Shuffle of the week #11

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. Pink Floyd – On the Turning Away (A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987) [singlepic id=128 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Starting this week with one of Floyd’s latest great singles, a very nice power ballad dominated by Gilmour’s vocals and guitar playing. In this way a song (just like the album) with a lot of recognizability, but without the originality the band was famous for, as the sound resembles that of ‘Wish You Were Here’ while the lyrics seem to be borrowed from Dark Side of the Moon.

2. Killing Joke – Complications (Killing Joke, 1980) [singlepic id=126 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Quite the anthithesis then with this song from Kiling Joke’s debut album. It’s completely driven by the fast guitar riff that reminds of the bands punk roots. A preview of what was released later by bands like Nine Inch Nails and Faith No More.

3. Echo & the Bunnymen – Thorn of Crowns (Ocean Rain, 1984) [singlepic id=119 w=80 h=50 float=left]

The transition is completed by the post-punk of Echo & the Bunnymen (again!) from four years later. I’m going to explore this band further, as the shuffle is clear on this point.

4. Pearl Jam – Why Go (Ten, 1991) [singlepic id=127 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Time for guitar licks from all different eras this week, as this juwel from one of rock history’s most amazing debut albums kicks in next. The music of this song was written by bass player Jeff Ament long before Eddie Vedder added the lyrics about a girl in a psychiatric hospital.

5. The Band – Rockin’ Chair (The Band, 1969) [singlepic id=129 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Easy going song from the best album that I discovered in the past couple of years. This group and its sound are officially declared incredible. About time for an album review right here.

6. The Afghan Whigs – My Curse (Gentlemen, 1993) [singlepic id=125 w=80 h=50 float=left]

I guess this is the moment to add this one to my mp3 player, as I have nothing to say about Greg Dulli’s curse yet. (update: after a long struggle that lasted a couple of years, this album has convinced me of being a modest classic)

7. Titus Andronicus – A Pot In Which To Piss (The Monitor, 2010) [singlepic id=131 w=80 h=50 float=left]

An album I got passed by art spotter Levenskoenst. Kind of Guided By Voices meets Neutral Milk Hotel, with lyrics contributed by The Band.

8. The Books – All Our Base Are Belong to Them (Thought for Food, 2002) [singlepic id=130 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Album I was never captivated by. This song doesn’t really change that. Or wait a minute… no.

 

9. Traffic – Forty Thousand Headman (Traffic, 1968) [singlepic id=132 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Total highlight then with some great late sixties rock from this bands’ second album. The album offers a great variety of rock songs, in which you seem to recognize different rock bands from that era like Blind Faith (inevitably thanks to Steve Winwood’s presence), Fleetwood Mac (‘Don’t Be Sad’) and Jethro Tull (this song).

10. Johnny Cash – I Hung My Head (The Man Comes Around, 2002) [singlepic id=67 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Can we close in a better way than by hanging our head together with mister Cash?

“White light going messin’ up my mind”: Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal (Lou Reed)

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Year: 1974

Genre: Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Preceded by: Berlin (1973)

Followed by: Sally Can’t Dance (1974)

Related to: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground

 

 

Not many albums out there that ravished me immediately from the start, but The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) from the same band and singer was one of them. The droning guitars and the strange, fascinating lyrics made this album incomparable to any other album I knew at that moment. It didn’t take long before I started to explore all other works of the band, and I loved it without an exception. However, it somehow took me way more time to appreciate the solo work from one of its main members: Lou Reed.

Reed comes from Brooklyn, New York, where he met his Velvet partner John Cale (bass guitar and other instruments) in 1964. Cale liked Reed’s guitar playing, as he heard him playing ‘Heroin’,  one of the songs that would appear on the debut album (mentioned above) of the band those guys would soon form together with Sterling Morrison (guitar) and Maureen Tucker (drums). As a band they quickly drew the attention of pop art guru Andy Warhol, who added his protégé Nico (a German fashion model and singer) to the line-up. The resistance of Reed against this change resulted in the title of the debut album.

The Velvet Underground would continue to make albums with that revolutionary sound on it, as would Reed do as a solo artist. But in fact there’s no better way to run over these most successful years of this man than by listening to his magnificent live album from 1974: Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. The original version of this album contains five songs stemming from different periods of his career, all performed in a blazin’ glam/hard rock set at Howard Stein’s Academy of Music (New York). Just like artists as David Bowie and Roxy Music, Reed was in the middle of his androgynous period back then, wearing leather clothes and nailed leashes and having his face greasepainted. But above all: Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal would become his best-selling album.

The album kicks off with a delicious, elaborate guitar intro. After only one minute you will already catch yourself playing the air guitar as if you were Reed himself. After a while you will recognize the tones of ‘Sweet Jane’, one  of the Velvet’s greatest hits, from the album Loaded (1970). Reed was the only songwriter on this album (Cale had already left the band) and would leave the band before the album was even released. The goal of this album was already to get some airplay on the radio, but it turned out to be even completely edited without the consent of Reed. Maybe this is the reason that Reed chose two songs from the album and played them in adjusted style, with ‘Sweet Jane’ being a real hard rocker here.

After this 8 minute opener Reed continues with a pumping glam rock version of ‘Heroin’, adding 6 minutes to the original 7 minutes track on The Velvet’s debut. As the title more or less predicts, this song is about the use and misuse of heroin. As Reed did on more songs on this album that handle with themes like drugs and sadomasochism, he gives an objective description without taking a moral position on the subject. The song is also live still characterized by its phenomenal (gradual) increase in tempo till it reaches a tearing crescendo.

On side B we proceed to the second Velvet album White Light/White Heat with the eponymous track. Nico is meanwhile exiled from the band and they continue to make ‘songs’ about controversial themes like travesty and trans sexuality. The band also keeps searching for ways to renew their sound, well portrayed for example by the song ‘The Gift’, which contains the recital of a short story told by John Cale on the left speaker channel while an instrumental rock song is played at the same time on the right channel. The song played here by Reed is the fast, aggressive opener of the album, about the sensations provided by the use of methamphetamine.

What follows is the only track from one of Reed’s solo albums: ‘Lady Day’, which is the second track from his third solo record Berlin. Reed had his break-through as a solo artist with his second album Transformer. A great role on this album was foreseen for Mick Ronson, the guitarist of David Bowie, as co-producer (next to Bowie himself) and session musician. It brought Reed lots of international success, but he wasn’t fulfilled with this. That’s why he declined to make another album with Bowie, followed by the release of Berlin as follow-up to Transformer. This album is a kind of concept album about a drug addicted couple from Berlin, characterized by its heavily orchestrated parts and contributions by top musicians like Jack Bruce (Cream) on bass and Steve Winwood (Traffic, Blind Faith) on organ and harmonium). ‘Lady Day’ is told from the prospective of Jim, one of the characters on the album. He tells us about his concern about the fact that he’s losing control over the life of his girlfriend Caroline, who’s going on a razzle in the obscure Berlin bars.

The final track is another extended (10 minutes) version from a former Velvet hit: ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’. The song is also from the album Loaded and is a true ode to rock music. Reeds tells the story of a girl named Jenny whose life was saved by Rock and Roll, in a version full of improvisational guitar licks. During this track you really can’t keep sitting still and you absolutely have to grab your air guitar for the last time before throwing it in the delirious crowd.

Top Tracks:
1.    Intro/Sweet Jane
2.    Lady Day
3.    Rock ‘n’ Roll

Shuffle of the week #10

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. Andrew Bird – Headsoak (The Swimming Hour, 2001) [singlepic id=117 w=80 h=50 float=left]

We start off peacefully with a relaxing song of Andrew Bird. This song is on the last album with his Bowl of Fire, before going solo. I discovered the album last year, but I can’t see it beating the one I totally revalued thanks to another shuffle, Armchair Apocrypha, which is a great album. Still have to get his latest…

2. Small Faces – Get Yourself Together (Small Faces, 1967) [singlepic id=123 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Initially we easily flow on to the next song with some calm guitar playing, until the typical sound of the Small Faces looms. One of those great bands from this era that perhaps got a little snowed in by the big rock mastodonts from that time. Certainly kept Britain’s psychedelic pop alive after Pink Floyd went progressive, although the original line-up also only existed for four years before disbanding in 1969.

3. Animal Collective – Brother Sport (Merriweather Post Pavillion, 2009) [singlepic id=118 w=80 h=50 float=left]

The sound is still cheerful and we’re still very uptempo, but our technology has made a progression of 40 years. Epic closing track of this 2009 album as well as many live gigs from this band. Still one of the best acts I’ve ever seen live.

4. Radiohead – Paranoid Android (OK Computer, 1997) [singlepic id=22 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Awesome track/album/band. Talking about great live memories.

 

5. Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues (King of the Delta Blues Singers, 1936) [singlepic id=122 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Probably one of the oldest songs in my music collection, from this album that was only released in 1961. Also known for the version that Eric Clapton arranged for Cream and a great pub in Antwerp that derived its name from this song.

6. Jethro Tull – Wind-Up (Aqualung, 1971) [singlepic id=121 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Closing track from Tull’s album that I really have to give another shot. (update: I underrated this one way too long, certainly as genius as Stand Up.)

7. Jefferson Airplane – Rejoice (After Bathing at Baxters, 1967) [singlepic id=120 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Album from Airplane from the same year as their famous classic album Surrealistic Pillow. Long time ago since I gave this a serious listening chance, so this one is definitely going on my mp3 to fill my  time in the public transport. (update: the same for Aqualung going for this one, brilliant album. Imagine albums like Pillow and Baxters being released in the same year by the same band today.)

8. XTC – River of Orchids (Apple Venus Vol 1, 1999) [singlepic id=124 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Awesome opening track from this wonderful album, that closed the previous era in an amazing way. Very Brian Wilsonesk.

9. The Smiths – Pretty Girls Make Graves (The Smiths, 1984) [singlepic id=133 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Second time we shuffle a track from this album. Pointed me to the fact that it was time for a decent review of this juwel.

10. Echo & the Bunnymen – Nocturnal Me (Ocean Rain, 1984) [singlepic id=119 w=80 h=50 float=left]

And we close the shuffle of this week in the same year with the Bunnymen’s classic album. Rediscovered Crocodiles recently and wondering about which one is better. Might still be this one in the end.

Shuffle of the week #9

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:

[singlepic id=111 w=80 h=50 float=left]1. Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention – Let’s make the water turn black (We’re Only in It for the Money, 1968)

Surprising start this time, this one being an album that I urgently had to discover for real. Zappa’s experimental charge against everyone wearing flowers and breathing the psychedelic air of San Fransisco, including a parody on the Sgt. Peppers’ album cover. This cover featured among others Zappa’s friend Jimi Hendrix, whose song ‘Hey Joe’ was used as inspiration for ‘Flower Punk’, another song to be found on the album.

2. Swan Lake – The Pollenated Girls (Beast Moans, 2006) [singlepic id=115 w=80 h=50 float=left]

This album to the contrary does not have many secrets to me anymore, having spent many months on my mp-3 player last year. It’s the debut album from this all Canadian supergroup, consisting of Frog Eyes singer Carey Mercer, Daniel Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers) and of course Spencer Krug, one of my favorite musicians of today (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes).

3. Moby Grape – Fall On You (Moby Grape, 1967) [singlepic id=112 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Over to some typical sounds of 1967, with this band originally founded by some former Jefferson Airplane members. A must have for the lovers of the genre, so without any doubt a true favorite for Frank Zappa.

4. Fleet Foxes – Innocent Son (Sun Giant, 2008) [singlepic id=110 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Some beautiful vocals then from the first EP of Fleet Foxes, although you might also think it’s one of My Morning Jacket’s songs when you don’t know that.

5. Sunset Rubdown – Stadiums and Shrines II (Shut up I’m Dreaming, 2006) [singlepic id=114 w=80 h=50 float=left]

And there’s Spencer Krug again! This really is a fantastic album that I’m gonna put on that mp3 player once more. I guess this album will never bore me, definitely being one of my favorite albums from the past 10 years. Points me to the fact that I finally have to get Dragonslayer (2009) also.

6. Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes (Velvet Underground, 1969) [singlepic id=116 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Talking about true rock jewels? This must be one of the best Lou Reed compositions, whose  genius was discovered way too late by me. But I have to admit, I’m seriously catching up with that.

7. Tindersticks – Talk to me (Tindersticks (II), 1995) [singlepic id=70 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Another track from Tinderstick’s magnificent second album.With decliciously driving string part in the end.

 

8. dEUS – Secret Hell (Worst Case Scenario, 1994) [singlepic id=58 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Song that I heard more often lately, as I listened to it again during a couple of weeks following an earlier shuffle of the week .

9. The Electric Prunes –Wind-up Toys (Underground, 1967) [singlepic id=109 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Surprisingly, exactly the same goes for this one. Good album.

 

10. Motörhead – Stay Clean (No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith, 1981) [singlepic id=135 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Starting and closing with a little surprise this week, as this is the only abum in my collection from this band. Factually, it’s not even a real one, as it’s a live album. I acquired it after reading some lyrical reviews about it; good album, nothing more (update: this rocks).

“I need your pain killer, Doc, shot inside of me”: Vincebus Eruptum (Blue Cheer)

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Year: 1968

Genre: Blues Rock, Psychedelic Rock

Preceded by: –

Followed by: Outsideinside (1968)

Related to: Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin, The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced

 

Fortunately for the development of music in all its variation, especially the heavier genres, there were always bands out there that asked themselves if things couldn’t be played a little louder. Blue Cheer certainly was such a band.

It’s 1968 and a big part of the music scene was embracing the progress technology had made with regard to improving amplifiers and electric guitars. Especially the possibility to significantly amplify the sound of the bass guitar made it possible for bands to play as loud as possible without losing the sound of the bass. This was the deciding development that notorious blues rock artists like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were waiting for to form their own power trios, consisting of guitar, bass and drums. Bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who in fact used the same concept, adding a seperate singer. 1967 subsequently brought us Hendrix’ Are You Experienced?, 1969 Led Zeppelin’s debut album and 1968 had Blue Cheer’s impressive debut: Vincebus Eruptum.

Just like those two acts, Blue Cheer reinterpreted old blues songs and took them to higher and louder levels using loads of amplifiers. Hendrix ofcourse added the psychedelic influences that were characteristic for those times. With Blue Cheer being located in San Francisco and being called after a kind of LSD (at its turn called after a washing product), it may not be surprising that those influences are also present on their debut. If you’re looking for extensive improvisation, hyperamplification and lots of distortion, this is the album that definitely should be in your record collection. No other band of that time in my opinion had the raw intensity and energy of Blue Cheer, making them blow up their complete equipment the first time they tried to record this album.

Blue Cheer was founded in 1966 with the original line up consisting of Dickie Peterson on bass (which he played since the age of 13) and vocals, Leigh Stephens on guitar (ranked 98 on Rolling Stones’ 100 greatest guitarists of all time) and Eric Albronda on drums. Albronda was subsequently replaced by Paul Whaley and the band recruited some extra members on guitar, keyboards and harmonica. But, according to the myth, they brought the band down to a power trio after witnessing Hendrix’ mind blowing performance with his Experience at Monterey. So Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens and Paul Whaley remained as the line-up for the first album, consisting of 6 songs with a total length of about half an hour. But don’t worry, just turn the record over again.

The LP starts with the bands only real hit, a cover of Eddie Cochran’s blues song ‘Summertime Blues’. This must be the ultimate example of transforming a classic blues song into blues rock, played that hard that it’s drawing the outlines of hard rock. The first part of the song combines an extremely pounding rhythm section with a crying guitar, immediately giving you the opportunity to test your own sound equipment. The riff in the middle of the song reminds of Hendrix’ ‘Foxy Lady’, after which the guitar becomes a rollercoaster, steadily taking off and at its peak crushing down at high speed. This version beats The Who’s interpretation of the song hands down if it comes down to muscular strength and roughness.

An even greater blues classic follows quickly, when B.B. King’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ sets in. Also covered amongst others by Otis Redding (a great idol of singer Peterson), this song sticks to the typical blues sound of the guitar with another pumping combo of bass and drums adding the rock here. If not already taken place, everthing goes mental on the third track, Dickie Peterson’s self-proclaimed drug anthem ‘Doctor Please’. Peterson experienced a lot of funny feelings in his head at the time and sings about them after a rough intro of Paul Whaley. The song is about 8 minutes long and offers you the best definition of the term ‘power trio’. The energy drips out of your speakers when guitar solos, kicking drums, the screaming voice of Peterson and heavy bass sounds keep interchanging before exploding together now and then. This also reminds of later stoner rock from bands like Kyuss.

The next song, ‘Out of Focus’, lasts four minutes but was written in ten minutes according to Peterson. This song also has some psychedelic lyrics about angels in mystic dreams, propelled by a haunting guitar riff from Stephens. The roughness of the instruments and Petersons howling voice on this track marks the difference between Blue Cheer and more polished power trios like Clapton’s Cream. It’s followed by another cover, ‘Parchment Farm’, from jazz and blues pianist Mose Allison. This song offers some space for some extensive jamming just when you think the song has ended, while Peterson sings sightly funny lyrics like “I’ve been sitting over here on Parchment Farm. Ain’t ever done nobody no wrong. All I did was shoot my wife. She was no good! “. ‘Second Time Around’ offers you one last chance to pick up your air guitar, as the riffs are very sweet again. Towards the middle of the song, Paul Whaley throws in a wild drum solo, after which all the remaining distortion and psychedelic effects out there are used to close the album, definitely a personal favorite.

After their debut album, the group was confronted with a lot of personnel changes, with their style developing towards a more commercial sound during the seventies and eighties. Periods of activity and temporary break-ups followed eachother, before breaking up for once and for all in 2009 after the death of Peterson, the only continuing member troughout the years. But Vincebus Eruptum remains an essential album to understand the concept of a power trio. Enjoy.

Top Tracks:
1. Doctor Please
2. Second Time Around
3. Summertime Blues

Shuffle of the week #8

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. Rolling Stones – Dead Flowers (Sticky Fingers, 1971) [singlepic id=108 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Opening with the Stones this week, which is already quite remarkable, considering the two albums being in my collection. However, this famous one (with possibly even more famous sleeve from Andy Warhol) is an absolute gem. This song from it was covered later by Townes Van Zandt, which version was used in The Big Lebowski.

2. Electric Light Orchestra – Starlight (Out of the Blue, 1977) [singlepic id=101 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Delighted of course with this choice, from one of my favorite albums. Written and produced by Jeff Lynne, obviously. Although you might think that the Bee Gees are also some kind of involved.

3. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges (Evil Urges, 2008) [singlepic id=107 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Title track of the homonymos album from 2008. Just like I said last time about Wilco, one of those bands that try to transcend the contemporary mediocrity by searching for new directions. Sometimes of course this ends up wrong (like on this album imho), but they would strike back hard three years later with one of their best albums (Circuital). Great band.

4. Grinderman – Go Tell the Women (Grinderman, 2007) [singlepic id=103 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Going back one more year with this debut album from Nick Cave’s project Grinderman. Strange strolling song that nonetheless draws your attention when your shuffle hits it on a lost Tuesday afternoon.

5. Monks – Oh, How to Do Now (Black Monk Time, 1966) [singlepic id=106 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Another curious song from an album I one day had to add to my collection because, just like 1000 others, it would be one that I absolutely had to hear before I die. It still has to prove that.

6. Jackson Browne – Rosie (Running On Empty, 1977) [singlepic id=104 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Track from the album with the famous live ending. This song, to the contrary, was recorded backstage.

 

7. Golden Earring – Turn the World Around (Naked III, 2005) [singlepic id=102 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Song from Holland’s rock pioneers that originally appeared on their 1989 album Keeper Of the Flame, when the band’s success was shrinking. That success returned in the nineties with the acoustic live trilogy, of which this is the final part.

8. Booker T. & The MG’s – Stranger on the Shore (Green Onion, 1962) [singlepic id=100 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Way back in time then with this song from a classic album. The atmosphere of this song perfectly describes the scene of a stranger standing on the shore.

9. Mogwai – Sine Wave (Rock Action, 2001) [singlepic id=48 w=80 h=50 float=left]

We’re still instrumental, but have travelled some 50 years in time meanwhile. Remarkably enough, this song also describes the atmosphere of a stranger standing on the shore, although the wind rages a little harder.

10. Lemonheads –  Rockin Stroll (It’s a Shame about Ray, 1992) [singlepic id=105 w=80 h=50 float=left]

Another recommendation from my album bible, leading me through life by telling me how to walk through history. Gonna give this album also a next try.