Monday, December 20, 2021

RIP Billy Conway

RIP Billy Conway, a drummer for Morphine the band.

Cancer got him, which I bet he thought was probably better than a heart attack live on stage, then dead on stage, like Sandman. I didn't envy Conway, having to live with that memory, and I don't envy him now after he fought but lost.

Anyway he was a good man I hear, and he was part of a genuinely unique band which I had the good fortune to coexist with while in awareness of.

The show in 1999 at The Carefree, off Like Swimming, that was me, and my girl, being lucky for a change.

Photo by Valerio Berdini

Saturday, November 27, 2021

November 27, 2021

Jimi Hendrix would have turned 79 today.

I've sometimes thought about what might have happened had the guy lived, and it's easy to say that he would have just continued to be a huge star, would have continued to be, for example, the number one rock concert draw in the world, etc., but most times, the world is not simple like that.

Like, what happens to Hendrix' star as disco and punk come around? What kind of record does Jimi make in 1984, for Pete's sake? The world, and music, went away from the kind of thing that Jimi had done. Sure, he would have evolved, but would he have evolved well? I'm not so sure.

Maybe instead of ill-conceived efforts to match the times, I imagine a sabbatical. Whether it would have been likes Miles', or like John Lennon's, I'm not sure, but when it ends, and he's out of the limelight, I'm guessing a series of low key blues albums, tours with his idols Buddy Guy and Albert King, niche stuff like that. Maybe at its best, a career arc like Jeff Beck's.

OK, the greatest electric guitar player in the world, but that doesn't always sync up with sales, or even talk.

But I am guessing that, had he reached the age of 79, he'd have been the kind of artist who was happy with the way it had gone, as he'd always had the opportunity--and the will--to put out what he wanted to.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Comment on Wings at Quora

So, some clown on Quora was talking shit about Wings, and then dropped a quote where Pete Townsend saw an early show and didn't think much of Linda's keyboard work.

This I could not abide:

First off, Wings was Paul & Linda . . . and Denny Laine. And THEN, yes, it was whoever Paul wanted to play with (who hadn’t recently gotten pissed off at Macca).

Without going through the entire Pete Frame tree, Denny Laine is a great musician, and Jimmy McCulloch was, too. And everyone whom I don’t mention in the band had their musical propers . . . one of which a priori was that Paul chose to play with them.

Second, Paul didn’t start Wings because he was encouraged to by Linda. He wanted to play in a group setting, because being in a group had worked kinda well in his previous job. And because it kind of reduced the glare. And THEN, because he loved his wife, and because he’d already made a record with her, he wanted to include her in the new project.

Third, in the summer of 1979, Wings was absolutely positively a vital concern, with no end in sight. Six months previous “Mull of Kintyre” became, like, the biggest single in British history, “Coming Up” was a huge hit in America, and Back to the Egg was a strong rock n roll album that Paul had enjoyed making.

Then came the Japanese tour, and The Bust. And then it turned out BTtE didn’t have the legs, saleswise, that some of his earlier records had had. And then, Lennon’s death. By the time 1980 had ended, Paul had soured on everything (except Linda of course). Eight months after promoting BTtE in glowing terms he was slagging the record and disbanding the group that made it. I know that there were some personnel issues esp. with Laurence Juber, too, so he was done with the whole thing and ready to move on. Probably made sense as well, after the better part of a decade (just like with the Beatles).

My guess is that the triple whammy that 1980 brought to Macca is what did it, not any one of them. If the bust happened but the last record sells better, maybe he sticks with it in the wake of his former bandmate’s death. If he avoids the bust, and Wings has a rousing tour of Japan, maybe a disappointing commercial response to his latest and the death of Lennon might say to him: “live record!” And of course if that psychopath doesn’t shoot his former bestie, I think everything’s on the table, including another Command Performance :-)

Anyway, went on too long, as usual, but basically, Wings were a great band, who made at least three great records, ’cause their leader was a great musician and a great songwriter who knew how to pick musicians who played well with him.

And then shit happened, which doesn’t negate any of it.

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Rick Wakeman Piano Show, Deluvial Conditions in South Florida, and Me

So, think I was saying six months ago or so that I'd purchased tickets for Rick Wakeman's Even Grumpier Old Rock Star tour.

And the date on the tickets said yesterday!

So my gal Mel and I made plans to mosey on over to the Amaturo Theatre in Ft Rockerdale, but man, was the weather positively crappy yesterday (and it remains so today, too!).

I left work 20 minutes or so early to help me get to the show by its 8PM start time, but the drive home was absolutely *brutal*, maybe not hurricane winds, but definitely torrential rains, streets and highways overwhelmed by unhandled storm water and you better believe it plenty of automobiles piloted by the crappy drivers for which SoFla is so justly famed.

I got home on time, but the drive home had drained me, and I wasn't sure I had it in me to *go back out* into those so-freshly-imprinted-in-my-brain awful road conditions. As I arrive, my gal clearly doesn't want to go out into the Great Wide Shitty Weather, either, so I say to her: I'll mull it over; let's look at it in a half hour.

I'm an old man and I've always been easily annoyed and my gut feeling on the day of *any* concert is, oh, I don't know, something just this side of dread. I don't wanna drive for an hour, I don't wanna have to find and pay for parking . . . can't I just stay home?

I always overcome these feelings and head out, and I always (or almost always) have an excellent time, so yesterday, I was finding it hard to separate actual and rational dismay at driving in the crappy conditions vs. my usual oh-fuck-this-is-just-a-pain-in-the-ass response.

I had just about come to the conclusion that the only way to go was to proceed to the show, weather be damned, how many more times is Rick Wakeman gonna come to America, when my search for an online parking map led me to a webpage (dated October 20 or so) that informed me the second half of Mr. Wakeman's tour, including his Ft Lauderdale appearance, had been rescheduled to February-March, due to lingering COVID issues.

Well, fuck. Best news I had all day. No longer tasked with Having To Make A Decision, I ripped off my dress shirt and popped open a Voodoo Ranger. It might be pouring outside, but I was staying home, and doing it absolutely guilt free.

So now the date is March 11, and without any ability to predict the future on my part, I can still fucking *guarantee* that the weather on that date will be better for driving to and parking at a rock concert than it was yesterday.

So, anyway, while I was still trying to decide what to do last night, I did burn off a copy of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, just in case. I listened to that on the way to work today, and then at lunch. (SPOILER: it's a really really good album!), and then when I came back from lunch it was a little slow, so I went to, which is Mr. Wakeman's website, and he had posted this vintage ad for the album that I've been listening to all day, so that was cool.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Catherine - "Saint" from the Album Sorry!

First came across this on the Spin This Six sampler, from 1995, and found it to be powerful stuff. I immediately started looking for the album. I looked it up, best as I could, back before I had the internet. The band was from Chicago, "saint" was from their debut record, they were on TVT Records. It took me a while, but when I found it, as I had to back then, at a used record store, I was disappointed; there was nothing as good as "Saint" anywhere in sight on the rest of this album. Which doesn't doesn't change the fact that this song just explodes.

You can't get around it. And given the LOUDquietLOUD way that this song proceeds, I couldn't help but be reminded of the band which was so huge, probably more so when I found the thing in '97 or '98 than when I got the Spin sampler in '95: Smashing Pumpkins. So maybe like the Count Five ripping off The Yardbirds, and making an album out of it?

And that's where it stood with me until this morning, when I pulled out the record to, what the hell, give it another listen.

There were no revelations; they've got a song like "Daydream," all orchestrated, and plenty of that Pumpkinsy guitar-sounds-like-a-wooshing-synthesizer thing sprinkled throughout. An early Bee Gees cover, for what it's worth . . . .

Then at lunch, the CD in its second playthrough, I figured I'd go on Wikipedia, and see what they had on the band. And a couple things I read surprised me. First off, Sorry! was not Catherine's only album. They made four of 'em before they packed it in. And though 1994's Sorry! *was* their debut, they 'd actually formed in 1985. Which was, when I looked it up, three years before Billy Corgan's outfit started up. So, question: who was ripping off whom?

Under the "Critical Reception" tab on the wikipedia article for this album, they cite a 1994 review from one Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post, who, unbelievably, wrote, "The motto on the front of Catherine's Sorry! -- 'Better living through noise' -- seems about as dated as the sound of this Chicago quintet . . . ." 'Cause 25 years later, this album--good or maybe not so good but with a damned good highlight--sounds so much like 1994, you'd think OJ was emceeing. If you told me this coming Friday when I'm drunk that I had to pick a sound contemporaneous to 1994, and that Siamese Dream was already taken, well, I'm kind of unpredictable when intoxicated, but I'd probably pick Sorry!.

Another interesting thing I found out is that by the time of Jenkins' review, Catherine drummer, guitarist, engineer Kerry Brown had actually married D'Arcy Wretzky from The You-Know-Whos. File under: Chicago Wall of Guitar indie

Saturday, September 25, 2021

My History with Nine Inch Nails

Oooh NIN Challenge on Tumblr. Not usually the kind of thing I'd respond to (I'm not very social, even though it's called social media), but Nine Inch Nails are a band who've gotten different reactions from me, depending on when you asked. So writing something seemed like fun, or enlightening, or something.

Me and Nine Inch Nails

Since you asked, I think the first time I ever came across NIN was in a short article in Rip a little bit after Pretty Hate Machine came out. I don't remember exactly what they were, but I do remember that Reznor told the interviewer some stupid and arrogant things. A month or so later, without my having mentioned that article to him, my boss, just on the offchance, picked up the TVT cassette.

We were both metalheads more than anything else, but there was something aggressive to the still mostly electronic tape that we both liked to a degree. I then mentioned the article I'd seen to my boss, and he agreed that Reznor sounded kind of douchy in it, but stupid things said to the music press were not a reason not to listen to the music--at least not in 1989, they weren't--so we continued to listen to PHM. Not as much as we listened to Beneath the Remains or anything, but we threw it into the work van's tape deck every now and then. Like everybody else, we liked "Head Like a Hole" the most.

Never did see the video for "Happiness in Slavery," but MTV played the fuck out of "Wish," in late 1992, and I was a believer. Also, the college station down here played a remix of "Suck" that I loved, as well. I went out and bought Broken on CD pretty quickly, and it was very clearly a different animal from the debut. It was pretty much everything I liked about music at the time, and specifically, even for someone who didn't think about production that much, you could tell the production was just freakin' ace. To this day, I think of Reznor as a producer first, then a musician, then a songwriter.

Metallica had started to stink by this time, and I specifically was *not* following all of the excellent death metal that was coming out at the time, and you know, Nirvana, so it's probably not incorrect to say that Broken was the heaviest thing I listened in 1992. I still think, short running time be damned, it's the best work from NIN.

Because of that, I bought the Downward Spiral CD very shortly after it came out in '94. But I was pretty disappointed. It was not as heavy as Broken, and really, made no effort to be. And I'm no prude, but "Closer" or "Closer to God," whatever you wanna call it, just seemed juvenile to me. "Fuck you like an animal," how boringly edgy. And the production that impressed me so much on Broken just seemed like bells and whistles to me now.

I disliked The Downward Spiral so much I sold it back to the record store that had sold it to me in the first place.

Also, around this time, I became aware of the band's cover of Soft Cell's amazing "Memorabilia." So my feelings for TDS and specifically "Closer" aside, just because I loved the Soft Cell tune so freaking much, I went out an bought the "Closer" CD maxi-single, just for the cover. And guess what, I thought *it* was a juvenile piece of shit, too, a boring guitarless arrangement devoid of melody over which Reznor scotch-taped some audio of him fucking, or fucking off, not sure which. I know I shouldn't expect too much of a B-side, but his version of "Memorabilia" seemed like a high school art project to me, which bugged me plenty, because, let me say it again, the Soft Cell original is amazing.

I'm pretty good about trying new music, but the thing about me is if I go out and buy something that sucks from any particular artist when it's brand new, unless I'm a major fan, that's probably gonna be the last thing I buy from them. It may not be fair of me, because, hell, everyone lays an egg every now and then, but that's how I am. I was a huge Iron Maiden fan until Somewhere in Time, but I haven't bought a Maiden album since. I did get St. Anger--and remember struggling greatly with the decision--but I didn't buy a thing from Metallica in the '90's because of the Black Album. More recently, Arctic Monkeys lost me as a paying customer with AM.

So, after The Downward Spiral, I really didn't pay any attention to Nine Inch Nails. No hard feelings, you know, but I had other things to occupy my musical attentions.

And that's where things stood until 2008, when I read (on Boing Boing, weirdly enough) about how Reznor was not only releasing an album of dark ambient experiments, he was also making Ghosts (or at least it's first nine tracks) available for free on his website. I don't hold grudges, I was intrigued, and the price was right.

It took me a year or so to purchase the complete album, but I absolutely *loved* the nine free tracks, and then I loved the 27 ones I had to pay for. Shit, I loved the two bonus tracks, as well, though I'm not quite sure how I got them, because I sure as hell didn't buy a deluxe edition, maybe it was via fileshare?

Anyway, Ghosts demonstrated in no uncertain terms to me that I'd probably underestimated Reznor. It is as all-over-the-place as you can get, featuring sharp distinctive takes on krautrock, Morricone, later-period Big Black, weirdo MBV, Italian horror-prog, and of course, Fripp and Eno, separately and together. Everything including the kitchen sink, and all of it with marvelous production, bells and whistles and anything else required to make the point. It's an album I didn't just love, it's an album that increased my estimation of its artist. As far as I'm concerned, it's a masterpiece of the current century.

A few years after I received the Ghosts CD, I was riding along the crests of the internet one early morn, and I came across, just by accident, just by clicking through on something that didn't have anything to do with my Google search, a page from the by-then decidedly uncurrent Year Zero subdomain. Without context, the fictional semi-post-apocalyptic page, and those I then skipped across from there, were even more frightening that they must have seemed to the gameplayers. I never did figure out how to play the game, but once I got the conceit behind the album, it took me not very long to order Year Zero off a used CD place on eBay. I've not heard anything else from NIN, either before or since, but Year Zero seemed--and seems still--like the best sequel I could imagine to the Broken EP that first galvanized my interest in Nine Inch Nails. It's heavy in a way that would appeal to the metalhead I used to be (or maybe still am); it affects the deeply cynical pessimistic worldview that Broken had while never dropping into juvenilia, and like most of what I've heard from Reznor, it *sounds* great.

I find it interesting that I've never seen Nine Inch Nails live. Back in 2013, I heard that they were touring with Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky as support, and *that* was a show I would have made sure to attend, but there were no SoFla dates announced, and by the time the tour did get here, a year later, both support bands had been jettisoned. Turns out Dillinger Escape Plan played with them at West Palm Beach and Tampa, but I'd never heard of them at the time, so I made no such plans.

Ah well.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

King Crimson at Old School Square, Delray Beach, FL, July 23, 2021

KC Schawag.

Program, and "tour book," actually two CDs and a 24-page full color pamphlet packed in a DVD-style case. CDs feature 40 rarities and alternate tracks from all phases of the band's career, most of them on disc for the first time.

Evidently, they've been selling yearly versions on tour since 2014.

Show was of course remarkable, jaw-dropping musicianship and a distinct ability to recreate the sound of their studio recordings live.

Jakko Jacszyk (probably sp, right?) impressed me not only with that awesome Court guitar, but also with his ability to creditably sing the songs, whether they had originated with Lake, Wetton or Belew. It was a tiny bit sad during "Epitaph," realizing that three of the four original vocalists are now gone . . . how must Fripp feel?

"Epitaph" was nice to hear, and exquisite, but after they'd concluded with "21st Century Schizoid Man," I realized that they'd played three songs from Court, but none from Lark's.

Two from Red, though, which ruled.

And can't not mention the three drummers. Jeremy Stacey, front and center, doubled on drums and keyboards. Has *anyone* ever done that before in a tour environment?

There was a pre-recorded announcement just prior to the band's taking the stage about the intermission and no photography, but no bandmember said a word into a mike the entire show. I did think some acknowledgement of what the crowd in our open courtyard was going through during the steady rain that accompanied the first third of the show might have, I dunno, engendered some crowd-band camaradarie.

Whenever I go to a show, I'm always afeared that the drive to the venue might suck, or that parking could be a bitch, and Friday night, both fears proved true. But all that shit will drop away, and i will be left with memories of a tremendous, tremendous show.

Set list

Monday, July 19, 2021

Miles Davis - In A Silent Way

So . . . . . the hoped-for reappraisal.

Man, have I been on an electric-period Miles jag for the past two weeks or so, with at least another week--just based on incoming purchases--obviously in store. And yeah, I had to buy Pangaea and finally pick up Get Up With It on disc, and check out Dark Magus, and Panthalassa, but if I was gonna do all that, I think I was kind of required to re-listen to something that hadn't made a heavy impact the first time around.

I first bought In A Silent Way when I was 19 or 20, Bitches Brew in the rearview.

And despite having pretty much liked what it sounded like when Miles Ran the Voodoo Down, In A Silent Way really made zero impression on me. I do remember being somewhat surprised by this at the time, but it wasn't happening and the album sat unplayed. Some of the impressionistic shortfall, I think, was that McLaughlin didn't sound like he did on Birds of Fire, and if that was it, I think I may have been listening under unreasonable expectations. Another key component of the music's failure to excite simply may have been the expectations (or fears) created by titles. The way was "silent" and the time was "peaceful." And oh yeah, "Sssh."

I can definitely remember being skeptical about the concept of ambient back then, and if I was adventurous enough to buy the thing, I wasn't enough detoxed from the punk rock and the Iron Maiden to get past the preconceptions.

Maybe. I dunno, maybe it was something else.

But I'm actually kind of happy right now, because, after having a long while ago given away the vinyl I purchased as a young pimply adult, I'm really digging the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces/BMG Music Club CD I bought on Discogs last week. It's mostly electric piano tone clusters and rhythmic vamping underneath some tasteful and restrained sax and trumpet solos, with some nice electric guitar and double bass snippets interspersed, and nothing wrong with that. It ain't rock and it ain't ambient, so let's call it quality jazz, even if Miles really would fly the coop sometime thereafter.

I have of course in the past been disappointed when I find that my mid-50's self and my snivelling potsmoking younger version agree on something. So here I get to dismiss my younger self's taste, which is nice.

But one thing I'm wondering and if you can clarify please do, it's Wayne Shorter and the way he's credited with tenor sax on the 1999 CD I bought, when there are spaces in the music that certainly sound like soprano. Looking around, I see that Lester Bangs in his contemporary review also had Shorter playing tenor, but that Wikipedia, adapting the credits "from the album's 1969 liner notes" has him on soprano. And here's a serious jazz site that says In A Silent Way was Shorter's debut on soprano.

This isn't usually the kind of thing I'd get hung up about, let me be emphatic, but it *is* the kind of thing serious jazz people make a habit of worrying about. And usually end up straightening out as a result. Regardless of my original opinion on the thing, this is considered to be a classic record, right? Yet it appears there's some question about who played what. Which is kind of weird.

File under: Directions in Music

Saturday, May 22, 2021

My Galaxie 500 Story

For me, Galaxie 500 will always be music for vacuuming your car.

When you're newly single again, your schedules can get a little fucked up. If no-one needs you at home at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night, there's no reason, for example, not to go to the gas station and vacuum your car out, if you've been putting it off for weeks and feel a little lonely and ineffectual as another boring weekend closes itself out.

In the early oughts, I was living on an island in the middle of Biscayne Bay, buncha condos, buncha restaurants and the one Shell Station. So I drive the 3/4 of a mile over there, and all the restaurants are closed, there's no-one around and very few cars are even driving by.

Cerveza had just given me a tape he'd made with a bunch of Galaxie 500 on it, so I popped that in, and cranked it up. Gotta hear it over the vacuum motor, right?

This was my introduction to the band, so not sure which of the three albums, or whether it was a mix, or whether "Tugboat," their masterpiece, was included on the tape, or what, but I've got it loud and it sounds pretty good to me, all the dreampop surf guitar and the melancholy keening vocals.

And then as I'm leaning down into the passenger side seat with the vacuum hose, I get the shit scared out of me. I hadn't heard him over the various roars, but some dude must have been walking by, I swear I have no recollection of what he even looked like, but he called to me from five feet away and asks, "Hey! who's that band?"

I don't know what to say, but I twist around in the driver's seat towards him and yell, "they're called Galaxie 500!" and I have no follow up at all. Again, I've barely heard of them, and this is the first time I've heard. You always want to say something like, "they're my favorite band," or "my sister knows the bass player," or "they're gonna be in town next week," or even like I should have said, "too bad they broke up," but I had nothing. No knowledge, no stories, just the somewhat inappropriate volume, and sounds issuing forth from the Pontiac's 6 x 9's, of this pretty, sad little atmospheric dreampop band. So I just stare at him silent for a ten seconds or so, reverbed guitar blowing past us under the filling station lights, at a complete loss for anything at all to say, and then he nods his head, turns around and walks away, hoodie flapping in the nighttime bay breeze.

And then I finished vacuuming my car and drove back to my apartment and went to sleep.

File under: Music for a lonely Sunday Night on an island and without a girlfriend

Friday, April 23, 2021

Iron Maiden - "Phantom of the Opera" from the album Iron Maiden

Having emerged from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which very famously took a lot of their inspiration and their energy from British punk, Iron Maiden, at least initially, probably had to be a little careful about acknowledging the progressive features in their music. Later on, of course, when they could do whatever the fuck they wanted, they'd cover Jethro Tull and Nektar, play guitar synths, and write songs about "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".

But if the band in its youth wasn't talking about prog elements, really, all you had to do to find them was listen to "Phantom Of the Opera." The band wasn't going to divide the song into subtitled movements with Roman numerals attached, but they totally could have.

0:00   I. Introduction and Phantom Theme -- The theme is stated at 3/4 speed four times, then we're off and running.

2:06   II. Opera Ghost -- Breakdown, including the Chorus. The breakdown is the toughest and dirtiest and most punk section of the song, but those backing vocals ("Don't you stray") totally remind me of Yes

2:48  III. Christine -- Dave Murray's lyrical solo anticipates the harmonies to come.

3:20 IV. Stairway to the Cellars -- Harris' bass run a descending stairway, as Stratton and Murray enter in harmony, high above, in the eaves of the opera house, I guess, looking below upon the Phantom as he takes the steps down to his torture chamber. I suppose Stratton--a huge Wishbone Ash fan--wanted more harmony parts like this, and that's why he was fired.

4:34  V. The Phantom's March -- The riff is inexorable. Nothing can stand before it. Bedrock over which first Murray, then Stratton solo. And don't you think Stratton's is the better one?

File under: Works adapted from the original by Gaston Leroux

Friday, April 16, 2021

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!


So, I finally received the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor CD on Wednesday and have been listening to it during drive time since. When I first got wind of the record, I'd heard that they were using short wave radios as an instrument, and that really piqued my interest because my favorite ambient album of all time (by Holger Czukay) does that and it's really really weird and all-around spooky.

So I was excited about the record because of that--but they really don't do that much with the idea, using the recorded radio broadcasts basically as introductory prescript and then dropping them after that. A wasted opportunity in my mind.

BUT-- at the end of the third track, there is a beautiful passage of about five minutes, perhaps named "Ashes to Sea or Nearer to Thee," that is absolutely *stunning*.

The album is solid throughout, and features the electric guitar moreso as their recent albums have done, but that one section makes the album worth getting, worth listening to, and worth knowing.

File under: Canadian Post-rock Ensembles, Numbers Stations

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - re-act-or
and what I wrote at Allmusic

Neil Young & Crazy Horse -re-act-or
So, almost a week ago, Neil Young released another live album in what has become a most remarkable Archive Series. This one was called Way Down in the Rust Bucket, and I haven't bought them all, or even heard them all, but it's safe to say I was all over this one. I had my copy on the morning of the 27th.

The set was recorded in Santa Cruz, California, late in 1990, chronicling a gig which served as a warm up for the legendary Arc/Weld-Gulf War arena tour the following year. But as interesting as even *that* is, what really piqued my interest in acquiring the double CD (if not the deluxe set with the DVD) was the inclusion of two songs from re-act-or, which I have long felt is Young's most underappreciated work.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Way Down in the Rust Bucket

And there's a great version of "Farmer John" and a very good one of "Bite the Bullet" from American Stars and Bars, but if I was looking for versions of "Surfer Joe" and "T-Bone" that reflected the way they were played on re-act-or, well, it wasn't happening. What a strange version of "Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze" we get! Neil nicks a few notes from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and plays a grand interpretative overture, as if Surfer Joe was some Mexican emperor, or Moe the Sleeze a great lost love. And then they play the song at half speed . . . .

And "T-Bone," it doesn't have horns, but it's definitely the Bluenotes arrangement.

Listen, it's all grist for the mill. Almost everything Neil does is at the least interesting, and these two songs from re-act-or are definitely that.

But I have to admit I've been thinking of the power and the speed of that album since I gave Rust Bucket its three requisite drivetime spins.

So much so that I found myself on Allmusic today, reading user reviews for re-act-or. The thing was, even the people who liked it were damning it with faint praise! "Lightweight" said a guy who gave it 4-1/2 stars. Well, first off, it's five stars, so then I left this review:

Garfong reference aside, if On the Beach was honey sliders, and Tonight's the Night was tequila, then re-ac-tor is pure uncut crank. It's easily Young's fastest album, his most furious, probably his heaviest, and it recasts Crazy Horse as three guys gobbling speed just trying to keep up with their maniac boss.

I've read where Neil was supposedly mentally absent for these songs, being preoccupied with his son, but have the people who wrote that stuff actually listened? If you choose not to see the lyrics to "T-Bone" as the zen koan for the chronically shortchanged that it is, and if you want to say "Rapid Transit" is aping the Talking Heads of all people, well, good for you, hope it gets you through the night. But Young is *not* absent:, he's as in-your-face as he's ever been.

Young clearly hadn't gotten all the Johnny Rotten out of his system with Rust Never Sleeps (after all, the punk rock there was only on the second side). It's fair to say that re-act-or emptied the cistern. When Young returned with the Horse again, there'd be a swinging laid back character to the roar that they've retained to this day.

Ol' Neil's interesting even when gets it wrong, keep in mind, but when they played "T-Bone" and "Surfer Joe" at the Catalyst in 1990, the songs practically bore no relation: the speed and the fury that re-act-or had was gone. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it helps you realize: re-act-or is a unique document of a band in a place it went to precisely one and a half times.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review of Genesis' Duke at Pitchfork

Interesting review, written by an author who I'll say up front knows a lot more about Genesis than me.

For somebody who as a kid jumped from Elton John and Wings to Yes, I am surprised to this day that I never got into Genesis. Danny Agramonte and I were fellow progheads in 11th grade honors history, and every Monday we'd lay our new purchases on the other. One Monday, he came in, agog at The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. "It makes Olias of Sunhillow look like Foreigner 4," he gushed.

But I didn't get it. Danny later sent me off in the direction of "Charlotte the Harlot," so he knew what rocked, but that was the thing about Genesis--or at least Peter Gabriel Genesis. They didn't rock.

They also didn't get played on South Florida radio. Or at least they didn't before Duke.

The local rock station, Zeta4, or maybe by this time it was WSHE, began playing "Misunderstanding," which was shit, but they also played "Turn it on Again" and that was an interesting track.

It made sense as concise prog and it also made sense as something you heard on rock radio. I didn't become huge fans of Genesis (I didn't even buy Duke), but Genesis had started doing something I hadn't previously thought they knew how to do. They started doing in fact something that not many bands in the entire world knew how to do, which was to here and there get their progressive music serious airplay.

From around that same time, only The Police, with some of the deeper tracks from Ghosts or Synchronicity were able to pull off the same feat.

Abacab accelerated the process. There was dross mixed in, sure, but the title track is a masterful piece of jammy progressive rock, and "Keep it Dark" is even better, stutters and bursts of electronic instruments that take their cues from a driving 6/4 beat.

So the thing about '80's Genesis is, it's not that they started writing sappy shit (though they did). The remarkable thing is that they simultaneously and for the first time got good at the things they'd used to do.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Hollywood Sportatorium

Check it out, click that link, if you haven't before: SoFla's concertgoing Stoner Nation forged a legend out of a leaky, acoustically atrocious, aircraft hangar in the middle of nowhere. I was 14 years old when I first attended a show at the Snortatorium, and the feeling as I entered the seating area with its dopesmoke cloudcover was that of crossing into a dark fantasyland, orcs and wizards and longhaired freaks crawling through the plastic chairs on the floor and over the permanent seating in the rafters.

And I felt that way even *before* I smoked reefer for the very first time that night. The first kid I spoke to collapsed into a quaalude-induced puddle right in front of me, and, later, my old man, who was waiting outside in his car, told me they were doing drug deals on the long hood of his Chevy Nova.

I never bought PCP at the Sport, never got a blowjob in one of its bathrooms, never got arrested, but that wasn't 'cause I couldn't've.

I saw Kansas there (twice), Foreigner (with Blackfoot, who blew the English band off the stage), Black Sabbath, Robert Plant, Rush, Van Halen (who were basically a distorted muddle), Iron Maiden (twice), and Judas Priest (with Megadeth)--that time, my father came inside with me(!).

Beyond the always surreal experience of just being in the cavernous space with six to ten thousand of South Florida's rowdiest motherfuckers, highlights were probably the laser show I saw at that first Kansas show, and the riot that broke out when Neil Peart was tardy for that Rush concert. The show started 90 minutes late, but it was worth it, as I can always say I've been teargassed--the Iron Cross of sorts for veterans of the old Sportatorium.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Rush - "The Enemy Within" from the album Grace Under Pressure

 Sometimes you'll hear a song you like alright in a new way. I heard Rush's "The Enemy Within" this morning and it has raised itself in my appreciation evidently.

I even sent a text saying as much to the old friend who got me into Rush in the first place, back when we were fifteen, though I have to admit he was mystified by it, and wasn't quite sure why I associate him with the Canadian power trio, it being 40 long years for him since he was a Rush superfan, while for me, it's the same old memory of him I've always had.

But anyway, back to the song: the somewhat metronomic Eurodisco pulse this time seemed perfect, and so too did the whole damnable late '80's synthetic approach, an admiration for which was a new thing for me, definitely.

I was never a huge fan of "Witch Hunt," so maybe this now makes "The Enemy Within" my favorite movement of "Fear," what about that?

File under: From suites with parts released in backwards order