Posts Tagged ‘Joni Mitchell’

Sleeve Notes: Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

28 January 2011

Joni Mitchell called it starmaker machinery and Billy Joel claimed it was just a fantasy, and not the real thing, and both got it right. So much of the music industry is about selling an image, and always has been. From murder ballads about Stagolee (or Stack-o-Lee, or…) to the supernatural blues of Robert Johnson, to the souped up R&B of Ike Turner and Chuck Berry, to the outlaw fables of Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins, to the shimmer and fire of Elvis and Jerry Lee, to the fab-ness of the Beatles, to the drugs and free love of Woodstock, to the satanic debauchery of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Kiss, to the dancefloor freedom of Disco, to the androgynous sexuality of Boy George, Annie Lennox, Madonna and Prince, to the leggy models in ZZ Top videos and the g-string clad butt-shakers in hip-hop videos, there’s always some kind of fantasy lurking beneath the music. It might be death, sex, money, fame, freedom, or less mundane spoils, but it’s usually there. If you’re looking for a connective thread that ties together every kind of music over the last hundred years or so, you could do a lot worse than that…

Weekend Playlist

12 July 2010

“Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.” ~ Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, on digital downloads

Mac Gayden | Skyboat

Moby Grape | Moby Grape

Average White Band | Cut The Cake

Various Artists | Lagos Disco Inferno

Jean Michel Jarre | Oxygene

Wilco | Summerteeth

Miles Davis | Volume 1

Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine | Prayer Meetin’

Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker | Hooker ‘N Heat

Mance Lipscomb | Vol. 4
[album cover not pictured]

Can | Ege Bamyasi

Daryl Hall | Sacred Songs

Queen | A Night At The Opera

Joni Mitchell | The Hissing Of Summer Lawns

Olatunji | Drums Of Passion

Hubert Sumlin | Hubert Sumlin’s Blues Party

Masters Of Reality | Sunrise On The Sufferbus

Queens Of The Stone Age | Songs For The Deaf

Ramones | It’s Alive

Paul McCartney & Wings | Wings Greatest

Stuck In My Head: The Jungle Line

12 July 2010

You don’t have to like Joni Mitchell to dig those Burundi drums, doing their thing a full decade before Paul Simon got to Africa. Joni gets philosophical, floats like a ghost through buildings and over the big city, observes drug runners, bitchy gossips and jaded businessmen, all while seeking the edge of civilization. What she finds is a universal savage, licking its lips with a forked tongue and waiting for fresh meat. Poisonous snakes are poised to strike, flowers adorn caskets, and nature is within. It always wins in the end…

Listen: The Jungle Line

Sleeve Notes: Time Fades Away

30 June 2010

The photo for the cover of the long lost Neil Young album Time Fades Away was taken by Joel Bernstein at the Philadelphia Spectrum on either January 26 or 27, 1973, during a three-month, 65-date tour of America. Bernstein provided the cover shots for a number of Young’s records, including After The Gold Rush, Rust Never Sleeps, and Weld, as well as albums by Bob Dylan (Live At Budokan), Tom Petty (Hard Promises), Joni Mitchell (Hejira) and many others. This particular album has long been out of print, because as Young has said, “The whole tour was a nervous experience.” But perhaps as well as any other photograph, Bernstein’s cover art captures the muggy anticipation of an audience waiting to be taken higher…

Buried Treasure: If I Could Only Remember My Name

12 September 2009

[Today: David Crosby gets by with a little help…]

David Crosby | If I Could Only Remember My Name

Albums with loads of guest stars are usually rotten for three reasons: 1) Those guests are there to help round out a thin album that isn’t cutting the mustard, 2) It’s a cynical ploy to sell inferior product to a gullible, star-gazing public, and/or 3) Stars need the spotlight, and most of them are not good at playing supporting roles. An album is like a basketball team – there are only so many shots (or solos) to go around, and the good ones are built around role players who understand their value to the team and willingly cede to the superstar.

One of the great exceptions to this rule is David Crosby’s debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. Featuring members of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana – along with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash – this is an all-star band of the late-60’s San Francisco scene. Released in February of 1971, this album is a remarkably cohesive outing that captures the bummed out, post-60’s comedown that knocked plenty of musicians off their game.

Crosby had his own reasons for feeling depressed at the time – his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, was killed in a head-on automobile accident in September of 1969. The album’s final track, ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’ was recorded spontaneously as a memorial to her, but the last three tracks on the album, ‘Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)’, ‘Orleans’ and ‘I’d Swear…’ are all wordless, acapella tracks that sound like heartbreak captured on tape. These songs channel the spirit of Gregorian Chant, and foreshadowed the Fleet Foxes’ sound nearly four decades before they hit.

It’s easy enough to understand why this album was mercilessly panned upon release, but the same things that made it ripe for tomatoes back in the day are what make it shine today. Namely, many of these songs are free-floating, nebulous tunes that eschew traditional song structure in favor of a rambling, shambling, jam-along sound. Engineer Stephen Barncard claims that he used a “record everything” policy, and it shows in the final product. Of course, time and tastes have come around to what Crosby was up to during these sessions (it’s now called “Psych-Folk”) and If I Could Only Remember My Name sounds more contemporary than many albums released last week. Unfortunately Crosby would be swamped by drugs and personal problems throughout the 70’s and 80’s, and took 18 years to release the follow-up to this gem.

Listen: Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)

Listen: I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here

Listen: Tamalpais High (At About 3)

Masterpiece: Court & Spark

17 April 2008

[Today: Joni Mitchell makes some hard choices…]

Court & Spark - album

Exchanging freedom for security is one of the ongoing rites of adulthood. A job, a home, and a spouse are all milestones of growing up, but each entails the sacrifice of other choices. Joni Mitchell inherently understood this dilemma, and on Court & Spark she spoke for a whole generation of people who were coming of age and starting to make some tough decisions about where their individual futures were headed.

Released in January 1974, Court & Spark was an instant sensation that achieved ‘gold’ status (ie 500,000 sold) by February 27th, and spent more than a year on the album charts. Unlike Mitchell’s previous albums, which were instrumentally spare and lyrically bare, these songs are musically nuanced and emotionally complex. “So he buried the coins he made in People’s Park/And went looking for a woman to court and spark” she sings on the title track, cryptically summing up the sacrificial theme that runs through the entire album.

Every emotion expressed on Court & Spark comes with a toll. Mitchell sings of the price of love (‘Help Me’), success (‘Free Man In Paris’ – allegedly written for David Geffen), and friendship (‘People’s Parties’), while happiness hangs forever just beyond her grasp. As Jon Landau perceptively noted in 1974, “Joni Mitchell seems destined to remain in a state of permanent dissatisfaction – always knowing what she would like to do, always more depressed when it’s done.”

But it’s a great batch of songs that make this the best album of Mitchell’s career. After its tremendous success, she began to create progressively more challenging music that moved farther and farther from the AM dial. That the two discs of her career retrospective were titled ‘Hits’ and ‘Misses’ is proof of the adventurous, if sometimes befuddling, spirit of her musical quest. But on Court & Spark, and the following year’s The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, Mitchell struck the perfect balance of pop confection and existential dread.

Listen: Court & Spark

Hidden In Plain Sight Too: 10 More Albums That Don’t Get Their Due

20 September 2007

Who knows why these things happen? Some albums just can’t catch a break, and for a variety of reasons, don’t get the amount of critical or popular respect that they deserve. Here are ten that I think are worth a second listen and some serious reappraisal. Once again, I’m keeping this list to artists that are generally well-known enough that your mom might recognize the names…

beck - album
Beck * Mutations

Why it gets shorted: It came right after Odelay, which is pretty much Beck’s benchmark album. The introspective, dour songs prefaced the gloom and doom of 2002’s Sea Change.

What’s great about it: A very strong crop of songs that are effectively avant garde and poetic. It’s the aural equivalent of listening to a Salvador Dali painting.

Better than: Everything he’s done except Odelay, Guero, and The Information.

Paul Simon - album
Paul Simon * Rhythm Of The Saints

Why it gets shorted: This album came after his landmark album (note a trend, besides me using adjectives that end in -mark?) Graceland. No real hit singles to hang your hat on here.

What’s great about it: On the whole, a much more satisfying realization of the sound of Simon’s infatuation with African music than this album’s more popular counterpart. It has held up extremely well over time, while the overplayed singles on Graceland seriously date that album. [PS – note the great ‘cut bin’ hole on the picture – which I pulled from!]

Better than: Everything else in his catalogue, in my opinion.

PE - album
Public Enemy * Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black

Why it gets shorted: Yet again, it came right after their strongest work – It Takes A Nation Of Millions… and Fear Of A Black Planet. On balance, this album is angrier and more political than either of its more well-known brethren.

What’s great about it: A steady succession of hard-hitting songs about slave ships, liquor dealers and bringin’ noise make this – like Paul Simon’s Rhythym Of The Saints – the more perfect realization of the group’s vision than its more celebrated counterparts. And please note – this is the only blog on earth that dares to compare Paul Simon and Public Enemy.

Better than: Not better than their best work, but certainly as good as anything else they’ve done.

Gaucho - album
Steely Dan * Gaucho

Why it gets shorted: Perhaps I should have named this column “albums that came after artists’ best albums” – this one came after Aja, which people spend an unnecessary amount of time drooling over. Also, ‘Glamour Profession’ and the title track are pretty silly, unless you’re stoned.

What’s great about it: ‘Babylon Sisters’ is epic, for one thing. Also, this was the album when the ironic glint in the Dan’s eye dimmed a bit, and it was obvious that they were a group on the edge, and the party of the 70’s was over. Many critics damn this album for that reason, but that’s what makes it great to me. [In fact this was one of my staple albums from ’95 to ’97 and I practically wore out the grooves on my dollar vinyl copy.]

Better than: Again, not better than – but as good as – their best stuff.

Joni Mitchell - album
Joni Mitchell * The Hissing Of Summer Lawns

Why it gets shorted: While this did come after her uber-celebrated Court & Spark, it was a huge left turn away from that sound. This was where Mitchell began losing traction with her audience, and she steadily retreated into ever more musically obtuse corners.

What’s great about it: ‘The Jungle Line’ is absolutely incredible. This lush, pounding song sampled African drums in 1975 (take that Paul Simon!) and is worth the price of admission alone. And give her credit, she could have spent 20 years cranking out Court & Spark clones, but decided to take some chances instead. And for major bonus points, this is reportedly Prince’s (the artist & symbol) favorite album of all-time.

Better than: Everything in her catalogue but Court & Spark.

One For The Road - album

Willie Nelson & Leon Russell * One For The Road

Why it gets shorted: Willie cranks out about two albums each year, so it’s pretty hard for any but his most devoted fans to even keep up with his current stuff – let alone go dipping 30 years into the past.

What’s great about it: Willie & Leon = two great voices that sound great together.

Better than: Anything he’s produced in the last two decades.

Little Feat - album
Little Feat * The Last Record Album

Why it gets shorted: The cover art on this album is a poor sister to some of Neon Park’s artwork that is so associated with the group. Also, there’s nothing here that has ever troubled any of their ‘greatest hits’ albums.

What’s great about it: This is the sound of Lowell George and company locked into a solid groove, start to finish. There’s nothing even remotely unlikable on this album.

Better than: Sailin’ Shoes, which seems strangely overrated to me.

Van Morrison - album
Van Morrison * Into The Music

Why it gets shorted: Van was pretty uneven – to say the least – from the mid-seventies until the mid-eighties.

What’s great about it: A knockout set that finds Van The Man sounding loose, confident, and swinging. This is truly one of those ‘why don’t I listen to this more often?’ albums.

Better than: Anything else from his late-70’s/early-80’s period.

Muswell Hillbillies - album
The Kinks * Muswell Hillbillies

Why it gets shorted: Not nearly as good as their mid-60’s work, but not nearly as bad as the 70’s work that this album generally gets lumped in with.

What’s great about it: Lots of great songs, and the ‘concept’ around this album was loose enough that it didn’t weigh the whole thing down like most of their 70’s output, such as Schoolboys In Disgrace and Soap Opera.

Better than: Anything that came after, if you get right down to it.

Surf's Up - album
The Beach Boys * Surf’s Up

Why it gets shorted: This couldn’t be further from the sunshine and surfin’ good times that the 60’s Beach Boys represented.

What’s great about it: Exactly what repelled people from it back in the day. This is the sound of the sixties dying in a murky, oily mixture of pollution, police sirens, and indifference. ‘Feel Flows’ would have been the perfect song to play at midnight on December 31st, 1969.

Better than: Everything in their catalogue except Pet Sounds.

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.]