Posts Tagged ‘Bob Marley’

Masterpiece: Exodus

25 March 2009

[Today: Bob Marley and the burning bush…]

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Exodus

Bob Marley is the single most important artist to emerge from the impoverished, but musically rich, island of Jamaica. This charismatic rastaman became reggae’s first international superstar, and almost single-handedly made its riddims a worldwide commodity. While previous Marley albums had chipped away at an international audience, Exodus represented a breakthrough on many fronts – it spent 56 weeks on the UK charts, and the title track found heavy rotation on black radio stations in the US – opening up lucrative new markets for reggae.

The songs here were recorded while Marley was in exile in London, having fled Kingston after a would-be assassin put a bullet in his chest. In December of 1976, gunmen stormed his home and opened fire, wounding Marley, his wife Rita, and manager Don Taylor. Marley was shaken by the attack, and his subsequent music is marked by pensive calm and a simmering, biblical fury. But like many of his previous albums, Exodus is deeply spiritual, fiercely political, and genuinely romantic. Album opener ‘Natural Mystic’ sets the tone with a shuffling rhythm and haunting lyrics about the spirits blowing around in the breeze. ‘So Much Things To Say’ offers encouragement to stand strong in the face of detractors. ‘Jamming’, ‘Waiting In Vain’, ‘Three Little Birds’, ‘One Love/People Get Ready’, and the title track became instant staples of Marley’s live act, and together formed a significant chunk of the posthumous 1984 best-of Legend.

Exodus is not coincidentally the name of the second book of the Old Testament. In it, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt (“movement of Jah people”) and away from the grip of Pharaoh. The book sees Moses bring forth the ten commandments and speak to the lord through the Burning Bush. Marley’s fans are likely more familiar with a burning bush of another, stinkier variety, but even they understand the sentiment of Exodus 3:5, “…put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Such uplifting spiritual empowerment is writ into every line of Bob Marley’s music.

Listen: Exodus

Listen: Natural Mystic

Listen: Radio Advertisement for Exodus

Weekend Playlist

26 January 2009

Here’s some of what we heard during the weekend that was…

J.K. & Co. | Suddenly One Summer
J.K. & Co. _ Suddenly One Summer

Esther Phillips | Home Is Where The Hatred Is
Esther Phillips _ Home Is Where The Hatred Is: The Kudu Years 1971-1977

Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Sleeps With Angels
Neil Young & Crazy Horse _ Sleeps With Angels

Grandmaster Flash | The Official Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash
Grandmaster Flash _ The Official Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash

Gomez | In Our Gun
Gomez _ In Our Gun

Deltron 3030 | Deltron 3030
Deltron 3030 _ Deltron 3030

Gorillaz | Demon Days
Gorillaz _ Demon Days

Nitin Sawhney | Prophesy
Nitin Sawhney _ Prophesy

The Stooges | Heavy Liquid [6CD]
The Stooges _ Heavy Liquid

Various Artists | Even More Dazed & Confused
Various Artists _ Even More Dazed & Confused

Various Artists | Children Of Nuggets
Various Artists _ Children Of Nuggets

Various Artists | Latin Funk Flavas
Various Artists _ Latin Funk Flavas

The Story Of UK Funk
Various Artists _ Brothers On The Slide: The Story Of UK Funk

Stevie Ray Vaughan | The Boxed Set
Stevie Ray Vaughan _ The Boxed Set

David Crosby | If I Could Only Remember My Name
David Crosby _ If I Could Only Remember My Name

Steve Miller Band | The King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents The Steve Miller Band
Steve Miller Band _ King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents The Steve Miller Band

Skip James | Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
Skip James _ Hard Time Killing Floor Blues

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Exodus
Bob Marley & The Wailers _ Exodus

Sweet | Desolation Boulevard
Sweet _ Desolation Boulevard

Tosca _ J.A.C.

Kings Of Leon | Aha Shake Heartbreak
Kings Of Leon _ Aha Shake Heartbreak

Michelle Shocked | Captain Swing
Michelle Shocked _ Captain Swing

The Complete Live Recordings 1963-1971
Fred Neil _ The Sky Is Falling: The Complete Live Recordings 1963-1971

Masterpiece: 461 Ocean Boulevard

14 January 2009

[Today: Laying in the groove with Eric Clapton…]

Eric Clapton | 461 Ocean Boulevard

Eric Clapton disappeared from public view for three years, beginning shortly after the 1970 release of the album Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs with pseudonym band Derek & The Dominos. During that time Clapton played one concert (George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh), gave no interviews, and developed an addiction to heroin. Pete Townshend was able to coax him out of seclusion for the January 1973 show that would become Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert, but it was with the 1974 release of 461 Ocean Boulevard that Clapton re-established himself as a star of the first order.

The band on this album isn’t the most talented group of musicians that Clapton ever played with, but they get locked into a solid groove early and don’t let go. The lack of showboat solos put some reviewers off, but Clapton blends in marvelously with the band. As he told Rolling Stone in July of 1974, “That’s what I really like doing — just sitting down with people who play anything and finding the lowest common denominator that we can all groove with and getting something going.”

What they got going was an outstanding mix of covers and originals, including an interpretation of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ that shot to #1, a dirge-like take on Johnny Otis’ ‘Willie And The Hand Jive’ that has become a staple of Clapton Greatest Hits packages, and rearrangements of Robert Johnson’s ‘Steady Rollin’ Man’ and the traditional ‘Motherless Children’ that amount to brand new tunes. But it’s with the originals that Clapton really hits the mark – ‘Mainline Florida’ ‘Let It Grow’ and ‘Give Me Strength’ toe the line between mellow and weary, and sound like confessional slices of his state of mind at the time.

461 Ocean Boulevard was an essential album for me during college. I passed on a $2.95 LP copy that my roommate Jonesy promptly scooped, and over the next thousand-or-so listens, he never failed to remind me how much I’d dropped the ball. I’m just glad he didn’t, and I got to live around this album during those years. I finally got my own vinyl copy shortly after college (for $1.95 – take that Jonesy!), but this album will always remind me of sitting in the sunshine, sipping a beer and shooting the breeze.

Listen: Steady Rollin’ Man

Listen: Mainline Florida

A Dozen ‘Interactive’† Album Covers

2 November 2008

Ninety-nine percent of the albums featured on this blog are things that I’m listening to in the LP format. Whether I’m moving albums on and off the turntable, re-filing stuff that I’ve pulled, or gawking at liner notes or album art, I spend a lot of time fondling record covers.

Here are a dozen album covers that go well beyond the standard “piece of cardboard folded over into a pocket” design and provide a more fun and interactive experience…

The Rolling Stones | Some Girls – This one holds a special place for me because it was one of the first album covers I lived around that went above and beyond the call of duty. The band had to remove pictures of Raquel Welch, Lucille Ball and others after failing to obtain permission before printing the cover (Oops!). Those faces were hastily replaced by solid color fields, but either way, this album is a joy to handle.

The Rolling Stones | Sticky Fingers – Love the zipper, hate the zipper. A cool design element (brought to you by none other than Andy Warhol), the real 3D zipper covering the bulge will scar any album it sits against in a record stack. Damn you Warhol, you stylish genius!

Velvet Underground & Nico | VU & Nico – And speaking of Andy Warhol, he was not only the managerial force behind the Velvet Underground, he also designed the provocative ‘Peel Slowly And See’ cover for their debut album. The original version of the cover features a removable color-form peel that revealed a ripe banana. Saucy!

The Faces | Oh La La – Like a puppet, the face on the front can be manipulated by moving the top of the cover. The band’s reaction to the artwork allegedly inspired the album title.

Grand Funk Railroad | E Pluribus Funk – This round album cover, shaped like a giant silver dollar, makes me want to go buy a oversized bag of pot…

Cheech & Chong | Big Bambu – …and roll a doobie with the giant rolling paper in the middle of Big Bambu

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Catch A Fire – …and spark it up with this giant zippo lighter cover that originally graced Catch A Fire. Irie mon!

Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin III – A number of holes die-cut in the cover – along with a spinning wheel on the inside – allow you to change the cover art at your whimsical leisure.

Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti – The windows on the front and back of the cover are die-cut to reveal what’s on the inner sleeve. Let loose your inner peeping Tom and choose from superheroes, muscle-men, blond bomshells, nuns, astronauts, Lee Harvey Oswald, Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, King Kong, robots, bi-planes, cowboys and indians, and much more.

Alice Cooper | From The Inside – Cooper’s face opens up to reveal the inside of an asylum, complete with opening doors that take you further into the nut house. Rather appropriate really.

Isaac Hayes | Black Moses – This album cover unfolds into a four-foot by three-foot cross, featuring Hayes as (you guessed it!) a black version of Moses. I’m tempted to say that they don’t make album covers like this anymore, but odds are that something exactly like this is being cooked up for the next posthumous 2-Pac release…

Bright Eyes | Cassadaga – This seemingly non-descript album cover includes a secret decoder strip that reveals a hidden world of cartoon fun. This 2007 release proves that fun album covers aren’t strictly limited to the 60’s and 70’s.


I’m using the term in its most primitive, non-technical meaning, of course.

Buried Treasure: The King Kong Compilation

3 July 2008

[Today: Reggae’s most famous Chinese-Jamaican producer…]

Once Leslie Kong and his brothers started selling records out of Beverley’s – the family ice cream shoppe – it was only a short hop for him into record production. Kong was the right man in the right place several times over – he launched Jimmy Cliff’s career, recorded Bob Marley’s first single, and worked with all manner of reggae stars, including Toots & The Maytals, The Wailers, Desmond Dekker, and just about any other important Jamaican artist you care to name.

Kong’s production work is marked by the shuffling beat of Rock Steady – a more danceable precursor to reggae music. Because of his role in helping transform the music of Jamaica through some of the island’s most talented artists, Kong has been referred to as “the Sam Phillips of reggae” by critic Greil Marcus. It’s an apt, if rather mind-bending, comment on the dimension of Kong’s influence upon the genre.

He makes a cameo in the film The Harder They Come, appearing in a scene where he’s directing a recording session with Toots & The Maytals. If the film is to be believed, Kong was a steadying presence in the studio – low key but with a firm hand on the wheel. He was also known to be one of the few Jamaican producers who dealt fairly with artists financially, which is one reason he was able to work with so many rising stars.

Leslie Kong died from a heart attack at age 38 in 1971, but not before producing some of the finest music of the late-60’s. The songs on The King Kong Compilation were all recorded between 1968 and 1970, and it’s a murderer’s row of great tunes. From Desmond Dekker’s ‘Isrealites’ to The Maytals ‘Monkey Man’ to Ken Boothe’s ‘Freedom Street’, the music compiled here represents reggae at its best, and adds up to an appropriate tribute to one of the genre’s founding fathers.

Listen: Freedom Street [Ken Boothe]

Listen: Israelites [Desmond Dekker]


[Unbelievably, this album has gone out of print, and is now extremely collectible. Used cd copies are currently selling on for as much as $65, so grab it if you find it!]

Buried Treasure: Tribute

15 March 2008

[Today: Bunny Wailer honors a friend and former bandmate…]

Bunny Wailer - Tribute

Bunny Livingston founded The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963. The group quickly made its mark on the local music scene, and by the early 70’s was one of the finest reggae bands going. However, Livingston was unprepared for the demanding touring schedule expected of a best-selling group, and left the band in 1973 to start a solo career as Bunny Wailer.

Over the remainder of that decade, Wailer made a number of relatively underappreciated albums – most notably Blackheart Man in 1976. Meanwhile, his former bandmate Marley was becoming an international superstar and the de facto worldwide ambassador for reggae music.

When Marley passed away at age 36 in 1981, reggae music lost its most iconic figure, and that role hasn’t been filled since. Shortly after Marley’s death, a shaken Bunny Wailer retreated to the studio to honor his fallen comrade by recording a number of Marley’s songs. Wailer was genuinely concerned that his friend’s music would be forgotten, and Tribute was a sincere effort to ensure that it didn’t happen.

Released in 1981, this 8 song LP features a number of inspired, soulful performances. Many reggae afficionados believe that Wailer was a more gifted vocalist than Marley, and here he lends that idea some weight. While his versions don’t quite eclipse the brilliance of the originals, Wailer’s masterful interpretations of ‘Soul Rebel’ ‘Time Will Tell’ and ‘Redemption Song’ are sure to thrill any fan of Bob Marley’s music.

Tribute itself has long been out of print, but these songs were reshuffled, and along with two additional tracks, re-released in 1990 as Time Will Tell: A Tribute To Bob Marley. Surprisingly, this pseudo-reissue netted Wailer the first of his three career Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album. As the original liner notes reveal, Wailer considered himself and Marley to be “different branches of the same tree.” Some roots run very deep indeed.

1976: The Year In Music

28 May 2007

“The future is purchased by the present.” – Samuel Johnson

The Grammy™ for record of the year went to Captain & Tenille for ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ and the Grammy for best song went to Stephen Sondheim for ‘Send In The Clowns’. It wasn’t an accident. Overall, 1976 was truly a forgettable year in music, and the list of laughably bad albums is two to three times the length of the good ones. This was big-production-rock’s last hurrah before the punk meanies crashed the party and made the guitarist an everyman (or everywoman). A quick scan of the charts show that heads needed to roll, and roll they soon would.

Clearly the most redeeming quality about 1976 isn’t the music on record (though some of that is outstanding) but the movements that were underway and nearing explosion. In addition to punk’s incubation in a scummy Bowery club, rap was being created out of virtually nothing in the South Bronx, disco was starting to find a wider audience than clubgoers with frosted noses, and something called reggae was gaining real traction in the U.S. In spite of all its excesses (or quite possibly because of them) this year was a flashpoint in music and nothing would be the same after.

There was other music that went unheard but would soon resonate; The Band held their legendary farewell concert The Last Waltz in ’76, but the music wouldn’t see general release until two full years later. Additionally, Neil Young had several great songs in the can and ready for release, but he balked at the last second. These songs would form the backbone of his legendary late 70’s albums, and can be heard in their original form on the bootleg Chrome Dreams, a sure top 5 album here had it been minted.

Also, a number of normally reliable artists made either gigantic missteps or merely failed to meet their own high standard. And there were a number of others who released landmark albums in both ’75 and ’77, but nothing (or nothing of note) in ’76 (including Neil, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, Little Feat, and many others). Focusing on just the calendar year, it looks pretty bleak, but looking at the larger continuum, this was just a down year within an exceptionally strong musical era.

So maybe I’m just making excuses for the really ugly kid in class, but if you look at the whole picture, it was a pretty significant year for music; Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Styx, Bad Company, Linda Rondstadt and the rest notwithstanding. For good or bad it was a year when anything was possible, and people were grabbing the power in music in ways that would still have revolutionary implications 30 years later.


The Best Albums Of 1976…

Ramones - album
Ramones – Ramones

#1 – Not just the finest album of ’76, Ramones’ self-titled debut may very well be the most important album of the entire decade. It put Punk on the map, set the blueprint for the look and sound of an entire genre, and – most importantly – it’s filled to the brim with top-notch songs that still sound fresh, tough, and ahead of the curve 30 years later.

Songs In The Key - album
Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life

#2 – The high point of an incredibly productive decade for Wonder, SITKOL is a massive, double album (and ep) length masterwork that touches on all the delight, pain, and emotions that go into the struggle of living life. From the joyful nostalgia of ‘I Wish’ to the downcast resignation of ‘Pastime Paradise’ it’s all in there.

Parliament - album
Parliament – Mothership Connection/The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein
Funkadelic – Hardcore Jollies/Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic

#3 – George Clinton was mighty busy in ’76. Parliament’s Mothership Connection took funk interplanetary and owned the dance charts for much of the year. Spawning single after single, the album plays like a Best-Of. And to keep the Bicentennial party moving, Funkadelic released the typically weird Hardcore Jollies, which includes the oddly satisfying “Comin’ Round The Mountain” and the cerebral “If You’ve Got Funk You’ve Got Style”. And if those weren’t enough, Parliament also released The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein and Funkadelic added Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic, leaving little doubt as to who were the hardest working bands in outer space.

Modern Lovers - album
The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers

#4 – Boston’s Modern Lovers recorded these tracks in 1972 (with John Cale producing), but the results didn’t see daylight until ’76, when Beserkley Records stepped in, purchased the masters from a befuddled Warner Records, and put out this gem. While not precisely punk (nor precisely anything), tracks like ‘Roadrunner’ and ‘Pablo Picasso’ would go on to be covered endlessly by punk bands. Unfortunately, the original Lovers had split before the album was released, but for a one-off statement, it’s tough to top The Modern Lovers.

Presence - album
Led Zeppelin – Presence

#5 – The most criminally underrated album in the Zep canon, Presence was recorded and mixed in just 18 days in Munich, Germany in November of ’75. In Hammer Of The Gods, Jimmy Page claims to have laid in every guitar overdub in two marathon overnight sessions on studio time borrowed from the Stones. ‘Hots On For Nowhere’, ‘Royal Orleans’ and ‘Tea For One’ prove that not all of their finest songs got played to death on the radio.

AC/DC - album
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/High Voltage

#6 – The raunchiest album of the Bon Scott era (and that’s truly saying something), Dirty Deeds features stag-ready tracks like ‘Big Balls’, ‘Squealer’, and the title track, but also features their best slow jam, ‘Ride On’. For good measure, AC/DC also dropped High Voltage, which added ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)’, ‘T.N.T.’, ‘Live Wire’, and ‘Little Lover’ to the mix. Put them together and you’ve got one of the most rockingly productive years of any band in the ‘70’s.

Part 3... and more - album
KC & The Sunshine Band – Part 3

#7 – The rainbow on the cover naturally led to a pot of gold singles inside. For many, this album was the introduction to the disco era, and it’s the rare album that has footing in both funk and disco. With singles ‘(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty’, ‘Baby I Love You (Yes I Do)’ and ‘Keep It Comin’ Love’, this was the de facto sound of dancefloors everywhere, the groove behind the spirit of ’76.

Burning Spear - album
Burning Spear – Man In The Hills/Garvey’s Ghost

#8 – Burning Spear (a.k.a. Winston Rodney) has long been overlooked as a reggae pioneer. His 1975 release ‘Marcus Garvey’ made him only the second reggae artist (after Bob Marley) to release an entire album of original compositions. In ’76, Spear followed that up with a pair of fine releases, Garvey’s Ghost, (a dub version of Marcus Garvey), and Man In The Hills. If you’re wondering where to look in reggae after Marley, start here.

Royal Scam - album
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

#9 – Their first three albums dabbled in wry observation and ironic reflection, but Steely Dan obviously had some axes to grind on The Royal Scam. From the scathing title track to the bitter ‘Sign In Stranger’ to the upraised middle finger of ‘Kid Charlemagne’ and the world weary ‘Haitian Divorce’ the Dan never sounded angrier – or better. And while they would make albums that sold more, they’d never make another with this much fire and brimstone.

Rocks - album
Aerosmith – Rocks

#10 – Before they nearly imploded their career in a haze of drugs and alcohol, Aerosmith were capable of the most swaggering groove this side of the Stones. Rocks finds them at the height of their powers, with rock star attitude to match monster riffs. This album sold through the roof and was primary inspiration for the next generation of hard rockers; it allegedly caused a young Slash to pick up the guitar.

Marley - album
Bob Marley – Rastaman Vibration

#11 – If 1976 was a breakthrough year for many reggae artists in America, Bob Marley clearly remained the genre’s leading ambassador. Every song on this album is politically motivated, and some of Marley’s strongest statements, including ‘War’, ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Roots, Rock, Reggae’ are found right here. Still, in spite of the heavy messages, Rastaman Vibration feels more like celebration than sedition.

Super Ape - album
Lee Perry & The Upsetters – Super Ape

#12 – Lee Perry lent his trademark production to a string of fine albums throughout the decade – perhaps none more so than Super Ape. The apex of his ‘70’s Black Ark Studio output, this album jumps from song to song and – much like the giant gorilla on its cover – leaves a large imprint at each step. Perry would later burn the studio down in a fit of (depending on who you ask) rage, madness, or self-protection, but not before creating a body of work unmatched in scope or quality by any other Jamaican producer.

Thin Lizzy - album
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak/Johnny The Fox

#13 – Thin Lizzy was one of the first hard rock bands to use the twin lead guitar formula, and front man and bassist Phil Lynott wrote songs that were street tough but sparkled with literary observation and wit. But aside from Jailbreak’s monster hit ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ Lizzy flew under the critical and popular radar for much of the 70’s. The fact that artists as diverse as The Cure, Metallica, and Huey Lewis have covered their songs is testament to one of the most versatile and overlooked bands of the decade.

Small Change - album
Tom Waits – Small Change

#14 – Waits’ fourth full-length LP, featuring jazz legend Shelly Manne on drums, sees him perfecting his drunken-piano man act on tracks like – naturally – ‘The Piano’s Been Drinking’ and ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’. The epic title track describes in detail the murder of a petty thug, and is Waits at his storytelling best.

Howlin' Wind - album
Graham Parker – Howlin’ Wind

#15 – Graham Parker emerged from (or more to the point, survived) the English pub-rock scene to stand nearly alone at the crossroads of folk and punk. His debut, Howlin’ Wind, is filled with great songs, excellent hooks, and stinging vocal deliveries. These literate, intensely sung songs were well-received at the time, but Parker would go on to be overshadowed by Elvis Costello and overlooked throughout much of his unfulfilled and disappointing career.

Car Wash - album
Various Artists – Car Wash Soundtrack

#16 – It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember the movie, this album was more than the soundtrack to a cornball comedy – it was the soundtrack of its era. The title track is a cultural pearl that will be handed down for generations to come, but there is much more to love here: from the sultry ‘I Wanna Get Next To You’ to the funky ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ to the Richard Pryor skits, it all kills.

Sabbath - album
Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy

#17 – Many Sabbath fans decry this as the beginning of the end, but on the next-to-last album before Ozzy left, they slowed the pace without losing any urgency. ‘Dirty Women’ is a slow burner to match ‘War Pigs’ or ‘Iron Man’, and the Bill Ward sung ‘It’s Alright’ is simply beautiful and unlike anything else in their catalog.

I Want You - album
Marvin Gaye – I Want You

#18 – Let it be said: very few singers in the history of popular music can match the beauty and grace of Marvin Gaye. Throughout his career, Gaye sang a great deal about heaven – both above the clouds and below the belt. I Want You is the perfect middle ground of sacred and profane, with Marvin singing like a perfect angel about getting down. Being bad never sounded so good.

KISS - album
KISS – Destroyer

#19 – In a career more storied for pyrotechnics and naughtiness than music, this is without a doubt KISS’ finest studio effort. The epic ‘Detroit Rock City’ is nearly worth the price of admission alone, but throw in ‘God Of Thunder’, the rarely played ‘Great Expectations’, and their biggest hit, ‘Beth’ (which peaked at #7 on the Billboard charts), and you’ve got a great album, even without the crazy makeup, fire-breathing, and 7-inch tongues – but that stuff is great too!

Tosh - album
Peter Tosh – Legalize It

#20 – Peter Tosh might be the most enigmatic personality to emerge from the Jamaican music scene. He cheerfully sang “legalize it/and I will advertise it” about ganja, but always seemed to be the edgiest of reggae stars, and many of his songs took on tough topics in uncompromising terms. This tough stance would make him a star second only to Bob Marley in reggae, but his fame came with a price. On September 11, 1987, he was murdered by an acquaintance. Legalize It stands as one of Tosh’s finest moments.

Hejira - album
Joni Mitchell – Hejira

#21 – While Joni Mitchell can come off as whiny, on Hejira, she sounds tough, confident and playful. From the opener, ‘Coyote’ onward, there’s spirit at work that belies the gloomy cover photo. ‘Furry Sings the Blues’ features a guest harmonica shot from Neil Young, and the admission “W.C. Handy, I’m rich and I’m fay/And I’m not familiar with what you played”. More people should be familiar with this.


12 more that just missed the cut…

Lee Oskar – Lee Oskar
Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More From The Road
J.J. Cale – Troubador
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle
Earth, Wind & Fire – Spirit
Rolling Stones – Black & Blue
Augustus Pablo – King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown
Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Wanted! The Outlaws
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
War – Why Can’t We Be Friends?
Bunny Wailer – Blackheart Man


And some stars that didn’t align…

In 1976, a number of normally reliable artists released albums that ranged from slightly disappointing to utterly perplexing (or, in Neil Young’s case, nothing at all). A few notable examples:

Bob Dylan – Desire * By no means abominable, (like Self-Portrait) or annoying, (like the religious era) – just not very good by Dylan’s admittedly massive standards.

Eric Clapton – No Reason To Cry * I can think of one.

Grateful Dead – Steal Your Face * Possibly the worst in a long string of bad albums from this group. How the Dead could release a bad live album is beyond me.

David Bowie – Station To Station * This tops some polls as the best album of the 70’s, but I’m not hearing it.

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same * With all the amazing soundboards Zep had to choose from, why they’d release this tepid piece of crap remains a true mystery.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Give Me Back My Bullets * This isn’t terrible, but it’s pretty clearly the least great release by the pre-plane crash Skynyrd.

Neil Young – Chrome Dreams * If only…


10 Things That Happened In Music In 1976…

BIG DEAL – Promoter Bill Sargent offers The Beatles $30 million to reunite for one concert.

MASKED MEN – Kiss add their footprints to the “Walk Of Fame” outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

NOT FORGOTTEN – The Band play their final show together at Winterland in SF. Martin Scorcese films it for what will become The Last Waltz.

FUCKING ROTTERS – The Sex Pistols infuriate the British public (and inspire that classic Daily Mirror headline “The Filth & The Fury”) when their profanity-laced tirade is broadcast live on television on December 1st.

BOOTS ON – Former Yardbirds singer Keith Relf dies from electrocution while playing his guitar on May 14th.

BIGGER DEAL – Lorne Michaels offers The Beatles $3,000 to play together on Saturday Night Live. Lennon and McCartney reportedly are watching the show together in NYC and consider walking to the studio to take Michaels up on his offer.

LONG LIVE THE BLUES – Bluesmen Howlin’ Wolf, Mance Lipscomb, and Freddie King pass away.

FUTURE SHOCK – CBGB OMFUG, a music venue in New York’s rundown Bowery district, turns a profit for the first time in club history – foreshadowing the explosion of Punk music in the late ’70’s.

FUTURE SHOCK II – The first international Punk festival is held at London’s 100 Club on September 20th and 21st. Performers include The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and The Vibrators.

BLOW OUT – Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is arrested and charged with possession of cocaine after a car accident. The substance was found by police in Richards’ wrecked automobile.


10 groups that formed in ’76…

Black Flag
Cheap Trick
The Cure
The Damned
Iron Maiden
The Jam
U2 (under the name Dublin)

[The above are liner notes for my mix 1976: The Year In Mucus. Take a look at the cover art.]

Masterpiece: Arkology

3 May 2007

[The ‘Masterpiece’ series is a 200 words-or-so look at some of the albums that have changed the way I listen to music. Today: the warped reggae flava of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry]

From a purely musical perspective, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is the most important figure in the history of Jamaican music. Bob Marley was a global icon and a great ambassador for the genre, but Scratch was the most innovative producer of his day, and worked with most of the leading reggae artists of the time (including helping a young Marley find his sound). Additionally, Perry (and/or King Tubby) invented Dub music. Before Dub the concept of a remix simply didn’t exist, and Perry is largely responsible for this development in modern music.

This 3-disc, 52-song box set was a gift from the heavens when it was released in 1997. At that time, the number of Lee Perry albums in print was insignificant, and it would have taken several thousand dollars and a whole lot of time to track down all of the songs included here. Perry produced hundreds of different artists at his now legendary (and defunct) Black Ark studio, including Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, The Congos, and more. His unique production techniques included banging on garbage cans, recording a running faucet, and using found sounds well before it was fashionable. This approach to production yielded a trove of work that still sounds as inventive today as it did upon release.