Tag Archives: 1970s

[164] Cartolo – Cartolo

3 Jun

The gentle, graceful, fragile guitar and vocal work of the first track lulls me into a false sense of relaxed security before the samba kicks in in earnest and blows the doors off any possibility of sitting still.

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But it’s not the Brazilian sound as I think I know it.

The guitar and percussion is present, but in song after song it is woodwind and occasional brass that takes the lead, the attention, the starring role.  While the mild yet beautiful vocals hold the structure, the beat, it is (depending on the track) flute and sax and trumpet which meanders all over the beach, explores the city, entwines friends and lovers.  These are the instruments which provide the passion, power, precision.

The fact that it is all so unexpected means that I can’t stop listening.

Having recently finished reading my brother’s book Benfica to Brazil an exploration of his time studying the language and culture (and football) of Cartola’s home -I am keenly aware of the lilting, slightly imprecise sound of Brazilian Portuguese he so wonderfully describes.

I see the scenes he wrote about, which Cartola lived and later recorded.

Here is a old fashioned but somehow timeless sound, neither modern nor dated, and always a pleasure to hear, but especially as the temperature climbs into the 80s, letting us know that summer is on its way.

Next Week:  Enrico Caruso – Twenty-one Favorite Arias

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 164 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 164 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (137 of 164 = 84%)

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[156] Can – Tago Mago

8 Apr

Another week, another mish-mash of an album, cramming all sorts of sounds and feelings into its experimental 1970s frame.  (That’s five consecutive albums full of experimentation, for those keeping score at home.)

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This time it’s German Rock.  This time I love it.

There are the sweeping prog-rock jam tracks, noodling and soaring for minutes on end.  There is the borrowed punk attitude, at times so necessary in life, put to excellent use here as a sort of color commentary.  There is the ponderous, goth-flavored epic “Aumgn”, so effective that my wife and daughter requested I turn it off since (and I quote), “It’s freaking us out.”

Unlike moments over the last weeks where the experimentation has been too extreme, too uneven, Can manage to create a homogeneous sound from all the diverse parts, resulting in an album that (when my girls aren’t around) I want to listen to from beginning to end.

There is plenty that is familiar here, more than enough influences in common with the rock I already know and love from the UK and the US of around this era.  When the guitar solos you can hear Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry.  In the layers of sound, with the raw vocals buried way down in the mix, it is not a stretch to intuit the inspiration of the more out-there Beatles moments.  The jam band tracks even have a Jazz tinge, following the idea wherever it leads, allowing each band member the opportunity to solo in the spotlight.

Surprisingly I find that the discords – the at times almost atonal vocals – do not grate.  Rather they act as a pleasing counterpoint to the tightly coiled rhythm that rules every track.  The driving, endless beats remind me of nothing so much as Harry Connick Jr.’s wonderful attempt at a Rock album, She.

Yes, I acknowledge what a weird combination I am juxtaposing here – experimental German Rock of the 70s and popuar US Jazz of the 90s.  But just humor me.  Play Can’s “Halleluwah” (all 18 minutes of it) then follow it up with Connick’s “That Party”, and see whether I’m onto something, or just plain crazy.

I’ll accept either answer.

Next Week:  Nati Cano’s Mariachi los Camperos – Viva el Mariachi

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 156 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 156 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (130 of 156 = 83%)

[155] Camaron De La Isla – Le Leyenda Del Tiempo

1 Apr

I love the sound of a guitar.  Electric or classical, picked or strummed – even more than vocals, the guitar tends to be the touchstone for my musical appreciation.

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And the technical ability on display here from the very first notes is impressive.  It can be hectic fun in the more familiar, high energy flamenco moments, but these make up less than half of the recording.

It’s amazing that an album quite so short – the run time is just over a half hour- can be quite so scattershot.

Beyond the guitar work, this album is too eclectic even for my newly opened ears, too all over the place, with weird electric piano solos, odd disco riffs, chanting and wailing which appears to veer far from the Spanish roots one might expect,

The vocals are fervent, but quite raw and almost monochromatic.  Just one more facet of the sound that leaves me wanting . . . not more, precisely.  Perhaps the correct idea is wanting something different.

It’s kind of a mess, and not in an interesting or engaging way.

I want more wandering guitar, less experimentation, more melody and less uncomfortable wall of sound rhythm.  It has its moments, but not many of them, and they are not nearly consistent enough.

Is it that the sound is alien to me, or that it is actually less accomplished than most of the recordings to date?  Tough to tell, but I know I’m not enjoying it, and this time there is not enough surprise or suspense to hold my attention once I realize that this isn’t something that I want to be listening to.

Next Week:  Can – Tago Mago

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 155 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 155 = 14%)
Recommend? No.  (129 of 155 = 83%)

[149] Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

19 Feb

Oh, that voice.  It has always been present in my life, and it has always done something to me.

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Kate Bush had a powerful effect on the boys of my generation.  Even into our 40s, my friends and I still find ourselves captivated by a Kate Bush video, a potent combination of hormones and nostalgia ensuring our complete attention.

Kate Bush was certainly a part of my childhood, her singles playing on the radio, on Top Of The Pops, on early MTV.  But The Kick Inside came out just a little too early for it to have had a great influence on my musical education – indeed I believe it was the only Kate Bush album I was not thoroughly familiar with before exploring it for the blog.  The Hounds of Love is likely my favorite, although The Red Shoes and the wonderful compilation, The Whole Story, certainly received more play over the years.

And when I was ready, finally prepared to really engage with the themes and emotions explored by Kate Bush, it was Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes which opened my eyes, blew my mind, shaped my world.

While I was pleased to see Kate Bush on om Moon’s list, it always bothers me that it appears that she makes the cut at the expense of Tori Amos – the only mention of Tori in the hundreds and hundreds of pages of the book is as a “Next Stop” footnote to The Kick Inside.

I understand Tori claims never to have heard Kate before recording her debut album, but whether or not you believe that has little to do with the powerful effect of her raw yet still cultured musicality.

While I have little doubt that a Kate Bush album makes my top 1,000, Tori Amos makes my top 100 at the very least.

After taking this opportunity to rant at what appears to me a near unforgivable omission, I return to the album and the artist of the day, and find that I have many vivid and varied memories of listening to Kate Bush:

– My first love (long ago and far away away) once included “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” on a mix tape for me, as I was flying away from her, perhaps forever.  Twenty years later the song still has the power to make me blush and smile and sigh.

– I liked “Wuthering Heights” from the first time I heard it, on the radio back when I still listened to the radio, but it wasn’t until I studied the novel in High School – I devoured it while home sick one week, getting a jump on the assigned reading – that the true genius of the composition was revealed.  It sounds like the book reads, lyrical and awkward and cold.  The song always reminds me of my warm, dusty, dizzy teenaged sickbed.

– As an older teen, I would often sleepover with a couple of friends on Saturday nights, and after a few drinks, The Hounds of Love would be one of a small roster of records which would play once the lights were out and we could concentrate on the pure music on the way to sleep.  We were all terrified by the shrieking musical gymnastics of “Waking The Witch” and this fear was a delicious part of the ritual.  The strings still drag shivers down my spine today.

– I can’t hear her Christmas single, “December Will Be Magic Again” without  recalling one of my most favorite misheard lyrics:  instead of “I’ve come to sparkle the dark up” (a wonderful line in its own right), I initially heard, as did other friends, “I’ve discovered a Womble . . .”

But enough asides!  What about The Kick Inside?

The vocals are appropriately haunting and powerful, palpably intelligent and moving, every word enunciated beyond clarity, often distorted or affected in order to achieve the perfect tone.  And the lyrics are equally innovative and memorable.

Famous for her ballads, it is Bush’s uptempos which always surprise me, with her exquisitely complex rhythms, odd percussion and staccato delivery across an absurd number of octaves.  The instrumentation is all so unusual for Pop, yet perfect for the mood and timbre Bush is reaching for with each delightful track.

Once more my love of all things sax is fully indulged, with solos and flourishes, and even a song named for the instrument.

Since The Kick Inside does not sound like anything else of its time, it has aged very well – it is timeless rather than dated, not tied to the Disco or Rock sounds so associated with the popular music of 1978.

And who knows – without The Kick Inside, perhaps I never have the opportunity to hear Little Earthquakes, Into The Pink, Boys For Pele and beyond.

Next Week: William Byrd – Harpsichord Music

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 149 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? Yes.  (21 of 149 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (124 of 149 = 83%)

Kate Bush, Pop, 1970s, UK, Recommended, Memories

[147] Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey

5 Feb

I may not have much of a context for appreciating Reggae, but the metronomic rhythm and socially conscious lyrics of this 1975 recording proves to be a hugely effective primer.

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Hypnotic, repetitious, coiled and poised always at the very point of action, each track bobs along in technically impressive and sonically pleasing haze, with the chanted vocals of Winston Rodney providing the structure for the horns and percussion to wind sinuously around.

While Reggae does not excite me the same way that Rock or Jazz can, I am greatly enjoying the juxtaposition of safe and comforting rhythms contrasting with on the nose lyrics – “Do you remember the days of slavery?”  And with repeated plays, the simple melodies and gentle relentlessness drill deep down into my brain, providing a contentment which is priceless.

There is very little variety among these 10 tracks, but very little is required in just of half an hour of music.

Nothing world altering, but not everything has to blow my mind to be enjoyable, memorable, worthy of revisiting.

Next Week: R L Burnside – Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 147 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 147 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (122 of 147 = 83%)

[138] Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky

27 Nov

The initial notes of this album capture my heart – huge warm piano and twangy guitar quickly followed by velvet vocals subtly understated in the mix – but it turns out this is only the start of my journey.

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Late For The Sky is far from the slam dunk, the instant favorite that the opening moments suggested.  My relationship with this fascinating album from the year of my birth is a more complex and ultimately more satisfying tale.

On superficial first blush I am wondering where this recording was in my formative years, imagining an alternate reality where I spent my teen years memorizing Jackson Browne lyrics instead of Billy Joel to teach me how and what to feel.

Quickly I step away from trying to decipher meaning and I’m caught up in the close harmonies, the unconventional melodies, hearing the Eagles, hearing James Taylor.  Which is when it all starts to sour . . .

With all of these touchstones – and without a lifelong connection to this voice, these words, these tunes – I find myself wanting to hear the songs and albums that are actually familiar, not mere shadows.

I want to sing along and find myself unable.

I am saddened and frustrated – a mindset not at all at odds with the sound of Browne’s creations on Late For The Sky – so I leave this album alone for a time to revisit old friends; Hotel California, Storm Front and Sweet Baby Jane.

That detour out of my system, I find myself back listening to Browne at odd moments, find myself with unexpected earworm snippets, and I realize that this album has touched me after all.  I am still not singing along, still don’t have a concrete handle on the story arcs of song or album, but I no longer seem to need these.

The mood paintings – perfectly crafted, soulful and sublime – touch me viscerally rather than intellectually which is all the more satisfying for being so surprising.  I love story songs, and expected to fall in love with this facet of Browne’s craft, but instead it is the production and performance which moves me and keeps me coming back to this album.

This blog has talked before about the limitations of Classic Rock radio.  That there does not seem to be a place for anything from Late For The Sky is as damning an argument as any.

Next Week:  Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 7 in E

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 138 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 138 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (114 of 138 = 83%)

[135] James Brown and the JB’s – “Sex Machine”

6 Nov

Don’t worry.  Of course I am going to recommend this remarkable single.

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That said, I am left with a bizarre sensation, coming to the end of three James Brown recordings – all excellent – without any mention of his signature tune, “I Feel Good”.  It’s as if Tom Moon had included Chuck Berry but left out “Johnny B Goode” . . .

But back to sex – sometimes cumbersomely titled “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”.

The two note guitar stab, the bouncing piano fills, the seemingly improvised lyrics, the all day long call and response – “Sex Machine” is spontaneous perfection.  The fruits of the first recording session with his new band in 1970, here was the start of Brown’s second act, exploding once more into mainstream consciousness with a monster hit and a see-what-I-can-still-do gauntlet.

I listened to a handful of different live versions of this infectious groove and no two are quite the same, lyrically or even in tone.

The studio version is still the definitive, managing to feel at once laid back and urgent, while 1980s Live at Studio 54 version is all hectic energy and messy skatting.  The 1971 return to the Apollo provides a teasing groove of husky masculinity, in stark contrast to the full on, straight ahead, no nonsense pounding of the recording captured at the Olympia (Paris, France) the same year.

All the various settings of the Machine are satisfying – variety being the slice of life – but it’s still weird to know that Tom Moon has something against “I Feel Good” . . .

Next Week: Oscar Brown, Jr. – Sin & Soul

Owned before blogging? Yes. (12 of 135 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (20 of 135 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (111 of 135 = 82%)

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