Tuesday, 29 May 2012

On Tour On Your Stereo

Dunno 'bout you, but I didn't buy many live albums because they weren't that great. Poor sound quality, maybe substance-induced sloppy performances ... who needs that?

Things changed a bit in the video era when rehearsing, Broadway-like production, showmanship - not to mention digital editing - became the norm. But the early days were rather rough.

Interesting, then, that Gibson's recently published The Top 10 Live Albums Of The Rock Era is all from the 60's and 70's. Here's the list:

1. Live Cream
2. Woodstock Soundtrack
3. The Who, Live At Leeds
4. Bob Marley, Babylon By Bus
5. Rolling Stones, Love You Live
6. James Brown, Live At The Apollo
7. The Band, The Last Waltz
8. The Allman Brothers, Live At The Fillmore
9. Jimi Hendrix, Band Of Gypsies
10. Led Zeppelin, How The West Was Won

Pretty good list, especially the 1st four entries, which would exactly match my sequencing. All of them have exciting moments, but all of them also support my points. The sound quality is poor compared to what can be achieved now, and doesn't stack up to the studio albums made by the same bands.

And while one of the things that makes live music exciting is the risk involved, there are some "ouch" moments, not to mention downright sloppiness.

Didn't stop me from wearing out Live At Leeds though.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sorry, Jimmy

I promise I will never say anything bad about Jimmy Page ever again.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My Revolving Rubber Soul

A while ago I did a post about favourite albums by favourite artists, and when I got to The Beatles, the entry was "yes."

Well, the real answer is Rubber Soul and Revolver. I know that's two, but they feel like the same album just split up and sold a few months apart. In fact, in North America, they were split up - into three. Most tracks on Yesterday ... and Today are from Rubber Soul or Revolver.

It's (OK, they're) an easy choice. You've got your trademark Rock and Roll in songs like Run For Your Life. You've got a hint of heavier things to come with songs like Taxman. You've got George doing his Indian thing on Love To You. You've got classical instruments on Eleanor Rigby and For No One, presaging Pepper and Mystery Tour. You've got your Hippie idealism in The Word. You've got through-the-roof psychedelia in Tomorrow Never Knows.

Nowhere Man, Drive My Car, You Won't See Me, Norwegian Wood ... what an all-star collection of songs!

This/these album(s) stand perfectly astride all that was exciting about the mid 60's, and all the best of what was to come through the early 70's. It does not - did not, likely will not - get any better than this.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The List of Indulgences

Sounds rather medieval church-like, don't it?

Rolling Stone has this list of The Best Prog Rock Bands Of All Time. And, you know, I'm a fan and all, and when the only alternative was disco I was a really big fan, but self-indulgence is a hallmark of prog rock.

Here's the list:
1. Rush
2. Pink Floyd
3. Genesis
4. Jethro Tull
5. King Crimson
6. Yes
7. Emerson, Lake and Palmer
8. Tool
9. Mars Volta
10. Dream Theater

See what I mean about self-indulgence? Lots of interesting music and great musicianship on this list, but also rather too much "because we can." ELP best representing that attitude - or is it worst?

By the way, I keep seeing definitions of prog rock that talk about a big jazz influence, but I just don't hear it. Sure there's a lot of improvisation in jazz, but that's true of blues and rock too. Folk, for that matter. I hear lots of classical and a bit of folk influence in most prog rock. Jazz, not so much.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Blitzkrieg Pop

Funny how I do a piece on Power Pop (not liking it so much) and then Gibson goes and puts out a 10 Greatest-Ever Power Pop Bands list.

According to Gibson, Pete Townshend coined the term (I didn't know that; thanks, Gibson), and the definition is "infectious melodies, airtight arrangements, soaring vocal harmonies and unforgettable guitar riffs." Similar to Wikipedia's, so I'm outvoted here, 'cause I still think of Power Pop as soppy ballads with furry guitar.

At least that's what I remember the DJ's spinning those lame Foreigner, Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx tunes calling it.

Anyway, I'm happier with Gibson's definition, 'cause it yields a great list, which is:
1. Cheap Trick - yes!
2. The Who - OK, Pete coined the term, and the band kinda defies pigeon-holing, but I still dunno.
3. Big Star
4. Teenage Fanclub
5. The Raspberries
6. Slade
7. Fountains Of Wayne
8. The Posies
9. Badfinger - awesome! Very under-rated band
10. The Sweet - cool! OK, sweet!

Not sure if I would add anyone else. Maybe ELO? Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks's, not Peter Green's)? Anyway, it's all just only rock and roll - and I like it.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Running Into The Sun

So, the flip side of the coin where I'm now kinda old but still carry this teenage angst that Born To Run brings to the surface is ...

I've been worried about being too old forever.

Every time I hear Jackson Browne's Running On Empty I start to panic. When did that road turn into the road I'm on? I look into their eyes and see they're running too. Yikes! Life is passing me by! It's almost over and I didn't get anything done! Help!

Thing is, I first heard the song when I was 23, barely out of my teens, just two years after I first heard Born To Run and got all uptight about growing up too soon and becoming like “them.”

OK, maybe both songs are based on the same sentiment: don't let 'em getcha / I think I might be getting got. But one looks forward with anxious rebellion, the other looks back with regret (well, maybe it looks forward with fear because the end is nigh).

I guess in the end it doesn't matter whether you're too old or too young to relate to a song. If you do, you do. And that what's inside all great art: making you say, "That's how I feel."

People need some reason to believe.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Too

Gibson recently published The Top 10 Female Guitar Players Of All Time.

Here's the list:
1. Joan Jett
2. Lita Ford
3. Mary Ford
4. Jennifer Batten
5. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
6. Orianthi
7. Kaki King
8. Nancy Wilson
9. Bonnie Raitt
10. Joni Mitchell

All big names, for sure.

Dunno about Joan Jett @#1, though. Great rocker chick image and all, but wasn't it really only one song? Doesn't really compare with the multi-generational influence of Mary Ford or Sister Rosetta Tharpe, does it? Doesn't stand up to the career longevity of Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Raitt or Joni Mitchell.

By the way, where is Chrissie Hynde? Talk about rocker chick!

Nice to see Jennifer Batten and Orianthi up there. Not that they're my favourite male guitarists, but, you know, if you're good enough to go onstage with Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana, then you're good, right? I would have liked to see blues gals like Deborah Coleman or Sue Foley on the list - but then this is a Gibson list, not a Fender list.

Maybe that's why Bonnie Raitt is down at #9, when she belongs on top?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Tramps Like Us ...

Q: when do you grow up?

Well, if I use my reaction to certain songs as a yardstick, the answer is never.

For example, every time I hear Born To Run, all my teenage angst and rebelliousness comes flooding back. That's nuts, because I'm 58 years old. I didn't get out while I was young. The town did rip the bones from my back, and I didn't die on the street in an everlasting kiss. I just muddled through life like every other schmuck.

Does the song trigger a memory or a reflex? Do I just remember identifying with it when I first heard it (I would have been 21, so the angst and rebellion were still in full force)? Or do I still want to rebel against "them" and avoid becoming comfortably numb?

It probably doesn't matter. Either way, the song can still bring on a powerful emotional response - 37 years and a million experiences later. So that's amazing.

Or maybe it does matter, because I do prefer to think I still have a little madness left in my soul. Thanks, Bruce.