Welcome to John Jordan’s new reoccurring column where he’ll dig through his album collection to ruminate on the gold he’s accumulated over the years.
Does anyone else out there remember when pop vocalists could actually sing? Not have their tracks endlessly cut, processed and extruded by technology – not struggle to over-emote every phrase until all soul has been wrung from the lyric – but could just, you know, sing?
David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash could really sing. They came together from other popular groups of the 1960s (The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies respectively) and discovered that together they could sing even better. On their self-titled debut (before the fire and madness that would come with Neil Young) Crosby, Stills and Nash produced stunning vocal leads, counterpoints, improvisations, and some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful harmonies ever committed to a popular recording. Stills also plays lead guitar, organ and bass while Crosby plays rhythm guitar, alongside session drummer Dallas Taylor, a wonderful instrumental backdrop is provided for the group’s vocal heroics.
[amtap amazon:asin=B0040MGPGC] By 1975, Iggy Pop was – for lack of a better term – a hot mess. Following the dissolution of Stooges in the wake of the tepid reception their now-landmark 1973 LP Raw Power received upon its initial release, the legendary Detroit punk icon fell into a deep, heroin-induced depression, the severity of which prompted him to check himself into a psychiatric ward to straighten out and clean up. But while The Stooges were no more, Iggy still maintained a functional working relationship with the band’s guitar hero James Williamson, and, with Pop on a weekend pass from the loony bin, the two managed to score some time in Jimmy Webb’s home studio to lay down some demos in hopes of securing a new record deal. Sadly, however, no label was interested. That is, of course, until 1977 after Iggy made one of the greatest comebacks in rock history with his pair of David Bowie-produced solo classics The Idiot and Lust For Life, when Bomp Records gave Williamson an advance to release the demos as the album known as Kill City.
It’s a dark, revealing work that, as heard on songs like Sell Your Love and I Got Nothin’, sonically and lyrically reflects Pop’s sense of hopelessness and desperation at the time. For years, the album wallowed in a series of muddy, poor quality reproductions that mired the fire of Pop and Williamson’s incendiary performances, which saw them temper the feral electricity displayed on Raw Power with accents of piano, acoustic guitar, saxophone and congas. But with this excellent new remix of the LP, culled from the original multi-tracks by Williamson and engineer Ed Cherney, Kill City (reissued October 19 on Alive Records) is at long last finally restored to its intended glory, complete with a clarity and crispness that brings the album up to par with the might of the rest of the Iggy/Stooges canon. The Legacy edition of Raw Power and the recent Rhino Handmade-released Funhouse-era concert set Live at Ungano’s might have gotten more attention in the press, but the long overdue revamp of this unheralded classic is arguably the most important Iggy-related reissue to come out in the last year.
[amtap amazon:asin=B003ZXQVNY] Only a day after their original female singer left the band, Jefferson Airplane reconvened at the Fillmore to break in fresh female counterpart Grace Slick. While a tad tentative in the first set, Slick breaks out with gale wind force in the second set, which writhes with a dark blues intensity on extended churners “Kansas City” and original “3/5 of a Mile In 10 Seconds.” But even before that the rest of the Airplane is in groovy fine form, swinging hard through era staples like “Let’s Get Together” and “The Other Side Of This Life,” making them their own through sheer will and a dense, stony atmosphere that nonetheless moves on quick heels – all potheads aren’t turtle-slow wasteoids.
Very much a band of their time, the Jefferson Airplane on display on Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66 – Early & Late Shows – Grace’s Debut, the second release in a new four-part series of vintage recordings on the great new Collector’s Choice Live imprint (arriving December 14), is a fully engaged, ambitious bunch with multiple lead singers, a growing catalog of distinctive originals and a way with other’s songs. In a time when being a “jam band” is a bit of an epithet, we forget that bands like Jefferson Airplane that originated the sub-genre were robust craftspeople who just happened to like blow out the walls of their tunes. Today’s noodlers often forget the foundational stuff needs to be in place before one charges into the unknown without a net. This show is a happy reminder of what good jamming can be and as fine as fine an encapsulation of the early live Airplane as any to date.
[amtap amazon:asin=B003ZXQVNO] In our increasingly musically illiterate age, even foundational pioneers are often lost in time; an oft-repeated name and a few songs serving as their soundbite in our information overload lives. It’s a pity because there are rich, original delights to be had by revisiting rock’s ground zero years, particularly the almost too packed mid-to-late 1960s. Case in point, a new quartet of pulsating, utterly switch-on vintage live recordings from San Francisco’s Jefferson Airplane. Four previously unreleased performances from the band’s most evolutionary period is a treasure trove to be devoutly wished and further mythology for the Airplane’s place in the SF Flower Power pantheon. The artsy, go-go booted compatriots to shaggy provocateurs Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane emerged with an inborn gravitas and overtly theatrical demeanor. The weight of being young in turbulent times was not lost on Marty Balin (lead vocals), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jack Casady (bass), Spencer Dryden (drums), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar) and original singer Signe Anderson, whose sparkling farewell performance is the first in this new archival series.
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[amtap amazon:asin=B0040T7C94] It would be easy to pass off former Tokens keyboardist and Jersey City native Stephen Friedland’s supernova solo debut under the moniker Brute Force as a novelty album. After all, it certainly harbors many of the earmarks of such, especially when you come across songs with titles like Tapeworm of Love and To Sit On A Sandwich when perusing the track list. However, to place I, Brute Force – Confections of Love alongside such jokey fare of its time as Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s Monster Mash and Allan Sherman’s Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah would be discounting the pure majesty of this lost treasure of 1967. Produced by the esteemed John Simon — who worked on such milestone recordings as The Band’s Music from Big Pink, Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room and Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills — I, Brute Force is an insanely catchy tapestry of orchestral pop that might remind one of Scott Walker with a strong sense of humor, evident on such soaring numbers as In Jim’s Garage, No Olympian Height and As Long As My Song Lives.
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[amtap amazon:asin=B003XMKN8Q] Put bluntly, you’re missing out if you aren’t intimately familiar with the music of Rory Gallagher. The greatest electric bluesman Ireland ever produced, Gallagher’s name should be mentioned in quick succession with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton but such is the world’s general ignorance that Gallagher remains a beloved cult figure rather than a household name – admired beyond reason by musicians like Slash, Johnny Marr, Shooter Jennings and myriad others, and adored by his fans in a way that transcends superlatives. Despite passing in 1995, it would be hard to find blues rock more vibrant and relevant than his, and this new compilation of performances culled from three appearances between 1971-1972 on the German TV program Beat Club arrives like an early book in Gallagher’s gospel, a distortion touched, freight train barreling set of scripture that further confirms his place in the pantheon.
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In honor of the mighty Devo’s triumphant return to form with the recent release of Something For Everybody, their best studio album in over 25 years (and first in 20), it seems appropriate that we revisit their underrated debut, which is largely considered to be their masterpiece.
evolving up from little snails
[amtap amazon:asin=B00316DESU]Sadly, rock has a fairly short memory. Maybe it’s all the drinking and whatnot that accompanies it, but even root sources like Chuck Berry are fading from each new generation’s collective consciousness. Case in point, the once VERY famous, chart topping Paul Revere & The Raiders. Yes, the faux Revolutionary War garb and synchronized dance steps have not helped their hipster cred but as this absolutely stellar 3-disc collection demonstrates again & again, the Raiders had it going on in a big way musically.
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