Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Note

I noticed that 108 viewers came by the other day.

Thanks for showing up folks.  For the most part I have discontinued to write blogs about bands here and have basically been putting them on my main site R S Crabb Presents Record World.   I doubt if any new entries will be forthcoming but the archives will still remain available for those looking for something other to read about forgotten bands.   I do check regularly for any comments and providing some tidying up around the site.  But the main postings will be found at this link:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Fred Neil

Given to the footnotes of his music career, Fred Neil really did things his way.  He basically a folk singer from the start but if you listen deep into his songs you can actually hear what he was thinking about.  He didn't care much for the New York lifestyle and even on his signature song Everybody's Talkin  he'd rather be sailing down in Florida, something that he would eventually do and pretty much silenced his career.

Fred only released four proper albums.  Tear Down The Walls with Vince Martin, Bleecker And MacDougal, Fred Neil aka Everybody's Talking and Sessions.  TDTW is mostly Martin but when Neils takes over on side 2 things begin to come together.

Bleecker And MacDougal is considered his overall best album, with the original version of The Other Side Of This Life and Little Bit Of Rain as highlights.  Somehow Capitol Records decided to sign him up and Fred Neil, despite Everybody's Talking showing Neil doing things his way.  Adding electric guitar and drums did bring some rock elements into the mix but it's still a mostly folk album. There's a ragged feel even to the hits of The Dolphins, and Talkin', these two songs enabled Neil to live a comfortable life from here on out. The jazzy feel of Green Rocky Road, the blues of Sweet Cocaine and Neil's views of New York life that he was beginning to tire (That's The Bag I'm In) and the 8 minute jam that follows Green Rocky Road, showed that he ran out of songs and rather jam a while.  One or two proper songs and Fred Neil would be a better known classic. 

Even then Neil was set in his ways and on Sessions you can hear his producer Nick Venet getting a bit frustrated on the two long songs that close out side 2.  Sessions sounds like the songs were done in one take, for better or for worse.  At best Neil does one of the slowest and coolest versions of Please Send Me Somebody To Love, but on the other hand, Look Over Yonder and Merry Go Round simply are just boring, when Neil shouts out a line, he's basically trying to wake himself up.  The problem with one take songs is that if they go over 7 minutes they lose the listeners soon after.   The half live, half studio The Other Side Of This Life concludes Neil's music career, doing things his own way, even telling Howard Solomon to shut up after Roll On Rosie before going into The Dolphins.   Interesting cameos by Les McCann (Come Back Baby) and Gram Parsons (Ya Don't Miss Your Water) but overall an uneven album.  Collector's Choice Music issued all of the Capitol albums plus some unreleased material as The Many Sides Of Fred Neil, basically all of his Capitol sessions plus an 45 with The Nashville Street Singers.

There isn't many best ofs out there.  Rev Ola took a shot of his recordings and so did Raven but the one label of interest Fallout, compiled some of his late 50s and early 60s attempt at rockabilly with Trav'lin Man, which featured his 6 singles recorded for various labels (Epic, ABC Paramount, Look, Brunswick). There's a connection between Jack Scott and Buddy Holly, especially on the Brunswick sides. The teenie bopper of You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry and Rainbow And A Rose reveals a side of Neil we would rarely see (and with good reason) but Four Chaplains is the song that reveal Neil's going more of a folk direction despite pedestrian vocal arrangements.  These collection of singles have been reissued on various other labels and different names (Passion, Funny Secrets).  If you're looking for the folk side of Fred, this is not the one to go to, but if you're into hearing Fred trying to be the next Buddy or Jack, it's worth a listen but not something you'd play on a regular basis.

Neil dropped out to live his life on saving the dolphins down in Coconut Grove Florida and would not record anything new.  There have been rumors of a couple live recordings that Columbia Records sat on and Neil would only come out for very rare hometown appearances, and Neil would pass away from skin cancer in 2001.   But even for a folk singer Neil did things his way and if the record label didn't like it, so be it.   The best overview is Do You Ever Think Of Me, which Rev Ola/Cherry Red does pick Neil's best known and loved songs. And Bleecker And MacDougal and Fred Neil are the best studio albums.  As long as radio keeps playing Everybody's Talking, by Nilsson, the memory of Fred Neil will be kept alive.  He may have a disdain for record labels and producers but he did process one of the most recognizable bass vocals in music history.  And he was a fine songwriter.

The Albums:

Trav'lin Man-The Early Singles  (Fallout 2008) B 
Tear Down The Walls (Elektra/Collectors Choice 1964) B-
Bleecker And MacDougal (Elektra/Collectors Choice 1965) B+
Fred Neil aka Everybody's Talkin (Capitol 1967) B+
Sessions (Capitol 1968) C+
The Other Side To This Life (Capitol 1969) B-
The Many Sides Of Fred Neil (Collectors Choice 1998) B+
Do You Ever Think Of Me-Best Of (Rev-Ola 2003) A-
Echoes Of My Mind (Raven 2005) B+

The Sky Is Falling, I think is Rev-Ola's version of The Other Side To This Life, therefore I didn't include it in the discography.

In 2006 Water Records did issue the Capitol albums as stand alone albums.
Funny Secrets (Mocking Bird 2012)  and Passion (Ludoxx 2012)  is the same album as Trav'lin Man. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley is considered to be one of the best vocalists that came out of the late 60s.  And perhaps one of the more erratic artists that I most certainly ever came across.  While his early albums are folk rock, Buckley wasn't that concerned or interested to continue to hit the folk trail.  And in the meantime pissing off fans by following his own muse,be it folk, or oddball avant garde vocal exercises, as if his testicles were being tied up in knots.   But after the extremism that was Lorca, turning into Star Sailor and later the final three albums Buckley got into funky porn soul as exhibited via his 1972 Greetings From LA.   While All Music tends to short change Sefronia and his final album Look At The Fool,  I tend to favor Sefronia over Greetings or Look At The Fool, to which the latter album Buckley seemed to be out of his league with the choices of his songs or the band that did those songs.   The way it was going, had Buckley not O Ded on Heroin, he might have gone disco and in a bad way.

It's easier for me to say that his folk rock albums are his best, the Bizarre/Straight albums his most notorious and the DiscReet trio a strange foray into blue eyed soul with an eye on porno for lyrical inspiration.  The first album Tim Buckley is straight forward folk rock, but Buckley throws a lot of his vocals into the songs such as Are You The Girl or Song For Jainie.  Song Slowly Song does shows a hint into the future, with sparse guitar work and Buckley moaning away.  Goodbye And Hello the followup begins Buckley turning away from the folk and getting into more abstract blues and even jazz with I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain  or Pleasant Street.   Happy/Sad, the third album is another wild ride but still listener friendly even though the songs are getting longer.

Buckley's final Elektra offerning Lorca, is his version of Metal Machine Music, a wild five song album with the title track showing off the torturous vocal, as if Buckley's skin was being peeled right off him.   The record is not for everybody, although side 2 has the more memorable I Had  A Talk With My Woman and to a lesser extend Nobody Walkin'.

Between the blurred avant garde jazz whatever you call it, the Bizarre Straight albums (out of print since Herb Cohen and Rhino and Warner Brothers had a big disagreement) are what people considered his classic period.  I disagree. Certainly there are shining moments on Blue Afternoon, and Bunk Gardner of The Mothers Of Invention fame helps Star Sailor and Song To The Siren the best song of the album.  What stood out was the crabby reviewer Robert Christgau giving Star Sailor a C- and thinking Buckley was doing Nico imitations and not Odetta, to which she was the inspiration to his vocals.   Star Sailor is a bit more worthy than a C minus, maybe a solid B and an A for effort. But in the long run, it's seems to me to be a bit of a novelty than classic.  Alas, the problem stems from Herb Cohen falling out of favor with Frank Zappa and after a 1989 reissue via Enigma/Retro both Star Sailor and Blue Afternoon are long deleted, hard to find and collectors scour the country for used copies. 4 Men With Beards issued both albums on LP, and perhaps one day Warner Brothers will finally get come to terms to both the Zappa and Cohen estates to get both records reissued once again.  Blue Afternoon to me is the better album but that's a matter of opinion.

While the Bizarre Straight albums are out of print, the DiscReet records are still available, somehow Herb Cohen kept those masters at hand and with Jerry Goldstein behind the production board,  Greetings From L.A. was when Buckley decided to quit the fusion acoustic light jazz and go for a more funkier sound.  My opinion about Greetings is mixed, at times the grubby porn funk of Move With Me or Get On Top would have perfect for those XXX movies of that time.  Buckley does sound inspired most through the album.  Sefronia, released a year later is commendable with cover versions of Tom Wait's Martha and Fred Neil's The Dolphins and Buckley does a nice Fred Neil soundalike.  And I Know I'd Recognize Your Face is a rather pleasant blue eyed soul number complete with a female counterpoint.  The title track Sefronia does return to the days of Goodbye And Hello the song itself.  Buckley doesn't give up on the funky stuff, Honey Man and Quicksand could have fit in on Greetings From LA.  Tim kinda cools it on the theatrics but just in case you forgot, he does soar on his vocal on Honey Man and Sally Go Round The Roses.   As for Look At The Fool, it sounds like Buckley is on auto pilot and most of the songs are not memorable.  It does get points for Chuck Rainey and Earl Palmer on bass and drums.  Not a total wasted effort.

Since Buckley's passing in 1975, Elektra Rhino has put out two overviews.  One of them Morning Glory is a 2 CD overview of his recordings and even the Bizarre/Straight/DiscReet albums do have highlights. Disc 1 covers the first three albums plus some unreleased live performances, the folk rock years and Disc 2 is the Straight/DiscReet Lorca era.   However the single disc Best Of Tim Buckley effectively distills most of his best song in a easier to take single disc but still totaling 79 minutes.  Or all the Tim Buckley you need if you only need one good overview.   The first album and Goodbye And Hello are worthy, the rest you're better off to sample via You Tube or song samples Lorca and Star Sailor will try your patience.  As well as Look At The Fool or Greetings From L.A.  Nevertheless, Tim Buckley was that rarity, a person that followed his own vision of music.  The man could flat out sing.  And sometimes scream as well.

Albums: (Incomplete)

Tim Buckley (Elektra 1967) A-
Goodbye And Hello (Elektra 1967) A-
Happy/Sad (Elektra 1968) B+
Blue Afternoon (Straight 1969) B+
Lorca (Elektra 1969) C-
Star Sailor (Straight 1970) C+
Greetings From L.A. (DiscReet/WB 1972) B
Sefronia (DiscReet 1973) B+
Look At The Fool (DiscReet 1974) B-
The Best Of Tim Buckley (Elektra/Rhino 2006) B+
The Dream Belongs To Me (Manifesto 2012) B

Notes: While Blue Afternoon has been out print, Rhino Germany has included it in a box set called Original Album Classics, to which the first five albums are included.  Very odd considering that Blue Afternoon is on Straight/Bizarre. It's probably cheaper to buy the box set then.  However I did find a CD copy of Blue Afternoon and it's kinda of a return to the sound that made Goodbye And Hello a classic album, The Train, does suggest the one take vocal gymnastics that Buckley would attempt on Lorca and Star Sailor.   The Dream Belongs To Me captures two distinct periods in Buckley's history, one side is from the folk years, while side 2 is from the funk experiments of the early 70s. The 1973 live showing is somewhat disappointing, it sounds like some of the songs were thought up on the spot.   Star Sailor and Blue Afternoon can be found at a cheaper price if you like MP3s, the LPs vary in sound. But if you want a stand alone CD of these two albums, better take out a second mortgage since EBAY or Amazon used copies are over 20 dollars.  Good luck trying to find one at your local record store, you're going to need it. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Del Amitri

The funny thing about the 1990s was the wide selection of music that still could be found on the charts.  While rock radio would like you to remember everything Nirvana or Alice In Chains, bla blah, the fact was that contemporary pop rock was still a norm.  Somehow to the left of Madchester alternative rock and the Seattle Grunge and to the right of hair metal lies the pop rock style of Del Amitri or better known to me as simply the Dels, easier to remember and easier to spell than Amitri. 

The band goes back to 1984 when Justin Currie advertised for musicians to play in his new band and ended up getting Iain Harvie to be the other half of this band and they got signed to Chrysalis and put out a very good debut that bordered on Elvis Costello and Aztec Camera but with a Cockney accent sound to beat, it's probably more on the same scale as The Housemartins.  Hugh Jones produced the debut and even if Justin Currie was a wee lad of 16 17 years old, his word play was much older and although I brought up the Elvis Costello reference, Justin may have listened to Graham Parker as well.  The album didn't sell very well and only when Del Amitri managed to get hits was when EMI decided to reissue it in 1995. Hammering Heart and Sticks And Stones Girl are the highlights.

After a three year absence, and a new label, Del Amitri's next album Waking Hours revealed a much different sound.  Gone was the wicked Cockney voice, replaced by a more smoke strained and laid back vocal from Currie as he had a hit with Kiss This Thing Goodbye, in a way, the left field song with banjo sounded out of place with the hair metal craze of 1989 and while Hugh Jones still was on as producer, the band was more stripped down and to the point.  You wouldn't know they were from Scotland.  Their type of rock was more straight ahead (Stone Cold Sober) but the ballads like Nothing Ever Happens or Move Away Jimmy Blue, was more of The Band rather then U2.  Although you don't hear much from this record, it was just as important as say U2's Rattle And Hum, just not as pretentious.

But every album that the Dels did do, Currie would find enough hooks and melody to come up with an hit single.  The Last To Know from Change Everything is one, and the throwaway Roll To Me, (the mix from Twisted sounded like Currie thought of it on the spot and Al Clay the producer recorded it that way) turned out to be their biggest hit, since it continues to be heard on soft rock and classic rock radio for that matter.  And later, Not Where It's At another mainstay of the radio.  Currie could compose it and Iain Harvie could think up a nice guitar riff and melody, but the strange thing about this was that they could have that big hit single on these albums but the rest of the songs would not be as attention grabbing. All of their albums really do have moments although while critics lambasted  Twisted, I thought it worked quite nicely as the Dels went for a harder rocking sound.  Change Everything might get a slight nod over Waking Hours as best overall album for the A&M years, but to me, Twisted is their "twisted' classic, to which the madness of Justin Currie comes into full fury glory, Bring Somebody Else they channeled their inner Crazy Horse among the ballads.  On original hearing Change Everything took a few listens to get used to, Gil Norton's production might be too polished but no doubt the songs do stand out from Be My Downfall, to the blues rock of Just Like A Man up to the Rolling Stones riff of The Ones That You Love Lead You Nowhere bleeding into the cowbell 123 of The Last To Know and even to the finale Sometimes I Just  Have To Say Your Name.  Which, in the end is their best studio album.

A long layoff after the failure of Twisted making a disappointing showing on the charts, the Dels came back with a whole new lineup, only Currie, Harvie and Andy Alston remained from the previous album and Some Other Sucker's Parade tried to return back to the glory days of Change Everything, while the title track and Not Where It's At managed to hit the radio, the rest of the album was a hit and miss, Mark Freegard's production wasn't a very good fit, and David Bianco's mix job was even worse.  A&M wasn't exactly promoting it either, they were in the process of being brought out by Universal and Universal really showed a lack of caring.  But even if it's their lesser of the US A&M albums (2002's Can You Do Me Good never saw a US release) there are still some decent songs that could have been better had they been recorded better (Medicine).  Sensing a end to things, Universal put together Hatful Of Rain, a 17 song best of which gives us the best songs and two new songs, one is the crappy Cry To Be Found, a very bad attempt for radio airplay but failed miserably, the other Don't Come Home Too Soon a much better song which was adopted by the Scotland soccer team in their world cup appearance.    Justin Currie would later follow that the the outtakes Lousy With Love (B Sides compilation) soon afterward.  A&M would then edit Hatful Of Rain with the uneven 20th Century Masters Collection.  Hatful Of Rain, The Best Of The Dels is a uneven mess but perhaps the best overview of what they could do, and makes a valid point that they were a good singles band, but the inclusion of Here And Now and Cry To Be Found drags this down a bit. But if you find it for under two dollars its worth a listen or two.

After Can You Do Me Good, Justin Currie pretty much retired the band and has gone solo, most of the albums worth a listen but without Iain Harvie kinda lacks the spirit and focus of the Dels.  That said, in the late 80s and early 90s Del Amitri was the alternative to hair metal, although Justin Currie's sense of humor might have labeled him a punk rocker in a pop aritst's skin. They might have missed the boat in New Wave in 1985 but in 1989, they found their mark in Scottish rock and pop.  And for their effort, got a radio classic with Roll To Me as well.


Del Amitri (Chrysalis 1985)  B+
Waking Hours (A&M 1989) B+
Change Everything (A&M  1992) A-
Twisted (A&M 1995)  A-
Swimming With Your Boots On-Live Dels (Oxygen Import) B+
Some Other Suckers' Parade (A&M  1997) B+
Hatful Of Rain-The Best Of Del Amitri (A&M 1998) B+
B Sides-Lousy With Love (A&M Import 1998) NR
20th Century Masters (A&M 2002) B
Can You Do Me Good (A&M 2002) NR

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Rockets

Consider this.  The late 70s are not looked upon fondly as it once was.  While classic rock radio tends to favor AC DC or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin to satisfy the advertisers, plenty of other bands were a part of the rise of album rock.   But in the late 70s there are bands that you never hear anymore.  Prism comes to mind, the Canadian rockers who made about five albums for Capitol, which would be unheard of in this day and age.  Duke Jupiter who bounced between Mercury, Coast To Coast and Motown,  Nantacket, who made three albums for Epic and one for RCA.  All pretty much gone from the radio,  on only remains on the minds of serious collectors looking for something other than Back In Black.

The Rockets, started out years ago as part of Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, basically Jim McCarthy and Johnny Bee, one of the best unknown drummers ever.  His beats on Jenny Take A Ride and the obscure Turn On Your Lovelight  sounds like a freight train running down the track.  Later, Johnny Bee Bandzerak and McCarthy would reunite with Mitch Ryder for Detroit, the 1971 album for Paramount that featured a wild version of Rock And Roll.  MCA reissued that album on CD in the late 80s.  McCarthy also worked in Cactus, the offshoot of Vanilla Fudge with the late Rusty Day (Amboy Dukes) doing lead vocals but their hardline boogie has not aged very well.

The Rockets (no relation to the band that would become Crazy Horse and made one album for White Whale) is more straight line boogie rock related than the bombast of Cactus and finally came together around 1976 to create an album called Love Transfusion for Tortoise International/RCA records and produced by Don Davis (Robin Trower, Motown).  With Johnny Bee and Jim McCarthy being the main focus and songwriters (Johnny Bee was also lead vocalist for a while) they ended up getting Dave Gilbert as vocalist.  Gilbert, had that Midwestern growl of a vocal that gave The Rockets a distinct sound.  Picking up Donnie Dackus as keyboardist this is considered the classic lineup although various bass players would come and go.  Another key member would be Dennis Robbins to give a twin guitar attack.  Moving over to RSO they recorded Turn Up The Radio which would give them their biggest hit with a cover of Peter Green's Oh Well.  Ably produced by Johnny Sandlin (Allman Brothers, Elvin Bishop)  it's a good place to start if you want to hear what The Rockets were all about, music to dance to.  The followup album No Ballads was somewhat lesser, there were some cool songs (Desire, Takin It Back) and a cover of Sally Can't Dance and like the title says there was no ballads unlike the one off Turn Up The Radio (Lost Forever Left For Dreaming).

While it's considered that Turn Up The Radio is their bona fide classic, I like the two albums that they did for Elektra,  Back Talk and Rocket Roll.  Certainly Back Talk was a rebound from No Ballads, with the Title track and Can't Get Satisfied  and even Johnny Bee takes a vocal on a couple numbers. Better production came from Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Graham Parker) on Back Talk.  Dennis Robbins would leave for a up and down career in country music, having a solo album for MCA in 1986 and co writing songs with a up and coming guitarist by the name of Warren Haynes, then Robbins recorded with Billy Hill for an album for Reprise before doing three albums for Giant Records.  Despite the oddball recording Glen Kolotin did on Rocket Roll, that record remains my favorite Rockets album.  The Detroit rock boogie is in full force on songs like Rock And Roll Girl and Rolling By The Record Machine. Somehow the record flopped, Elektra didn't pay much attention to the band and The Rockets would find themselves on Capitol for their final effort Live Rockets which had a minor hit with Open The Door To Your Heart.  Then the band broke up, and Dave Gilbert eventually would die in 1999 after years of heavy drinking from liver cancer.

Eventually, Johnny Bee and McCarthy decided to reform The Rockets with a new vocalist Jim Edwards but McCarty decided to return to Cactus and after a 4 song EP this decade, The Rockets have been silent once again. 

In some ways The Rockets  could have been a bit better known, perhaps fate didn't do them favors by bypassing Bruce Springsteen's Fire for a potential hit single and countless fights did split the band up. But between the grooves The Rockets did provide some classic Detroit rock and roll, to next to Bob Seger The Rockets were very good at what they did.  With the exception of Love Transfusion, the RSO and Elektra albums have been issued as 2 on 1 CD, although the Renaissance reissue suffers from a harsh midrange remaster.  Still, they should have done better and unfortunately the ongoing fights splintered the band up.  Still when they were on their music, they were just as good as anybody else and even if David Gilbert had major demons with drink and drugs, he was a damn good vocalist. But the world won't know their music outside of Oh Well.  This is where you the music collector comes in and seeks out their back catalog.

The Albums:

Love Transfusion (Tortoise 1977)  B+
The Rockets: Turn Up The Radio (RSO 1979) B+
No Ballads (RSO 1980) B-
Back Talk (Elektra 1981) B
Rocket Roll (Elektra 1982) A-
Live Rockets (Capitol 1983) B-

The Rockets/No Ballads (Renaissance 2009) B+
Back Talk/Rocket Roll (Wounded Bird 2005) A- 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Curve, Lush And The Shoegazer Music Boom of 1991-1992

I might be in the minority but I always liked shoegazer music, which really was alternative music back in the early 1990s.  Terms of feedback guitars, straight ahead beats and words that nobody could make out what they were saying.  My Bloody Valentine might be considered the best of the shoegazers but that is debatable.  Jesus And Mary Chain could be considered the pioneers of shoegazer  music but that's also terms of discussion. Even The Stone Roses are considered shoegazers although they're more Brit Pop than MBV.

In the scope of shoegazer, Ride to me offered the best of this type of music.  While critics call Nowhere their best album, Going Blank Again is their classic to these ears.  The continuing swirl of sounds on Leave Them All Behind is the best indication that you could get lost in the noise.  Still, it seems that Ride got tired of this sound and tried to venture out into different directions with Carnival Of Light before ending their career as purveyors of guitar rock on the forgotten Tarantula and broke up, Andy Bell moving on to Hurricane #1 before joining Oasis.  The longest lasting of these bands, The Charlatans UK started as Madchester  beats, which is part of Shoegazer music and their first two albums Some Friendly and Between 10th And 11th were part of the original alternative radio before Corporations like Clear Channel turned that into Modern Rock but even they got tired of Shoegazer and with Steve Hillage producing changed course with Up To Our Hips and eventually The Charlatans became the modern Rolling Stones, the highlight Tellin Stories before losing their keyboard player in a auto accident and their drummer in 2013 from cancer.  The lesser known The Darkside made two shoegazer albums that borderline more on psychedelia of the 60s rather than the Madchester sounds of The Charlatans UK. All That Noise, shows The Darkside's fondness of The Velvet Underground. The Seeds  and The Charlatans (US Version that is), but perhaps their shining moment was the 9:52 song Rise from their final album Melomania.  Out of all the shoegazer bands The Darkside were the most trippiest.  Fellow labelmates The Dylans may have bit more straight ahead rock and roll, like The Stone Roses, their best moment was the dreamy Godlike from their first album.  And like the Stone Roses, The Dylans couldn't build upon their first album, Spirit Finger finding them spinning their wheels and poor sales and indifference and the band was no more.

Which leaves us with the Inspiral Carpets, a band best known with a organ sound similar to The Doors. They started out pretty good with the almost hour long Life, but each album was less and less interesting.  Picking up their best of is the better buy, like The Doors The Carpets could get very wordy and lose focus, which makes getting The Very Best Of Inspiral Carpets the best deal, but I'll stand by Life as probably the only Inspiral Carpets album you would ever want to own.

Perhaps the best shoegazer bands were the ones lead by women. Although fans and critics have spoken highly of Slowdive, I wasn't impressed with the album that I heard, they reminded me of a noisy Cowboy Junkies.  Lush on the other hand started out as a shoegazer type of band. Led by Miki Berneyi's breathy vocals and the songwriting  and backing singing of Emma Anderson, their debut album Spooky and the EP collecting Gala are perfect examples of shoegazer dream pop. They recorded for 4AD, one of the top alternative labels out there in the early 90s, home to The Pixies and Breeders as well.  It also helped that Robin Guthrie (Choctaw Twins) produced Spooky.  But unlike the Dylans, Lush followed Ride's trail and started making albums not so much shoe gazer but more alternative rock, with mixed results.  Split, like Ride's Carnival Of Light is Lush trying to find a new sound that will fit them better but not quite getting there yet.  Their final 1996 effort Lovelife, they went for a sound that was somewhat like Elastica, getting minor hits like Ladykillers and a duet with Pulp's Jarvis Crocker on Ciao. a disjointed version of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra for the 90s. The record was probably their best seller but drummer Chris Acland's suicide ended Lush once and for all.   Their best of Ciao! captures most of their highlights.

Certainly the nosiest has to be Curve, who existed right in the middle of the shoegazer craze of 1991 and 1992 and perhaps the most related to My Bloody Valentine and Jesus And Mary Chain of noise music.  They made three albums for Charisma/Anxious,  Doppelganger, Pubic Fruit and Cuckoo. Led by Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia, they were produced by Flood and Alan Moulder, Moulder would greatly in the mixing of albums from Ride, if anybody gave Shoe Gazer music its sound, that would be Moulder.  Doppelganger takes a while getting going but toward the end of the album the angry guitars and looping drum tracks take hold on Wish You Were Dead and Fait Accompli, the latter track would be expanded and added on, as well as three EPs that comprised Pubic Fruit, to which like Gala from Lush, composes Curve to be a very noisy dance shoe gazer band. Cuckoo, as uneven as it is, still is remarkable, the title track one of their best overall songs.  Curve would later break up and then reunite through the years although I have not heard anything outside of Cuckoo.  Kevin Sheilds of MBV fame did play on their 2002 album.  Overall fact remains that while Curve may have been a noise band and their sound did base an influence on the more popular US band Garbage in the mid 90s that underneath the noisy guitar and blurred singing from Halliday, Curve, like Lush was a very good pop band.

By all accounts Shoe Gazer pretty much fell apart around 1992 when Nirvana and grunge took over the alternative airwaves although some bands did try to keep that sound going. Blind Mr. Jones put out Stereo Musicale on Cherry Red (Herb Cohen's Bizarre/Straight issued it two years later).  Blur started out as dance shoe gazer with Leisure but then Damon Albarn and company started writing Kinks influenced songs before changing gears with the Pavement tribute S/T album of 1998.  And Catherine Wheel  Frement album for Fontana is their most hypnotic album, with their classic Black Metallic, before they abandoned Shoe Gazer with a more mainstream modern rock album of Happy Days.  Ocean Colour Scene, late to the party, their 1992 S/T album probably the final noteworthy of the shoe gazer music as we knew it back then, before they went with a more soulful direction.  I'm sure I'm missing a few bands from all of this but these were the most noteworthy of bands.  But in any case The Shoe Gazer Music was perhaps the final music genre that I gave much thought about. Alternative Music today is nowhere near as varied as it was back in the early 90s.  But in any case, you really didn't need much thought into playing this music. Just hit the play button start the beat and let the music take you where it leads.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Alison Moorer-Down To Believing

Perhaps the bigger story of this year was not of the new Steve Earle Terra-plane album which had the Earlster putting out a blues album but rather his new ex wife's album Down To Believing which came after she filed for divorce after 7 years of being with him.  In some ways it's not a answer record in the matter of Richard And Linda Thompson's 1982 farewell Shoot Out The Lights.  Moorer's is more subduded and not as venomous.    She can rock out like Miranda Lambert on lead off track Like It Used To Be, to which Moorer sangs Don't want to say goodbye but it will set me free.  I think the key track is the 2 and half minute next song Thunderstorm/Hurricane which probably a more read between the lines of washing herself away from the strains of her marriage.

Overall, Moorer has recorded off and on for various labels of varying degree.  Like Shelby Lynne, it's hard to pin Moorer as a straight country act or Americana one.  She employs the usual Nashville session folk on this record (Kenny Greenburg who produces, Fred Effingham, Chad Cromwell, Dan Dugmore, Michael Rhodes all play on this record, Ray Kennedy and Justin Niebank record and mix parts of this album as well).  Unlike her previous albums, Down To Believing is a bit more darker as Moorer, who has stayed very silent talking about her breakup in the press, chooses to express them in the songs at hand (Tear Me Apart, Blood, I Wish).  While the songs are fairly good, the Nashville Session hires don't exactly bring the anger into music, it's rather more passive then aggressive.  Her cover of CCR's Have You Ever Seen The Rain is like the original, note for note and not that all bad.  It does pick up better towards the end with perhaps the best song is I'm Doing Fine, to which throughout it all, she's getting on her life as best as she could be.  Second best song is probably Gonna Get It Wrong, which could describe our lives as well; as much as we all try to do our best, we all going to get it wrong somehow. 

Certainly Down To Believing might be Alison's most  emotional album to date although the jury is still out if it's her best overall (Alabama Song is considered her best).  But while her ex continues to play live and host his own XM radio show and still remains the ultimate outlaw singer songwriter, Down To Believing is Moorer's answer to it all, while she continues to live her life and bring her autistic son up in the world and make a new album that won't get noticed in the country world, this record has more brains than the average Luke Bryan song.  And I give it an extra point for being raw and emotionally honest.   She's keeping quiet on the social media set but the words and music on Down To Believing indicates she's speaking her mind.

Grade B+