Monday, May 31, 2021

Doing the Pandora shuffle, 6th edition

"OK, Google. Shuffle my Pandora."

"Trip to the Fair," Renaissance (Scheherazade and Other Stories, 1975).
This is the 10-plus-minute opener on Renaissance's sixth studio album, the fourth with the Annie Haslam-fronted classic lineup. It's exactly what you would expect to hear from this band by this point -- heavy on John Tout's classically influenced piano and Jon Camp's melodic Rickenbacker bass and centered around Haslam's remarkably versatile, crystal-clear voice. This tune was written by Tout, acoustic guitarist Micheal Dunford and lyricist Betty Thatcher. Wikipedia says the song was written about Haslam's first date with Roy Wood, formerly of The Move and Electric Light Orchestra who was Haslam's boyfriend at the time. Renaissance had a nice three-album run culminating with this one in which every track is pure gold. "Trip to the Fair" is no exception.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A deep dive into Lou Reed's catalog: The stinkers

2011: Reed as frontman for Metallica

Of the 22 studio albums Lou Reed released in his four-decade career as a solo artist, four of them I rate as absolute stinkers -- albums I feel have no value whatsoever to a serious listener. These records might be worth your time if you're the curious type and have a burning desire to hear anything if just once. But if you hope to find some kind of treasure in your exploration, you're probably not going to find anything worthwhile in this basket.

On first glance, four out of 22 might seem like a lot. By the numbers, that would mean that I am telling you that nearly one of every five Lou Reed albums is complete garbage -- a fairly high whiff rate by the numbers. But there is a caveat: Three of these four were the last three albums of his life, recorded long after his well ran dry of artistic inspiration. So factoring that into the equation, that leaves only one stinker out of 19, a pretty good track record if you ask me.

Monday, May 24, 2021

When old met new and music bridged a generation gap

Many decades ago, 1975 to be exact, some friends and I took an impromptu road trip to Mountain View, AR, to attend the annual Ozark Folk Festival, a trip that showed that music truly has charms to soothe a savage breast.

Friday, May 14, 2021

A backdoor memorialization of Keith Relf

1969: Keith Relf, Hawken, Jane Relf seated; Dreja, McCarty standing

I was cruising the Internet this morning, landed on one of those This Week in Music sites, and found something interesting: Today is the 45th anniversary of the death of Yardbirds lead singer Keith Relf, who was electrocuted at home playing an improperly grounded electric guitar.

This story, new to me, is another entry on the mental list I have been keeping since Geezer Bob and I had a discussion a few weeks ago about rock musicians who have died under unusual circumstances. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A deep dive into Lou Reed's catalog: The filler material

1983: Back-cover photo for Legendary Hearts

They can't all be gems, right? Thus far, we've gone through the real meat of Lou Reed's catalog of 22 studio albums, past the halfway mark into what I consider his 13 best.

Today, we're going to look at the five I consider lightweight, filler material. These albums are the back end of the bullpen, the taxi squad, the roster fillers. They're good enough to step up in an pinch, capable of delivering now and then when the regulars need a break. But they aren't the sort you want to turn to on a daily basis.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Woody Guthrie sang about my family

Armed with little more than his acoustic guitar, upon which he famously wrote, “This Machine Kills Fascists,” Woody Guthrie traversed this nation singing his Dust Bowl ballads, proclaiming the struggles and the dignity of working people, giving a voice to the voiceless as they suffered through the Great Depression and the killing fields of World War II.

In telling the story of a nation he also told the story of my family.

Doing the Pandora shuffle, 5th edition

"OK, Google: Shuffle my Pandora."

"Crimson and Clover," Tommy James & The Shondells (Crimson & Clover/Cellophane Symphony, 1991):
Oh, yeah, one of those early hard-rock favorites that opened my mind for exploration beyond your typical Top 40 fare. I cannot express how much I loved this song in my early high-school years. Pandora is serving me the 5:32 version from the 1991 CD packaging of the band's 1968 and 1969 albums. To explain this one, let me start at the beginning: The single "Crimson and Clover," clocking in at 3:23, was released in November 1968 and quickly became the biggest of The Shondells' string of big hits. A month later, the band released the album Crimson & Clover, which featured a 5:25 version of the centerpiece song. This version essentially was the single with a long guitar solo by Ed Gray edited into the middle of the track. But that piece was inadvertently sped up slightly during the mastering process, and the 1968 album went out that way. Engineers corrected the mistake digitally for the 1991 package, resulting in the 5:32 version of the song, billed as the way the song originally was intended to be heard. It sounds as great as ever.