Wednesday, November 30, 2016


January, 1995. Over at Tower Records, Dad found this one on cassette. I'd seen this one a couple of times over the years, but the older albums by Frank Zappa were always priced pretty high at the used-vinyl places. I really hadn't heard anything from it, and since we were really enjoying exploring Frank's works, this one was added to the collection.

A pretty sprawling set, this one, plus it was a double album, so there was quite a bit to digest in one sitting. The opening overture "Uncle Meat: Main Theme" got me right away, very rhythmic, with loads of marimbas by Ruth (Komanoff) Underwood here, and throughout the pieces. I can't go on enough about how this one piece of music changed and influenced my own playing; before this, it was rather loose and formless, but now it would have some sharp timekeeping.

Frank was really going all out with what the recording studio offered at this point. Instruments such as clarinets, saxophones and other woodwinds were filtered, compressed and recorded at varying speeds, and ended up sounding like weird little trumpets. This was also the first album he did where he mixed studio and live recordings together on one album, including the famous rendition of "Louie Louie" played on the pipe organ at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Some of the vocal songs had some funny references in them, like "Sleeping In A Jar", "Electric Aunt Jemima" and "The Air". During "Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague", the line "fizzy dice, bongos in the back" reminded me of that bit from the first Cheech & Chong album, where they're watching a Chicano used-car salesman's that where they got that from?

Later on, I eventually found a nice original vinyl copy on the Bizarre/Reprise label. it didn't have the booklet that was included in it, but I was more concerned about the music. These were the originals mixes; the cassette had the 1987 re-mix on it, but I still liked it, although I never played it after hearing the original album.

The album was subtitled Most of the music from the Mothers' movie of the same name, which we haven't got enough money to finish yet. Apparently, this was going to be a documentary about the Mothers, but Frank had broken up the band beforehand, and the ex-members suddenly wanted nothing to do with the project. A few years later, down at Stadium Video, I found the 1987 video that Frank put out, but it was rather disappointing, save for a few montages of the Mothers clowning and goofing off for the camera, and the scenes with "Motorhead" Sherwood and Cal Schenkel were a total riot.

Friday, October 7, 2016

FLEETWOOD MAC: "Seattle, 1972"

After finding and listening to a lot of Peter Green-era shows by Fleetwood Mac on YouTube, I wanted to see if there was any live stuff from the band after his departure. One that stuck out was a show from the Paramount Theater in Seattle from March of 1972, in support of the Bare Trees album.

It was taped from a broadcast of the concert, recorded by a new station called KISW-FM, which is still on the air today. Interesting to think of them doing live broadcasts of shows, but that was pretty popular back then.

A great show all the way through, everyone is in fine form. Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch were an interesting dual-guitar team, and played rather well here. Not a hint of dissention to be heard here, and nothing to suggest that Kirwan would soon be on his way out the door, due to his growing dependence on alcohol, and introverted personality. Christine McVie is also in fine form here, sticking to her songs from the past couple of albums they'd done.

In fact, most of the show consists of cuts from Kiln House (1970), Future Games (1971), and 1972's Bare Trees, though they end the show with "Black Magic Woman", and then conclude with a surprisingly heavy rendition of "Oh Well", introduced by Bob Welch as "one of the greatest boogie songs".

Quite a shame that this era of the band is (for the most part) neglected and unjustly forgotten, except by those who were there at the time. But for those of us who knew the band via Rumours and Tusk, this era comes as quite a revelation, and rather fascinating at how good they were here, even without any discernible "hit songs" to be heard here.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jethro Tull: "M.U." / "Repeat"

I've always heard Jethro Tull around the house for as long as I can remember. I would also pore over the covers to the albums, many of them with colorful gatefold sleeves, pages of pics of the guys in the band, and even the cutout of the guys in the Stand Up album.

One in particular caught my attention. It had a white cover, with a simple line drawing of the Flute Guy on the front, standing on one leg, playing the flute. I couldn't tell if he was standing in place while playing it, or if he was hopping on that one leg. Dad had colored the drawing on his copy with colored markers, giving it a little "color" to a rather plain cover.

What grabbed my attention were the labels, which had a outline of the same image, except as a white silhouette, with a tan background, on both sides. It was fun to gaze at the label while the record was playing. I was knocked out by the opening section of "Thick As A Brick", which segued directly into "Bungle In The Jungle", another early favorite. And everything else on Side 1 was much so that Side 2 was not played as much back then!

This was another album that disappeared after a while (it s successor was a newer compilation called Original Masters, which had many of the same songs on it), but was re-acquired on cassette in the summer of 1987, from the Hilltop Pawn Shop. I played it many times that summer, including the second side this time, and discovering things like "Fat Man" and "Nothing Is Easy".

I never knew what the title M.U. meant or stood for until years later, when I found it was a jokey reference to "Musicians Union", also referencing to the various guys in the band who'd came and went since the first album.

Over a year later, at the place up the street called Faubion's Fabulous Junk, in one of the many boxes of albums there, I came across the second best-of volume, Repeat: The Best Of Jethro Tull, Volume II. I may have seen this one before, but this was the original copy of the album, which had the title in raised lettering, repeating itself (hence the title) all over the front, and some on the back as well. It cost me three dollars, but it was well worth it.

This one had some good cuts on it, including a couple of edit pieces from Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play, which were my favorite parts from those albums. They had put out a couple of albums since the first volume (Minstrel In The Gallery and Too Old To Rock And Roll), and the title tracks from each of them were on there, plus an unreleased cut called "Glory Row", which closed the album.

There never was a third volume, though there was a compilation in Spain called The Best Of Jethro Tull, Volume III, but it contained some of the songs from the previous volumes (did no-one have a copy of the other ones?), and even borrowed an image from the Living In The Past booklet!

This was one of Dad's favorite bands back in the '70s. In fact, he saw them in 1972, 1974 and 1978 in Seattle, and--like I said--I heard them many times in the house in my preschool years, and they really grew on me. Flash forward to August 10th, 2010, when Geoffrey was just past six months old. I was with him in the front yard of the house, and Dad brought out the little Soundesign radio/tape-player. Since the day was Ian Anderson's birthday, he celebrated it by putting in a cassette copy of M.U., and played it in its entirety, while it was just the three of us in the yard, enjoying it. A very pleasant moment and memory for me, one that would be all too brief.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

CHUCK BERRY: "Live At The Fillmore Auditorium" (1967)

The first I'd ever heard of this album was in passing within the liner notes of the Steve Miller Band compilation, The Best Of, 1968-1973. I'd never heard of an album featuring Chuck Berry being backed up by the Steve Miller Band...what could that have sounded like?

This was recorded during Chuck's tenure on Mercury Records during the '60s, which was prolific, but didn't turn out any memorable hits, aside from a Greatest Hits album, with the classics newly recorded. I'd never seen it in any of the used-album shops, and I didn't have much of a title to go by, so I kept it in mind in case I did any looking, but eventually forgot about it.

In July of 1996, at Camelot Music, I was looking through the cassettes, and--sure enough--there was a reissue of the album on something called Rebound Records, which was a short-lived budget-line reissue label distributed by PolyGram.

I got it home, put it on, and was amazed at the recording quality. Then again, it was recorded by Wally Heider, and with him involved, it was bound to be good. The band backing up Chuck at this point was still a straight-ahead blues band, and although they sounded a little stiff and nervous backing up a legend, original bassist Lonnie Turner holds it all together throughout the performance. Steve himself plays the harmonica on a few of the songs, and sings a duet with Chuck on the choruses of "It Hurts Me Too".

Closing the second side of the tape were renditions of "Reelin' And Rockin'" and "My Ding-A-Ling". The latter was a hit for Chuck five years later from the legendary London Sessions album, but I wondered why it wasn't a hit back then. Well, a while later, I got my hands on an original copy of the album, and those songs were not on there. In fact, the reissue I had was a re-release of the 1988 CD reissue, where the album was remixed, and included about six unreleased tracks.

Playing the original album was a bit of a revelation, though. It has a share of mostly 12-bar blues instrumentals, which are well-played, but nothing that really stood out. Maybe those two songs should have been on the album, and maybe it would have livened it up a little. Also, I noticed Bill Graham's introduction of "The Steve Miller Blues Band" (as they were known at the time) was scissored out at the end. Maybe it was because they had already scored their deal with Capitol by that time; indeed, they are credited on the album as simply "The Miller Band".

There was one reissue of the album during the early '70s, part of a double-album set, and part of a cash-in to get fans of the Steve Miller Band to pick up on what they'd missed the first time around (you'll notice that the band's full name is on the cover!). Typical move by Mercury at the time.

Those hoping to hear some great interaction or trading of guitar licks between Steve and Chuck are bound to be disappointed, but as long as your expectations aren't too high, it's rather enjoyable, and a great snapshot of the Steve Miller Band in their early days.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"A Clockwork Orange" Soundtrack (1971)

I picked the CD copy of this one up at Hi-Voltage Records on 6th Avenue. It's been out of print for some years, and I'm surprised I never bought it on CD while it was still available.

Wow...what can one say about this movie after all these years? I think we all now what it's about, so we won't go into that here, but I will say that I fist saw it at perhaps way too young of an age, but I thought it was brilliant even then. A number of years later, in the 8th grade, I found Anthony Burgess' original 1962 novel of it at the library, read it a few times, re-discovered the movie again, and that's all I was into for most of that school year. I found a well-thumbed paperback of the book at a downtown used-book store, and it went to school with me fairly regularly.

At St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, there it was...the soundtrack album!!! I was absolutely amazed that there was one, and could barely believe my luck that it was in really good condition, and only a dollar.

Hearing Wendy Carlos' Moog-driven pieces in wide, full-throttle stereo was pretty mind-bending, and even though it was just the music I was hearing, you could still hear Little Alex's voice narrating away during various parts. Very interesting use of an early prototype of the Vocoder, in which vocals and percussive instruments were fed into the synths, which made them sound pretty unwordly.

"The Thieving Magpie" was pretty loud, intense and violent on its own here, with sudden shifts in volume. I didn't have much use for "Pomp And Circumstance", as they sounded like a graduation ceremony to me.

And back to Wendy Carlos' works again. The 3-minute excerpt of "Timesteps" is pretty dark and intense on its own, even without the cartoony violent films that Alex is forced to watch while bound down. And the "Suicide Scherzo" of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is equally as intense, with the ending of the piece buried in deep echo.

A couple of tracks are worth mentioning here. "Overture To The Sun" and "I Want To Marry A Lighthouse Keeper" were originally done by a terribly obscure musical outfit called Sunforest, who made only one album for Deram. Apparently, Stanley Kubrick heard "Lighthouse Keeper" on the radio, and thought it so delightfully silly that he had to put it in the movie somewhere, and he did.

One interesting "might have been" consideration was Pink Floyd's "Atom Heart Mother", which Kubrick had seriously considered using in parts of the movie. Apparently, Roger Waters turned down the opportunity for its use, as Kubrick wanted permission to edit the piece as he saw fit, and the answer was no. A strange decision, considering how little Roger felt about the piece, even back then. Funny enough, when Alex goes into the record store and goes up to the counter, you can see a copy of the album on a high shelf, behind the counter, if you look close enough.

The soundtrack album also had its share of imitators, notably the one on the Pickwick label, with a hilariously bad album-cover picture of a bleeding orange. Looks like something that was in the bargain-bins for years, something the stores could barely give away.

One well worth looking for is Wendy Carlos' album consisting of music composed for the movie, including "Timesteps" in its entirety, a rendition of "The Thieving Magpie" that didn't make the cut (being delivered a day late and a dollar short), and a haunting closing piece called "Country Lane" hat was composed for a part after Alex takes a beating from his old droogs, and is wandering through the back country roads in the rain, not knowing where he was going. Highly recommended to seek out.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

THE DOORS: And then there were three...

March, 1991. Dad and I saw the Oliver Stone bio-pic of The Doors on its opening night (and would see it a couple more times on the big screen), and enjoyed the concert sequences, but a lot of the movie itself was just plain bad. I'd read a lot about the band beforehand, and a lot of the movie itself seemed made up by someone who knew very marginally about them. The less said about it, the better.

About a week later, we visited the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, where we'd always found lots of cool albums and 8-tracks there for the last few years. Sitting among the stacks of 8-tracks was a copy of the Doors' Other Voices album in this format. I had a small knowledge of them continuing on after Jim was gone, but never actually heard what they sounded like without him. What could this sound like? Paying 49 cents for it would answer that question, and so I did.

Considering that this was recorded not long after L.A. Woman, and with almost the same setup and additional musicians, it sat comfortably next to it, musically. I found that I actually enjoyed it, and played it over and over (after recording the 8-track onto a cassette).

I was familiar with Ray's vocalizing from "Close To You" off the Absolutely Live album, so I knew what I was in for here. "Ships W/Sails" is definitely the centerpiece of the album, and would have really been a gem if Jim was on it. "In The Eye Of The Sun" and "Tightrope Ride" are fun, while "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned" and "Variety Is The Spice Of Life" (both sung by Robby) seem to try to inject a little humor into the proceedings. "Wandering Musician" almost sounded like a country ballad, but was enjoyable, with Ray's jangle piano carrying it through. Although "Down On The Farm" started off with a nice "Riders On The Storm"-type of intro, the choruses and middle section (with "farm music" sounds) are rather on the embarrassing side.

There was one more, Full Circle (1972), but for some reason, this one was rather pricey at any used-vinyl place. That was because of the gimmicky "zoetrope" that was still intact to the album cover, and could be assembled onto the record while it played. I couldn't have cared less about that. The cover was nice, but really didn't fit the Doors (not to me, anyway...maybe a prog-rock band).

On this, their sole self-produced album, we have Ray and Robby pulling the band in two different directions. Ray seemed to be going for a good-time old-fashioned rock vibe, while Robby was going for either something bluesy, or Santana-esque. I almost didn't find much to remember the album by until "The Mosquito" opened side two. The opening bits I could have done without, but once those are! Now, that genuinely sounds like The Doors, but the only thing was that Jim simply wasn't there. After that, not much else to remember or recommend, other than "The Peking King & The New York Queen" was yet another embarrassing cut.

They toured behind each album...but what did they sound like live?

They hit the road with bassist Jack Conrad, and guitarist/percussionist Bobby Ray. Over in England, they did The Old Grey Whistle Test, and then Beat-Club in Bremen, Germany. Good performances for the TV audience, but what did they really sound like live for a full show, and what songs did they play?

I got a hold of a bootleg CD of a live show they did in Chicago, to kick off the Full Circle tour, in July of 1972 (take from a radio broadcast at the Aragon Ballroom). They did mostly material from the two albums they did, but threw in "Love Me Two Times", and closed the show with "Light My Fire". They didn't sound bad as they were, and the audience actually sounded like they were enjoying it. "Ships W/Sails" had an interesting drum duet/solo in the middle, which was great, considering that John Densmore had never really soloed on stage before.

Hear it here: The tour came to an end that September, at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a daring and bold move to go on and prove themselves as more than just Jim Morrison's old backing band, but a lot of the public simply didn't share that opinion, and I've heard that the show was rather tepidly received. The band flew to England to promote their latest (as well as the Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine compilation), but decided to split up. And that was it, leaving this misunderstood and forgotten chapter of the band to be exhumed only by hardcore followers and collectors.

On their third attempt, though, they got it right. We had a copy of this album around the house for a while, with Dad having got a small pile of Doors albums from the Columbia House catalog in the summer of 1984, but we never really played this one much until after the aforementioned movie, when certain selections from this album carried some of the dead spots in the movie. However, we did like the now-legendary live version of "Roadhouse Blues" on it, but now the album was being played more regularly after seeing the movie.

Most people say you have to be a hardcore fan to enjoy this one...fair enough. It takes a few listens to get into, but it gets better with each successive play. Makes you wish they'd have thought of this idea a bit sooner, recording new music to Jim's spoken-word poetry. I've often read where Jim had read more than a few hours' worth of poetry; too bad they didn't make at least one more album using the same idea, instead of further remixes/edits of "Ghost Song".