Saturday, January 5, 2013
What's New?: 1.5.2013
Picked this one up on pure whim. Just dug the cover art. The year of release and the label (that classic green orange and blue Warner logo) told me that it would probably be nice lite-psych if nothing more. And that's basically what it amounts to. Great, floating vocal harmonies on the leadoff track 'What is Love?' had me get my hopes up, thinking it was going to be a hidden surprise, but that's probably the album's highlight. The rest of the album has, like I said, a very "psych lite" tone to it and the only time it gets as close to the pastoral opener is later on side one with 'One Act Play.' The entirety of side two is taken up by the obligatory psychedelic-era "journey" song 'What Love (Suite).' It has some good passages —namely the reprise of 'What is Love?' that explodes into a nihilistic, dark psychedelic garage rocker, only to implode into probably the album's prettiest moment, complete with a tenor sax solo atop wondrous harmonies— but generally isn't really worth the whole ride. Still, a nice find.
Amon Düül II — Carnival in Babylon (1972)
Darn good, in all fact! I don't know why I wasn't expecting much, but I wasn't. It has some pretty parts, some wacky parts and some songs that do a little of everything. Reminds me very much of the first two or three Yes albums, in fact. Spacey and pretty, but with a sense that anything can (and will) happen at any point. Despite all of its "progressivess", there is a very tuneful aspect to this music to where you play it back after three or four full listens and as each songs begins you kind of smile and say to yourself, "Oh yeah, this one's really good too!" Fun music. Hard to think of, in retrospect, as "Kraut Rock" though.
Split Enz — Dizrhythmia (1977)
Absolutely peak new wave from a band that I'm finding I have neglected for far too long. This was Neil's first album with the band and, while Tim has written all the songs (the first Enz album where he was directing the band), Neil receives a credit for mandolin. Like a boss. But seriously, it was still Tim's show at this point, but damn this is excellent new wave pop. Here you go. Don't like that? Well, fine, here. Still not satisfied? Try this. Want something besides quirky sounds? Got you covered: the tranquilly beautiful 'Without a Doubt' and the ballad-turned-rave-up of 'Jamboree' are just what this album needed to push it over into that higher tier of works. Talk about an album that should be much more renowned than it is. The whole thing's great and I'm starting to wonder if I might have a new favorite Enz album. Superb.
Split Enz — Frenzy (1978)
If I'm to understand things correctly, the fourteen track version of this album that I've picked up is the harder to find version, as all of side two contains seven selections from the band's famous Rootin' Tootin' Luton Tapes and the whole version of this album was remixed by the band in 1981. Neil's first lead vocal on an Enz album is here and it's a good one! Elsewhere, Tim goes into full piano ballad mode and the results are great, once again. The dancefloor is considered (and it's a badass tune). Neil tries to steal the show with a classic-sounding strummer. The proper album ends with probably the most punk sounding thing the band ever did (courtesy of bassist Nigel Griggs). Also, whistling! This album is all over the place, but the tunes are undeniable. Yay, Split Enz!
Split Enz — Conflicting Emotions (1983)
Neil has basically taken over by this point, as Tim was focusing on his solo career. Tim still wrote six of the album's ten songs, but Neil's attempts, admirable as they are, expose that he was probably not ready to lead his own band yet. 'Message to My Girl', though, finds him writing in that whimsically earnest mode that he would manage to make a career out of in Crowded House. It's a really good one. Overall, Hugh Padgham's keyboard-heavy production doesn't suit Neil's songs that well, but that one is able to overcome the presentation. The overly melodramatic 'Our Day' would be a noble failure, in this respect. On the other hand, Tim's eerie title track benefits because of it. The production is a bit heavy handed, but the songs (especially from the retrospective view of a Crowded House fan) are pretty alright. Plus, for those supernerds among us, the album is pressed on dark brown vinyl. So, while it may appear to be a piece of regular old black vinyl, hold it up to a bright light and you'll be able to see through it partially. How is that for fun?
The Moody Blues — In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
Totally "trippy man." Still, decent tunes and great harmonies. As far as songs go, nothing here really sticks out all that much, but rather the presentation is the star of the show. 'Voices in the Sky' is probably the best thing here, if you have to have a highlight. But, honestly, you're better off just listening to the album as a whole. Pretty clear that's how these songs were meant to be heard. Could do without all the extra curricular "heady"-ness, but not like all that stuff is to the album's detriment. Still, dollar bin winning.
The Moody Blues — On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)
This one's alright, too. It relies just as heavily on track sequence and mood as Lost Chord, but it has a lot more diversity in its actual songs, so that makes a big difference, Where Lost Chord just has a very pastoral vibe that it gets by on, this one has a similar tone, but the songs, when taken out of that context, are pretty all over the place. There is one song here that strikes me as an all time classic for the ages: 'Dear Diary.' Quite rightly. 'Lazy Day' is a bit more whimsical, but has a similar charm. The album closing suite points the band back towards more headier territory and it's a nice journey, while it lasts. Good for filling in those moments when I want pure boombast and over the top-edness (with some delicious harmonies to boot).
Various — When I Was a Cowboy: Songs of Cowboy Life, Classic Recordings of the 1920's (1920's)
Indispensable collection of pre-WWII country music. This is country music in the most classic of definitions, as most of it sounds like what most people would consider folk music by this point. Have a listen to Jules Allen and decide for yourself. It sounds like brilliant music to me. Similarly, Carl Sprague's tales of boiling coffee without grinding it are just pure magic. Ken Maynard presents a more polite version of the same thing, but his guitar is just about one of the best things ever. Dick Devall goes completely acapella for a tale of regret. And the Delmore Brothers have the type of harmonies that I've come to know and love. Overall, music that's warm as hell and a darn fine introduction to this sort of thing. Great find.
The Louvin Brothers — My Baby's Gone (1960)
Another Louvin Brothers album and this one is completely secular. This one finds them in their same produced Capitol Nashville mode, so, looking at the album title, it should be a no-brainer that the songs take on a more typical classic country theme. Infidelity, unrequited love and lots of regret are the main thing here. But, along with that bigger Capitol budget comes a different mindset and some of the tunes take on an awesomely almost rockabilly tone that just kicks butt. But mostly, the harmonies are the star of the show. Throw in some kickass mandolin and it's a done deal: I love these guys.