Friday, May 24, 2013

Birthday Salute

In celebration of Uncle Bob's b'day, it's all Dylan, all day.

Let me get you started with a song that inspired a band name, the Birthday Salutes, the nobody would agree to.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two for Tuesday

Of all the most strangely enigmatic groups to exist, Felt has got to be in the top 10 or so. Helmed by the equally mysterious Lawrence (aka Lawrence Hayward), they crafted a brand of music that started as minimalist “art rock” (their first single was simply Lawrence banging on a guitar and moaning into a tape recorder) and evolved into lush and intricate pop that dabbled in folk, dance and jazz. 

Lawrence’s vision was to produce ten albums and ten singles in ten years, which he did, and then broke up the band. So absolute was his power that, according to legend, he dismissed an early drummer for having curly hair, albums could only have an even numbers of songs (which isn’t always the case, but mostly) and there are absolutely no cymbals on any of the first three albums. And yet having said that, their album Train Above the City is an instrumental album of essentially lounge jazz workouts where he performed in absolutely no capacity – but did name all the songs.


Their first several albums, including their most popular (and somewhat least interesting), Ignite the Seven Cannons, were released on the Cherry Red label. But mid-career until nearly the end, including the aforementioned Train Above the City, everything came out on Creation.

Three of their most brilliant albums are Forever Breathes the Lonely World (1986), Poem of the River (1987) and The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), when the elaborate noodling of classically trained guitarist Maurice Deebank was replaced by the sweeping organs of Martin Duffy (later of Primal Scream fame). Imagine the Cocteau Twins, musically, with Lou Reed on vocals and you’ve pretty much got the sound of Felt. But don’t let that run you off, because while Lawrence’s voice is rather deadpan, it’s also highly expressive and he gets into your head (and heart) before you know it.

It’s hard to whittle things down to just two, but I’ll give it a shot with All the People I Like are Those That are Dead and She Lives by the Castle

RIP - Ray Manzarek

Yesterday the music world lost a titan with the passing of Ray Manzarek, organist, pianist, harpsichordist, bassist and sometimes vocalist for legendary 60s group, the Doors. While it can’t be argued that Jim Morrison was the iconic focal point of the band, the face that everyone conjures from the mist whenever the icy organ of Light My Fire cuts through the airwaves, I think it’s pretty safe to say that without Ray Manzarek playing that organ, nobody would have ever known Jim Morrison’s name.

Ray’s technical prowess was unquestionable, but his ability to maintain both lead and rhythm instruments, to accent and augment Jim’s wild antics (especially live) and to arrange with fluidity tunes that other members were bringing to the group, is often overlooked by all but the deepest of Doors fans. And honestly, that’s the breaks when you’re not the singer, and Ray always seemed content enough over near the drums, pounding away liked a stooped madman, a little twinkle of “Oh, I know the truth…” ever present in his eye.

His playing is unmistakable, eerie and majestic, a demented carnival musician wrapping the listener in a web of spine tingling seduction. There are moments, particularly late at night, when certain Doors tunes can absolutely give me the willies, and 98% of the time it’s all because of Ray’s playing. And while it’s doubtless that his influence and legacy will continue to stretch for generations to come, his style and sound were impossible to duplicate, and if anyone ever sounded like Ray – likely it was Ray.

After the end of the Doors, which did not end with Jim’s death, as they produced two more (moderately successful) albums with Ray at the lead, he continued to work as producer with bands he influenced, including X, Echo and the Bunnymen and the equally iconic Iggy Pop (who was actually considered to replace Jim at one point). 

Here are a few standout tracks where Ray's bit was integral. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Birthday Greetings

A very happy birthday to Rachel Goswell, the sparkle in the charm of two of my longtime favorite groups, Slowdive (see this week's Two for Tuesday) and Mojave 3. When I saw the latter in Nashville several years back, she was sadly unable to attend due to some ear issues that have kept her from playing out like she used to. But I dropped her a line to let her know she was missed (back when My Space was cool) and was thrilled to get a very sweet response back.

So, to celebrate all that she's done to enhance my love of music, here's a number from her lone (but hopefully not last) solo release, Waves are Universal (2004), Coastline.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two for Tuesday - Creation Pt 2

End of the day (night) but still going to try and get my 2-4-T up before it’s Wednesday. Again, another band from the Creation Records roster, and definitely my favorite of the label and the entire shoegaze genre.

Of course I’m talking about Slowdive. And you all knew this because they were fronted by Neil Halstead, aka “The Greatest Songwriter of Our Generation.”

Slowdive was nearly nothing like his more recent (and by “recent” I mean since 1996) work with Mojave 3 and as a solo artist (though there are some similarities here and there on all sides). Heck, even Slowdive’s last album (the sometimes perplexing, the sometimes brilliant, the ultimately rewarding Pygmalion) wasn’t anything like Slowdive, but that’s neither here nor there. Actually, DG, you would probably love that album. 

Rumor has it that folks used to cry at their shows. I have no idea if that's true, but it likely would have been if I'd seen them (and I'm no less of a man for admitting that). I've only met one person who ever did see them and he seemed grateful. 

Anyway, their first two albums (along with some scattered singles and EPs surrounding them) were the stuff of legends. Just imagine a big blanket of fuzzy sound washing all over you and some wispy, angelic voices lulling you to sleep (not in a boring way), and you’ve got the start of an idea. But despite their mellow approach, there was some intensity brooding beneath the surface, and though Halstead’s lyrics were hard to decipher – and cryptic when you could – he still painted with the broad, warm brush strokes he does these days (you just know what he’s talking about now).

It’s hard to pick just one from each album, but this is “Two for Tuesday,” and who am I to break the rules? So, without further ado, I give you Waves (from Just for a Day) and As the Sun Hits (from Soulvaki).

And also Blue Skied n Clear from Pygmalion, because I do whatever I want.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two for Tuesday - Creation Pt 1

This month with Two for Tuesday we’re going to give a shout out to some of the bands from the highly influential UK record label, Creation Records, who existed from the early 80s through the late 90s and were responsible for giving us the likes of Teenage Fanclub, the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and (DG’s favorite) Oasis, among other lesser known though equally important acts.

One of those was a sadly short-lived, and today everything but forgotten, but really shoulda-coulda group from Coventry, England – Adorable. Hook-laden and melodic with sometimes chiming, sometimes crunching guitars, they’re about as close to “emo-gazing” (a term I just made up – and no, I did not check the internet to verify that) as any band arbitrarily lumped into the shoegaze genre. Piotr Fijalkowski’s lyrics were descriptive and personal and he sang them like he meant it. Overall, they were a lot more straightforward rock than many of their label mates, but not retro-oriented like Oasis or Primal Scream or as Ride would become.

Honestly, they were really a sound unto themselves, and folks who do remember them always get excited when they’re brought up, because they really were that great. You can check out a couple of my personal favorites with a song from each of their two albums - Crash Sight (Against Perfection) and Road Movie (Fake).