Listen to SENTIMENTAL LADY by Fleetwood Mac.
Listen to SENTIMENTAL LADY by Bob Welch.
People seemed to like last week's edition of jukebox classics so we might as well run out a few more.
Today we have a death match of sap: two versions of Sentimental Lady, the first recorded by Fleetwood Mac, then second by... basically Fleetwood Mac. The writer and singer of both is Bob Welch. Welch was a guy from L.A. with a pretty interesting career, with at least a couple of high points, as you're about to learn.
The first would be his involvement with Fleetwood Mac in the early 70s. The band had just lost Peter Green and their status as one of the biggest bands in England, and was kind of casting around for a new direction. They recruited Bob Welch (and Christine McVie), and he was instrumental in pushing them away from the bluesbreakers style of Green and towards what eventually became the multibillion-selling pop monsters of the mid-to-late 70s.
Welch was involved in four Fleetwood Mac albums, my favorite being "Bare Trees," an album broadly acknowledged as being one of the band's strongest.
Sentimental Lady was originally written for "Bare Trees," and to be fair, this version isn't that sappy. Welch's vocals (and lyrics, but especially the vocals) are just a little too awkward to sound contrived. It very much sounds like the chance for the sideman to get his moment in the sun, and you want to root for it like you do Ringo's (or George's early) songs.
"Bare Trees" came out in 1972. A couple years later, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, effectively forcing Welch out. By 1977, Welch was recording a solo album. The thing about Sentimental Lady is that it's a helluva great melody. Welch obviously thought it was too, because he re-recorded it, with his old band mates (McVie and Buckingham are prominently featured on backing vocals), and for maximum commercial effect. It's this version you've probably heard before, because it sold a lot of records. It's pretty unstoppable pop, but it doesn't have the charm of the early version. Listen to both and see if you agree!
Photo: Merritt Parkway (1).
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Two years ago, Amy and I went and saw Arsenal (de Sarandí) play River Plate, and because the Rolling Stones were playing River Plate's stadium, the match was held at El Fortín. It was a little intimidating, especially the River ultras in the north end of the stadium. This year, it was more than that:
BUENOS AIRES, March 30 (Reuters) - Dozens of River Plate fans fought among themselves in a vicious battle on the terraces before their team's match against Arsenal in the Argentine championship on Sunday.
Television pictures showed the supporters lashing out at each other, some using ripped up plastic seats, at the stadium of Velez Sarsfield, where the game was played.
A hospital spokesman said seven people were injured in the brawl, including a policeman. One picture showed a supporter sitting on the terraces, covered in blood.
Argentine football suffers from chronic supporter violence.
The match between Racing Club and San Lorenzo last week was abandoned in the second half when home fans hurled missiles on to the pitch after their team had three players sent off and a goal disallowed.
Two weeks ago the San Lorenzo-Velez Sarsfield game was called off minutes before the kick-off when Velez fans rioted over the death of a supporter on the way to the match.
Media said Sunday's riot involved two different River supporters groups -- the Borrachos del Tablon against the Banda del Oeste.
River Plate were last year given a five-match home ban after fans fought with each other at a social club adjoining the club's usual home venue, the Monumental stadium.
River were playing at Velez on Sunday because their stadium was being used for another event.
So now it's Liverpool three times in a week. A remarkable scenario, you'd have to admit. Anyway, here's hoping our friend and occasional commenter Philip is feeling well enough by Wednesday that I won't feel bad about us winning 4-0.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Listen to GALVESTON by Glen Campbell.
In the continued absence of Jason (skiing in the Alps this time), here's a bonus one-word jukebox classic for you this Friday.
Galveston has long been a strange one to me. First, having been to Galveston, it's hard for me to see where such longing for the place could come from (oddly enough, this isn't the only, or even my favorite song about Galveston. Someday I'll post a great tune by Lonnie Hill called Galveston Bay). Maybe that was part of Jimmy Webb's point in writing the song though, made in his typically oblique way--it's about longing for a place you know and understand, wherever that may be.
Anyway, why is this a jukebox classic? I'd say for two reasons. One is that measured by its own terms, the song is a success. That's easy--one of Jimmy Webb's best melodies with one of Glen Campbell's best performances, that means it's great, no question. The second thing, though, is its strangeness, its obliqueness. I'm sure this was there even in 1969 but forty years later it's probably the thing that stands out most to me. Even then, the production was wrapped in honey, now it sounds wrapped in amber. It's alien, a fossil. It's like hearing a song from a totally different world. Which it is I guess.
That's it for me this week. I got word from Stu yesterday that he's collecting some amazing performances over in Iceland this week, and hopefully he'll share some of them here next week. Otherwise, more of me. Have a good weekend!
Photo: Sunset, the west side.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Listen to SUNDOWN by Gordon Lightfoot.
Since I can remember I've been wanting to post Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot but for the life of me I can't remember why!
In jukebox classics terms, there's nothing to say about this song. Sundown, duh, jukebox classic. I think this is a tune that I actually used to play at Muldoon's with my former colleagues, but even that I'm not sure about.
The one thing I really love about the arrangement on this song is how on most all of the refrains, "Sundown, you better take care...," they've got Gord doubled and backed, but for the initial statement of the refrain, it's just him by himself. Something very cool about that.
Photo: Sundown, the leeward side.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Listen to RINGS by Cymarron.
Some more soft rock jukebox goodness for you here. Rings is just classic enough that people more or less recognize it when it comes on but it was never so ubiquitous as to wear out its welcome.
Cymarron has a pretty good pedigree. Recorded at Muscle Shoals by Chips Moman, this was another group featuring a former member of the Box Tops that never got the exposure they deserved.
Rings was supposedly written specifically for a wedding, which is kind of nice isn't it?
Photo: Sunset at Ted's.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Listen to HIM by Rupert Holmes.
Unjustly overshadowed by the insipid Pina Colada song, Rupert Holmes's Him is an awesome piece of late 70s-ness. Those roller rink strings, the neutered Rhodes, the Bee Gees bass, it's all there.
Listening to it now, it's great. But how good must it have sounded on FM radio in the Buick on the way to get in line to see The Empire Strikes Back at the twin, eh?
Photo: Landing at dusk.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Listen to MAGIC by Pilot.
Hungover from a poor (Arsenal) weekend, it's time to dig into our stash of comfort music. When last we tucked into some Jukebox Classics, my interest was in obscure tunes that should have been hits and would sound great in a bar somewhere. This week, I'm going to share songs that are true jukebox classics. Songs that are well known but forgotten, songs that you can greet as a long lost friend.
Magic by Pilot certainly qualifies. Magic was released in October 1974, and made its way up the charts, reaching #5 in June 1975. As such, it could very well be the first song that ever got stuck in my head. I can't think of many better ways to pass the time that hum "o-ho-HO-it's-MAGIC!"
Anyway, let's end this post like this. I went looking around the internet for trivia about today's song, and in the process found possibly the strangest straight news article I've ever read:
Chikumbutso Mponda of Ntchisi is behind bars after he fell down from a magic plane on his way to his home village....Photo: A new day on Wilburn Avenue.
Kandiado said since it was at night and fearing for their lives, the convict and a friend decided to use a magic plane for the remainder of the trip.
"Unfortunately, Mponda fell from the magic plane after it flew over a house at Mponela Trading Centre, which was heavily protected magically," said Kandiado.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Listen to YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE by Thomas Lang.
At least now we can concentrate on Europe, I suppose....
Friday, March 21, 2008
Listen to NO NEED by Toad.
Today we close out our dumb little series with some Swiss rocking. This is No Need, from Toad's second album, "Tomorrow Blue." It's rrrrifftastic. I can't play guitar, but I imagine that this one would be a lot of fun to play, if your fingers could move fast enough.
Once again, there's a lot of over-the-top soloing--you must imagine that the lead guitarist, Vic Vergeat, is actually an insane muppet. If you keep that image in mind, I'm sure you'll love this one as much as I do.
See you again soon!
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (9).
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Listen to THE NILE SONG by Pink Floyd.
This is probably the heaviest song that Pink Floyd ever recorded, at least until "The Wall." But there's an important point to make here. The Nile Song is dumb, but it's a good kind of dumb: stoopid lyrics, raw and committed performance... its only object is make you sneer like an idiot.
Compare that with the bad kind of dumb like on, say, Young Lust from "The Wall." That song is produced to within an inch of its life, the performances are
totally contrived"hard rock," and the lyrics are supposed to make you think. In other words, really, really dumb.
Luckily, we're not classic rock radio, so we're giving you the real stuff. This is The Nile Song, from 1969, and very good.
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (8).
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Listen to SOLDIER by Groundhogs.
My favorite song of the moment, no question. Heavy, heavy, heavy. It's got a sense of humor (shade: black), a typical English bit of anti-war (anti-Vietnam) sentiment, English because it is set more in The Great War and sardonically calls for that legendary English stiff upper lip on the battlefield.
The Groundhogs were a pretty big deal in the U.K. for a while at the beginning of the Seventies. They were "originally formed circa 1964 (and first known as The Dollar Bills before becoming John Lee's Groundhogs, to reflect their admiration for John Lee Hooker), the group was led by singer/songwriter/lead guitarist Tony (T.S.) McPhee."
The entire album this is taken from, "Thank Christ For The Bomb," by the Groundhogs is a classic by any measure, but especially when you're talking about heavy rock. John Peel like the group, and Soldier in particular:
The album made The Groundhogs a fashionable chart act, helped, interestingly enough by a certain disc jockey: "It did very well. I've got to say that John Peel broke that album because he had that Sunday afternoon radio show, and he did the same for us as he did for 'Sabre Dance', he played that to death and he broke it, and he picked on 'Soldier' as a particular track and he really broke that album".Scott Seward, a critic we mentioned last week, rates the Groundhogs as the essential Thud Rock band: "Groundhogs are a religion and Tony McPhee is the pope. Every solo and riff is the end of the world as you know it." Amen.
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (7).
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Listen to BREADFAN by Breadfan.
Originally my plan was to play a different track, from Budgie's second album, "Squawk." Because, everybody already knows one Budgie song, and that's Breadfan, because it was covered by Metallica in 1988. Then I thought about it for a second... most people have never heard the Metallica cover (unless you have Guitar Hero!), and even fewer have heard the original, so why not just post that?
Like yesterday's track, this song is too prog to be Thud Rock, but it's still pretty dumb, precisely because of its mindless energy, nonsense lyrics, Geddy vocals, silly intricacy, and indelible Welshness. Don't get me wrong, though, it's an immense tune, if you're into that sort of thing.
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (6).
Monday, March 17, 2008
Listen to SATORI PART II by Flower Travellin' Band.
You would think our first trip to Japan would be led by Amy (she's been working on a little J-Pop series for awhile now), but no it's me.
The Flower Travellin' Band are well known in certain circles for their heavy riffing and portentous, OTT vocals. Apparently they also recorded the first known Black Sabbath cover, which tells you a lot. Here's a little footage of the band at their last show: pretty cool.
Today's song is the second track (of five) of the group's best known album, "Satori," released in 1971. This music is a little too prog to be perfectly Dumb, but I've included it for its sheer ridiculous heaviness.
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (5).
Friday, March 14, 2008
Listen to MAGIC by Tina Dico.
I can really sit on the fence when it comes to the classic "preferences" late-night dinner-party small-talk.
Favourite Beatle? John, George, no, John, ahh George?....
Cats or Dogs? Comme ci comme ca....
Connery? Moore? Spare me....
New York? London? Paris? Munich? Everybody talkin about...
The same goes for music and lyrics. Nitzer Ebb can consume me with single-syllable chants to a pounding industrial beat whilst lyrics can lift a mediocre song (that I may have already heard in the multitudes) suddenly to the point where it can stop me in my tracks.
And it is the lyrics that have selected this song for me.
I saw Tina recently at the Union Chapel in London. She's a Danish singer-songwriter, known by her birth name "Tina Dickow" in the land of the Vikings, but perhaps better recognised as the voice of "Home" by Zero 7. She moved to London in 2002 and wrote meditations of love, life and alienation in the Big City, staring at the world through the window of her unfurnished flat near Brick Lane, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes...the passive observer as flâneur - creating modern urban reflections.
Her style is very much in the Leonard Cohen mould. In fact, this song could almost be a response to his Chelsea Hotel #2. The lyrics don't require dissection from me - just listening from you.
Speaking of Leonard Cohen (bear with me on this), I noticed that American Idol contestant Jason Castro has sent Jeff Buckley's version of Cohen's "Hallelujah" to the top of the iTunes charts (almost) overnight. Just one performance and three "judges" saying that Jeff's version is one of their all-time favourites; a sentiment endorsed by Q magazine in September when they nominated it as "the most perfect song ever". If you would like to hear what it sounds like in Danish, check out Tina and Steffen Brandt singing it here.
Photo: MAURITIUS, 2003. Photo taken by Jason Bryant.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Corbett is too modest to post this directly, so I'll put it up for him:
Dear gentle people,
Our group (The Rivals) are playing Union Hall, the coolest venue in Brooklyn, this Friday at 9:00. We will be followed by a wonderful band from Brooklyn called the Great Lakes.
Union Hall is in Park Slope at the corner of Fifth Ave. & Union St. and is a really fun place, with a bocce court and other diversions (e.g., drinks). We're really going to throw in the kitchen sink for this performance--we'll be featuring duelling trumpets, Hawaiian lap steel, accordion and (hopefully) Mellotron.
It should be a shambolic good time. Hope to see you there!.
Listen to SUPERNAUT by Black Sabbath.
Of all the groups we could feature in this series, Black Sabbath needs the least introduction. Everybody knows them. Evil satanic music your mom wouldn't let you listen to.
But Sabbath are fun! There's a significant minority of music dorks who think Black Sabbath are way, way, way underrated. And they have a point. You don't necessarily think of Sabbath as one of the greatest bands of all time, but have you ever blasted the "Paranoid" album over a jukebox? Magic, man.
More to the point, most people know and have an opinion about Iron Man, War Pigs, and Paranoid, but even most music fans have never bothered to dig into the band's catalogue, especially their first four albums. Big mistake. There's loads of great tunes that haven't been played to death, and Supernaut is possibly foremost among them.
Supernaut is from the band's fourth album (Vol. 4, conveniently), and it is a killer. Tony Iommi comes up with one of his best riffs, Ozzy is Ozzy, and Bill Ward and Geezer Butler never swing as hard as they swing here. Genius dumb rock.
And oh yes, Happy Birthday Corbett!
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (4).
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Listen to NIGHTMARE by Elias Hulk.
This track is a real rare one. The only thing I know about it or the group is what I gather from the mighty ChrisGoesRock, who says that "we are talking about a very strange band, with only this album to date. Formed in Wales in 1969, Elias Hulk stormed local and London clubs during the next couple of years. Their music is blues based, melodic and hyper-dark and constitutes a genre of its own."
Even though most of you have never heard this track, I'm sure we can all agree that rock songs called Nightmare are likely to be pretty dumb. You won't be disappointed. This song is set...
In the ASYLUM OF THE SANE!!!!!!
Quality. Speaking of, there's a nice drum solo, some scary wailing over the top, the whole shebang. Three minutes of sheer terror LOL.
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (3).
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Listen to STILL DON'T (NOT YET) by La Revolucion De Emiliano Zapata.
La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata was a heavy rock group from Guadalajara. How dumb were they? Well, their biggest hit (locally and in Europe) was a turgid seven-and-a-half minute jam titled Nasty Sex. This was in 1970. (Their follow-up, and last hit, was called Sh*t City.)
Fortunately for you, we're featuring the b-side to their big hit, Still Don't (Not Yet). It's still big and dumb, but in a good way. Only three minutes long, it rides a fat bassline, it has a really tight breakdown leading into a satisfyingly skronky guitar solo. If it wasn't so stoned, it could be as funky as the Stones.
Oh, and Happy Birthday John!
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (2).
Monday, March 10, 2008
Listen to CALL ME A LIAR by The Edgar Broughton Band.
Splat! THONK! thud! SKRONK!
One thing missing from this blog for quite a while, not just with Corbett's hot James Burton licks, is some real dirty, ugly, dumb ROCK. The kinda stuff teenage guys would listen to real loud at their buddy's house with some overpriced skank weed in 1971, 1986, 1992, 2008...
Like, if Deep Purple's "Machine Head" was just a little too sophisticated to be the greatest album of all time. In putting these tunes together, I've taken a lot of cues from writer Scott Seward, who has championed the sub-genre of Thud Rock: "late ’60s and early ’70s heavy stuff that time (mostly) forgot. Proto-metal albums that had one supreme goal: to blow your little mind."
I'm not going to stick to his criterion exclusively, so we're calling the music here "Dumb Rock." We hope you like it!
Our first selection is pretty dumb. The Edgar Broughton Band were a fairly popular band in turn-of-the-decade England, though critically reviled. Call Me A Liar is arguably the group's major achievement, an extremely... effective cross between T-Rex and Foghat. It really embodies where heavy rock music was going in the Seventies: ditching the "and roll" from rock, leaning heavily on its riffing (to be fair, it's a fantastic riff) to keep the song moving, stretching out the arrangement, adding some cod latin percussion, and sending it out to destroy.
Photo: Justice for 3,000 (1).
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I've done my very best to stay away while the fellas have been running the blog but I can't take it any more, I'm back for good. Or for a week or two at least!
We have a few friends in the music business, or something like that, and it might be nice to share what they're up to.
As you know, Stu is working his radio show on East Village Radio every Saturday. He's also been working his Icelandic connections, and hopefully our blog will be benefiting from that sooner rather than later.
Our friend Andrew Vladeck is, has been, and always will be putting the finishing touches on his next album. I've heard some mixes of it and it sounds really quality, but he's still playing with it. While we wait, he's doing a little Monday night residency thing at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg. This Monday he's appearing with Caithlin De Marrais from Rainer Maria.
Last year our buddy Marko Djordjevic released an album that I never got a chance to blog because it was right in the run-up to the wedding. I liked it, but there's nothing like watching Marko play, because he's so technically good but attacks the drums like a maniac. Anyway, I was cruising around our blogroll and I noticed that Marko has recorded a few videos in support of his album. I have one up top here, but definitely watch them all. He's playing a gig on March 15 at the National Underground, E. 159 Houston St.
The Rivals are playing their biggest show yet next Friday (as long as Laura doesn't pop first!). We'll have something more next week as a reminder, but no harm in passing it along now: Friday, 8 PM, Union Hall in Brooklyn.
I have resisted the temptation to do any Arsenal blogging (the world really doesn't need it), but I'm still basking in the 2-0 in the San Siro. Today we've already seen Man United blow the FA Cup in hilarious circumstances, and I've got a song ready just in case Liverpool can't keep up their late title charge. Have a good weekend!
Friday, March 7, 2008
Listen to YESTERDAY IS HERE and GOIN'OUT WEST by Tom Waits.
Jason dropping in.
2 songs, 1 artist.
Or perhaps I should just say: 1 artist.
Because what can you say about Tom that would even scratch the surface on what music would mean without him? Say to any music fan "Tom" and they know exactly who you are talking about.
I was in a small pool bar in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1999. Getting sharked by the local mama, enjoying the local elixir....the night was getting long....and Tom came on the "stereo". Within what seemed only a minute, the place cleared. I looked at the barman and raised my arms in a "whadahuhwha?" gesture. He said: "that's what we put on to clear everyone out."
I looked around me and there was just one other at the bar. He said, in an Irish accent "do you like Tom?". I gave him a sort of "do I even have to answer?" roll of the eyes and asked "what are you drinking?".
"Whisky", he said. "For Tom, whisky"
And so we sat, the two of us and the barman, as Tom worked his magic.
Keeping with Corbett's theme:, here are 2 of Tom's road tunes. Similar in desire, but so different in perspective.
"Yesterday is Here" has our man dreaming of New York, where you can get "money in your pocket", "a top hat on your head", "a hot meal on your table" and "a blanket on your bed".
He then turns his attention to his woman, saying he's leaving on a train for the big city but unwilling to leave her behind because he may "come back again".
And only Tom can pull off these lines without sounding gelastic:
"If you want to go
where the rainbows end
you'll have to say goodbye
all our dreams come true
baby up ahead
and it's out where your memories lie
The road lays out before him with all of its possibilities under a shining moon as he asks her "to remember, as I disappear tonight" under the grey skies of today and the tears of tomorrow.
Compare this with "Goin' Out West". Again, chasing a dream, this time out west where "they got some money out there....they're giving it away".
This is not a man looking for his dream of the first song. This is a man chasing something altogether altered.
On the road with his Oldsmobile 88, and "the devil on a leash", driving all night on speed, he think he's a "leading man", not an extra, for fame. Erratic TV and film actor Tony Franciosa even dated his 'ma.
With his karate, his "dragstrip courage" and his voodoo, he's going to make it. Make it baby! He doesn't even need "no make up....I got real scars".
Well my friends think I'm ugly
I got a masculine face
Even his parole officer is going to be real proud of him.
Maybe he should change his name to Hannibal, "or maybe just Rex". With a hole cut in his car roof "in the shape of a heart" he's goin' out west...........where the sun "will shine down on me"........goin' out west "where they'll appreciate me".
Photo: New York City, 2004. Photo taken by Jason Bryant.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Listen to Never Going Back by The Lovin' Spoonful.
Listen to Never Goin' Back by John Stewart.
OK, my last post of the series--it's been fun. When Bill put up that Waylon song last weekend, I realized that this series could probably go on for months! I'm posting two versions of the same song today because I like both versions for different reasons, and because I wanted to start and end the series with a John Stewart song. I don't know which version was recorded or released first, but this song is a truly wonderful example of the genre. Again, we get images of the road, replete with Greyhound buses, Oklahoma City and Denver--but this time the singer is on the road to escape someone (or something) he left behind back in Nashville. I like these resignation songs where the protagonist vows never to go back to a place (see Steely Dan's "My Old School"), knowing that he'll probably end up there sooner rather than later. I also think it's cool that the Lovin' Spoonful had recently cut another great song about Nashville ("Nashville Cats") that took the wind out of the sails of rock and roll guitar pickers, compared to their Nashville counterparts.
Anyway, I love the Lovin' Spoonful version for how wonderfully produced it is--why was this not a bigger hit for them? Always the poppiest of their Folk-Rock peers, the group turns in a really great performance of this tune, with particularly lovely backing vocals. The John Stewart version (which I heard much later) is from his 1969 record California Bloodlines and it too is amazing! Like "Shackles and Chains" from last week, the band is really hot, and Stewart seems to sense this at the end of the song. He gives a shout-out to all the musicians who played on the record, but winds up kind of ad libbing some joyful nonsense that really adds to the excitement of a great song well played.
See you next time!
Photo: Cumbres & Toltec R.R., near Antonito, CO.
Listen to Albuquerque by Neil Young.
Listen to Texas 71 by Magnolia Electric Co.
Today's songs highlight what might be called "Master & Apprentice" examples of our "Kings of the Road". Neil Young needs little introduction as he was a member of the Buffalo Springfield (and did a few good tunes on his own!). Magnolia Electric Co., on the other hand, is a bit more obscure. The band is the brainchild of frontman Jason Molina, formerly of Songs: Ohia. Molina hails from Ohio (Ohia?) and basically writes one kind of song: road songs. Not only that, the guy is really prolific. Over the summer, Magnolia Electric Co. released a four disc set entitled Sojourner. Now, four complete records of road songs may sound a little tedious, but you really have to admire the singleness of this guy's vision! The songs are all empty prairie skies, two-lane highways and an ethos that movement and the road provide one with meaning and redemption. Bill and I saw them live this past autumn and it was a bit tedious. Molina was wearing a weird sort of Crocodile Dundee hat and that kind of ruined it for me.
I'm including both songs today because Molina is so often compared to Neil Young. But where "Texas 71" is rather oblique, "Albuquerque" is beautifully straightforward (if a little megalomaniacal) and, basically, a perfect road song. As usual, Young is fed up with the Canyon scene in L.A. and decides to ditch the whole thing and hit the open road. I can't tell if Santa Fe or Albuquerque is his intended destination, but it doesn't really matter--The beauty of this song lies in the details along the way (rolling "a number", "fried eggs and 'country ham'"). A strange turn of events for a guy who, just a few years before, was singing about screaming girls and limousines. "Texas 71" strikes an essentially similar tone, with Molina questioning what's been sold to him as "a bargain" and wondering if there are horizons out there that he can ultimately outrun.
Photo: Booze 'n Sushi.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Listen to Willin' by Johnny Darrell.
After yesterday's complaints (by my wife) that I was "posting too much John Phillips" and that yesterday's song was--gasp--"not even a road song", I'm going to make today's selection more cut and dried. For that reason, today's song is prototypical "King of the Road" fare. "Willin'" is a well known Lowell George song featured on Little Feat's eponymous first album. To keep things interesting though, I'm posting a less well known version of this frequently covered song (the Byrds, Linda Ronstadt, etc).
Johnny Darrell was managing a Holiday Inn in Nashville when his songwriting came to the attention of Bobby Bare. Darrell was signed to UA and has the peculiar distinction of recording songs that would later go on to be big hits for other artists ("Ruby" for Kenny Rogers, "The Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp" for O.C. Smith, "Pen in Hand" for Vicki Carr).
Darrell probably would have been a mere postscript in the history of 60's country music had he not made an excellent "crossover" record in 1970 entitled California Stop Over. This record is beloved by fans of country rock for its countrified treatments of rock standards (e.g., "These Days") and the always amazing guitar work of Byrd Clarence White. It's a really wonderful record that, even in its title, prefigures country music's movement west in that era. It really should be better known. That being said, I even like Darrell's earlier, more traditional work--mostly because it's pretty darn sappy (see "Pen in Hand" for a great example).
"Willin'"'s lyrics certainly mark its writer and performer as a "King of the Road". I could go on a long time about how great these lyrics are, but I'll let you listen for yourself. Suffice it to say, the song is chock-full of road imagery ( headlights, sleet, snow, backroads), illicit activity (smuggling "smokes and folks", avoiding the scales, getting high on weed, whites and wine), interesting characters ("Dallas Alice") and specific places (Mexico, Tucson & Tucumcari, Tehachapi & Tonopah). Enjoy.
Photo: Lockhart, TX.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Listen to Topanga Canyon by John Phillips.
OK, back to work. Like Thursday's post, today's song is from John Phillips' 1970 record John, The Wolfking of L.A., and it happens to be my favorite from the album. Like Thursday's post, it's another travelogue--only this time it involves a less discernible route and purpose. In fact, the beauty of this particular travelogue lies in its ambiguity. It may actually be more appropriate to say its creepiness lies in its ambiguity...whichever.
Each verse tells a different story and, to my mind, each verse gets a little more skewed in its intent and outcome. First, Phillips goes out to Topanga to wait for his drug dealer...Tiring of this, he drives all the way to Fairfax & Third to the Farmers Market where he, oddly, derides the people "working in the sun" for selling their wares "for a profit" to just "anyone". The second verse veers off into images of man's failed attempts at mastering nature--He quickly references "train wrecks in the mountains" and "shipwrecks on the seas", before returning to the chorus without making any judgments about these disasters. The final verse speaks of unnamed people, all of whom end up "going down" in one way or another, whether in San Francisco, New Orleans or even Camarillo ("picking beans"!). The chorus is a chilling resignation: The Wolfking is in over his head, despite all the expectations others had for him.
The chorus is a bit of an epitaph as Phillips cut only a few more good songs (including "Kokomo"), most of which were slight compared to the Mamas & Papas and Wolfking. Musically, I think this song is thrilling--it's similar to the arrangements heard on GP, Grievous Angel, and Elvis's The Memphis Record, with James Burton playing some truly amazing lead guitar and former members of the Ronettes singing backup...not to mention the sublime piano and pedal steel. Oh yeah, and being vague and creepy in your road song gives you special status as a King of the Road.
Photo: View of the Pacific, Eagle Rock, Topanga State Park.