Tuesday, October 8, 2013

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Street Date: 10/8/13


My first experience with Roy Harper was 1975's "HQ," an album that I was mostly interested in because of who was on it. It was Bill Bruford, Dave Gilmour and Chris Spedding that caught my eyes and ears. It just happened to be Roy's album. Of course, there was also the Led Zeppelin endorsement. Since then, I've tried countless times to get Harper's music. It hasn't been easy, but once I did, it paid back in spades.

What kept going through my head as I listened to "Man & Myth" were comments by readers & friends, both here and other places, about their listening habits.  The basic sentiment? "If I don't like something right away, I just can't find the time to keep trying." Most recently it was about the Elvis Costello & The Roots record, but over these iPod and iTunes years, it's been said about a number of records. It seems our listening habits have changed and our patience is at a premium. But I'll save that for a future post.

"Man & Myth" is not a pop record. It does not consist of three minute blasts with hooks and choruses. You can't work out to it, unless you're some truly demented trainer. But it is sprawling and beautiful and if you're even slightly familiar with Roy Harper's work, you will recognize immediately how little his sound has aged. It's all here, the epic guitar playing, the storytelling, the big arrangements, the sorrow and the pity. "Man & Myth" is a fantastic return to form for Harper.


Every review I've read about Elton John's "The Diving Board" has called it his "best record in 30 years." I just don't get it. It seems irresponsible to toss off comparisons to "Tumbleweed Connection" simply because it doesn't resemble any of the absolute dreck Elton's been churning out since 1980. "The Diving Board" doesn't sound like "Tumbleweed Connection" at all. Yes, it's a toned down affair, with some interesting stories from Bernie Taupin and the usual rote production of T-Bone Burnett. But it's still Elton at 66 and his voice has limited range and these songs just don't deliver the same magical melodies Elton used to write in his sleep. It's a lugubrious listen that did nothing for me.

I'd also like to say that 2004's "Peachtree Road" was a fantastic record that does indeed resemble "Tumbleweed Connection," if anyone cares to give that a spin.


Most likely to end up on the top of my year-end "Best" list is the new one from The Wood Brothers. I saw The Wood Brothers live and they knocked my socks off. I've been a fan ever since and "The Muse" is the perfect place to begin if you're unfamiliar with this band. They have it all from stellar musicianship to tight, Everlys-like harmonies to great, great songs. Check'em out.


Another record that is getting raves from the British press is from those youngsters called The Strypes. "Snapshot" has been described as the type of R&B you might hear at The Cavern, circa 1965. This is true. "Snapshot" does indeed sound like everyone from early Beatles to The Animals. But mostly, it sounds like The Who doing Tamla covers, which wasn't really The Who's strong point. Not a bad record and the Strypes certainly have their hearts in the right place. It's just that "Snapshot" wears thin very quickly. My fave track is below.


Last but not least, a brand new Jules Shear record has quietly been released. I have not yet heard it, but I did indeed order it. And you can, too.  Jules has been a favorite of mine for years and I expect "Longer To Get To Yesterday" to be another solid addition to his fine body of work. Buy it HERE and tell them Sal sent you.


buzzbabyjesus said...

I've been a fan of Roy's since HQ, and you forgot to mention the bass player: John Paul Jones. A superstar band that really delivers.
Here they are on the opening track, which is a killer.


Right now I'm too busy listening to "Joseph Arthur - The Ballad Of Boogie Christ [Deluxe Edition]" (2013)to find time for anything else.

Psyclist said...

I've been a long time Roy Harper fan, actually since Lifemask. This record is not only back to form, it's plain brilliant imho.

as for the Strypes, they're young, they have the heart at the right place, Blue Colar jane is a good song, they love the good blues, r&b (not the shit they call r&b these days) and Dr. Feelgood. I was slightly disappointed with this record. It's too short, too clean and there are just songs we already know by them.

But ... the band can develop, and if they can stay together and keep their minds straight, they can develop into a genuine top r&b/blues/r&r band. They're on the way but life in music land is these days less easy as it was in the 60's, I think.

Shriner said...

I would agree about Elton's last 4-5 albums. Pleasant, but ultimately forgettable.

I wouldn't necessarily turn off a song if it came up on shuffle, but I don't see myself reaching for anything post "Too Low For Zero", actually...

There's a challenge for you Sal -- make a mix of good-to-great Elton John songs from the last 20 years and see if you can come up with a dozen. I don't know if I could...

A walk in the woods said...

Nice use of "lugubrious" - I had to look that one up.

Yeah, Elton's last LP with Leon Russell got raves, and I was like, whaaaaat? I love both of these guys, especially Leon, but this stuff sucks.

I wish he sounded like he still knew how to have fun sometimes. Everything's downtempo, dreary...

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Shriner suggested what I was also thinking. Last year (? maybe), Sal, you posted a list of Paul McCartney tracks that we lapsed Macca fans probably missed. I downloaded it and I dug it (off topic...do young peeps ever "dig" anything? Archaic term, right?)

Your post topics are always interesting but, if you're ever stuck for a theme...well...perhaps the Rocket Man could fill the void. So to speak.



buzzbabyjesus said...

There is no Elton John music I want to hear. Ever. Period. I'm serious.

Sal Nunziato said...


That's unreasonable. Knowing what you like and what you turn me on to, it's ridiculously unreasonable to think you have no place for "Tumbleweed Connection," "Madman Across The Water" and "Honky Chateau" at the very least.

ASH On The Beat said...

I could launch into a defence of Elton John in the Seventies, even a couple of gems after that, but I won't.

However Sal, I was just thinking of you and Roy Harper came up and then I saw this. There's something nice on the way over.

ASH On The Beat said...

Sorry I can't resist. BBJ you are really wrong, really really wrong.

I can't go with this at all and I wouldn't ever consider myself an Elton fan.

Jerry Lee said...

I like that Wood brothers album a lot. It's produced by the great Buddy Miller.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Honky Chateau" was one of the first records I bought that wasn't The Beatles. I have mint vinyl yardsale copy "Madman Across The Water", which I remembered liking a lot, but when I played it recently I thought it was dated and overblown.
I didn't say the music sucked, or that anyone sucks for liking it, just that I've no interest in hearing it.
Especially a "best of" the last twenty years.

peabody nobis said...

Thanks for not following the herd on the Elton record. I was wondering if it was just me. All I heard was a really stripped down sound, Elton without the overproduced junk he's been doing forever.
And it is an insult to those terrific early EJ records to be compared to this stuff. The songs aren't horrible, just not memorable. There's not a single song that sticks in your mind the way say, "Burn Down The Mission", does. What are these people smoking?

Anonymous said...

A new Jules Shear? Already??????
Wow,,, Thanks Sal. I'll tell them you sent me.

buzzbabyjesus said...

What I dislike most about Elton John is Bernie Taupin.

billy budapest said...

Spot on about "The Diving Board" (and about "Peachtree Road" too). It's just a press thing - "the best one since...!" - especially when the artist tries the back-to-my-roots gambit. They do it to Macca regularly and his stuff has become predominantly unlistenable, as you know.

A new Jules Shear?? Yes! Have you immersed yourself in "Dreams Don't Count"? A masterpiece!

Cleveland Jeff said...

Elton certainly made lots of weak records in the 80s and 90s, but Songs from the West Coast (2001)
Peachtree Road (2004)
The Captain & the Kid (2006)
were all really good, and nearly a true return to form.