Monthly Archives: April 2012

Todd Rundgren: Faithful


Todd Rundgren: Faithful is released.
# allmusic 3.5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Faithful is Todd Rundgren’s seventh album, released in April, 1976.
The first half of Faithful consists of dead-on, note-perfect recreations of six classic ’60s pop tunes: the Yardbirds’ freakout “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Rain,” Bob Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” and Jimi Hendrix’s dreamy “If Six Was Nine.”
The second half of this set is made up of Rundgren originals in the style of the preceding batch of covers. (Think of the Rutles, though this pre-dates that loving parody.) Rundgren and the members of his fusion-oriented side project Utopia pull the feat off beautifully. The covers are perfect, and the originals include two of his best tunes, “The Verb ‘To Love'” and “Love of the Common Man.” Falling for this set depends on whether one thinks this conceit is worthwhile.
Also alluding to the name of the album in concept, it was released with virtually no advertising. Bearsville Records’ President Paul Fiskin theorized (and was essentially proven correct) Rundgren’s faithful listeners would purchase just as many albums as his previous releases based solely on word of mouth.
It’s 1967 and both Hendrix and the Yardbirds are busy evolving the electric guitar, the Beatles and the Beach Boys are revolutionizing the aesthetics of the studio and Dylan is burning in creative fever with a rock band and sad-eyed ladies. Todd Rundgren is a kid with his first band, the Nazz, and he’s listening hard.
Almost a decade later, he’s turned up with recitations of six of the most important songs of that year—”Good Vibrations,” “If Six Was Nine,” “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” and “Rain.” Rundgren’s career has been that of a renaissance pop musician, sopping up influences like a sponge and employing them with clever calculation. The problem here isn’t Rundgren’s lack of the vocal and instrumental chops of his influences—he doesn’t have the voice of Brian Wilson, for example, but he’s mastered his style—but that as literal recreations, the tunes are little more than artifacts. Initially interesting and funny, they’re ultimately redundant. And if they’re designed for Rundgren’s teenage constituency, one is left hoping that the astute will pick up on the Runt’s hint and dig up the primary sources. Would even Rundgren himself listen to his versions in lieu of the originals?
The original material that fills side two is a more ambitious tribute to his influences and his strongest collection of pop tunes since his classic Something/Anything? Rundgren wrote of that album’s “I Saw the Light”: “If there’s a single on this album, this is it, so I put it first like at Motown.” The new “Love of the Common Man” certainly deserves the same accolade: its infectious melodies, endearing voice and sentiments and tasty mix of Beatles-esque guitars and harmonies make it irresistible. The simple chorus hook—”turn the world around”—carries more genuine power than all the cosmic proclamations that have cluttered much of his recent work.
“Cliche” is similarly effective, with a strong pop melody enlivened by Rundgren’s harmonies and the intricate weave of various keyboards. He explores his soul influences with a strong if somewhat overblown ballad, “The Verb ‘to Love.'” He pokes fanciful fun at rock’s recent infatuation with Caribbean rhythms on “When I Pray” (with its wonderful chorus, “singin’ om omigod, please be there”) and showcases his flashy guitar moves on the rockers, “Black and White” and “Boogies (Hamburger Hell).” Diverse, highly musical and, best of all, fun, these songs embody the influences that Rundgren puts under a microscope on his tributes.
Rundgren is very much a product of the Sixties and, specifically, the artists he has chosen to cover on Faithful. And with the help of Utopia (his band), he’s lived up to the album’s title. “Good Vibrations,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and the rest are not interpretations but facsimiles, verbatim mimics of the riffs and ideas of the originals. Faithful’s failure to live up to the second side’s more ambitious definition of the term—that is, a new embodiment of his heroes’ energy and visions—is the tragic flaw in what is otherwise Rundgren’s strongest album in years. (RS 216)
~ JOHN MILWARD (July 1, 1976)
Side one
“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” (Jeff Beck, Jim McCarty, Jimmy Page, Keith Relf) – 3:12
“Good Vibrations” (Mike Love, Brian Wilson) – 3:44
“Rain” (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 3:16
“Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” (Bob Dylan) – 3:24
“If 6 Was 9” (Jimi Hendrix) – 4:55
“Strawberry Fields Forever” (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 3:53
Side two
All songs written by Todd Rundgren
“Black and White” – 4:42
“Love of the Common Man” – 3:35
“When I Pray” – 2:58
“Cliché” – 4:00
“The Verb “To Love”” – 7:25
“Boogies (Hamburger Hell)” – 5:00

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Filed under beach boys, The Beatles, Todd Rundgren

Van Morrison: A Period of Transition


Van Morrison: A Period of Transition is released.
# allmusic 3/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
A Period of Transition is the ninth album by Van Morrison, released in April, 1977. It was his first album in two and a half years, largely forgotten or looked over by most casual fans.
Morrison had appeared in The Last Waltz with Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) who was a co-producer on this album as well as playing keyboards and guitar.
Not that there was much competition, but with this album, Morrison made a convincing case for his being the Irish Al Green. The classic Memphis soul sound he adopts here is a logical extension of the R&B roots he had expanded on since the beginning of his career. Helped out here by Dr. John, he presents a group of songs that are among his most visceral and immediate. Miles from the dreamy minstrelsy of Veedon Fleece, this recording is based around solid, propulsive R&B grooves that lay an undeniable claim to dancing feet while the lyrics still address the kind of spiritual concerns that have become a Morrison trademark. Van at his funkiest.
It’s been a long haul for both the Band and Van Morrison; they have made their livings as rock & rollers for close to 20 years now. To judge solely by their new albums (Morrison’s is his first release since 1974) time is catching up with them, though whether they will again outdistance it remains an open question. Morrison made better music in ’64 and ’65 with Them, the first (and last?) great Irish rock & roll band; as the Hawks, the Band made better music in ’63, covering Bobby Bland and Muddy Waters tunes at the tail end of a Ronnie Hawkins session. Not that rock & roll has ever had anything to do with “progress.”
There is a lot of neo-R&B huffing and puffing on A Period of Transition (from what to what?), but Morrison’s performances rarely find a focus, almost never hit a groove. The grand gestures of Morrison’s style at its most rhetorical (“We are Them, take it or leave it,” he snarled during his 1964 sessions) fade in the air. The emotion that would justify those gestures, that would put a little terror into borrowed lines like “From a whisper to a scream,” is just out of reach: Transition is “Jackie Wilson Said” without the bite.
The key to the album’s sluggishness is the dullness of the horn charts. Van is the most inventive and lyrical arranger of horns rock & roll has known since the heyday of Stax-Volt, but “Flamingos Fly” is the only tune to which the horns add anything but sound; there, they add wit and a sense of fun. This is “Jackie Wilson Said” and something more; the album’s finest number by a long distance. The groove is irresistible, and it capsizes the rest of the album.
Van Morrison once sang “Listen to the Lion” and made you feel as if you’d been cornered by one; he will do it again, but he doesn’t do it on Transition. This is by no means a bad album, but it lives up to its title all too well.
“I’m not really here, I just stick around for my friends,” Captain Beefheart used to say, and that sums up what I hear on Islands — which is not nothing. To be sure, there’s not a grand gesture on it. I can’t imagine this album meaning anything to someone who does not feel that his or her successes and failures are somehow reflected in the Band’s. If one does feel that, Islands is anything but hollow — it may sound like an unassuming last word, if hardly a last stand.
Since the members of the Band have not moved to Hawaii, it’s the album’s title, and the specter of the Band’s recent farewell concert, that implies that last word. Rick Danko and Levon Helm have signed solo recording contracts, and Helm is already working with Dr. John and Paul Butterfield; the thinness of the material on Islands suggests they may be keeping their best songs for their own albums, and the inclusion of a couple of oldies doesn’t make up the difference. “Ain’t That a Lotta Love,” a barband staple that a couple of years ago on a San Francisco stage Levon, Garth Hudson, Danko, Neil Young, Tim Drummond and Ben Keith stomped out as if they meant to stop the sun in its tracks, is on Islands the stiffest excuse for R&B I ever want to hear; too many of Robbie Robertson’s tunes offer cracker-barrel banalities without the music that could redeem them — or disguise them. “You don’t know what you want ’til you find out what you need” might be true and it might not be, but the point is it isn’t interesting.
Save for a couple of Richard Manuel’s vocals, I was ready to give up on this record. Then I began to hear it on the radio, and it sounded fresh. Now, while the first side of the LP passes pleasantly and tiresomely enough, side two seems like real people talking: that last word. “Islands,” the title instrumental, is slight and pretty — it disarms one’s desire for grand gestures, and it sets a tone. The tone is one of moderation; that is almost what the best songs here are about, in their music, in the feeling they get across. Manuel’s version of “Georgia on My Mind” recalls the heart he put into “Whispering Pines,” almost eight years ago. “Knockin’ Lost John,” a fine, unprofound ditty about the Great Depression of the Thirties, simply speaks to the present, and again, Manuel, without ever reaching for a note, gives the piece its authenticity; his voice carries the authority of an old man who can put up with anything but who’d just as soon not. “I went through it once,” he seems to be saying. “I’m damned if I’ll go through it again.”
And then there is “Livin’ in a Dream,” which closes out the set: a rewrite of “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Well, it is the best song on Islands — a perfect cut. I hear it as a leave-taking, but then I have finales on my mind. The beat could not be less hurried, nor could the lines Levon sings, nor the way he sings them:
I’m gonna buy buy buy you
A sheepskin coat
I’m gonna string red rubies round your throat
Gently down the stream I will row your boat
‘Cause you know we’re only livin’ in a dream.
There’s no languor in the song, only pleasure; there are no promises that can’t be kept, and the promises Levon makes seem to have been kept when the tune ends. That spirit doesn’t sell records, but it may keep them in mind, when the time is right.
Still, in rock & roll a little modesty goes a long way. These are not the worst albums Van Morrison and the Band have made, but except for Morrison’s “Flamingos Fly” and the Band’s “Livin’ in a Dream” they make the best almost inexplicable. One cannot think of the power of “Chest Fever” and easily understand the triviality of “Ain’t That a Lotta Love”; one can’t quite pin down the fatal difference between the urgency of “St. Dominic’s Preview” or “You Don’t Pull No Punches but You Don’t Push the River” and the unconvincing strain of most of Transition. What you do, if you are committed to these artists, is wait.
~ Greil Marcus (May 19, 1977)
All songs written by Van Morrison unless noted.
Side one
“You Gotta Make It Through the World” – 5:10
“It Fills You Up” – 4:34
“The Eternal Kansas City” – 5:26
Side two
“Joyous Sound” – 2:48
“Flamingos Fly” – 4:41
“Heavy Connection” – 5:23
“Cold Wind in August” – 5:48

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King Crimson: USA


King Crimson: USA is released.
# allmusic 4/5
USA is a live album by King Crimson, released in April, 1975.
It was mostly recorded at the Casino, Asbury Park, on 28 June 1974. The exceptions are track 7, which was recorded at the Palace Theatre, Providence, USA, on 30 June 1974, and Eddie Jobson’s overdubs on tracks 2, 3 and 7, which were recorded in a studio.
“USA” was recorded towards the end of King Crimson’s final US tour of the 70s in June 1974. It was issued as an epitaph for the band in Spring 1975. In common with much of Crimson’s output, it was not well received at the time by critics, though its critical reputation has grown immeasurably in the intervening years to the point where a recent review of the ’21st Century Guide to King Crimson’ box set identifies the album as the point “…where Fripp maps out the guitar blueprint for the entire post-punk movement.”
by Lindsay Planer, allmusic
As Robert Fripp had done with King Crimson’s first live LP, Earthbound (1972), USA (1974) is a single-disc concert package documenting the quartet during its most concurrent swing through North America. As with its predecessor, USA was also issued as a sonic cenotaph of the concurrently defunct Krim. So insistent that the band would not be resurrected, Fripp concluded the LP’s liner notes at the time with another three-letter epitaph: “R.I.P.” The 1973/1974 King Crimson included the collective efforts of Fripp (guitar/mellotron), David Cross (violin), John Wetton (bass/vocals), and Bill Bruford (drums/percussion). USA also includes notable violin overdubs by Eddie Jobson on the tracks “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2” and “21st Century Schizoid Man,” as well as electric piano addendums to “Lament.” The opening drone — indexed as “Walk On….No Pussyfooting” for the 30th anniversary release in 2002 — re-creates the typical performance prelude, which is lifted directly from the Fripp and Brian Eno sonic sculpture No Pussyfooting (1973). The brusque juxtaposition of the ethereal opening to the aggressive “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2” jolts the audience into the rips and snorts found during this tautly rendered instrumental. The readings of “Lament” and “Exiles” demonstrate this band’s overwhelming sonic sensibilities. They are able to contrast and incorporate thick, viscous melodies and rhythms with alternately underlying sensitive, as well as ultimately beautiful, musical responses. A majority of the release is taken from a performance on June 28, 1974, at the Casino in Asbury Park, NJ, with the notable exception of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” which was recorded two nights later at the Palace Theater in Providence, RI. The previously mentioned 30th anniversary edition marks the legitimate digital debut of USA. The extended CD format allows for the addition of “Fracture” and “Starless” from the Casino show. Additional live recordings of this band can be found on the four-disc The Great Deceiver collection and Night Watch, as well as Live in Central Park, NYC ’74 and Live in Mainz 1974 from the King Crimson Collectors’ Club.
Side one
“Walk On…No Pussyfooting” (Brian Eno, Robert Fripp) – 0:35
“Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part II)” (Fripp) – 7:03
“Lament” (Fripp, Richard Palmer-James, John Wetton) – 4:21
“Exiles” (David Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James) – 7:09
Side two
“Asbury Park” (Bill Bruford, Cross, Fripp, Wetton) – 7:06
“Easy Money” (Fripp, Palmer-James, Wetton) – 6:41
“21st Century Schizoid Man” (Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, Peter Sinfield) – 8:40
Bonus tracks on 30th anniversary edition CD
“Fracture” (Fripp) – 11:19
“Starless” (Bruford, Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James, Wetton) – 14:55

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Filed under Bill Bruford, David Cross, Eddie Jobson, John Wetton, King Crimson, Robert Fripp

The Moody Blues: Caught Live + 5


April 30, 1977 – The Moody Blues: Caught Live + 5 is released in the UK.
# allmusic 4/5
Caught Live + 5 is a Moody Blues double album consisting of a December,  1969 live show at the Royal Albert Hall and five previously unreleased studio recordings from the same time period.   It was released on this date in 1977 in the UK (June 4, 1977 in the US).
While Caught Live + 5 managed to reach #26 during its American chart run, it missed the British listings completely, the first time this had occurred for The Moody Blues since their 1965 debut The Magnificent Moodies.
This is the first Moody Blues album since Days of Future Passed not to feature cover artwork by Philip Travers. Decca Records instead used British art design group Hipgnosis.
The band have expressed their dissatisfaction with their performance that night, citing drug use that impaired their abilities, and as such, the release was desired more by Decca Records, who distributed The Moody Blues’ Threshold Records label, than by the band themselves. Nevertheless, the concert showcases the band’s versatility on different instruments, and their ability to perform complex material from their first four albums in a live setting. “Gypsy” is the only representative of the contemporary album To Our Children’s Children’s Children.
The 8-track tape version of this album has the distinction of being one of the few 8-tracks that is arranged exactly like the album, with no song breaks.
by Bruce Eder, allmusic
The Moody Blues released this live concert recording (augmented by some previously unissued studio cuts) after they’d decided to re-form at the end of the 1970s, in order to get some product out and test the waters for their reunion the following year. As their first new release in five years, it sold extremely well on both sides of the Atlantic and fueled the anticipation attending the release of the Octave album a year later. In point of fact, however, the group supposedly never liked the concert much as a document, which is one reason why they didn’t authorize its release on CD until 1996 — the unofficial word among fans is that several of the group members were under the influence of controlled substances during the show and were, thus, less sharp than they might otherwise have been, though you’d never know it from the results here. The 1969 Royal Albert Hall show sounds a lot better on this CD than it did on the LP version, with a closeness that was never evident before — Justin Hayward’s guitar and Mike Pinder’s various Mellotrons, in particular, sound really crisp, and all of the singing comes out with more detail as well. Their repertory at this time came primarily from Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord, and On the Threshold of a Dream, plus “Gypsy,” the one number from To Our Children’s Children’s Children — their then new album — that they actually performed live; the latter is also the opening number, and Hayward’s guitar work is most impressive, whether he’s playing the melody in the opening, or crunching out chords on the break. “The Sunset,” from Days of Future Passed, is a showcase for Pinder’s Mellotrons, the keyboard player slowly weaving lush Arabesques and misteriosos while Hayward strums out muted chords, Graeme Edge’s drums impersonate the sound of a tabla, and Ray Thomas’ flute hovers above it all with its lilting phrases. “Dr. Livingston, I Presume” lightens the tone with a more witty, whimsical side of psychedelia that still allows Pinder a chance to show off the Mellotron’s range and Hayward a surprisingly hard-rocking solo — one audience member, in particular, seems taken with it all, punctuating the crescendos with shrieks of appreciation that don’t detract a bit from the listening. Edge’s nimble playing is most impressive on “Peak Hour,” a frenetically paced number off of Days of Future Passed, and the other highlights of the set include the hits “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin,” and the closing suite from On the Threshold of a Dream, which works well despite Pinder’s being limited to just two keyboards — one scarcely misses the grand piano, and the opening sequence, “Are You Sitting Comfortably,” gives Thomas’ flute its best showcase. The group is tight throughout, both in their playing and singing, and the show ends on a hard-rocking note with “Legend of a Mind” and “Ride My See-Saw” — and the former is a great vehicle for John Lodge’s bass work. The CD mastering reveals details in the playing (particularly on the guitar parts) that were obscured on the original LP, and while there are still occasional balance problems, as a representative set for the band from their psychedelic period, the concert portion of this CD holds up extremely well — one only wishes that the band had seen fit to record a show or two from the following tour, where they rocked out on numbers like “Tortoise and the Hair,” or their 1972-1973 tour behind the Seventh Sojourn album, representing their peak from this era in their history. As for the studio cuts, they’re salvaged from failed album sessions in 1967 and 1968, and they’re not bad songs — “Gimme a Little Something” has a great opening verse, guitar part, and chorus, even if it doesn’t quite hold together perfectly as a song, and “King and Queen” and “What Am I Doing Here” both have hauntingly beautiful melodies. But they’re also not quite up to the standard of what the group released during that period, and work best in a historical, archival context, which is how they were issued.
Tracks 1–14 are live. Tracks 15–19 (side Four) are studio recordings.
Side One
“Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time)” (Justin Hayward) – 4:03
“The Sunset” (Mike Pinder) – 4:33
“Dr. Livingstone, I Presume” (Ray Thomas) – 3:23
“Never Comes the Day” (Hayward) – 5:39
Side Two
“Peak Hour” (John Lodge) – 5:13
“Tuesday Afternoon” (Hayward) – 4:51
“Are You Sitting Comfortably?” (Hayward, Thomas) – 4:21
“The Dream” (Graeme Edge) – :58
“Have You Heard (Part 1)” (Pinder) – 1:22
“The Voyage” (Pinder) – 3:37
“Have You Heard (Part 2)” (Pinder) – 2:33
Side Three
“Nights in White Satin” (Hayward) – 5:55
“Legend of a Mind” (Thomas) – 7:05
“Ride My See-Saw” (Lodge) – 4:28
Side Four
“Gimme a Little Somethin'” (Lodge) – 3:13
“Please Think About It” (Pinder) – 3:41
“Long Summer Days” (Hayward) – 3:12
“King and Queen” (Hayward) – 3:52
“What Am I Doing Here?” (Hayward) – 3:33

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The Zombies: Begin Here


April 30, 1965 – The Zombies: Begin Here is released in the UK.
# allmusic 4/5
Begin Here is the UK debut album by The Zombies, released on this date in April, 1965. The American version (titled The Zombies) repeated many of the tracks from it, but, as was common in those days, deleted some cuts and substituted some others.
The British Invasion would not have been the same without those Pop-masters that were The Zombies. Begin Here was proof that The Zombies could swim in the same pool with the likes of The Beatles and The Kinks.
In the springtime of 1965, the most dynamic beat group to hit big on both sides of the Atlantic was The Beatles. However, the most dynamic beat group could very well have been the Zombies. As evidenced by their debut album Begin Here, the Zombies showed that they were much more than another English beat group configured into the constraining mold of The Beatles.
Their cover of George Gershwin Summertime does more than signal to the listener that this is a group that will not only throw you the unexpected choice of song covers, but that they will also play and sing them like nobody else can.
Where the Zombies strike gold is in their original songs. And although most everyone has heard She’s Not There with its magnificent keyboard solo and inventive stuttering drum beat, what truly lingers after listening to this record is the haunting aural landscape from songs like I Can’t Make Up My Mind and the truly remarkable I Remember When I Loved Her.
It’s a shame that the Zombies never hit bigger than they did. They certainly had the musical chops, they were great songwriters, and they could all sing very well together.
by Mark Deming, allmusic
The Zombies were one of the best and most original pop groups to rise from the British Beat scene of the early to mid-’60s, with striking harmonies, gorgeous melodies, a gifted and nuanced lead singer in Colin Blunstone, and a keyboard player, Rod Argent, who was just as comfortable with jazz and blues as he was with rock, and not afraid to blend his influences in the course of a song. Given all this, the Zombies’ first album, 1965’s Begin Here, is a bit of a disappointment; while it’s an inarguably fine set of songs, half of the tunes are covers, mostly of R&B standards, and while the band plays them with genuine passion and impressive skill, the truth is there were plenty of bands on the U.K. Beat scene who could play “I Got My Mojo Working,” “Road Runner,” or “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” at least as well if not better. It’s on the originals, written by Argent and guitarist Chris White, where one hears what really made the Zombies special. “She’s Not There” was an international hit, and the slightly ominous rumble of Argent’s electric piano, the emphatic lead vocal from Blunstone, and the melodic lift of the harmonies give it a sound not quite like anyone else around at the time, while “I Can’t Make Up My Mind” and “I Don’t Want to Know” are similarly well-crafted and thoughtful. “Woman” and “What More Can I Do” are hard-driving R&B numbers that allow the group’s individual personality to shine through (especially in Argent and White’s forceful instrumental work), and “I Remember When I Loved Her” is a moody and atmospheric piece that anticipates the tone of the group’s masterful final album Odessey and Oracle. Given the wealth of fine original tunes that the Zombies released on various non-LP singles and EPs during this period, it’s a shame that so much of Begin Here was given over to covers; it’s still a fine album and certainly better than what most of their peers had to offer in 1965, but what could have been an achievement on a par with the Kinks’ Face to Face or the Beatles’ Rubber Soul ended up being something quite good instead of an unqualified triumph.
Side 1                                   
1              Road Runner (Bo Diddley) 2:06
2              Summertime (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward)                                                  3              I Can’t Make Up My Mind (Chris White) 2:37
4              The Way I Feel Inside  (Rod Argent) :28
5              Work ‘n’ Play (Ken Jones) 2:07
6              You Really Got A Hold On Me/Bring It On Home To Me  (Smokey Robinson/Sam Cooke)
7              She’s Not There (Argent) 2:20
Side 2                                   
8             Sticks And Stones (Henry Glover, Titus Turner) 2:56
9             Can’t Nobody Love You (Phillip Mitchell) 2:15
10           Woman (Argent) 2:25
11           I Don’t Want To Know (White) 2:07
12           I Remember When I Loved Her (Argent) 2:00
13           What More Can I Do (White) 1:38
14           I Got My Mojo Working (Preston Foster, McKinley Morganfield)               
CD Bonus Tracks                                              
15           It’s Alright With Me (Argent)              
16           Sometimes (Argent) 2:05
17           Kind Of Girl (Argent)              
18           Tell Her No (Argent) 2:09
19           Sticks And Stones (Alternate Take) (Glover, Turner)
20           It’s Alright With Me (Alternate Take) (Argent)              
21           I Know She Will (Argent, White)               
22           I’ll Keep Trying (Argent)

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Filed under colin blunstone, rod argent, The Zombies

Bob Marley & The Wailers: Rastaman Vibration

April 30, 1976 – Bob Marley & The Wailers: Rastaman Vibration is released.
# allmusic 4/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Rastaman Vibration is an album by Bob Marley & The Wailers released on this date in April, 1976. The album was a great success in the USA, becoming the first (and only) Bob Marley release to reach the top ten on the Billboard 200 charts (peaking at No. 8), in addition to releasing Marley’s most popular US single (“Roots, Rock, Reggae” was the only Bob Marley single to reach the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at No. 51).
Rastaman Vibration’s burlap-esque jacket design couldn’t be more appropriate packaging-this is a load of Natty knowledge delivered in simple, raw fashion. And there’s a real beauty in the weave. This 1976 release finds Bob dropping ever more lyrics on human entanglements both local and global, his transcendent voice threading wisdom through it all.
“Positive Vibration” and “Roots, Rock, Reggae” are anthemic in character, inviting all listeners to quit their negativity and start a-dancin’. “Want More” is a promise of bad karma for back-biters everywhere, leadened fearfully by solemn bass lines and seamless production. Perhaps most compelling here is “War,” a musical setting of a 1968 speech on global justice by the Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Bob’s echoing fade with the words, “Good Over Evil” is positively haunting. While Peter Tosh’s voice is absent, the classic exchange between Marley and the I-Threes (backing vocal divas, for those not in the know) shines all the more brightly in the spotlight. Funky organs are everywhere. Every track on Rastaman Vibration is an excellent piece of vintage roots reggae, proving just how powerful and tight Bob’s studio sessions could be.
On the inside of the original album jacket, to the right, is a message stating “This album jacket is great for cleaning herb.”
“It’s not music right now, we’re dealing with a message. Right now the music not important, we’re dealing with a message. Rastaman Vibration is more like a dub kinda album and it’s come without tampering y’know. Like ‘War’ or ‘Rat Race’, the music don’t take you away, it’s more to listen to.” –Bob Marley, June 1976
Bob Marley has been writing moving songs, making vital and innovative music, struggling to the top in the anarchic Jamaican record business and slowly building an international following for almost ten years. Island Records has been trying to break him in the U.S. since the release of Catch a Fire, four albums ago, and the rock press has been pushing the albums, Marley and reggae music with a unanimous enthusiasm that makes even their efforts in Bruce Springsteen’s behalf seem equivocal. It’s working. Marley’s latest tour has been selling out almost everywhere and Rastaman Vibration is probably going to be his first gold album.
Marley is a political as well as a musical force in Jamaica, and not just because he is calling the national elections a rat race and telling the people they can’t trust conventional politicians, something they already know. If Bob Marley, with his dreadlocks and funky clothes and deliberately exaggerated patois, can be an international pop hero, then the life of the Jamaican dread-in-the-street has, in a sense, been validated. Average dread may not be able to share Marley’s earnings—People predicts they could add up to a million by the end of the year—but he can share Marley’s purpose and pride.
The mushrooming Wailers cult in the States is easier and harder to figure, easier because the publicity surrounding Marley has focused on such exotic items as Rastafarianism and conspicuous herb consumption, harder if you assume that the fans are listening to the words of his songs. “Slave Driver,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Burnin’ and Lootin'” and several other earlier Marley works are among the most powerful songs of black rage and politicized exasperation ever written, and the new tunes are only slightly less effective. But for the most part, Marley’s fans in the U.S. are either middleclass whites or blacks who want into the capitalist system, not out of it. Do they really enjoy getting high and grooving on images of slave ships, starvation and riots, or are they just dancing to the music? And if the latter is the case, what does it mean in terms of Marley’s professed Rastafarian asceticism, his antimaterialist rhetoric, his mission as the bringer of doom to Babylon?
A recent editorial in The Caribbeat, a West Indian entertainment magazine that’s been selling like hotcakes at the newsstands in New York’s subways, voices a viewpoint that must be shared by a substantial portion of the West Indian community in the U.S. Referring to the numerous articles on Marley which have been appearing in U.S. publications, the magazine’s editor writes that “it is no longer Bob’s musical talent and abilities that count. Rather, we must endure account after account on ‘Rastafarianism,’ ‘Dreadlocks,’ ‘Pocomania,’ ‘Haile Selassie,’ ‘Shanty Towns’ and all sorts of hocus-pocus that is supposedly responsible for the creation and mainstay of reggae. … The Jamaican sound is going to succeed in one and only one way. That is, through hit records. People cannot spin ‘Rastafarianism,’ ‘Marcus Garvey’ and other such hullabaloo on their turntables.”
The Caribbeat blames the direction of Marley’s promotion, which it regards as a contemptible freak show, on Island, overlooking the role Marley has chosen for himself. In fact, Marley plays to the hilt a dual role as spokesman for the Third World’s disadvantaged and avatar of a highly commercial brand of popular music, and on Rastaman Vibration he is playing both aspects of his role with consummate skill. The album rails against Jamaica’s social and political malaise and preaches black self-reliance while aiming straight for the top of the charts.
In “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” for example, Marley asserts confidently that, “We bubbling on the Top 100/ Just like a Mighty Dread,” and his backing singers, the I Three’s, respond with a slick, cheery riff that’s more than reminiscent of Philadelphia International’s Three Degrees. The album’s opening cut, “Positive Vibration,” proclaims, “Rastaman vibration, yeah! Positive.” Soon, however, a different mood intrudes:
Woman hold her head and cry
Cause her son had been
Shot down in the street
And died
Just because of the system
Protest, paranoia and finger-pointing are the themes of most of the rest of the songs; the vibrations are anything but positive. As a solution to the inequities of “the system,” all Marley seems to be offering is a harsh, eye-for-an-eye brand of Old Testament morality that is far removed from the sort of pragmatism practiced by most contemporary revolutionaries.
But whatever the words say, the melodies and the band’s playing are enchanting. “Who the Cap Fit” is Gamble and Huff’s “Back Stabbers” done up Jamaican style, one long paean to distrust and moral opprobrium. Musically, it is probably the most affecting song on the album. There are four distinct sections, each with a clever harmonic change or a hook worthy of the most calculating AM tunesmith. The I Three’s surpass themselves with a rich, churchy blend behind Marley’s unusually forthright and personable vocal. There are synthesized strings to make the message even sweeter. It’s hard to imagine anybody resisting a song that sounds this good, even though it cautions that your best friends are likely to betray you.
“Who the Cap Fit” is one of three tunes written or cowritten by the Wailers’ remarkable rhythm section, the brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett. The band’s other original members have long since departed, and at least two of them, the vocalists and songwriters Bunny Livingstone and Peter “Tosh” Mackintosh, haven’t been adequately replaced. But the Barretts, who were one of the better bass/drums teams in reggae when they first recorded, have grown into one of the most compelling, creative and flexible rhythm sections in all of popular music. Since they began expanding reggae’s rhythmic dimensions, and especially since their incredibly varied work on Natty Dread, the sort of rock musicians who used to make disparaging comments on the simplicity of the music have fallen silent. With Rastaman Vibration, they continue their quiet but profound rhythmic revolution. If “Roots, Rock, Reggae” becomes the hit single Island is hoping for, it will be because people listening to their radios find the combination of Marley’s sinuous, minorkey melody and the Barretts’ inexorable drive almost unbearably stimulating. If the album is the one that finally puts the Wailers over the top, it will be the Barretts’ achievement as much as it is Marley’s.
The band’s new music does lack the intense complexity which the original Wailers, with Bunny and Tosh, brought to masterpieces like “Concrete Jungle.” But ultimately it commands respect. The sensitive, careful listener will learn from Rastaman Vibration something of the pain, rage and determination of Shantytown, Jamaica, and perhaps something of the community’s political and cultural fragmentation as well. Those who don’t care to listen carefully will still get the celebratory, life-affirming message of the sound and the beat. Perhaps that sound and beat are the “positive vibration” Marley talks about at the beginning of the album, and his apparently inconsistent stand halfway between revolution and the Hot 100 masks an underlying unity of feeling and purpose which only the music can express. In any event, as a pop record Rastaman Vibration makes perfect sense. (RS 215)
~ ROBERT PALMER (June 17, 1976)
Side One
“Positive Vibration” (Vincent Ford) – 3:33
“Roots, Rock, Reggae” (Vincent Ford) – 3:38
“Johnny Was” (Rita Marley) – 3:48
“Cry to Me” (Rita Marley) – 2:36
“Want More” (Aston Barrett) – 4:15
Side Two
“Crazy Baldhead” (Rita Marley/Vincent Ford) – 3:11
“Who The Cap Fit” (Aston Barrett/Carlton Barrett) – 4:43
“Night Shift” (Bob Marley) – 3:11
“War” (Allen Cole/Carlton Barrett) – 3:36
“Rat Race” (Rita Marley) – 2:49
Deluxe Edition (2002)
Disc One Remastered
“Positive Vibration” – 3:33
“Roots, Rock, Reggae” – 3:38
“Johnny Was” – 3:48
“Cry To Me” – 2:36
“Want More” – 4:15
“Crazy Baldhead” – 3:11
“Who The Cap Fit” – 4:43
“Night Shift” – 3:11
“War” – 3:36
“Rat Race” – 2:49
“Jah Live” (Original Mix) – 4:17
“Concrete” (B-side of Single) – 4:24
“Roots, Rock, Reggae” (Unreleased Single Mix) – 3:38
“Roots, Rock, Dub” (Unreleased Single Dub Mix) – 3:38
“Want More” (Unreleased Alternate Album Mix) – 5:10
“Crazy Baldhead” (Unreleased Alternate Album Mix) – 3:08
“War” (Unreleased Alternate Album Mix) – 4:03
“Johnny Was” (Unreleased Alternate Album Mix) – 3:41
Disc Two: Rastaman Vibration Live Edition
“Introduction” – 0:38
“Trenchtown Rock” – 4:56
“Burnin’ & Lootin'” – 4:54
“Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” – 4:13
“Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock)” – 6:08
“I Shot the Sheriff” – 6:34
“Want More” – 7:02
“No Woman, No Cry (Live)” – 5:19
“Lively Up Yourself” – 5:44
“Roots, Rock, Reggae” – 5:32
“Rat Race” – 7:53
“Smile Jamaica, Part One” – 3:19
“Smile Jamaica, Part Two” – 3:10

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Roger Waters: The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

April 30, 1984 – Roger Waters: The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is released.
# allmusic 4/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)

The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is a concept album and the first solo album by Roger Waters, released on this date in April, 1984. The album was certified gold in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 1995.

The concept, as envisioned by Waters in 1977, rotated around a man’s scattered thoughts during a road trip through somewhere in Central Europe, focusing on his midlife crisis, and how he dreams of committing adultery with a hitchhiker he picks up along the way. Along the way he also faces other fears and paranoia, with all of these things taking place in real time in the early morning hours of 04:30:18 AM to 05:12 AM on an unspecified day.

In July 1977, Waters played some of the music demos of what he had pieced together, but he also played parts of another album he was preparing titled Bricks in the Wall to the rest of his bandmates in his group Pink Floyd. After a long debate, they decided that they preferred the concept of Bricks In The Wall instead, even though their manager at the time, Steve O’Rourke, thought that The Pros and Cons… was a better-sounding concept.

‘Well, the idea for the album came concurrently with the idea for The Wall – the basis of the idea. I wrote both pieces at roughly the same time. And in fact, I made demo tapes of them both, and in fact presented both demo tapes to the rest of the Floyd, and said “Look, I’m going to do one of these as a solo project and we’ll do one as a band album, and you can choose.” So, this was the one that was left over. Um…I mean, it’s developed an awful lot since then, I think.’
— Roger Waters

Retitled The Wall, it became the next Pink Floyd album in 1979, and Waters shelved The Pros and Cons…. In early 1983, following his split from the band, Waters undertook the shelved project himself. The album was recorded in three different studios between February and December 1983 in London, the Olympic Studios, Eel Pie Studios and in Waters’ own Billiard Room, the studio where his demos were constructed. Several people appeared on the album, including musical conductor Michael Kamen, the vocal talents of actor Jack Palance, saxophonist David Sanborn and rock and blues guitarist Eric Clapton.

As for the design of the album itself, Gerald Scarfe, who had created the album artwork and some animation for Pink Floyd’s The Wall album, created all the graphics and animation for the Pros and Cons album. Its cover prompted controversy for featuring a rear-view nude photograph of model and softcore pornography actress Linzi Drew. It was condemned by some feminist groups and was considered sexist with some claiming it even advertised rape. Many posters advertising the album worldwide were ripped down and destroyed by protesters. Although it was originally released with the nudity intact, subsequent editions distributed by Columbia Records censored Drew’s buttocks with a black box, although under the correct lighting her buttocks are still visible. and it is this censored version that remains the only version available in regions such as the United States and Japan where the record is distributed solely by Columbia.

Roger Waters’ first official solo album will be of sustained interest mainly to postanalytic Pink Floyd fetishists and other highly evolved neurotics who persist in seeking spiritual significance amid the flotsam of English art rock. I can’t imagine that anyone else will sit more than once through this strangely static, faintly hideous record, on which Waters’ customary bile is, for the first time, diluted with musical bilge.

Essentially, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is a venomous lament for those poor saps in the Sixties who, having sampled the hip scene, decided to chuck it all and go “back to the land.” Waters, of course, initially depicts these aspiring bumpkins as witless simps; in the end, however, he concludes that they’re simply casualties of the human condition.

Having thus granted his subjects their humanity, Waters then asserts his own: The protagonist of the piece, a man not unlike Waters himself, finds redemption in a diner, a new love and even Cause for Hope. In the best hippie tradition, he comes to “recognise myself in every stranger’s eyes,” and in “The Moment of Clarity” – the final title – he concludes that, well, maybe love really is all you need.

Okay, so at least he’s not still raking his mother over the coals. But if Waters’ renowned misanthropy is mellowing a bit, his equally notorious misogyny still provides this record’s most repugnant moments. “You flex your rod/Fish takes the hook,” he says while being cruised by a bored and horny housewife from Encino; and when a nubile hitchhiker dumps her boyfriend to run off with this rich English rock star, he decides the reason must be, “She’d just seen my green Lamborghini.” (Waters sounds like the kind of guy who’d bring Hershey bars and nylons along on a first date.) As for the new love who’s entered his life, well, we don’t learn much about her – perhaps Waters is just constitutionally incapable of relating a happy state.

The real knee-slapper here, though, is the music. Waters has assembled a band that features Eric Clapton on guitar and ace sax man David Sanborn, both of whom give impassioned performances (Clapton, in particular, hasn’t sounded so rawly protean in years). But the central musical focus throughout is Waters’ creepy vocal, which departs from a narrative hiss only long enough to enunciate the occasional contemptuous snarl – usually something about feckless women or bloody foreigners. And you could count the actual melodies here on Mickey Mouse’s fingers.

The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking suggests several things. First, that the most important musical component of Pink Floyd is actually guitarist David Gilmour (whose latest solo album assumes new luster in comparison to this turkey). Second, that Waters should have a long session with his therapist before making any future public utterances about the human condition. And third, that even the most exalted English rock legend shouldn’t try to sell swill to a public that’s demonstrably less piggish than the pop star himself. Think Pink, Roger. (RS 423)
~ KURT LODER (June 7, 1984)

All songs written and composed by Roger Waters. 
1. “4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad)” 3:12
2. “4:33 AM (Running Shoes)” 4:08
3. “4:37 AM (Arabs with Knives and West German Skies)” 2:17
4. “4:39 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 2)” 2:02
5. “4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)” 4:49
6. “4:47 AM (The Remains of Our Love)” 3:09

Side two
1. “4:50 AM (Go Fishing)” 6:59
2. “4:56 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 1)” 1:38
3. “4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)” 3:03
4. “5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)” 4:36
5. “5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)” 4:48
6. “5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)” 1:28

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Filed under Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking