Neverending Randomplay #131-#140
Neverending Randomplay is a weekly Wednesday night/Thursday AM feature in which I let my J-River Media Center choose what we get listen to. My collection currently stands at 17,981 titles. The lion's share are rock of all genres, with a mix of pop, blues, country, pre-rock, jazz, reggae, soul, electronic, avant-garde, hip-hop, rap, bluegrass, trance, Afrobeat, J-Pop, trip-hop, lounge, worldbeat, commercial jingles, etc. filling it out. I don't influence the track selection in any way; whatever comes up, comes up. Jam Tags, 1-5 stars, follow each track. iTunes links, when available, are included for your convenience.
131. Frida: I Know There's Something Going On *** iTunes
Frida is Anni-Frid Lyngstad Fredriksson Andersson, formerly a member of the biggest group on the planet (moreso overseas than in America), ABBA (She was the brunette). Prior to joining ABBA, she had a solo career as a pop singer in the late 60's and early 70's. ABBA first broke through with "Waterloo" in 1974; they reigned the charts in Europe during the late 70's-early 80's, and had fourteen top-40 singles in America. She had married and divorced keyboardist/singer Benny Andersson during ABBA's lifespan, which ended in 1982 with The Visitors. Frida's return to solo work, also in 1982, was the Phil Collins-produced Something's Going On. One could be forgiven if they expected the worst, but the pairing works on this Russ Ballard (ex-Argent) original. A suspicious, almost paranoid song about infidelity, it bore a hint more emotional depth than many ABBA hits provided. The Collins production is typical of his synthetic 80's work, but ABBA had always relied on such textures. The single peaked at #13, and the album at #41 in the U.S., her only hits in America.
132. Husker Du: Makes No Sense At All *****
"Makes No Sense At All" marked a peak of sorts in the career of influential Minneapolis, MN post-punk indie heroes Husker Du. Their fourth studio album, and second album of 1985, Flip Your Wig was the cleanest, most tuneful, and last indie release of the band's career, and paved the way for their deal with Warner Brothers in 1986 that made them one of the very first indie bands signed to a major. At this apex in their career, Husker Du affected the approach and sound of many bands in the region, Soul Asylum and The Replacements being only two of the most noteworthy. However, the band was also falling apart, even as it toured and recorded incessently. Led by guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart, the pair both were undergoing alcohol and drug problems; Mould would clean up while Hart spiralled downward, leading to the band's 1988 break-up. This historical context puts the otherwise excellent "Makes No Sense And All", a melodic and harmonic guitar driven number with busy, punchy drums in a starker light. It really sounds like the peak before the fall.
133. Deep Purple: Fireball **** iTunes
Deep Purple's essential releases came all in a row in 1970-1971-1972 with In Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head. Prior to those releases, Deep Purple seemed bent in a progressive rock direction; In Rock stripped away most of the pomp and upped the metal, largely at guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's insistence. Thus "Fireball" falls right in the middle of this peak era, capturing the classic Gillan/Blackmore/Glover/Lord/Paice lineup. The song kicks off with drums, before the band and vocalist charge in together. Gillan is at his best here, Glover's basslines are classic, Blackmore's guitar is chunky and propulsive; Lord provides organ texture that fills the song instead of dominating it, and Paice crashes and bashes with abandon while keeping flawless time. Deep Purple's metal had an almost funky jauntiness, displayed to good effect on this cut.
134. Gene Clark: She's The Kind Of Girl *****
Gene Clark will forever be remembered as former Byrd Gene Clark, which is a pity, because it diminishes his very real and crucial achivements in rock. One of the original pioneers of both folk-rock and country rock, he was the first to leave the Byrds (in 1966), due to a fear of flying. His subsequent recordings, both as part of the duo Dillard and Clark in the late 60's, and solo in the early 70's contain groundbreaking country-rock songs, garnered almost universal praise, and yet never sold more than a handful. "She's The Kind of Girl" is from Roadmaster, an excellent 1972 disc that was released only in Holland. It sounds like a better Byrds album than the Byrds were making at this point; Clark's familiar voice and the chiming guitar on this slow-tempo classic is classic mid-period Byrds, but his tasty choice of chord changes propels this into a world of its own. Clark, who died in 1991, is well worth investigating; his work holds up quite well today.
135. Knife In The Water: Promenade **** iTunes
A product of ever-fetrile Austin, TX, Knife In The Water formed in 1997 and specialize in a dreamlike echo-laden alternative country rock that vaguely recalls a countrified Rain Parade. They're not easy to categorize; led by the talents of singer/guitarist Alan Blount and singer/multi-instrumentalist Laura Krause, plus pedal steel player Bill McCullough, bassist Mark Nathan, and drummer Cisco Ryder, their sound boasts rich and delicately arranged vocals they have a melancholy sound that bridges a seemingly impossible bridge between the country-rock of Gram Parsons and the chemical psychedelia of space rock, with a woozy dream pop ambience. "Prominade" is from their 2000 release, Red River, on Overcoat Recordings. Not a single, it is a pretty good representation of their sound without obvious hooks; it builds gently on glistening Blount/Krause harmony that takes enough unexpected twists and turns to keep things interesting. Disturbing, impressionistic lyrics lend this a somewhat creepy patina, a plus.
136. Jimi Hendrix: My Friend ***** iTunes
"My Friend" is from The Cry Of Love, originally released posthumously by producer Alan Douglas in 1971. Douglas has received both praise and denigration for his handling of the Hendrix musical legacy; while some of his initial relases, including this one and some live albums were well received, his later experiments with grafting Hendrix tapes to contemporary musicians' tracks met with skepticism at best. For a long time, most people considered The Cry Of Love to be the album Hendrix was working on when he died, and thus considered a follow-up (with an asterisk) of sorts to Band of Gypsies, which it only resembles in places. "My Friend" was one of the strangest and best cuts on the album, with Hendrix sounding more like Bob Dylan both vocally and on guitar as he ever would; yet it's still completely a Hendrix tune, original and full of surprises. Hendrix' estate eventually sued Douglas and won back control of his music; the release of the far superior collection First Rays of the New Rising Sun in 1997 rendered this collection obsolete.
137. The Kinks: Death Of A Clown (live, BBC) ****
"Death Of A Clown" was always one of the Kinks' most endearing late-60's songs. sung by Dave Davies, who wrote it with brother Ray, it is a revelation on this 1967 BBC session, recorded with Nicky Hopkins on piano. Jauntier, beefier, more rhythmic, with better, more wistful backing vocals, stronger singing from Dave, this takes the excellent original and improves on it. The original almost sounds stiff and unfinished in comparison. The Kinks, like most of the top tier British groups of the 60's had a long and fruitful career recording for the BBC, keeping at it well after the Beatles quit, right through the 1970's. This recording is from the phenomenal The Songs We Sang for Auntie: BBC Sessions 1964-1977, which is not just a holy grail for Kinks fans, but a fine introduction and overview of the band for novices too, presenting the Kinks in an often harder rocking, more musicianly context than on their own albums.
138. The Hope Blister: Sweet Unknown **** iTunes
When Ivo Watts-Russel's gothic dream pop amalgamation This Mortal Coil, one of the flagship 4AD records bands, wound down after three albums in 1991, The Hope Blister was conceived as a sequel project of sorts. The Hope Blister differed from its forebear in that its lineup remained a set lineup, there was a new exploration of cover material, and the sound was extremely sparse in comparison to the dense atmospherics of This Mortal Coil. The lineup of of vocalist Louise Rutkowski, bassist Laurence O'Keefe, and cellist/arranger Audrey Riley. "Sweet Unknown" is by Allison Shaw and Jim Shaw and features Retkowski's regret tinged vocals, a claustrophobic arrangement, and atmospheric horn. Form their 1998 debut ...smile's ok.
139. Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band: Ukelele Lady *** iTunes
One of the strangest bands of the 1960's, which says a lot, Jim Kweskin's Jug Band was a communal musical ensemble from Boston. The specialized in a unique mix of jugband, folk, bluegrass, jazz, and pre-World War II musical styles that began as good-timey, but grew more and more zany and experimental with each relase, until they were edging almost into Frank Zappa territory, albeit on folkie instruments. The band included, besides leader Kweskin, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, both of which who would have solo success. It also included harmonica player Mel Lyman, who would go on to found his very own religious cult, and a particularly creepy one at that, before dying in 1978. "Ukelele Lady" is the familiar Gus Kahn/Richard Whiting "Hawaiian" ditty, sung in barbershop quartet style, with a single guitar for accompaniment. A corny but likable throwaway, it appeared on the 1965 sophomore release, Jug Band Music, before the band started getting freaky. Jug Band Music is one of the better second-string folkie recordings of the 1960's.
140. Nirvana: Breed ***** iTunes
"Breed", the fourth song on the classic major label breakthrough by Nirvana keeps the momentum going, coming on the heels of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" "In Bloom", and "Come As You Are", all among the band's classics. "Breed" starts off as a terrifying roar, with Kurt Cobain's voice almost indistinguishable from his guitar. The rhythm section of Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl is integral to the song's propulsion, and Cobain's manic stumming in the middle helps lend this some of the fire in the belly their rawer Sub Pop debut Bleach had.
Neverending Randomplay appears on Wednesday Night/Thursday AM.
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