Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pissed A Tequila-Anaconda

The most reckless thing about Joni Mitchell's Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, released December 13, 1977,  is her appearance in blackface on the cover, reprising a Halloween costume she wore earlier in the year, going as a black man who complemented her on an L.A. street 

“As he went by me he turned around and said, ‘Ummmm, mmm... looking good, sister, lookin’ good!’ Well I just felt so good after he said that. It was as if this spirit went into me. So I started walking like him,” Mitchell said. “I bought a black wig. I bought sideburns, a moustache. I bought some pan- cake makeup. It was like ‘I’m goin’ as him!’”

The double album has enough jazz inflected moments to please fans of Court and Spark and Hissing of Summer Lawns, and the album did sell enough to go gold. But the reviews were not kind, including the one below by Rolling Stone's Janet Maslin who called it "an instructive failure".

In retrospect, Blue turns out to have been the album that displayed Joni Mitchell at her most buoyant and comfortable — with herself, with the nature of her talents, and with the conventions of pop songwriting. From that happy juncture, she has moved on to more graceful and sober self-scrutiny (For the Roses and Court and Spark), to dramatic musical experimentation mixed with failed social commentary (The Hissing of Summer Lawns), to ever-more-seductive singing (Miles of Aisles) and to rambling, hypnotic flights of fancy (Hejira). She has dabbled with jazz and African tribal music, ventured deep inside herself and fled far away. But, always, the unpredictable caliber of her work has been as exciting as it is frustrating. Now, for once, she has gambled and lost. The best that can be said for Don Juan's Reckless Daughter is that it is an instructive failure.

 Since Blue, Mitchell has demonstrated an increasing fondness for formats that don't suit her. Not that this awkwardness can't be occasionally successful: on Hejira, she clung so resolutely to even the stray flat notes that the impression was an attractive one of stubbornness and strength. But, increasingly, Mitchell's pretensions have shaped her appraisal of her own gifts. At her best, she is a keen observer but not a particularly original one, and she has never been an interesting chronicler of experience other than her own, though the new LP finds her trying. Instead, she has been inexplicably inclined to let her music become shapeless as she tries to incorporate jazz and calypso rhythms that eventually overpower her. Her most resonant lyrics have been simple and concise, spinning out images rather than overburdening them, but lately the endearing modesty of "California" or "Just like This Train" seems far behind her. These days, Mitchell appears bent on repudiating her own flair for popular songwriting, and on staking her claim to the kind of artistry that, when it's real, doesn't need to announce itself so stridently.

 Don Juan's Reckless Daughter is a double album that should have been a single album. It's sapped of emotion and full of ideas that should have remained whims, melodies that should have been riffs, songs that should have been fragments. At its worst, it is a painful illustration of how different the standards that govern poetry and song lyrics can be, and an indication that Joni Mitchell's talents, stretched here to the breaking point, lend themselves much more naturally to the latter form. Her writing works best when it's compact, yet the record's expansive mood forces her to belabor, in the title song, the precious contrast between a snake (or a train, as well as the author's baser instincts) and an eagle (or an airplane, plus a longing for "clarity") for nearly seven minutes. Mitchell's music has evolved into a kind of neutral background, rolling on endlessly in either a languid spirit ("Jericho") or a nervous one ("Dreamland"). Somehow, she has chosen to abandon melody at a time when she needs it urgently.

 The painful banality of Mitchell's lyrics — there is nothing said here that she hasn't said better before, except those things she should have kept to herself — is almost the least of her problems. Behind a treacly title like "The Silky Veils of Ardor" lurks an even treaclier notion: that the romantic visions of love put forth by certain folk songs are one thing, that reality is another, and that the singer apparently yearns for both. "It's just in my dreams we fly," the song concludes, with a reference to "The Water Is Wide." Or, as a dialogue balloon on one of the inner sleeves puts it, "In my dweems we fwy." The album offers what is, one can only hope, the ultimate in cute cover art.

It also offers the ultimate in potshots: "Otis and Marlena," a facile, snidely sung song about tourists who come to Miami "for fun and sun While Muslims stick up Washington." This leads into "The Tenth World," a mostly instrumental percussion track featuring Jaco Pastorius (who plays on a majority of the record with distinction, but without much helpful influence), Airto and Chaka Khan (who hums). Here and elsewhere, there seems to be the notion that blacks and Third World people have more rhythm, more fun and a secret, mischievous viewpoint that the author, dressed as a black man in one of the photos on the front jacket, presumes to share. On the numbing, sixteen-minute "Paprika Plains," we also learn about Indians, who "cut off their braids/And lost some link with nature." 

"Talk to Me" is the LP's most enduring number: as a terrible, embarrassing song about feeling terribly embarrassed, it has a scary appropriateness. But even though there are no real solutions to the album's mysteries or explanations for its lapses, Joni Mitchell's resilience has been demonstrated often enough to make speculation about such things appear superfluous. She's bound to be back when the time is right and her mood is less drowsy, less disengaged than it seems here. Until then, we're left with Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, in all its recklessness.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Four Turkeys in a Big Black Car

In December of 1977, Brian Eno released his most diverse album of the 1970's, Before And After Science. Having collaborated with David Bowie on two albums recorded in Berlin, Eno was stepping out on his own with an album he wasn't completely satisfied with.

  Side One offers Eno's last foray into rock music of the decade, including the single "King's Lead Hat", an anagram of Talking Heads with whom he had originally hoped to record the song. You can easily imagine David Byrne singing this song. Phil Manzanera is playing the frenetic guitar. 

The opening track is a funky Bowiesque number with two bass players and Phil Collins playing drums. Yes, that Phil Collins. 

"Kurt's Rejoinder" makes history by sampling a 1930s recording of ‘Sonate in Urlauten’ (or ‘The Ursonate’)– a phonetic poem by Dada affiliate Kurt Schwitters . 

Side Two is mostly instrumental, a return to the spacious sounds of Another Green World. Though Eno questioned the quality of the album, Before And After Science got very good reviews. 'Heroes' may have topped the NME chart, but Eno's album finished at No. 14, just ahead of the Jam’s In the City. Eno would have to wait until the following year to learn the album, released in the Spring of '78 in the States, had finished No 12.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kinda Soft, Kinda Mean

On December 10, 1977, Dr Feelgood were filmed performing at Queen Mary College in London. Guitarist John "Gypie" Mayo is now completely comfortable in his role as guitarist, having replaced Wilko Johnson earlier in the year. The Nick Lowe penned "That's It, I Quit" is from the September 1977 release Be Seeing You, produced by Mr Lowe himself. ( Nick Lowe recorded the Feelgood's "Keep It Out of Sight" a year earlier).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Think Of A Number

In December of 1977, Wire released Pink Flag, my favorite album of the entire year.

Wire had one foot planted firmly in the punk rock gutter.  But the other foot was in the college educated, art rock. On Pink Flag, they play with the basic concepts of songs, how they should start, how they should end and how long they should be. 

The second track on Pink Flag is "Field Day for the Sundays". It is 28 seconds long.

"The shorter songs developed naturally," Graham Lewis told Rolling Stone. "When the words ran out, Colin said, 'That's it.' We went, 'Yes, why not?' It used to drive the punks nuts. They'd sort of get pogoing, and then it would stop. We always thought it was really funny."

Humor played a large role in what Wire were up to. ("Brazil" got its title because some members thought it had a rhythm that sounded like something off a Sergio Mendes record). 

"As we played, our skill level was going up and we were getting tighter, and the tighter we got, the funnier it was with the stopping and starting," said Lewis.

"As we played, our skill level was going up and we were getting tighter, and the tighter we got, the funnier it was with the stopping and starting," said Lewis.

Wire could do it all. Is there a faster punk song on record than "Surgeon's Girl"? Or a more melodic bit of power pop punk than the love song "Fragile"?

Called a punk suite by Robert Christgau, this 21 song album clocks in at under 36 minutes. It's the best 36 minutes of 1977.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Nah Pop No Style

In December of 1977, the Jamaican teenage reggae duo Althea and Donna released the single "Uptown Top Ranking",  a #1 smash hit in the U.K. The story about "Uptown Top Ranking" is well known.  Heading for oblivion, the single was accidentally played by BBC D.J. John Peel on his late evening show. Not sure how a D.J. accidentally plays a record, but in any case Peel received letters from people saying how much they liked it so he kept playing it. Daytime BBC D.J.s soon following the example and by February it was the top song in the U.K. 

It's a catchy song, sung over the dee jay track of Trinity's "Three Piece Suit", with indecipherable patois lyrics that turn out to be exactly the kind of thing teen age girls would write--  men who cat call them when they walk on the road (See me pon the road I hear you call out to me ), driving around in Mercedes Benz (See mi in mi Benz and ting Drivin' through Constant Spring ), dancing with the most popular guy in tan leisure suits. (Watch how we chuck it and ting Inna we khaki suit and ting ) And telling the world they don't care for pop music. They love reggae (Nah pop no style, a strictly roots ).

Sly and Robbie played on the album.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Yam! Bam!

In December of 1977 Belgian singer Roger Jouret, better known as Plastic Bertrand, released "Ca Plane Pour Moi", an infectious and silly international hit that was actually sung by the record's producer, Lou Deprijck. That would explain why Bertrand only received 0.5% of the royalties. 

This is not the only time a performer would find fame by lip syncing somebody else's vocals (Milli Vanilli anyone?), though it would be thirty years before Bertrand would admit it. 

 (Wham! Bam!)
My cat "Splash"rests on my bed
She’s swallowed her tongue
While drinking all my whisky.
As for me,
Not much sleep, worn out, bullied
I’ve had to sleep in the gutter
Where I've had a vision
Hou! Hou! Hou! Hou!
In four colours
 Let’s go!
One morning
A chick came to my place
A cellophane doll, chinese hair
A sticking plaster, a wooden face
She’s drunk my beer from a a big rubber glass
Hou! Hou! Hou! Hou!
Like an Indian in his igloo
 That’s cool with me
That’s cool with me
That’s cool with me, me, me,me, me
That’s cool with me

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cocaine Afternoons

Jackson Browne : Running On Empty

On December 6, 1977 Jackson Browne released the best album of his career, Running On Empty. I didn't ever feel a need to buy a copy of the album. It was blaring out of speakers pointed outside dorm room windows throughout my teenage years. But it's only when you listen to the entire album that you realize what a cool concept this is: A live album about a musician's life on the road, recorded onstage, in rehearsal rooms, in Holiday Inn suites and on a bus. Only complaint: David Lindley's lap steel guitar is almost too present on the record.

This is the 70's so it should be no surprise how often cocaine is mentioned :

In "The Road ": Coffee in the morning cocaine afternoons
 In "Cocaine" : Cocaine, running all 'round my brain
In "Nothing But Time : I got a broken white line (I'm still sober)

From Rolling Stone's Paul Nelson:

As our finest practicing romantic, Jackson Browne has been stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again for so long that the road probably looks like a realistic way of life to him. Whether or not he knows it, he's been writing about highways and their alternate routes since his beginnings, so the subject matter of Running on Empty aren't all that different from those of his first four LPs. But the approach is. This time, Browne has consciously created a documentary, as brightly prosaic as it is darkly poetic, with a keen eye for the mundane as well as the magical. Running on Empty is a live album of new material about life on the road as conceived and recorded by a band of touring musicians in the places they spend most of their time (onstage, backstage, in hotel rooms, even on the bus). Since there are two separate concepts here, the audience gets an unprecedented double feature: ten songs they've never heard Browne sing, and a behind-the-scenes look at the "the show they didn't see." Ostensibly, the Gawain of rock and roll has scaled down his heroic obsessions, re-covered the Round Table with Formica and invited us in for a cup of truck-stop coffee, thus proving a point we knew all along: that small gestures can be just as meaningful and revealing as large ones.

 Ironically, when Browne tries for specifics, he achieves both facts and universals. But his inclination to ease up makes sense here because he's really running two different, very dangerous races: one positively mythopoetic (the Road and its metaphorical implications), the other presumably maudlin (musicians on the road). The first can barley be done justice to within the confines of a pop record, while the second has rarely risen above its inherent cliches.

If a full-fledged mythology of the road didn't exist, we'd undoubtedly have to invent one, but the job has already been done by the same people who gave us the sky and the sea: i.e., practically every artist and thinker who ever lived. On the road, there's that old gray magic, asphalt camaraderie and the special language of musicians who mark time by gigs and guitar cases. Section guitarist Danny Kortchmar's "Shaky Town" captures perfectly all the desperate exhilaration of playing "a thousand bands" on "those one-night stands," and Browne raises the hair on the back of your neck with his passionate singing. There's "Nothing but Time" on the bus and "Cocaine" in the hotel room, both recorded on location. On one song, tour photographer Joel Bernstein sings harmony on the chorus. Funny things happen when you're subtle, rueful and witty "Rosie" (written by Browne and his production manager, Donald "Buddha" Miller), a groupie the sound mixer craves leaves with a star, so the mixer must, if he wants any loving that night, once again take himself in hand. In "You Love the Thunder," Browne forges a temporary relationship with a kindred spirit, only to realize "You can dream/But you can never go back the way you came." Browne looks back on his life in "Running on Empty," a pragmatic hobo's lullaby and the hymn of the Harvard cowboy. It's what daydreamers have nightmares about: 

Sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own 
I don't even know when that road turned onto the road I'm on.... 
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find 
Running into the sun but I'm running behind. 

Best of all, there's a finale. "The Load-Out" is Jackson Browne's tribute to and summation of every aspect of live performance: the cheering audience out front, the band playing hard-nosed rock and roll, the backstage crew loading up the trucks -- and, always, the road to the next town. Packed to capacity with the data of first-rate reporting and with music so warm and soaring it belies the album's title, this song flows triumphantly into Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' "Stay," where Browne tells us he doesn't ever want it to end. 

 What I really like about Running on Empty probably has little to do with the generosity or genius of its dual concepts, with the songwriter's craftmanship skill, with how much I admire the music of David Lindley and the Section, but rather with Jackson Browne himself. In other words, as impressed as I am with Jackson Browne's art, I'm even more impressed with the humanity that shines through it. Maybe they're inseparable, but I doubt it.

From Robert Christgau's B+ review ( the best scire he would give any Jackson Browne album):

Out of the studio -- this was recorded on tour -- Jackson sounds relaxed verbally, vocally, even instrumentally. He cuts his own meager melodies with nice ones by Danny O'Keefe and Danny Kortchmar. He does a funny and far from uncritical version of "Cocaine" and a loving and far from unfunny version of "Stay." I consider this his most attractive album. But his devotees may consider the self-effacement a deprivation. 

From Billboard:

Presented here are 10 new selections from this gifted singer/songwriter, all recorded live onstage, as well as in hotel rooms, from a recent cross-country tour. The material deals mainly with experiences of the brief road encounters, loneliness and roadies -- all done with Browne's evocative, haunting and penetrating insight. Music is a mix of soft rock ballads and pounding, uptempo tunes with the Section (Craig Doerge on keyboards, Danny Kortchmer on guitars, Russ Kunkel on drums, Leland Sklar on bass, as well as David Lindley on electric fiddle and lap steel) supporting Browne's piano. Best cuts: "Running On Empty," "The Road," "You Love The Thunder," "Love Needs A Heart," "The Load Out."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Just A Passing Thing

On December 6,  1977 Al Green released The Belle Album, his first recorded without his legendary Hi producer Willie Mitchell. In fact, Green played guitar and used a pick up band  and his own home built studio to record an album that seems to grow in reverence every year among music critics and fans.

Al Green wasn't just changing how he recorded music. He was changing the entire direction of his life. He bought a church,  the Full Gospel Tabernacle, in Memphis and made himself the pastor. Fans didn't need to be listening too closely to know Green was a religious man. 1973's Call Me had "Jesus Is Waiting". 1974's Livin' for You had a song on it called "My God Is Real" and Al Green Explores Your Mind had "God Blessed Our Love". On The Belle Album's title track, Green sings“It’s you that I want, but it’s Him that I need.” 

I've always thought Al Green might have been more eccentric than the Willie Mitchell produced sides ever gave away.  Listen to the way the Hi Records studio band responds to Green's exaltations "We Got the Feelin' Now!" with "Shut up Al Green" at the beginning of the 1969 recording of The Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Willie made sure Al came across as the smooth loving man but there was more going on there . Here, eight years later, is Al Green at his most eccentric.

Did the music critics understand what they had on their hands or were they confused. Robert Christgau gave the album an A, writing

Since 1975 Green has been making albums on which two or three real songs were supplemented by material so vague and unpredictable it almost announced itself as filler improvised in the studio--which is not to say I didn't find much of it hypnotic. Now, on a self-produced album focused around his own (frequently acoustic) guitar, the filler comes front and center with new assurance and perhaps even its own formal identity; the real songs themselves--his best in years--sound improvised in the studio. And more than ever, it all holds together around Green's agile rhythm, dynamics, and coloration and his obsession with the soul-body dualism at the heart of the genre he now rules unchallenged.

  And Rolling Stone's critic, Greil Marcus, suggested this may be Green's best album.

In rock and  roll, nothing seems easier or more obvious than a good beat, but nothing is more elusive. We may someday look back on The Belle Album as Al Green's best — it's too soon to know; the man has a lifetime ahead of him — and if we do, the beat will be the reason. Whether or not the seemingly effortless religious conviction of the songs Green has written for this record lasts as long as he does, the beat will never wear out. 

 "All n All" is the number that not even a reprobate could deny; like the Sistine Chapel or Bessie Griffin's "Too Close to Heaven" (on The Gospel Sound, Volume 2, CBS), it carries a sense of liberation and purpose deep enough to make the sinner envy the saved. The beat is very light; in terms of gospel, soul or rock and  roll, the beat seems so natural as to be preordained. If it's true, as the Coasters announced in "That Is Rock and  Roll," that "in the beginning...there was nothing but rock," then this is what the deity had in mind when the message came rolling down the mountains: "Nothin fancy."

 I blaspheme, but "All n All" makes me giddy. Green floats with the music, picking up momentum — but so subtly you don't notice that the song is increasing in force until he breaks the tune open with high, perfectly timed wails so surprising and unfettered he sounds as if he's hitting a note he's been reaching for all his life. I was stunned hearing this: I half-expected Green to start speaking in tongues, but, in a way, he already was. 

 This is a completely idiosyncratic album — Green produced it, cowrote all the songs and plays precise acoustic and electric guitar — but it's hard for me to understand how anyone could find it inaccessible. Its subject matter — God's grace, and how good it (It?) feels — isn't pushed; there's no ad for Green's ministry on the back cover, and while most of the lyrics are religious, the only song title that even hints at anything beyond the secular realm is "Chariots of Fire." "I Feel Good" endlessly repeats "There's something about King Jesus/That makes me feel fine," but it took many listenings before I realized Green wasn't singing, "There's something about my baby." It's a powerhouse of a recording — the Big Beat, disco-hard rock — and you don't have to listen to the words at all. You do have to listen to the horns, playing charts with as much joy in them as those of "Midnight Hour" had drama.

 The lyrics of The Belle Album are nevertheless quite interesting. Green kicks the record off with what I suppose is the key line (from "Belle"): "It's you that I want/But Him that I need." He thus joins a long line of rock and roll want/need oppositionists — from Bob Dylan with "Memphis Blues Again" to the Rolling Stones with "You Can't Always Get What You Want," to name only the best. He leaves them behind in his attempt to resolve the contradiction: Green tries to get Belle to accept Jesus, too. With its half-buried asides about "drunken country bars," the song soon grows very spooky; it has the feel of a long journey to it, akin to Music from Big Pink.

 "Georgia Boy," more like The Band, is a seven-minute slow walk through the piney woods, beginning with the ancient, anonymous blues lyric, "Just because I'm from the country," and finally closing with a statement of quiet pride that, perhaps in spite of itself, sounds like a warning: "South's gonna do it again...." The music is far more dreamlike than that of the lovely "Dream"; the textures are very dark on "Georgia Boy," almost in the manner of a Jamaican dub album like Burning Spear's Garvey's Ghost. No less the song of a free man — that is, a man who's won his freedom — than "All n All," "Georgia Boy" simply takes place in a more difficult world, where grace does not seem obvious. 

 The arrangements are a little looser, the sound a little rougher on The Belle Album than on Green's records of recent years. Still, the drums are as full and bright as ever, the music of a piece with "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Tired of Being Alone," if not quite with "Look What You Done for Me." Green's music is changing, but simplicity — simplicity of intent, which perhaps here means directness of feeling — is still its foundation. Not a hint of decadence has crept into Al Green's music since he first came to our attention in 1970. He still sounds as if he's on the verge of great discoveries.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Don't Break The Spell

On December 4, 1977 Fleetwood Mac played  the Osaka Festival Hall, nearing the end of an exhaustive ten month tour that saw the band criss cross North America, Europe, Oceania and Japan. During the tour, the band learned how to deal with their broken hearts and must have shocked to learn their album was #1 for more than twenty weeks. For twenty years, footage of the band's visit to Japan has been circulating among fans.  Here, you see intimate video of the band coming to grips with their success, drinking backstage, applying their own make up, and performing onstage in Osaka without the help of dazzling light shows. 

Make A Motion

  On December 3, 1977 Talking Heads played two shows at the cozy, 600-seat capacity Old Waldorf. KSAN-FM broadcast the second show, which has become a widely shared bootleg. The sound quality is pristine. Five of the twelve songs on the bootleg would show up More Songs About Buildings and Food, including , as singer David Byrne introduces it, "Dot Dot Dot With Our Love". The others are "Artists Only", "Stay Hungry", "The Big Country", and "Thank You For Sending an Angel". There is some extended riffing on "The Book I Read" with Byrne adding some chicken scratch guitar. "Stay Hungry", a part of the Talking Heads set dating back to 1975,  has a bizarre, disjointed middle 8 that would get chopped out of the album version.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why The Rigged Beat

With 50's revivalists The Darts in UK's Top 10, and Happy Days on the telly, could a movie version of the Broadway musical Grease be far behind? 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bing and Bowie

On November 30, 1977 CBS television viewers witnessed one of the most unlikely duets in music history: between the frail 74 year old crooner Bing Crosby and 30 year old art rocker David Bowie. The taping for Crosby's TV special Bing Crosby's A Merrie Olde Christmas happened September 11, a month before Crosby's death.

Mary Crosby remembered the the meeting of two icons with People Magazine:

“The doors opened and David walked in with his wife,” she told the Associated Press in 2014. “They were both wearing full-length mink coats, they have matching full makeup and their hair was bright red,” she told the summer TV critics’ tour Wednesday. “We were thinking, ‘Oh my God.’ ”

 “They sat at the piano and David was a little nervous,” she continued, but eventually, “Dad realized David was this amazing musician, and David realized Dad was an amazing musician. You could see them both collectively relax and then magic was made.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Penetrating Voices

In November of 1977, Penetration ( named after the Stooges song) released their debut single, "Don't Dictate", one of punk rock's classics. The band was made up of teenagers who, on just their second outing, opened for The Stranglers. They put with the same shit as every other punk band. Below, Pauline Murray is the target of showers of beer from some rude fan that gets beaten by the crowd.

Murray told Jon Robb in Punk Rock : An Oral History about the band's youth :

There was nothing premeditated about our sound. We were very young, about eighteen, and our drummer was sixteen. There was fifteen year olds in bands like Eater. Equally you had Jet Black who was ancient! (laughs) A lot of the bands were ten years older than us -- Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Patti Smith--and really very supportive of all the bands. It;s hard to believe these days, but people did genuinely enjoy and support other bands. All the bands were different. Once the record companies took over that's when it all got fragmented. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Red Light, Neon Light

Has anybody seen Sir Nose?...And it came to pass that upon his return, Dr Funkenstein did find the planet to have completely lost the best of the funkentelechy, and had fallen prey tp the placebo syndrome, spread throughout the galaxy by the infamous Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk. Driven by the genius of desperation , Dr Funkenstein sends Starchild to do battle, armed with his greatest invention of all time --the BOP FUN. It's the battle of the century ..."Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome.
--Ad Copy

On November 28, 1977 Parliament followed up their classic studio album Mothership Connection with a concept album about the vapidness of Disco music and consumerism called Funkentelechy Vs The Placebo Syndrome. While critics usually call Mothership the pinnacle, fans often argue this is best Parliament album. And with good reason. First of all, there's "Flash Light"six of the funkiest minutes the 70's ever produced thanks to a synthesizer bass line played in a Minimoog by keyboardist Bernie Worrell . Second of all, there was an 8 page comic book that came with the LPs.

Here's what Ken Tucker wrote about the "funk opera"  for Rolling Stone:

Clinton triggers Parliament's album with a song so hard that bullets bounce off it. "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)" is an R and B you tickled by synthesizer fills and mugged by a gang of ribald trumpets. His lead vocal is both playful and passionate: Otis Redding as gunslinger philosopher. Later, when certain elements of Funkentelechy's plot grow cumbersome and impenetrable, Clinton blasts away the confusion by simply losing it in the riffing, which peaks on "Flash Light," a gritty disco digression.

 If the name of the main character in Clinton's latest scenario seems corny at first — he is Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk — it's only because no one could possibly foresee the multiple puns, wise-cracks and convolutions its creator can wrest from it. From the start, all Parliament Funkadelic music has been enthusiastically excessive, in everything from verbiage to the number of musicians employed. While Funkentelechy is no exception. Clinton's production work here is atypically light and clear. Whereas in the past he's usually encouraged the bass and drums to sound murky, to retard the beat and thereby offset the jangle of his raft of hardnosed and Hendrix-inspired guitarists, he's now developed an invigorating musical and verbal precision. Michael Hampton's expert guitar solos quiver starkly in the mix, and Clinton even strives to make his own lyrics intelligible — not coherent maybe, but intelligible.

And, if "Funkentelechy" and "Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk (Pay Attention — B3M)" go on too long — the fatal P-Funk flaw — "Wizard of Finance." which sounds a lot like Graham Central Station, and especially "Bop Gun" display a new rigorousness and brevity.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Naughty Boys With Sweaty Hands

In November of 1977, Edinburgh's melodic punk band The Rezillos released their second single "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures". Released in Sire Records, The Rezillos shared an almost comic book approach to music with label mates The Ramones and Talking Heads. We'd be hearing a great deal from this band in 1978.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

In Rainswept Streets

1977's slick Listen Now teams up Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera with 801 collaborator Eno as well as 10cc's Kevin Godley and Lol Creme and Tim Finn and Eddie Raynor of Split Enz. Despite the super session origins, the album has a consistently smooth art rock sheen. One of the decade's best cut out bin discoveries.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Underneath The Velvet Skies

On November 25, 1977 Eric Clapton released Slowhand, one of his most successful album, selling three million copies un the U.S. thanks to songs like the radio hit "Cocaine", "Lay Down Sally" and "Wonderful Tonight". The first of those was written by J.J. Cale whose quiet but driving sound seemed to inspire this album as much as it would the Dire Straits debut in 1978.  The A side of this album is pretty classic, but the second side is weighed down by an eight minute jam called "The Core".

From Rolling Stone, here's John Swenson's review:

Eric Clapton's solo albums have tended to be so evenhanded and laconic that they often seem interchangeable. His pain was always so apparent that every move he made seemed frozen for enternity. At first glance, Slowhand does nothing to alter that pattern -- a few good tracks interspersed between the usual filler -- but there's a lot more going on here beneath the surface. Clapton is showing signs of psychic rehabilitation. His love songs are pointedly realistic. In a chilling moment of self-revelation called "Next Time You See Her," he focuses his long-subliminated anger at losing his lover. Perhaps most importantly, for the first time since leaving Cream he seems comfortable with his image as the hotshot guitarist, using his old Yardbirds nickname for the album title and flashing the old superstar form. 

 The pyrotechnics are mostly restricted to a long (8:42) jam, "The Core." The band (Dick Sims on keyboards, Jamie Oldaker on drums, bassist Carl Radle and guitarist George Terry) rolls into a boogie rhythm reminiscent of Derek and the Dominoes. Mel Collins blows a searing, double-tracked soprano sax break, and Eric takes off on a lightning solo that sounds more like his classic run on "Crossroads" than anything he's done since. Glyn Johns' production is superb -- the guitar/drums relationship is crisp and authoritative, powerhouse Clapton caught in a glimpse of white hot frenzy

Except for Eric's great slide guitar playing on the hard-edged slow blues, "Mean Old Frisco," the rest of the album is more subdued, with the influence of country songwriter Don Williams dominating Eric's writing. The devotional love song, "Wonderful Tonight," the sprightly shuffle "Lay Down Sally" and the calmly vengeful "Next Time You See Her" have the same modest intensity and forthrightness of "We're All the Way," the Williams song Clapton covers here. On "Next Time You See Her" Clapton sings, "And if you see her again, I will surely kill you," an unusual enough sentiment for him. But the line is all the more powerful because it is delivered quietyly, with matter-of-fact resignation and even a touch of sympathy for the guy who will be his victim. In as striking of an effect as this it's easy to see that Clapton has learned the lesson he's been striving for all these years. He is an touch with the horrible moral power and long-suffering self-righteousness that is the essence of the blues. And that knowledge gives him the power to stand up and be himself.

Robert Christgau gave the album a C+,  writing:

As MOR singles go, "Lay Down Sally" is a relief -- at least it has some soul. But the album leaves the juiciest solos to George Terry, and where four years ago Eric was turning into a singer -- in the manner of Pete Townshend -- now he sounds like he's blown his voice. Doing what, I wonder.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Don't Be A Fool

In November of 1977, The Damned released their second album, Music For Pleasure which was produced by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. The critics suggested the best thing about the album was the Barney Bubbles cover. There just aren't any very good songs on this album, one of the classic examples of the sophomore slump. With the departure of guitarist Brian James, The Damned would reform learn to write songs, and record some remarkable tunes in the years to come

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Playground to the Rich

There are some people who believe the best album Iggy Pop released in 1977 had nothing to do with David Bowie. While The Idiot and Lust For Life get all the attention, there's a third album that was released by Bomp! in November of 1977. Kill City was recorded with ex-Stooge guitarist James Williamson in 1975 on weekends when Iggy was given permission to leave his mental hospital.where he was receiving treatment for his heroin addiction.

 Iggy's state of mind comes through on the title track: "Livin' here in Kill City / where debris meets the sea/It's a playground to the rich / it's a loaded gun to me" 

More raw than Raw Power, more Alice Cooper than punk rock. . The Wire included Kill City in their list of "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP David Cassidy

David Cassidy posed naked ( for photographer Annie Leibovitz) and revealed his drug use in the May 11th, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone. "The Business of David Cassidy" --which at that point included a Top Ten version of "Cherish" and a hit TV show called "The Partridge Family "-- would never be the same.

   It pissed off everybody that was really profiting from the business of David Cassidy. I had fan letters that came to me--and there were hundreds of thousands of them, literally-- in defense of me by fans of mine, that said, "Oh David, I know that you couldn't possibly have done this because I know that you would never have posed nude for photographs", And the fact was, I had, willingly done so, had thought about it. I scratched my head and thought, you know, this David Cassidy business has really gotten outta hand. 
~ David Cassidy

Just Like Rogers and Astaire

Chic's three album run of great disco albums started with the self-titled debut, released on November 22, 1977. The best known track is the U.S.Top 10 hit "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah)", which features an uncredited Luther Vandross singing back up, but I prefer "Everybody Dance" probably because of the scene below in The Last Days of Disco.

Chic's creative forces were songwriters Bernie Edwards ( bass) and Nile Rodgers (guitar).  At one point they had hoped their rock fusion group Big Apple Band would become the black version of Kiss. When that didn't pan out, they teamed up with a pair of female vocalists, Alfa Anderson and Norma Jean Wright, and tried their hands at disco.

The debut is a bit of a mixed bag, a playful effort at sounding sophisticated by quoting old sayings like "Yowsah", adding a big band sound to "Strike Up The Band" and french lyrics like "Est-ce Que C'est Chic". There's even some quiet storm numbers like "Sao Paolo". At the time critics weren't impressed. 

When Niles moved his funky guitar up in the mix, Chic would find their most successful sound with the 1978 follow up C'est Chic featuring the #1 smash "Le Freak" and "I Want Your Love".

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Approaching In a Zoom

On November 21, 1977 Earth Wind and Fire released All 'n'All, the first album of theirs that I bought-by mistake thanks to the Columbia House Records and Tape club. I still consider it one of the best mistakes I made with Columbia House ( and a hell of a lot better than the Allman Brothers' Enlightened Rogues or Bad Company's Desolation Angels).

Even as a teenage novice music lover, I was taken by the complex, funky horns, the spaced out lyrics and the Brazilian music influences. It remains a favorite from 1977.

Joe McEwan of Rolling Stone wrote what seems like a mixed review but he would later put this on his ten best list

At their worst, Earth, Wind and Fire indulge in some of the most pretentious excesses in current black music. As on past Earth, Wind and Fire records, All 'n All is filled with leaded brotherhood platitudes, Star Trek sci-fi and stiffly poetic love songs. This sounds overwrought and depressing (and maybe it is). But there's a catch: I like the record, for like much current black music, All 'n All elicits a schizophrenic response. If the album represents some of the worst in black music, it also has more than its share of the best.

 Earth, Wind and Fire's prime mover, Maurice White, is a former Chess Records session drummer, and his rhythmic sense is one of the group's redeeming features. The rhythm tracks on All 'n All are often enough to savage the most convoluted and awkward lyrics. "Serpentine Fire," a song about the spinal life-center philosophy of many Eastern religions, is a simple tango spiced by a subtle funk base and the incessant clanging of a cowbell. Other songs incorporate snatches of supple James Brown bass lines, delicate Latin beats and hard, insistent funk vamps.

 White's production virtues don't end there, though. The lyrics of "Fantasy" ("Come to see, victory, in the land called fantasy") may be hard to swallow, but the music is as close to elegance as any funk song has come. Voices and a light touch of strings suddenly appear over a choppy, propulsive track, swell and swoop, only to disappear at the snap of a finger and pop up moments later for an exciting, powerful finale. White also utilizes an odd instrumental mix that gives equal emphasis to percussion (except the bass drum, which is usually played down), bass, rhythm guitars and stabbing, staccato horn bursts. The result is light but substantial, and it's become a model for many other bands.

Escapism and fantasy are prominent in the lyrics of many soft-soul groups, but usually (intentionally or otherwise) they're used humorously, or at least with tongue in cheek. At times, Earth, Wind and Fire is also capable of such fluffy warmth; in fact, torchy love ballads sung by Verdine White, Maurice's brother, have become a recent trademark. Verdine often sounds like a straining Eddie Kendricks and here, on "I'll Write a Song for You," which is distressingly close to MOR, he has the type of lush romantic vehicle that one wishes Kendricks still employed.

 But that warmth isn't always felt, and despite the musical gloss, much of Earth, Wind and Fire's escapism seems unintentionally obsessive and desperate. It's easy to be seduced by the artfulness and grace of Earth, Wind and Fire's music and accept it for its craftsmanship and listenability. On that level, the group is challenging and fun. It's also easy to by cynical about a line like, "Jupiter, come from the galaxy/I want to meet you, to make you free," which seems as potentially dishonest and escapist as shooting dope.

 There's a strange contrast to be drawn between All 'n All and Sly Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On. Riot was druggy, down and honest. All 'n All is flashy, bright and fanciful. Sly saw what he didn't want to see. The Earth, Wind and Fire album is like looking at yourself in the mirror and finding that nothing is there. Maybe that's what makes All 'n All so compelling -- and scary.

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ writing:

Focusing soulful horns, high-tension harmonies, and rhythms and textures from many lands into a first side that cooks throughout. Only one element is lacking. Still, unsympathetic as I am to the lyrics about conquering the universe on wings of thought, they make me want to shake my fundament anyway. 

  And from Tom Moon's 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die :

Easily the most intense three minutes ever committed to tape by '70s hitmakers Earth Wind & Fire is "Sing a Song," the tightly wound but never fully erupting essay in funk lavishness that was a hit single from the band's 1975 album Gratitude. Next on the list might by "Reasons," the ballad showcase for the skyscraping falsetto of vocalist Philip Bailey from That's the Way of the World, which was also released in '75. In the time-compressed shorthand of pop, those are the must-have moments.

 But they're not the whole story. At the time of these successes, the Memphis-based band, led by drummer, producer, and part-time mystic Maurice White, was attempting to move beyond singles. All 'n' All, which came out in 1977, was EWF's first and best attempt at developing a wholly satisfying album experience, a cycle in which every song mattered. The unifying thread was Brazilian rhythm. "We'd been hanging out for a month in Argentina and Brazil, especially "Rio," White recalled in the liner notes. "Man, we heard stuff that blew our minds, opened our heads up wide. I wanted some of it in our music." After studying the progressive funk of Banda Black Rio and the arty songs of Milton Nascimento, White and his core group wrote pieces that embraced undulating samba and chants heard at Carnival, and integrated elements of Brazilian rhythm into the EWF lockstep funk. The wordless focal "Runnin'" with is ba-bee-da-boo-whees, turned up on jazz radio, and several album tracks, including the jittery "Jupiter," were easily catchy enough to follow the high-gloss "Serpentine Fire" onto the radio.

 White connected the tunes with a series of interludes built on the African thumb piano known as kalimba and street percussion; one, "Brazilian Rhyme," was based on a Nascimento song. Though brief, these pieces unified the album, and gave it a cosmopolitan sound that, like the music that inspired it, opened heads heads up wide.