Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Over Memorial Day weekend, Crystal and I stayed at her parents’ house in upstate New York. They graciously allowed me to raid their considerable vinyl collection for anything I fancied. Here now is the first group of reviews of selections from the big cardboard box that made the trip back to Philly with us.

Patti Smith Group, Wave: Only got through side one. Am I the only person who kinda digs her version of “So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”?

Herbie Hancock, Headhunters: Gave up during the early part of side two. The jittery funk – all those squeaky synths and hyper congas – got the better of my nerves at that point.

The Monkees, More of The Monkees: I grabbed this because it has the song “She.” This is a mighty song, even better than I remember. Big, booming harmonies and a strutting, martial beat. The chorus – “Why am I standing here/Missing her, and wishing she were here” – is epic. The narrator is a paranoid, masochistic creep; Elvis Costello or Thom Yorke can only wish they could conjure him up. All in all, L.A.-bred garage rock at its finest. My fourth-grade memories of the rest of the tracks scared me off most of them. Even a song I used to like, “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” became intolerable once Davy Jones’ lead vocal entered; who let him in front of a microphone? As a science experiment in terror, I’d like to arrange a DJ night in which only “Your Auntie Grizelda” is played.

The Band, The Last Waltz: I never get tired of watching the film, but on record the performances really pale in comparison to their other, less-heralded live album, Rock of Ages.

Talking Heads,
Fear of Music: Good, but not as good as More Songs about Buildings and Food. Does “Drugs” creep you out too?

Paul McCartney, McCartney II: Again, only listened to side one, but that’s not really the album’s fault. Everything on here sounds bizarre and ingenious and lo-fi, even the big hit “Coming Up.” (He really did have a shitload of hits the first fifteen years after The Beatles broke up and some of them are pretty bad songs. Did people just buy his stuff out of habit? What ultimately broke that habit?) I’ve been acquainted with this album since sometime around 7th grade, and that explains why I never found Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk all that outré. Let us consider that he released McCartney right after the Fabs split, and McCartney II right after his drug bust in Japan. Now that he’s back in the tabloids, the timing couldn’t be better.

The Who, Tommy: Overrated, like it’s always been. Don’t think of it as the dawning of a new day for the ‘Orrible ‘Oo. Think of it as an awkward transitional album. They weren’t Mod dandies, not yet lords of the arenas. You could probably fit the truly great songs on an EP. (That last sentence is a covert shout-out.)

The Who, Who’s Next: I previously only owned this on cassette, which is noteworthy because the track listing is slightly different. I feel like I’ve been hearing this Classic AlbumTM all wrong all this time. Anyway, sometime I’ll to write a essay on the immense influence “Baba O’Reilly” had on my adolescence, and my mostly ill-fated attempts to repay that debt. It will be very cathartic, I’m sure.

Bobby Womack, Bobby Womack’s Greatest Hits: I kinda had this one playing in the background and it didn’t really register, but it’s definitely worth another spin or two.

Al Green, I’m Still In Love with You: Buy this album now, please. The hits are hits. Everything else is equal, be it the funky drumming and swooping strings on “I’m Glad You're Mine” or the Roy Orbison and Kris Kristofferson covers. My find of the year, so far.


Blogger Greycats said...

My parents will be most happy to know that you have put the album to good use. I can't wait for the review of the Sesame Street album and Buffy St. Marie:) I'm just kidding . . .

10:20 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I'm fairly certain I'll get around to reviewing the Sesame Street album.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I still like "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and without giving it any real thought, I'd say it has to be among the best uses of Davey Jones vocals. It's not "She Hangs Out" or anything, but it's still pretty awesomely creepy. And you can't overlook the breathy spoken word "Mary...I love you! Sondra...I love you!" part over the break. I wish James Mason had done a cover of this.

You're right about "She" of course. It definitely earns the organ solo with that "yeah yeah yeah yeah sheeeeee" bit, and I always loved the ending, which I'm now thinking sounds an awful lot like the end of "That Means A Lot." Wonder if that got passed around and someone picked up on it.

You know I've been waiting for McCartney III, which we were clearly owed in 1990 to keep the streak alive. Only having it on CD now, I don't know off hand where the side breaks are for McCartney II, but being quite the Paul-nerd, I like a lot off the album, particularly Nobody Knows and Darkroom, and if I'm the only person in the world who likes Bogey Music, so be it.

I can't overlook Temporary Secretary, either, which has to have set some kind of record for matching annoying weirdness with catchiness. I went to one of the McCartney shows last fall and there was a DJ playing/mixing McCartney songs before the concert and it was pretty great to see and hear the (probable) majority of the crowd give the "what the?!" murmering when the guy started playing Temporary Secretary, which they seem to have never heard. But in the end, I'm sure they all internally acknowledged how great "tempo-rare-y sec-ruh-tair-y" and that bizarre "I know how hard it is for young girls these days in the face of everything to stay on the right track" part are. Man, he will never get his due credit for how weird he really is.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I'm actually kinda surprised how much I like McCartney II now. I think it's an album every person should hear. It demands a reaction, be it positive or negative. It's the kind of album you could put on at a party, and it might kick it to a new level, or it might cause everyone to go home. At any rate, I think it's time to try and establish a new critical consensus that 1979-1980 was a creative apex for solo Paul.

Another interesting thing about the album: It sounds like there's hardly any real drums on it. Either it's a machine or a cardboard box.

I listened to a bit of side two last night and I liked "Bogey Music" a lot more than I was expecting.

10:17 AM  
Blogger frankenslade said...

Wow, what a haul! You should cross-reference this post on RTH. Now I see where the Tommy EP thing developed. Exciting!

That Al Green album is a winner. I look forward to your essay on "Baba O'Riley". I'm probably right there with you. Today, I like Who's Next better than I did way back when. It's about being a teenage boy, and it's about being a man, goddammit!

We covered that Monkees song "Here Comes Tomorrow" a couple of times. I'd forgotten all about it.

I haven't heard McCartney II in years. I think my boy, A-Dogg, was a fan of that one.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Matt Berlyant said...

That is indeed quite an impressive haul. I also like Patti Smith's cover of "So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star" a lot. In fact for years I insisted that Wave and Radio Ethiopia were Patti's best albums, though I've come around on Horses in recent years. Still, Wave remains a big underrated favorite of mine.

Also, I definitely prefer Fear of Music to the 1st 2 Talking Heads Lps. In particular I like the song "Mind" as well as "Heaven," "Life During Wartime" and "Memories Can't Wait".

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Blackmail said...

Fear of Music kills. That and Remain in Light are my two favorite Talking Heads albums.

1:48 PM  

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