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1. Grandaddy – The Warming Sun (Sumday, 2003) 

Indie pop from Modesto, California, with the voice of singer Jason Lytle (a former professional skateboarder) resembling Neil Young’s one on this track. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the lyrics.

2. Pixies – Vamos (Surfer Rosa, 1988) 

One of the Pixies’ songs that open with a monologue, from Black Francis this time, after which the acoustic guitar and pounding bass drum kick off the song for real. The first version of this song appeared on the band’s debut album Come On Pilgrim, just like ‘Isla de Encanta’ (and ‘Crackity Jones from Doolittle ) drawing upon Francis’ adventures in Puerto Rico.

3. Spirit – Morning Will Come (Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, 1970) 

Finally, seems like years ago that I listened to this. Penultimate track on the fourth and probably best album of Spirit, an eclectic rock band that was founded (like so many others) in California ’67. Released some very good albums during the late sixties, with Led Zeppelin being their support act at live gigs (Spirit’s influence is clearly traceable on later Zep records). This song at his turn reminds of David Bowie with a small touch of Josh Homme during the chorus.

4. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Foxy Lady (Are You Experienced, 1967) 

King of riffs, that was also used by Jimmy Page during later Led Zeppelin gigs, when it was one of the many improvisations that would come up during the instrumental powertrip on ‘Dazed and Confused’. And of course a well-known favorite of Sir Paul McCartney, who plays it now and then after ‘Let Me Roll It’.

5. The Doors – Roadhouse Blues (Morrison Hotel, 1970) 

Back to the American Westcoast with another uptempo track including shrilling guitars, while the other Jim of the ’27 club’ shouts.  The Doors immediately abandoned the experimental direction from the previous album (The Soft Parade) on the very first track of Morrison Hotel, with a safe and satisfactory return to psychedelic and blues rock.

6. Queen – Don’t Try So Hard (Innuendo, 1991) 

Death all over again, with Queen’s last album before the death of Mercury. No safe return to a familiar sound for Freddy however, as he tries to imitate Kate Bush here before the guitars give this track some dignity.

7. Robert Palmer – Come Over (Double Fun,1978) 

That makes five death singers in a row (Spirit’s Randy California died in 1997). Funky song (Stevie Wonder will endorse that), being one of the highlights on a rather mediocre album. Palmer really shows his instrumental skills here, playing guitar, bass, drums, percussion, drums and keyboards on this one.

8. Beulah – Sunday Under Glass (When Your Heartstrings Break, 1999) 

More indie rock from California, San Francisco this time. Band that was discovered by Apples in Stereo singer Robert Schneider from Elephant 6. Have to give it another try.

9. Meat Puppets – Lake of Fire (Meat Puppets II, 1984) 

One of the three songs from this album that were covered by Nirvana during their legendary unplugged performance. This less polished version however creates the right atmosphere to its lyrics.

10. The Beatles – Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967) 

Closing with the circus song from Pepper, that was played live for the first time ever last year by Paul McCartney, after he revealed it is partially his song. Henry the Horse did not speak out on the subject yet.

 

 

Year: 1971

Genre: Progressive Rock

Preceded by: Benefit (1970)

Followed by: Thick as a Brick (1972)

Related to: not available yet

 

 

Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick is still considered one of the best progressive rock albums ever made. But Tull will somehow always remain a stranger in the midst of prog bands that delivered the bulk of this genre’s top rated albums during the seventies. First of all, the band certainly could not be classified within this genre from the start. The sound on their early works for example is more connected to the blues rock of Cream’s Disraeli Gears than to the pure psychedelic rock that got bands like Pink Floyd started. But eastern and classic music influences made their entrance on Stand Up (1969), a keyboard player was added to the line-up on Benefit (1970) and suddenly there was Aqualung, a record that was generally acclaimed by the era’s musical climate as Tull’s first concept album. Parents, keep your children inside!

The early days of Jethro Tull go back to Blackpool 1962, when the Scott Ian Anderson formed a band called The Blades with some other musicians. After combining performances with this group with a daytime job for five years, Anderson moved to London in the search for any success. This proved to be difficult, as his original band mates returned back north after just a couple of days. Anderson started to search for other musicians again and found Glenn Cornick on bass, Mick Abrahams on guitar and Clive Bunker on drums. Anderson himself traded his guitar for a flute and called the gang Jethro Tull, after the man who had redefined the practices of agriculture by giving us the horse-drawn hoe.

This new band released its debut album in 1968: This Was. You got to love the satirical title, as it already indicates that Anderson (still sharing the songwriting with Abrahams) was not planning to stick to the album’s pure blues rock sound. Jethro Tull would release one album per year for the next 12 years, with another 8 albums following till their last one in 2003. Such a steady rate would presume a very stable band, but Jethro Tull rather was a wobbling ship in turbulent waters with Ian Anderson as its one and only Captain and Martin Barre as his First Mate. Anderson would navigate this ship with continuously changing crew through raw blues rock and the dangerous prog cliffs before ending up playing folk in the woods.

His path was clear after Abrahams was replaced by Barre following the debut’s release. As the band’s sole songwriter, he now immediately started to change the course of the band on the following two albums mentioned above, with the distinctive flute sound becoming the band’s trademark. Their fourth album (with bass player Jeffrey Hammond joining Anderson’s ship, replacing Cornick) would definitely establish their fame as one of the world’s biggest rock acts and still is their best album, both lyrically and musically. Come aboard.

The album is opened by the title song, which is the main reason for some people to call it a progressive concept album. The song was inspired by a picture (taken by Andersons wife) of a homeless man, given the name Aqualung. The album cover gives this person a face and he does reappear in one other song here (‘Cross-Eyed Mary’) but he can’t be compared to deeply elaborated characters like Rael on Genesis’ Lamb for example. Musically the song (being one of the rare ones without Anderson’s flute) is kind of a short suite, with three different parts creating as much atmospheres. These stylistic changes might indeed point to a conversion to progressive rock although that feature can of course not be completely claimed by that genre. Or would you qualify Aqualung’s five dimensional brother ‘Aquarius’ also as such?

So Aqualung makes a cameo in the second song, called after schoolgirl hooker ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’. The flute immediately compensates its absence on the first track with a great intro, building towards a peak where Anderson’s voice kicks in. This voice sounds hoarse and perfectly matches Barre’s guitar and the pervert lyrics about the young Mary who kicks on satisfying older rich men, while the dirty Aqualung is peeping through the railings of the playground.

The two harder songs are followed by a sweet trio of acoustic songs. First there’s ‘Cheap Day Return’, a personal intermezzo from Anderson about a visit to his dad in the hospital (with the song called after his train ticket). Within only 83 seconds he totally changes the atmosphere with a very fragile voice, thereby creating the perfect intro for ‘Mother Goose’. This is my absolute favorite of the album, with Anderson walking over a fair, meeting bearded ladies and chicken-fanciers. Meanwhile the acoustic instrumentation (guitar and flute) completely melts with his voice, shaping some kind of Medieval atmosphere (this is by far the most ‘folk-ish’ track on the album). Another short song closes the triptych of Anderson’s personal stories, with ‘Wond’ring Aloud’ being a simple love song garnished with a nice string section. One more song to go then on side 1, announced by its famous laughter in the beginning: ‘Up to Me’. Although the lyrics don’t make much sense to me, it’s musically one of the best with all instruments joining forces (featuring a flute-riff) to chase Anderson’s state of mind.

I’m about to turn the record over when I notice the album’s cover featuring our spooky friend Aqualung. He’s lost out of sight for a couple of songs now, so I bury the possibility of this being a concept album. Subsequently the needle lands on side 2 and serves me an entire side with tracks treating the hypocrite aspect of religion, more precisely Christianity. It starts with ‘My God’, introduced by the acoustic guitar after which the piano and Andersons’ moaning voice create the atmosphere of a dark church where Anderson is priest, preaching about the opportunist use of the lord. After a while the soloing electric guitar takes over and the flute solo countering the Gregorian chants gives the album its progressive feeling again.

‘Hymn 43’ is very similar to this track lyrically, maybe the reason that this song didn’t require an intro, kicking off immediately. It’s a riff-based song with great piano contributions and Anderson singing more loudly now, deeply expressing his thoughts of disgust towards the church. It’s followed by another short acoustic bridge with added string section: ‘Slipstream’, telling a story about buying your access into heaven and preparing us for the ‘grande finale’ of the album.

This final starts with the classical piano intro of ‘Locomotive Breath’, probably the bands’ most famous song. It suddenly turns into a heavy guitar song, with the pounding drums adding to the created sound of a steaming train. As the title suggests this train represents life with the song’s protagonist trying to catch a breath in his rushing life. Of course all this is finished off by a flute solo. Aqualung is finally concluded by ‘Wind-Up’, another song that starts off very gentle before building towards a great climax including another one of those sweet guitar riffs by Barre. It’s a well-chosen closing song as it sounds like Anderson is analyzing the thoughts he shared on the other songs on side 2 and concludes by addressing the people that forced him to believe some ridiculous ideas during his youth: You had the whole damn thing all wrong.

Aqualung was never meant to be a concept album although it was claimed as such after its release, leading to an irritated Ian Anderson. As his response he gave prog its ultimate concept album the next year with Thick as a Brick (featuring Andersons’ former drummer, turning Tull back into The Blades ft. Martin Barre). Whether or not this was an embrace or rejection of the genre, the album became one of Tull’s best appreciated works.

Classifying Aqualung as prog is probably just the only solution to the impossibility of putting it in another determined genre. Besides, if you strengthen blues rock in such a way that it approaches hard rock and start mingling this with very melodic folk songs, you can’t be surprised that people suspect you of doing some progressive stuff out there. However, the synthesizers and excessive drum solos are kept away here, so for everybody out there not familiar with this band: don’t be fearful of the dreaded Jethro Tull.

Top Tracks:

1. Mother Goose
2. Up to Me
3. Aqualung

1. XTC – I’d Like That (Apple Venus Volume 1, 1999)  

Second track from a great album, bringing together the best material from the period XTC was on strike (1992-1998). Apple Venus was subsequently released  on their own label and recorded in their own home-studios, with Partridge on vocals and acoustic guitar here. Very cheerful, very McCartney.

2. Robert Johnson – Hellhound on My Trail (King of the Delta Blues Singers, 1961)  

Archaic cornerstone of rock’s discography, already recorded in 1936 but released in 1961 on the Columbia label. They had just contracted Bob Dylan, who had the album lying around on his couch on the cover of Bringing It All Back Home.

3. Genesis – More Fool Me (Selling England by the Pound, 1973)  

Closing track on side one of Genesis’ brilliant fifth album, with Phil Collins on lead vocals. Compared to the other songs this one is rather short and very sober, only featuring Collins and Mike Rutherford on guitar. His lover may be gone, but Phil is convinced everything will be just fine.

4. Ride – Vapour Trail (Nowhere, 1990) 

Closing track and only single from shoegazing band Ride’s debut album. Written and sung by guitarist Andy Bell, who would later join Oasis on bass. Good album, especially the opening track is a great powertrip.

5. Rolling Stones – Turd on the Run (Exile on Main St., 1972)  

A less known track from one of The Stones’ greatest albums, that was born in the south of France while recording in Keith Richards’ basement. Richards might have begun a daily habit of using heroin at that time, his guitar really defines this album, including some country rock sound on this one. Robert Johnson also contributed to the album, with the Stones covering his ‘Stop Breaking Down’ on side four.

6. The Kinks – A House in the Country (Face to Face, 1966)  

Finally, The Kinks make their appearance in the shuffle of the week. Face to Face was their fourth album (and definitely one of my favorites), on which this is the closing track of side one. It was their first album entirely written by lead vocalist Ray Davies and marked the beginning of a great period for the band.

7. Lou Reed – Satellite of Love (Transformer, 1972)  

Second single from Transformer, an album I dragged across Keith Richards’ south of France last summer, a couple of months before Reed’s death. A song about jealousy, that was originally meant to appear on The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, but that ended up on Reed’s second solo album. With the ever recognizable David Bowie (also the album producer) on backing vocals.

8. The Who – Getting In Tune (Who’s Next, 1971)  

Opener on side two of The Who’s fifth album and the fourth song this week with that generously packed sound from the early seventies. Not very surprisingly, this song deals with the power of music and was originally part of Townshend’s Lifehouse-project (as a follow-up to Tommy).

 9. Andrew Bird – Scythian Empires (Armchair Apocrypha, 2007)  

Talking about richly instrumented pieces of music: perhaps a little less rockin’, but Bird shows off a great deal of craftsmanship on this album highlight. Played the life out of that album last year.

10. Phish – Bouncing Around the Room (Lawn Boy, 1990)  

Closing this shuffle just like Phish’s second studio album: with this easy going funky song, influenced by Senegalese music.

THE VERDICT:

DOK:

1. Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973)
2. Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)
3. The Band – The Band (1969)
4. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
5. The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)

GvZ:

1. (2)   The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
2. (3)   The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
3. (10) Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
4. (1)   Genesis – Selling England by the Pound (1973)
5. (13) Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)

RKH:

1. (4)   Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
2. (16) Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)
3. (1)   Genesis – Selling England by the Pound (1973)
4. (2)   The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
5. (6)   Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)

Happy New Year.

Red Alert for those who are about to buy a house in 2014, as it’s time for the top 10. Already bought a house and not having a clue about some of those classics below? Best wishes for the new year.

DOK:

6.   Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
7.   Genesis – Selling England by the Pound (1973)
8.   Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue (1977)
9.   The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
10. Brian Wilson – SMiLE (2004)

GvZ:

6. (6)    Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)
7. (15)  Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)
8. (*)    Love – Forever Changes (1967)
9. (8)    Panda Bear – Person Pitch (2007)
10. (11)The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

RKH:

6. (17)  The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
7. (*)    Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees (1972)
8. (13)  Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
9. (12)  Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
10. (3)  The Band – The Band (1969)

First of all hail to this year’s last new entrances in both GvZ and RKH’s lists. Bare Trees makes a spectacular entry at #7 (pushing Rumours aside from the list) while Forever Changes debuts at #8 and won’t probably be the last 1967 album near the top. DOK throws in his fourth Radiohead-album at #6, and it’s the first time we run into artists like Genesis, Paul Simon and Marvin Gaye. It will probably not be the last time for some of them, we’ll see on December 31st.

This is an ode to the shuffle. How better to get a good insight in your digitized album collection than by a classic shuffle? Finally discover the albums you never got into, finally throw the ones away you will never get into and worship those classics that never grow old again. The Shuffle of this week:

1. Love – Live & Let Live (Forever Changes, 1967) 

Oh, the snot has caked against my pants… One of the best tracks from one of the all-time best albums, featuring a great combo of acoustic and electric guitars. Being Love’s third album (“You said you would love me forever!” – “Well, forever changes.”),  it was also the last with the ‘original’ line-up. Troubles already arised during the recording of this one, as a number of band members were originally replaced by famous LA session musicians like Hal Blaine (drums) and Carol Kaye (bass). I guess I’ll take my pistol.

2. The Who – Heinz Baked Beans (The Who Sell Out, 1967) 

Staying in the same year, with the The Who’s third album.This is the one minute-intermezzo that follows up the shattering opening track, being one of the ridiculized commercials that link the songs together. Written (and ‘sung’) by John Entwistle, and reminding of Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women’- brass band on fast forward. Really great album.

3. Sigur Rós – Avalon (Agaetis Byrjun, 1999) 

Album (‘A Good Beginning’) that makes you search for certain symbols and notations on your keyboard, after which you surrender and decide to just enjoy the music. Second album from the band, a richly orchestrated one, on which this is the closing track. It consists of an alternative take of the instrumentals on ‘Starálfur’, closing the album in a dark way, resembling GYBE.

4. Mogwai – Katrien (Young Team, 1997) 

However, the shuffle used the previous track as intro for what was about to follow, more post-rock from the late nineties. Because I mainly listened to their later work the past couple of months, I kind of lost this great debut out of sight.

5. Paul McCartney & Wings – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Band on the Run, 1973) 

Time for some magnificent uptempo pop rock from the master himself. Closing track from his most praised album, with great vocals while the piano is set on fire . The instrumental powertrip towards the end can perfectly compete with some excellent prog rock from the same era.

6. The National – Anna Freud (The National, 2001) 

Another closing track, from The National’s debut album. Never given a fair chance after the hype that originated around the band later on, but that may not be an excuse to deny it.

7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Born in Ontario (Psychedelic Pill, 2012) 

Another seasoned rock god with his legendary support group. One of the most accessible tracks on this great jam album. Sure, Neil searches for inspiration in his Canadian roots once again, but does it bother anyone?

8. Strawberry Alarm Clock – Strawberries Mean Love (Incense and Peppermints, 1967) 

Typical psychedelic rock from ’67, very much resembling the sound of Jefferson Airplane. Not only instrumental, but also concerning the alternating vocals that remind of Balin and Slick, while as far as I know, there was not even a female vocalist involved in this band.

9. Nick Drake – Poor Boy (Bryter Layter, 1970) 

Talking about female vocalists, track from Drake’s second album on which the backing vocals are provided by Pat Arnold and Doris Troy. Just like on his debut Five Leaves Left, Drake is supported again by a number of great guest musicians like Richard Thompson and Dave Pegg from Fairport Convention and John Cale. Beautiful piano part.

10. Neutral Milk Hotel – The Fool (In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, 1998) 

This week’s shuffle somehow closes in style, as it ended up to be an ode to instrumental music. From Neutral Milk Hotel’s second album, and reminding of what Beirut would come up with later.

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