Friday, April 5, 2024

Robin Trower - In City Dreams

Until, like, last week, I didn't, and actually had never owned any physical copies of Robin Trower's music, or at least with a couple exceptions, I hadn't. My gutar-playing buddies in high school, Mike and Tony, had turned me on to BLT with Jack Bruce when I was in the tenth grade, and I picked it up at Spec's I think, and that was indeed a very good record, though understood by me at the time, so close to having first discovered Cream, as important because of Bruce's participation, rather than because of the L, or the T. And when I purchased the follow up record Bruce and Trower made, Truce, I didn't think much of it, and that was the end of that for me and Trower for quite a few years.

Until I met my buddy Alan the Metalhead. He was a few years older than me, and yes, he liked Slayer (and as importantly, hated Bruce Springsteen) but he was also old enough to have known Robin Trower in the first flush of his solo career, when he was about as popular in America as any hard rock act you could name. So he pretty much in his C-90 archives had the Robin Trower collection, and was not afraid to mix in Bridge of Sighs or Twice Removed From Yesterday into the cassette tape playlists otherwise featuring Metallica, and Anthrax, and King Missile (!) that he ran through as we put out the vendor and newsrack copies of the Miami Herald five mornings a week.

So I pretty much becamse familiar with everything Trower put out while he was with Chrysalis records, and a few of his albums thereafter, when his popularity had ebbed, James Dewar had split, and he was reduced to recording for an indie label. I considered his first three albums classics, and the next six or so also very good, but there was no reason to pick 'em up when I could d hear 'em anytime at work just by the asking. So in my music purchases of the time, I concentrated on shit I didn't think Alan would like, like Big Black, and Sonic Youth, and The Replacements.

And then I stopped working for Alan, and then had the relationship with Donna, during which my music consumption dropped off the table, and then by the time she's out of my life, it's the internet era, and music had become downloadable. It was at this time that I downloaded Trower's Chrysalis works, and that had served me well until just recently, when I've decided to get physical copies of some of my favorite records I previously only had digitally. I've recently bought several CD box sets, like the one covering Voivod's Combat/Noise albums, and this other one encompassing the albums Caravan made for Deram, etc etc.

And continuing this trend, about ten days ago, I picked up The Studio Albums 1973-1983, a box set comprised of the ten studio albums Trower made for Chrysalis. And I've been going through them, listening to an album on the way in and back from work each day. Safe to say I knew the first four well, but while I'd heard his fifth record, In City Dreams, it was not the one that ever got played the most. So today was not new music for me, but it did dig up some well-buried musical memories.

Robin Trower The Chrysalis Studio Albums
This album is a rather dramatic change for Trower. Not only does the cover look like they'd've used for a 12" disco single, there is definitely a sleazy patina of echoplex and smooth jazz lacquered over everything. Just learned today that they'd actually brought in a bassplayer more familiar with the funk; James Dewar, whom anyone familiar with Trower knows was quite the serviceable bassist, is only singing on this one, and the bottom is provided by one Rustee Allen, late of Sly and the Family Stone. The Robin Trower Band, no longer Power, and no longer a trio. In a way, the circumstances remind me of the way Jeff Beck went from BBA to Blow by Blow. Trower, too, is softening up, leaving the blues rock behind but taking all his technique with him.

And certainly, a player of Trower's talent and stature should do whatever the hell he wants to try. But where the Beck comparison breaks down is in that Blow by Blow is in no way slight, and has plenty of tuneage. Maybe if Trower had covered, oh I dunno, something from Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, In City Dreams would have had a little more gravitas, and a little more songsmithery, both of which it is decidely lacking. It's not a terrible album; if you're fully aware of the album's origin point in time coming in, it's certainly a decent listen, and Trower is always always always going to be a guitarist of tremendous feel and dexterity. The title track I actually think hangs with some of his best. But maybe the second best tune on here might be "Sweet Wine of Love," and that one is only as good as it is because of the unabashed cheese factor . . .

Next Up: Caravan to Midnight

File under: Re-listenings Still in Progress

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Punk Under The Sun by Joey Seeman and Chris Potash (2023)

Currently making my way through this, and it's a recap of things that were slightly before my time as well as a reminder of goings on that I was in fact a part of. Jon Marlowe (who hasn't gotten a mention so far) at the old Miami News was a big fan of Charlie Pickett, so I knew about Pickett and his band The Eggs just 'cause I read Marlowe religiously as a 16-year old. But I never did buy Live at the Button.

Thanks to this book and Youtube to mp3 converters, I burned a copy off today and will listen on my way to work sometime this week. Ditto with the Psycho Daisies' debut EP.

Never got to Flynn's or 27 Birds (although I again knew about 'em from Marlowe's columns), but mentions herein of the Cameo Theatre and Club Beirut and, now unfortunately, Churchill's, take me back.

Pretty cool; thinking I'll write a little more when I finish the book.

File under: SFHC FTW

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Defenestration - "Watch The Hearts Break" from the album Dali Does Windows

Despite the fact that it came out in 1987, and on the semi-major label Relativity, Dali Does Windows may be the most obscure album I've ever liked.

It's sort of fun to try to pick out the reasons why nobody has heard of Defenestration. There's the fact that their first album on a more-or-less major label was their last album on a more-or-less major label.

Or that it was their last album period.

There's that remarkably nondescript cover, and the band name that's more or less meaningless to most people, unless they've studied Bohemian history.

Did I mention that they were from that hotbed of indie rock, Norman, Oklahoma?

Dali Does Wndows failed to hit, and it failed to hit miserably. I'm sure I've missed some of the reasons why, but one of them was not that the music sucked. It's not great all the way through, but "Watch the Hearts Break" and "Bedlam Revisted/She Has No Soul" are outstanding, pretty much as good as anything else the late '80's produced.

It's sort of embarassing to admit, but I was a college disk jockey. What made it embarassing was that the station didn't actually have a transmitter. The signal was supposedly carried through the campus wiring. Which might have worked--if even the Rathskellar had bothered playing the station. But they didn't--so the job was basically talking to yourself. I will say they had good equipment, and music sounded good in that room. I made a bunch of mix tapes, and discovered a bunch of music, mostly from lists CMJ sent on.

Defenestration was one of the bands I discovered through my access to the carts and lists made available to the station, and so was Timbuk 3. If the rest of the world has forgotten both bands, I have not.

Anyway, for what it's worth, Defenestration were:

Tyson Meade - Vocals, and Guitar on the two best songs
Todd Walker - Guitar
Chris Ward - Drums
Joe Kollman - Bass

File under: Eighties Alternative

Saturday, March 2, 2024

33-1/3: Tago Mago

Alan Warner Tago Mago

So ten days or so ago, I read Treble's review of the new archival Can live album--Live in Paris 1973--and it sounded good and noisy, so I ordered it.

Can Live in paris 1973

Received it over the last weekend, and spent the first half of the week listening to it as I commuted to and from work, and I fucking loved it, especially the 36-minute first track. Karoli goes repeatedly off and then goes off some more.

Listened to Miles on Thursday, but on Friday I was back to Can. Pulled out Tago Mago and I knew I had a difficult relationship with "Augmn" but this time, man, I *communed* with "Mushroom" (Jaki Liebezeits DRUMMING!) and found the perfect descriptor for "Oh Yeah" in 'hippity-hoppety.'

So jumping off from there, my goal for this weekend was to read the 33-1/3 on the album I've had lying around. My guilty secret is that I've got about 20 in the series filed neatly on my bookshelves, next to my dictionary and the albums I've kept--but I've only actually read two or three.*

Actually did break into it today, yay me, and I'm not done yet, intend to finish tonight, but I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Don't know this Alan Warner cat--evidently he's a Scottish novelist, not the guy who wrote Trainspotting, but I guess similar except he's got no experience with heroin--and his approach is basically to take us back with him to when he was a pimply teenager discovering the music, taking the train into Glasgow where there's a decent record store, etc, as he tells us all the misapprehensions and wildy exaggerated imaginings he had about the band and their albums--most of them simply based on the album art and most of them way way off.

It's pretty great. He's become an expert on the band, so he slaps his naive younger self around quite a bit and thereby imparts some crucial info as well.

Good stuff, and let me get back to it.


* Master of Reality and Reign in Blood and . . . oh wait that's it.

File under: Permission to dream

Thursday, January 11, 2024



So I ran into my buddy Jeff Bagwell. We were both in our 30s or something.

I caught up with him as he was walking to his ride. I asked him, "Jeff, are you a metalhead?"

Suddenly, in the way of dreams, he's lying on the floor, leaning back on his elbows next to a heavy workbench, looking up at me.

"When I have to be," he says.

We're walking again and I'm trying to tell him about that time when the boss let me leave work early so I could go to the Metallica concert off Justice and then I came back to work after the concert was over, but Jeff is going on about left-handed pitching and I can't get a word in edgewise.

Finally he calls ahead to the driver of a ramshackle Chevy van and someone on the inside (there's four or five guys in black t-shirts sitting on the carpeted floor, I'll see) slides the side door open.

"Frantic," from St Anger is playing rather loudly within. We both start headbanging.

Jeff hops in, I don't. The van starts moving ahead slowly, side door still open, and I'm walking alongside, still whipping my head back and forth.

Bagwell is still talking to me, now it's about Kevin Brown's anger management issues. I wish I was going with them. But I'm not, and I'm going to have to tell Jeff about that Metallica concert some other time. The van door slides shut and it pulls away in a cloud of exhaust.

I turn around, dejected. Think I'll get a hot pretzel....

Thursday, November 30, 2023

John Coltrane - "Greensleeves" from the album Africa/Brass

Listening to Coltrane's cover of "Greensleeves" for the first time. Nine or ten times over the last two days.

It's got a lot of the same lyricism that "My Favorite Things" does, the same modal, kind of raga feel, the same jawdropping glissando sound to his solos as he shifts the soprano sax up into hyperdrive--no, *through* hyperdrive, quickly tasting n-space and then bringing it back down into standard topology again.

Conjecture: If he had lived long enough Coltrane probably would have covered "Pure Imagination" too.