Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Music that Matters, Pt 10

94) T. Rex, The Slider: Originally a part of a duo called Tyrannosaurus Rex, Marc Bolan was discovered sitting barefoot on a club stage by legendary producer Tony Visconti. The folky duo played on instruments found in dumpsters. T. Rex's sound was imbued with a quintessentially British skew, something that always appealed to my inner anglophile. Marc Bolan's voice had the quality of being both boyishly innocent and strangely otherworldly while also remaining completely unpretentious in a kind of pretentious way. This quality also explained his pseudo-psychedelic lyrics (I could never understand the wind at all/was like a ball of luh-uh-ove). Tony Visconti's production constructed a monstrous sound––layers of compressed fuzz toned guitar, strings, Flo and Eddie's superb background vocals, with a vibe and tempo that whispered of too-many-tokes and crisps. If this was the British 70s version of bubblegum pop, then the Brits were spoiled. For me, The Slider is a miniature symphonic masterpiece.

The Slider by T. Rex on Grooveshark

95) The Stooges, Down on the Street, Dirt: If you, like me, were a kid reading Creem magazine back in the day (it's long gone now), you were informed of its constant hagiographic praise of the Stooges. Had you heard the first album you might've also been left a little baffled. It had moments, to be sure, but there was still a long way to go. With Funhouse that hagiography was justified. This record is a sonic Michaelangelo mud pie. The guitar is crude and right on the mark, the lyrics were imaginistic and inchoate in that middle-school-dropout-savant kind of way, and no band of the punk era had a rhythm section even worthy of wiping this one's hessian bottom. If you've ever seen Iggy live then you know that he operates almost entirely on ecstatic impulse, a quality that could describe the band's compositional style too: An amazing album of dirty and dumb magic.

Down On The Street (Remastered LP Version) by The Stooges on Grooveshark

Once, there was talk of a post-Morrison Doors with an Iggy replacement – a flippin' genius idea, but alas. Here's a sprinkling of some fake Manzarek keyboards on top to give a hint of what might've been.

Down on the Street (bonus single mix) by The Stooges on Grooveshark

And a cover version that's pretty good too:

Down On The Street By The Stooges by Rage Against the Machine on Grooveshark

 And Dirt, another masterpiece of the defiant low self-esteem category:

Dirt by The Stooges on Grooveshark

96) The O'Jays, For the Love of Money: It'd be easy to let Donald Trump throw piss all over this, a song about the evils of money lust that The Donald would hold up as a business model, but don't do it. If for no other reason because it has the funkiest, rocked up plectrum bass line you'll ever hear and a breadth of production genius that's wider than the lapels of the group's pimp-style suits. And their voices were some of the best rasps in the business: Much too good for even Trump to abuse away the charm.

For the Love of Money by Love and Money on Grooveshark

97) Thelonious Monk, Rhythm-A-Ning: Probably the most apt song title ever bestowed. Monk's chords are like little tonal explosions that might happen if you were hitting the keys with a cluster of chopsticks. And nobody perforated a rhythm with a funky hundred little tonal bullet holes like Monk. His playing is the quintessential demonstration of the innovative possibilities when the sophisticated collides with the crudely simple and all the while respecting the succinct in a way jazz rarely does. He may be banging the grand instrument of the salon but it still sounds like he's dancing in front of the bonfire. You most definitely don't have to be a jazzer to dig what this cat was blowing.

Rhythm-A-Ning by Thelonious Monk on Grooveshark

98) Ennio Morricone, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and others: It's impossible to imagine Sergio Leone without this tweaked Italian voice rising in the background. A voice that could sing beautifully––like Cinema Paradiso––or absurdly––like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly––and kill both with equal skill. It's his more absurd work that made him the darling of the cool avant garde. But at the bottom of it all was that sound, a stridently tuneful siren tainted with our own nightmares and always immediately recognizable of its creator. See also The Sicilian and The Man with the Harmonica.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Ennio Morricone on Grooveshark

99) Dwight Twilley Band, Sincerely album: Rock, as much as any form of music, at its most successful is a kind of alchemy; a few basic chords––some version of I-IV-V, generally––and finding a melody within that straw that only a few true wizards can spin into gold. Melody being that elusive element that true Olympians can use to tase us directly into our auditory cortices. Dwight Twilley was one of those Olympians. Over the expanse of his long career he's written many an earworm worthy tune but the initial two proper Dwight Twilley Band albums, those with Phil Seymour and brilliant guitarist Billy Pitcock IV, were the stuff of the purest gold. Twilley and Seymour's voices together were honey with a bite and Pitcock's guitar always found some invention in the spaces of the songs he inhabited. Their power pop may've weighted a little too heavily on the nostalgia for the kind of massive appeal they deserved, but even all these years later this ca. 1975 album hasn't withered an iota. The truest wizardry is always ageless.

I'm On Fire by Dwight Twilley Band on Grooveshark

I'm on Fire was a radio hit that should've ignited a string of 'em but unfortunately the disasterous business practices of the record company seemed to sabotage them at evey opportunity. Below, the brilliant title tune from the album below: Dig the backwards Beatlesesque guitar.

100) Benny Goodman, Sing Sing Sing (with a Swing): This is rock and roll about 20 years too soon, a 1937 recording of the Louis Prima tune played by a Goodman's star-studded band that included a 17 year old Gene Krupa on the tribal drums. It may also be the era's 12 inch version as this one clocks in at near Free Bird length of over eight minutes which apparently was something not typical of the time. Here, the length only gives more time for the dynamics to build. The quality of the recording may sound a little bronze age-ish but this is swing turned up to 11.

Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing) by Benny Goodman on Grooveshark

101) Jimi Hendrix, Loose Ends: Hendrix has probably been the victim of more vault rape that any other artist in the history of recorded exploitation. Fortunately, there doesn't seem to have been much junk left behind in his unfinished canon as his posthumous releases have been mostly good. This record is especially notable because of the sort of behind the scenes snapshots it reveals of the dude himself. Hear him goof on Heartbreak Hotel and then give drummer Buddy Miles some ill-fated instructions that are contradictory at best. And nobody did throwaway jams for the ages like Hendrix. If there is a heaven, they would've pitched their lyre harps and heraldic trumpets for a Strat and Marshall stack when Hendrix arrived. And if there's no Hendrix in heaven, I won't go.

The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice by Jimi Hendrix on Grooveshark

102) Phil Manzanera, Miss Shapiro: An Eno/Manzanera collaboration from 1975 that sounds like both and neither which I suppose is what a good collaboration should sound like. A great opening guitar riff by Manzanera and quintessential Eno lyrics (Dalai llama lama puss puss/Stella marls missa nobis/Miss a dinner Miss Shapiro/Shampoos pot-pot pinkies pampered/Movement hampered like at christmas/Ha-ha isn't life a circus) buffed up with some sprinklings of prog shellac and a thick miasma of a future New Wave yet to come. It's also curious to see how much more interesting a guitar player Manzanera was when he wasn't  punching the clock for Bryan Ferry. A long neglected gem, this one is.

103) X, Los Angeles: The harmonies here can be jaggy and askew up––off by a mile and yet just where they ought to be. Billy Zoom's guitar is a smiling travel-sized version of Link Wray and at the time I wasn't entirely convinced his old school playing was the answer for X, but to me now it sounds perfectly appropriate. It provides a nice foil to John Doe's three chord seizures, Exene's feline wail, The Doors references, and a lyrical anger that was far more sophisticated than your typical punk era band. Also, X takes the traditional country duet, straps on some harder chords while jacking the tempos up and in the process brings it to a new, hipper urban space. One of the best band's of the punk era.

Los Angeles (Dangerhouse Version) by X. on Grooveshark

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