Shuffle of the week #34

1. Grandaddy – The Warming Sun (Sumday, 2003) [singlepic id=300 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=243 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=303 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=25 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=304 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=302 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=185 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=299 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=301 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=267 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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.

Shuffle of the week #32

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) [singlepic id=196 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=292 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=293 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=285 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=252 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=291 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=286 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=290 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=288 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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) [singlepic id=287 w=80 h=50 float=left]

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.

“Just cause it starts off slow babe, doesn’t mean it don’t have a heart.”: It Still Moves (My Morning Jacket)

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Year: 2003

Genre: Rock, Alternative Country

Preceded by: At Dawn (2001)

Followed by: Z (2005)

Related to: not available yet



It was a couple of years ago when a friend of mine recommended me this album. I was in the middle of exploring all the music out there that was made in the sixties and seventies and I was a little sceptic about music from a more recent age. But this strange band name kept fascinating me in some way and when I saw the album cover with this giant stuffed bear combined with the album title It Still Moves, I decided that this record deserved to be listened to at least one time. Seventy minutes later, this album had proved that solid rock ‘n roll and beautiful melodies did survive through all those years, I just didn’t search well enough.

It was singer-songwriter and guitarist Jim James who formed this American band in Louisville in 1998. He recruited the rest of the band out of the emo-punk band Winter Death Club, where his cousin Johnny Quaid played guitar, Tom Blankenship was the bass player and J. Glenn was on drums. During those early days, My Morning Jacket principally was an alternative country band. This genre came into existence during the nineties, parallel with the upcoming success of alternative rock. It contained a range of musicians that were playing beyond the borders of traditional country. As such, they drew inspiration from country rock (fusing country with rock ‘n roll) pioneers like Gram Parsons and Steve Earle, with themselves opting for a more lo-fi sound.

As this new alternative country, lo-fi band, My Morning Jacket debuted in 1999 with The Tennessee Fire, which became a hit in Europe. But it was only with their second album, At Dawn, that their popularity started to grow at home. Just like It Still Moves that would follow later on, this album started to show more classic rock influences, featuring more electric guitar sounds than on the previous album. This makes that the sound of the band on It Still Moves always reminds me of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, with its typical screaming classic rock guitars. Another thing that is very characteristic for the album is the use of reverb, continuously producing a lot of echoes throughout the songs.

So there we are, comfortably lying in our couch, headphones on our heads and the album in our hands, counting twelve songs. Seventy minutes you said? Yes, the band takes its time to tell their story, but don’t worry, it’s constructed in a genius order. It all starts with ‘Mahgeetah’, a fantastic opening track, which immediately became my early favorite. Why wait with long, drawn-out vocals and powerful guitar riffs in reverb when you can throw them in right from the start while singing about the love for ‘my guitar’, that’s what Jim James must have thought.

During the next two songs, James takes us on tour with the band and that guitar. First we hike across nightjails and poolhalls on ‘Dancefloors’, escorted by a sweet guitar riff which is towards the end suddenly supported by a great horn section. But all the touring and dancefloors exhausts us and besides, we are starting to miss the things we left behind. So James makes us a campfire, pulls out his acoustic guitar and lets us dream about golden shores. On ‘Golden’, the band returns to the alt-country from the earlier albums for a moment, adopting the style of The Band.

We travel further and we end up at the, as the title already presumes, masterpiece of the album: ‘Master Plan’. It seems like Neil Young and his Crazy Horse have hit the empty highway again, surrounded by tumbleweeds and a haunting sunset. James’ voice is the most important instrument here, telling us the best plans end up really sweet, even if it looks like a routine. The classic rock party continues with ‘One Big Holiday’, the band’s greatest hit and traditional encore of every live show. This song is entirely built around its catchy guitar riff, which almost automatically makes you pick up your air guitar.

Put away this guitar again and drop into your couch again for ‘I Will Sing You Songs’. On ‘Master Plan’, James sings ‘Just cause it starts off slow babe, doesn’t mean it don’t have a heart’. This really applies to this song, with a long instrumental intro and outro. Beautiful fragile song with a riff that somehow always reminds me of Pink Floyd‘s ‘Us and Them’. After this moment of rest, we salute the ‘Easy Morning Rebel’, with again a very ‘Crazy Horsesk’ jam in the end. We ‘Run Thru’, one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs, not to mention the fantastic drumsolo in the middle of the song which lets the song explode right again when you think it’s over.

Personally, I think the following two songs, ‘Rollin’ Back’ and ‘Just One Thing’, are the least of all. But the album has another peak towards the end, with ‘Steam Engine’ and ‘One In The Same’. The first one, just like ‘I Will Sing You Songs’, mainly is about James’ voice and a basic drum beat, this time accompanied by a softly whimpering guitar and fantastic drawn-out vocals in the end. The final track of the album is another personal favorite. The band is gone, and only Jim James and his acoustic guitar remain in the empty hall, trying to fit the pieces of his mind together again. It’s hard to think of a more beautiful way to end an album as with the line “It wasn’t till I woke up that I could hold down a joke or a job or a dream. But then all three are one in the same”.

My Morning Jacket continued to make music after this album, widening their sound with all kind of other influences, ranging from funk through reggae. Some members were replaced by others because they couldn’t endure the heavy touring anymore, but don’t hesitate if you ever get the chance to see them live, as their performances are still breathtaking. But start with this album first.

Top Tracks:
1. Master Plan
2. One In The Same
3. Golden