Saturday, December 30, 2006

Abbey Road (1969)

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" Objectively speaking, there is no song title of the past 50 years more common than "I Want You." It's a simple and potent formulation, assertive rather than passive. Giants of this planet Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Savage Garden, Elvis Costello, even the Troggs and Spiritualized, stand with the Beatles, here, each with their different song and the same title. As you see, the Beatles have added extra copy with their parenthetical. For that matter, so has the King himself, Elvis Presley, with "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You." Not to mention the downright wordy "If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right." You may suppose that all these latter open the door for variants and you are right: try this on for size: Bread, "Baby I'm-A Want You." Andy Gibbs, "I Just Want to Be Your Everything." Hey, why the fritch not!?! Thanks to technology, I can name-check the Barking Spiders with pinpoint accuracy. Check it OUT: Lobo's over-under Bread parallel of the time, "I'd Love You to Want Me." Various (and sundry!) "I Just Want to Dance With/Make Love to You/Walk You Home/Hold Your Hand" permutations. Also, "I/I'd Still Want You/Your Love/Sex" flavors from a whole new crew: Hank Williams, Chic, Chris Isaak, George Michael. Iggy's & all the vast ranging covers of "I Want to Be Your Dog." Sly wants to take you higher, the Jackson 5 want you back, Merle Haggard is always wanting you, Lou Reed says he wants to boogie with you, Nat King Cole (ever the dapper gentleman) wants to thank your folks, and Randy Newman wants you to hurt like he does. Frank Zappa's "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama"? Would that be going too far? This one goes on a long time and ends suddenly. Plus the coda.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rubber Soul [UK] (1965)

"Drive My Car" Bob Dylan and marijuana: Meet the Beatles!!! Now, granted, it's arguable that much of any such encounters were lost on Paul "Michelle" McCartney, as opposed to John "Nowhere Man" Lennon. (On the other hand, don't forget which one of them it was who more often did not leave home without it. Shout-out to Merle Haggard and Ray Charles while I'm at it.) But there's not much point going down that road even if, on the cover, Ringo didn't seem to know what he was doing there. The "Run for Your Life," "Girl" Lennon is still plainly in evidence as well. Furthermore, I happen to think "Michelle" is a very fine song.

Gas Station Cassette 1-3

In memory of some favorites who passed away this past calendar year.

Gas Station Cassette 1: Arthur Lee
Gas Station Cassette 2: Desmond Dekker
Gas Station Cassette 3: Grant McLennan

Two more still to come, when time allows. More information in comments.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Help! [UK] (1965)

"Help!" Pretty much the end once and for all of Beatlemania -- I happened to see the movie at the time in a theater packed with squealing, screaming girls -- this version of the album takes the transition a step further: "I've Just Seen a Face," the #12 track here, kicked off the version I knew of Rubber Soul, which it's fair enough to call the first post-Beatlemania album. So some cognitive dissonance here, but overall an improvement on what they offered us in the U.S. Once again my favorites tend to be what did not get overplayed on the radio: "I Need You," "Another Girl," and "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" limn an interesting array of opposing teen heart throb scenarios. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is tender and gorgeous. "Act Naturally" gives Ringo a nice star turn. This is one of the good ones.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Hard Day's Night [UK] (1964)

"I Should Have Known Better" I'm hanging a "[UK]" off this because a lot of the Beatles CD re-releases tend to go with the original UK and Beatles (or at least Beatles handlers)-approved tracklists. For anyone steeped in the US releases, the differences are often quite remarkable, even unsettling. This slice of prime Beatlemania, for example, packs an even greater punch in the authentic-like version. While unfortunately lacking "This Boy," it dispenses with any and all cheesy orchestral scoring bits and proceeds directly to an astonishing series of songs, the best of them the least of their hits, if they charted at all: "I Should Have Known Better," "If I Fell," and "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You." You don't even have to like the movie.

More information in comments.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Psychocandy (1985)

"Just Like Honey" Before there was My Bloody Valentine, before there was Yo La Tengo, before there was Spacemen 3 and all its progeny, there was this debut by the Jesus and Mary Chain, which advanced by a factor of light years the combination of bludgeoning roar with impeccably pretty melody, the latter generally pushed way high into the treble. Even as the body trembles absorbing the power, the mind and heart are pleased by sweet song. Drug use advised, refreshingly and openly. What's not to like?

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Loveless (1991)

"Only Shallow" At the time this came out, many descriptions of My Bloody Valentine pegged them as loudest band ever in concert. You felt the music more than heard it, word went. Earplugs advised. You can hear that here, for sure, and at whatever volume suits you. As with any of the delightfully labeled shoegaze bands, feedback and dense walls of bludgeoning roar largely set the tone. But then the wispies, the creamy filling of shoegaze, float through for purposes of contrast and inflection: strange little guitar noises, breathlessly lovely melodies, open-mouthed sha-la-la vocals that whip around the mix like shreds of paper caught in the wind. After several years of such insinuation, and compulsive listening, it finally becomes a favorite. A "classic," even.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Freedom (1989)

"Wrecking Ball" I don't know about you, but by the time this came out I had about had it with Neil Young and his zany career across the '80s (not that that made David Geffen's lawsuit any less idiotic). Trans? OK, sure. Good songs. But the Shocking Pinks? Landing on Water? This Note's For You? No, no, and no. Maybe it was Geffen after all. Whatever. Something straightened him out. This marked the beginning of a resurgence from which he still enjoys momentum. The songcraft that had deserted him returned. He engaged the world again. He meant every word, and practically every word hung from a lovely melody and/or treaded rock-solid underpinning. It's as if the way ahead simply crystallized for him one fine day.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience (1991)

"Shake" Where do you put this? Hip hop, I suppose, but this is no kind of rapping that any Jay-Z or Snoop Dogg would ever let get down on tape. It samples Spandau Ballet and prays sincerely, even searchingly -- and to God. P.M. Dawn auteur Prince Be heaves a dirigible's worth of self-pitying sighs. It's not hard, in other words. It's about as soft as you can get. But the tracks are perfectly gorgeous, keyboards harnessed shamelessly to amazing effect. Prince Be's soliloquies meander and find their points, alternating from shallow to profound and back to shallow again. Sometimes he's even funny. And -- is this what makes it? -- the rhythms are irresistible right along. Weird, but good.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oh Mercy (1989)

"Political World" Of all of the many hyped Bob Dylan comebacks (has he been with CBS/Sony et al. the whole way?), and setting aside the real ones, I think this is my favorite. With Daniel Lanois producing, it has a nice exploratory feel. All the songs are interesting, some find their way to happy places. It also has one of my favorite Dylan howlers: "Disease of Conceit," in which we are told, as if with brows furrowed, that scientists have been hard at work attempting to figure out conceit, but -- no luck so far. My favorite Dylan howler is on John Wesley Harding: "he said with his voice." He said with his voice. Oh lord.

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