Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Countdown #15 - rambling on

Broadcast March-24-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are lifted from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.
Wire - ambitious
I missed Wire's first act completely, three albums culminating with 1979's 154 that (in retrospect) went a long way toward dragging British indie music out of the punk war zones and kicking it into the stratosphere.  So it's a damned good thing all four original members came back again in 1987 to remind us how good they were.  Ideal Copy was the album with Ambitious the closest thing to a title track, a tough number that did a smart job of touching on all manner of essential topics of the day, from paranoia to Cold War politics to competing competing intelligence agencies to, of course, the end of the world.
Negativland - the perfect cut [piece of meat]
Wherein the tape pirates from the California suburbs get busy with pretty much every shitty MOR pop song from the 1970s, and the secret tapes that prove the conspiracy that was at hand.  That is, the deliberate reduction of the insurrectionary promise that was 1960s POP music to various pieces of meat.  Stuff your faces, folks.  And shut up!  Stop complaining.

Buzzcocks - ever fallen in love
Pure pop with punk in its soul.  Or is it the other way around?  One thing is clear.  The Buzzcocks were pretty much the first band to have it both ways, and I'll forever love them for that.  Just because you're pissed off doesn't mean you can't be pretty, too.

Doors - not to touch the earth [randoEDIT]
I didn't really twig to this one until I saw the Doors movie, which I know, I'm not supposed to like, the whole thing just being so absurdly over the top, Val Kilmer chewing not just the scenery but also vast chunks of the Mojave desert.  Except it's true.  The psychedelic 60s were that weird, eruptive, explosive, WILD, kicking into overdrive in 1967, blowing through ozone by the end of 1968, which is where Not To Touch Earth comes in.  Wherein Mr. Morrison is so high and wasted, he's not sure if he's a worm or a god, or maybe just some dead Indian shaman who snuck into a little white boy's fragile eggshell mind a couple of decades earlier.

Procol Harum - rambling on
I came across Procol Harum's second album sometime in the blur of the early mid-70s.  My friend James had it, grabbed from his older sister who'd lost interest.  We'd play it a lot (not having many albums to chose from), getting off on the "out there" lyrics and the not too shabby songs that gave them room to move.  The aptly named Rambling On seems to be about a guy who sees a Batman movie and decides he can fly, which doesn't make much sense because Batman can't fly.  Or maybe that's the whole point.  

Julie Driscoll + Brian Auger + The Trinity - this wheel's on fire
It's an oft-told tale.  Bob Dylan, having survived a nasty motorcycle accident retires for a while to upstate New York where he ends up hanging out in a basement with his buddies The Band, cranking out all manner loose, sloppy, sometimes brilliant songs that nobody had any clear plan for.  Nevertheless, bootleg LPs started to proliferate, and inevitably cover versions.  Julie Driscoll + Brian Auger + The Trinity were one of the first to release something, and they nailed it.  So good, the TV show Absolutely Famous put it to work again thirty odd years later. 

Bonzo Dog Band - we are normal
The Bonzos showed up in the Beatles TV special Magical Mystery Tour and otherwise served as sort of court jesters for the British pop scene through the psychedelic 60s and beyond.  But sometimes the songs were so damned good you forget they were supposed to be funny.  We Are Normal solved this problem by being mostly just weird.  And it rocked.

Rainbow - a light in the black
I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the cover that hooked me – God's own arm thrusting from the waves of a boiling storm, grabbing a rainbow straight out of the sky. The cool part is, the music's up to it pretty much all the way through, assuming you don't mind a little full throttle metallic wailing.  Richie Blackmore, recently ex of Deep Purple, leads the charge on guitar but Ronny James Dio's howling is never far behind, or Cozy Powell's drumming.

Jimi Hendrix - hey baby (the new rising sun)
The rumour I heard when I was maybe fifteen is that Rainbow Bridge (album and movie) was the reason Jimi Hendrix was killed.  Because it revealed that a benevolent alien intelligence was connecting with us, steering us in the direction of the New Rising Sun.  So Richard Nixon got his orders from the evil aliens that ran things.  Stop this man.  Use your best agents.  Make it look like a typical overdose.  And while you're at it, get Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison as well.  1970 sucked in that regard. 

Linton Kwesi Johnson - bass culture
Skull rattling dub poetry that makes a very significant point.  Reggae music is all about the bass, the way it makes a body and thus a whole culture MOVE.  The drums just keep things rock steady.  The guitars, keyboards, horns etc are just along for the ride.  It's the bass that's going places.  And sometimes the poetry -- like a frightful form, like a righteous harm, giving off wild like madness.

Clash - white man in Hammersmith Palais
Speaking of bass culture, White Man in Hammersmith Palais was The Clash's first reggae song, not to be confused with its best, though many have made that claim.  Of course, they're the ones that never even heard all of Sandinista, having written off the-only-band-that-mattered for high crimes of artistry, experimentation, ambition before they'd even made it to side two.  Punk was cool, punk was necessary, punk probably saved the world, but it also turned reactionary awfully fucking quick.  Which might even be what Joe Strummer's singing about here.

Queen - seven seas of Rhye
In which Queen (their hair still long) unleash an astonishing mix of heavy licks and wild mood swings all in service of some high fantasy concerning a mythical Queendom called Rhye, which, if you were maybe fifteen, confused about pretty much everything, stuck in the mid-70s, was exactly the thing the Universe needed you to hear.  


Melodic Energy Commission - song of the deletron revises the scene [randoEDIT]
Local Terminal City hippie-psychedelicists hook up with an-ex Hawkwind refugee, ignore all the punk rock that's raging around them, and instead go deep and high, and deliver an essential travelogue for those keen on exploring the beyond within via the local mushrooms that are so prevalent every autumn once the big rains start a-falling.  

Donovan - roots of oak
I didn't even hear this record until a good twenty-five years after its release, but man did it work in a solid, mystical sort of way.  Yes, the drugs may have worn off by 1970, and the incense, and all the pretty flowers may have mostly wilted and died, but ever hip Donovan Leitch (who never got the credit or respect he deserved) was still definitely onto something both passing and eternal.  

Renaissance - ashes are burning
There's a lot of so-called progressive rock from the so-called golden era (1970-74) that is quite stunningly awful – pretentious, over wrought, dense to the point of ridiculous, the antithesis of everything the likes of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison died for.  And thus, over the years, it's earned a lot of well deserved HATE.  But not here.  Renaissance's Ashes Are Burning fully earns its eleven minutes plus running time as it explores mystery and beauty, highly, deeply, ultimately epically.  And Annie Haslam has an amazing voice. 

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