adult musical life to the band. They'd all quit and now the bass player hates him, apparently.
After the second blown deadline, his label insisted on an outside producer, and he'd rejected everyone they'd suggested.

I got the next flight to London and by tea time the following day I was in beautiful downtown Swindon, dodging hipsters. I had a schwarma at Mamoun's, a Tiger brew or two at the Splash and Spasm, and thusly fortified, hired a car and rode out to his country estate. I never count on being fed out there. The cook is still mad at me for making a rude joke concerning "bangers and mash".

I felt a fair amount of trepidation as we turned off the A419, halfway to Cirencester, onto the long drive into the property, and rode past the empty zoo cages, now somewhat overgrown, and signalling disrepair. A family of hedgehogs it's sole captives.
The maid indicated he was out by the pool, where I found him shut in the cabana. With much cajoling he appeared, dressed in a rumpled terry cloth robe, a V-neck T-shirt, lightly dusted with bisquit crumbs, pink sunglasses, and matching plastic flipflops. He looked terrible. Worse for wear than the topiary animals out by the zoo.

"I need you to be my producer, mate," he said, sheepishly.

With that, he handed me a thumb drive with over 160 songs on it.

"I'll see what I can do," I said.

"I'm sure you'll make it right as rain," he said managing a smile, as I wondered about the metaphor. How could rain be "Right"?

"I get to play GOD, er Todd," I thought, and pondered that troubled history. A masterpiece and a thirty year grudge.

We locked ourselves in the former garden shed, now studio, lit a phatty, and got to work.
I was dumbstruck by the overall quality of the material.
Although there were plenty of throwaway tunes, and self-indulgent experiments, it was obvious there was a great album in there (A double as it turned out).
The first thing I did was get rid of everything that hearing once was enough.
I avoided the overly familiar material made famous by the band.

"WWTD" (What Would Todd Do?), I wondered. He'd roll up the sleeves and do some heavy lifting, while not being too concerned about stepping on any toes. Who has time for that? In other words, beat the thing into shape.

I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. Once the basic tracks were selected, I got fairly intrusive (Sir John's words, paraphrased without expletives), giving about half the songs tighter intros. Many were too long. "Little Lighthouse" was marred by almost a minute of noise it didn't need at the end. I gave it a proper one. Through brutality, I made room for more music.

"My Land Is Burning" required no such attention. A perfectly rendered closer if I ever heard one.

Sir John Johns is a great songwriter, fine vocalist, and nifty guitarist. I like his version of "Shake You Donkey Up" about 100 times more than what ended up on that, to my ears, unlistenable album, by the band. I hate the drum programming, but somehow his use of canned drums here doesn't bother me.
Perhaps because Sir John otherwise sounds so fresh. Nothing like first takes without band politics as a backdrop.
After spending so much time with this material, the band's versions can sound somewhat overworked.

I'm not sure how he feels about "our" record, as he hasn't returned my calls. I will someday get even for the "gift" he left in my suitcase.
The uniformed guys with guns weren’t amused.

I think it's a terrific personal statement, and after this experience,
probably the only solo album we'll ever get out of him.

Put it on again, indeed!

Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom Too


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thank You

I wanted to sneak this in before BBJ's mix for the weekend.

Thanks to all who helped out by tossing a bit into the collection plate. Received some lovely messages, as well. Feels good. I will do what I can to entertain and keep the music going.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

She Will Have Her Way

If I write about Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Stones and Elvis Costello, I can be sure to see plenty of activity in the comments sections, taking one side or the another, depending on what's being written. But I have also noticed after all these years, that certain artists almost always fail to invoke any response, one way or the other. An indifference maybe. Is the music simply not good or bad enough? Is there nothing controversial to debate? Maybe there is a collective smile happening that I just can't see.

I thought about this because of something a friend said to me last week.

"Where has Neil Finn been all my life?"

She said this because she had been listening to a compilation of Split Enz/Crowded House and solo material I made for her...EIGHT YEARS AGO!

I was thrilled that she finally came around. Neil Finn has been a favorite of mine since I first heard the brilliant pop candy that is "I Got You." The Crowded House records are the perfect combination of sweet and bitter, with songs that can appeal to both fans of the perfect single, as well as those who need a little more adventure. I guess I can say that about Split Enz, as well. And Neil's solo work finds a songwriter who has grown up, someone no longer afraid of what should and should not be. Pop songs with daring arrangements, as well as the occasional daring melody with a daring arrangement. He is not afraid to take chances.

I've written about Neil with Crowded House and without. I've raved about his solo work. The Finn Brothers release of 2004, "Everyone His Here," recorded with his brother, Split Emz founder Tim Finn, is one of my favorite records of all time. His last solo release, "Dizzy Heights" was a favorite of the year, and yet, few have said much about any of it.

This is not a complaint. It is a curiousity, brought on by my friend's query, "Where has Neil Finn been all my life?"

Needless to say, I am on a Finn kick. I have made the first single off his first solo album, "Try Whistling This" the Song Of The Day and the highlight of this post. Maybe today will be the day everyone listens and decides, "Man, this guy stinks!" Or maybe you all will be asking, "Where has Neil Finn been all my life?"


Split Enz- Corroboree
Crowded House-Together Alone
Neil Finn- Try Whistling This
Finn Brothers- Everyone Is Here
7 Worlds Collide
Neil Finn-Dizzy Heights
Neil Finn & Paul Kelly-Going My Way

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

77 Years Young!

Ian Hunter has no business putting out yet another fabulous record. He is 77 years old, for goodness sake. "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" is 40 years old! Isn't it time for his duets record with John Pizzarelli and Cyndi Lauper? Yet, "Fingers Crossed," released last Friday, is quite simply, fantastic!

Credit must be given to the fabulous Rant Band, who has been behind every Ian Hunter record since 2001's "Rant," the first in the string of 4-star releases. Ian Hunter and the Rant Band have been together three times longer than Mott The Hoople, and James Mastro, the rock Mark Bosch on lead guitar, Steve Holley, Paul Page and sometimes Andy Burton have a sound as recognizable as Mott. Great job, lads.

"Fingers Crossed" offers the same formula as "Rant," "Shrunken Heads," "Man Overboard" and "When I'm President" before it. You know, if it ain't broke....

Hunter can still deliver the heartbreak with his ballads, and maybe these ballads have become a bit more sentimental as he gets older. But the man and the band, can still rock with the best of them, too, like the glammy opener "That's When The Trouble Starts."

Not everything hits the nail on the head. I was a little surprised by the U2-ish influence on "Stranded In Reality." I like U2, please don't misunderstand me. I'm just not sure I like how their sound works behind Ian.

Two of the strongest are here for your listening pleasure. "Bow Street Runners" up top and the first single, which I had originally posted a few weeks ago, the lovely, chills-inducing tribute to David Bowie, and maybe even the ol' boys in Mott, as well, "Dandy."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

News and Songs Of The Week: 9/3-9/16

Every year at this time, the site which stores all of the music and zip files you see on this blog needs to be paid. I know there are free sites, but I chose this one for many reasons including safety, size and speed. Every year, up until 2015, I had asked for small contributions to help with the cost. I didn't ask last year because, though I never felt comfortable asking, I felt more uncomfortable now that I had begun contributing less to the Weekend Mixes. This year is different. All of the music, almost 9 years worth, was moved from one server to another, so in order to keep all the links active, each and every link needs to be renamed. It's a daunting task, that I have been doing upon request, but have now considered bagging altogether.

So, there is a Paypal button on the left hand side of the page. If you feel like tossing something into the pot, I'll keep this baby alive. If not, then all links will be dead permanently and we will start anew come October 1st.

Thank you all for your continued support. This place only works because of you guys.

And now....your Songs Of The Week

You Don't Know How It Feels- Tom Petty
However Much I Booze- The Who
Hell Raiser- The Sweet
Gypsy Biker- Bruce Springsteen
Peppermint Lump- Angie & Pete Townshend
One Day- Jeff Lynne
Ride The Rhythm- Sly & The Family Stone
The Thin Ice- Pink Floyd
About You- Paul McCartney
Lovers Of The Sun- The Jayhawks
Lenny- Supergrass
Spanish Dancer- Steve Winwood
Before My Heart Attacks- Jason Falkner
It's Too Late- Bob Mould


Friday, September 16, 2016

Weekend Mix: Prognosis

Better late than never, right?

I was busy with another project (building a guitar) and didn't have any ideas until last night when I went through the library and started pulling tunes. Even then, it doesn't always work, and I admit I've spent days tinkering with the sequence. Not this time.

I grew up with Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, and the rest.
None of them are featured here.
This is music I'm less familiar with than usual.
Most of it is from years of trolling blog sites for things I'd only read about in the past.

For example, Mogul Thrash is the band John Wetton left to join Family, before leaving them for King Crimson. I never expected to find it, but thanks to the internet, I have FLAC files.

I hope you like mellotrons.

I tended towards shorter songs when possible. My favorite Genesis song, for instance, "Supper's Ready" is a whole album side and clocks in over 20 minutes. Add "Close To The Edge", and "Lark's Tongues In Aspic Pt 1", and there's an entirely epic cd length mix.

The Italians really "got" Prog and some of the best bands were from there. "Impressioni Di Settembre", an old favorite, was somewhat blandly re-recorded by PFM in english as "The World Became The World", the title track to their second american release, but I've always preferred the original Italian version.

Also here is Il Volo, another of the best, represented by "Il Canto Della Preistoria (Molecule)", which also transcends it's lack of english with some truly extraordinary guitar sounds.

Amon Düül II is from Germany, and technically krautrock.

Aphrodite's Child is from Greece, and features Vangelis, long before "Chariots Of Fire".

Brian Davison was the drummer in the Nice. This 1970 solo album is nothing like his former band.

Tempest was a power trio freaturing Ollie Halsall, sadly best known for playing "Paul" on The Rutles recordings. He briefly joined this band, wrote all the songs, and sang lead on the album they recorded and left, to play with Kevin Ayers.

Bram Stoker is a band who left behind an album with nary a trace of other info. This is one of those that collectors go nuts for. Same goes for Pete Fine's.

I only downloaded Aubrey Small a few days ago, and barely know "Smoker Will Blow". This description caught my eye:
"The recording experience at Trident became intoxicating and at times even became somewhat surreal. For one number “Smoker Will Blow”(producer)John Anthony had the idea of putting orchestration on the track as it was too simple. Within a matter of days arranger Richard Hewson appeared together with a huge assembly of the finest jazz and orchestral musicians available. Here was another highly respected musician who had a list of high profile credits to his name including the Beatles, Bee Gees, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Chris Rea among others – another who’s who! The band watched from the control room with amazement as an extraordinary and complex soundscape unfolded on their song".

Kaleidoscope was an English band whose roots were in '60's psychedelia, and released some really exceptional music, but for some reason ended up with less than nothing. This song is the closer to an album they finished in 1971, but didn't see release until 1992.


Prognosis Too


Because someone asked.