Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

I won't lie, I was straight grooving this week. As I mentioned two weeks ago, jazz has been the unexpected soundtrack while writing the new book I'm working on. So most of my working hours were spent listening to old Coltrane and Dolphy albums. When I wasn't writing however, I was feeling some '70s hard rock. I picked up a few fantastic records from that era over the past few weeks that are included here. In general, it was one of those weeks that I heard a lot of things that kind of thrilled me. It feels like a while since one of those weeks, so I'm happy to share this list. Enjoy.

Black Sabbath - Master of Reality: My chronological musical history with Sabbath is an odd one. In college, when money was tight, the way to go with Sabbath was to have the We Sold Our Soul For Rock N Roll hits album. So over the years as I tried to fill in the collection with the actual albums, it was tough to decide which order to get them since I knew a good number of songs from each. I've been on a big Sabbath kick for a few months now and decided it was time to fill in the remaining gaps. This 1971 album, the band's third, is perhaps their most complete. From the opening cough of "Sweet Leaf" this album is perfection all the way through. The two acoustic short pieces work amazingly among the heavy vibe of the rest. "The Lord of This World" is a track I didn't know and is easily among their best songs. Now if only the crazy dragon moon 1987 cover existed on vinyl, it would one of the best finds ever.

Nazareth - Hair of the Dog: This is a record I bought on a whim. It was $5 with 30% off and with that cover, I figured it was worth a risk. This album from 1975 is probably the Scottish hard rock band's best known. As soon as I put it on, at least four of the album's eight tracks were familiar to me, most notably "Love Hurts." I'd also known the GNR cover of "Hair of the Dog" and hearing the original, it's no wonder they covered it. This album is an obvious influence on Guns N Roses. It's not just the likeness of Dan McCafferty's voice to Axl's, it's the hard driven blues riffs as well. Just a really upbeat driving rock record.

The Beatles - Live at the BBC: Released din 1994, this double disc was the start of a wealth of Beatles material to be released. It's price tag always kept me away from picking this up back in the day, but on a recent trip to Switzerland, it was one of the few acceptable car ride selections on the in-laws music shelf. I'm really into these early performances of a lot of lesser known songs, as well as good number of popular ones. What you hear on these tapes is a young band just beginning to realize their potential. While it may not always be them at their best, it's always them at their most relaxed. Some stand out songs for me "Ooh! My Soul", "Memphis, Tennessee," "You Really Got a Hold on Me," and "Hard Day's Night."

Heavy Metal Kids - Heavy Metal Kids: This 1974 album is the London glam rock band's debut and it rocks. One note about the name, a lot of people don't realize that the term 'heavy metal' comes from William Burroughs and this band's name is taken from there, which gives them automatic cool points. This is another album whose influence is clearly heard in Guns N Roses, not to mention all of the L.A. glam rock bands. "Nature of My Game" "Kind Woman," and "Hangin' On" are standout tracks for me.

Calexico - Feast of Wire: After recently revisiting the album Calexico did with Iron & Wine, I decided to give this band another shot. I'd heard a few of their albums in the past, and hadn't paid much attention. But listening to this 2003 album over the past week, it really kind of blew me away. It's the kind of alt-country that can be heard on Wilco's albums of the last decade, but they have a way of bringing their own ingredients to it. The use of horns is subtle and affective. The songs on this album are melancholy and beautiful. It's a really good album. For me it stands out above a lot of other similar albums by much more acknowledged bands. A real treat...even with one of the worst album covers I've ever seen. Not only is it ugly, it suggests nothing of the cold feeling the album evokes.

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake: After finally hearing this album in its entirety, it's easy to see why it's currently the highest rated album of this year on Rate Your Music. Harvey has continued to reinvent herself and evolve over her career. The trek has lead to this stellar alternative folkish album about England. It incorporates many different genres in an effortless cohesion of moody songs. Not my absolute favorite album of the year, but certainly high on the list.

Charles Mingus - The Art of Charles Mingus: The thing I've always loved about jazz is the stories told within the songs. It's really a visual type of music and never fails to create pictures in my mind. With my increased listening of jazz lately, I picked up this beautiful double vinyl album last weekend and have been listening to it pretty much every evening since. Listening to Mingus is just as Donovan once sang, "listening to Mingus mellow fantastic." These recordings date between 1956 and 1961 and are generally superb. A lot of the really great songs on here come from the album Pithecanthropus Erectus. I really could sit back and swing to this album all night long.

Hawkwind - Bring Me the Head of Yuri Gagarin: This one of many infamous Hawkwind releases considered by many fans to be a blatant attempt to rip people off. Since the band's heyday, many releases of poor quality continue to surface. Back in the day, I'll admit to being a victim myself. However, this is one I always wanted despite the fact that it may be the most despised out of all the slew of '80s reissues. What can I say, the title is just impossible to resist. I finally got my hands on it and I'm happy to say it's not as bad as reported. The main issue with fans is the poor recording quality. It's a concert from 1973 that was obviously bootlegged and the quality never improved before proper release. But as far as bootleg quality goes, this isn't so terrible. You can hear everything, it's a little muddy, but the energy is still there. The track list is great, like a short Space Ritual. Certainly a worthy addition to any extended Hawkwind collection. If you're new to Hawkwind though, begin with Space Ritual.

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