Neverending Randomplay #151-#160
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 18,093 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.
151. Camper Van Beethoven: (We're A) Bad Trip ***** iTunes
"(We're A) Bad Trip" is a winner from the very first note; a twangy solo lead guitar is joined by band and vocalist in a manic garage band style juggernaut; to be singled out for praise are Victor Krummenacher's incessently bouyant bass, Greg Lisher's guitar, which plays a lead straight from the 60's but minus the fuzz, and Chris Pederson's propulsive kit crashing. David Lowery, who was known for singing in a variety of kooky accents and drawls, here is menacing punk, all sneer and snarl. Any fan of 60's garage band music would dig this remarkably credible simulation. From Camper Van Beethoven's 1986 sophomore album, II & III. The album itself isn't quite the bolt out of the blue (or from the dusty desert) as their debut, but the songwriting and especially playing took a quantum leap forward in this pre-Pavement slacker-favorite band.
152. The Kinks: Gotta Get The First Plane Home *****
Those who haven't explored the Kinks' classic mid-60's period beyond the hits are really missing some of the best music of the decade. The Kinks' discography is notoriously confusing; British releases and American releases had different titles and songs (as did most 60's releases by British artists before 1967). The Kinks' earliest albums are spotty; while the hits remain essential, the non-singles are mostly unmemorable. This changed in late 1965 with the release of The Kink Kontroversy, arguably their greatest album, and certainly their first great one. "Gotta Get The First Plane Home" is a prime example of the quality of the album cuts on that disc; an under-two-minute Yardbirds-like hard rocker with fuzzy guitars, a bold lead, bluesy harmonica, crashing cymbals, tinkling barrelhouse piano in the background, great simple, direct lyric, and a gritty Ray Davies vocal. The whole album is like this; with a few good softer ones thrown in for pacing. This album began a good run of classic albums; the next two, Face To Face and Something Else By The Kinks also vie for the title of best Kinks album.
153. The Mamas and Papas: Dedicated To The One I Love ***** iTunes
This lush cover version of the Shirelles' classic outdoes the original on all fronts. The vocalists never sounded better, the arrangement of male harmonies, female harmonies, and group harmonies -the group's trademark- suit this song almost perfectly, the famously complex production of the Mamas and Papas albums shines, with its mandolin and upright piano and other instrumentation. The group itself was at the peak of their popularity when this appeared on Deliver in 1967; the same year the band hosted the Monterey Pop festival, one of the most important rock festivals in history. From this point forward, however, the group was on the road to their acrimonious 1968 breakup; they'd deliver only two more albums, one in 1968 and a failed reunion album in 1971. Mama Cass Elliott died in 1974 (not from choking on a ham sandwich as the gratuitously cruel urban legend has it, but from a heart attack).
154. AC/DC: Heatseeker (live) ***
"Heatseeker" is the kick off song from AC/DC's 1988 album Blow Up Your Video, which marked a return to robust record sales for the band after several disappointing releases. The film soundtrack Who Made Who, comprised of AC/DC tunes from the film Maximum Overdrive had been a solid reminder of the band's strengths (which primarily are manic hard rock guitar hookfests), and Blow Up your Video peaked at #12. This version of "Heetseeker" is from the 1992 live album AC/DC Live, which shows their skills declining form their peak, but still strong enough to deliver a good time. However, the highlights on the album are all older songs; "Heatseeker" never was in their league, and the live version suffers from a mix that leaves singer Brian Johnson buried in the mix under Angus Young's guitar. Angus doesn't come up with a riff here to compensate; none of the bone crunching hooks he's famous for, just a solid boogie riff.
155. Little Feat: Oh Atlanta **** iTunes
Little Feat is a band that's difficult to pigeonhole. They have more in common with Southern Rock than anything else, but they were from Los Angeles. Leader Lowell George (vocals, slide guitar, guitar), and bassist Roy Estrada were alumni of the Mothers Of Invention, a very non-Southern rock band if ever there was one. Little Feat's 1971 debut was a mix of country rock, blues rock, and a post-psychedelic druggy ambience. Their next few albums were a unique hybrid of country, blues, and surprisingly fluid funk. "Oh Atlanta" originally appeared on their fourth album, Feats Don't Fail Me Now, from 1974, and is a rollicking, good-timey country rock/bar band rocker. The band peaked in the mid-70's; by the time this live version was released in 1978 on Waiting For Columbus, George had become erratic due to a dibilitating drug problem that would claim his life the following year. Still, most of this album is well compiled from good performances, and "Oh Atlanta" gains some muscle and gives George a fine showcase for his slide. His demise was a considerable loss for rock. Little Feat regrouped in 1988 and have been around since, but are a shadow of their Lowell George days.
156. The Lovin' Spoonful: The Night Owl Blues **** iTunes
Time has made the Lovin' Spoonful recede in the popular public consciousness to the point where they've become virtually unknown among listeners under a certain age. They've also been mis-remembered to a considerable degree; in their prime they were a major commercial force and a fairly innovative band. The band's roots are in folk and jug band music; their members were veterans of the East Coast folk scene, centered in Greenwich Village and the Lower east Side of Manhattan. Leader John Sebastian had begun on the folk circuit, and guitarist Zal Yanovski had been in the Mugwumps with future Mama and Papa Cass Elliott and Denny Doherty. The Village folk scene in the early 1960's was centered on a cluster of clubs, Folk City, The Bottom Line, and The Night Owl among them. "The Night Owl Blues" closed their 1965 debut, Do You Believe In Music, and is a convincing slow blues instrumental with stinging, ringing guitar from Yanovski and some excellent blues harp from Sebastian. A fine cut from a fine album from a fine band.
157. Guy Clark: L.A. Freeway (live) ****
From Monahans, TX, Guy Clark is a country-influenced singer/songwriter who has recorded infrequently but consistently since the early 1970's. He originally relocated to San Francisco (where he met his wife Susanna, whom he mentions by name in this song), then Los Angeles, before settling into Nashville. "L.A. Freeway" is a kiss-off to the L.A. years, surprisingly tender and thoughtful. Originally included on his 1975 debut, Old #1, it is something of a classic now, and was dusted off for his first-ever live album, Keepers, recorded in 1997. Clark has an easy going, very laid back delivery, but the warmth of his voice and his somewhat unconventional guitar playing keeps things interesting.
158. Eat Static: Bony Incus (Man With No Name remix) ***
Fairly good Goa techno trance from the LSD-fueled Goa club scene, "Bony Incus" is a six minute plus workout from Eat Static, a side project of Merv Pepler (keyboards, drum patterns, samplers) and Joie Hinton (keyboards, samplers) of neo-prog-rock group Ozric Tentacles, plus synth player Steve Everitt. The big beat dominates, but is given considerable dressing up from the smaples and textures that swoosh, swirl, beep, and hum around it. It works up a good head about four minutes in, before ending a little too soon. Unlikely to suit many needs outside of a dancefloor, it makes a pretty good accompaniment to freeway driving at night, too. Taken from the 1996 various-artist Distance to Goa, Vol. 4, part of a 10-disc series of use primarily to deejays; it spreads the material pretty thin for the average listener.
159. Cat Stevens: Sad Lisa **** iTunes
British singer/songwriter Cat Stevens earned good notice for his 1967 debut Matthew And Son, which charted at #27 on the U.K. charts and pegged him as an up-and-comer. He followed it up with a similar sounding album New Masters, released at the end of 1967. He then contracted life-threatening tuberculosis, which put him out of action for nearly two years. He re-emerged in 1970 with Mona Bone Jakon, an excellent album full of bluesy and progressive ruminations on death, which was considered a comeback in the U.K. Throughout this span, he remained virtually unknown in America; it was with his next album, Tea For The Tillerman, a considerably lighter affair than its predecessor, that he finally broke through with "Wild World". "Sad Lisa" is the next track on the album, and shares a theme of naive young girl brought to ruin by facing the rough world outside. This fairly patronizing angle diminishes both songs to a degree, although on this one, the music is subtly moving and pleasingly arty, featuring piano and violin as well as a tender vocal from Cat. Rock fans will find more on Mona Bone Jakon to admire, but soft rock fans will like this.
160. Death In Vegas: I Spy ****
Trip Hop and club/dance Death In Vegas is the project of British deejay Richard Fearless, and have released six albums since 1997, most of them quite excellent; of tremendous appeal to clubbers and rockers alike. Most of Death In Vegas' best known songs feature guest vocalists, among a long list have been Liam Gallagher and Iggy Pop. "I Spy" is instrumental, and is sultry and seductive, with sinewy bass, a reverb-ey guitar that resembles a sitar, and sensual organ fills. While it is an album cut that helps pace the rest of the disc, and not a standout on its own, it isn't bad; atmospheric and with a vaguely psychedelic 60's vibe given late 90's trip-hop sampling and drums 'n' bass. From the 1997 debut, Dead Elvis, which isn't quite as good as their next two, The Contino Sessions and Scorpio Rising, but is still one of the better late 90's releases in any genre.
Neverending Randomplay is a Wednesday night/Thursday AM feature appearing a day late this week.
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