Saturday, July 30, 2016

The World History Project, or the Mother of all Recycles

It Always Starts With Music:

Remember my post about recycling? Sure you do! (NOT for the boring environment, idiot! That doesn’t exist anymore!)  I mean To listen again to every single record I own! I typically do it in the order the music was made.

I do this every so often. It helps me re-appreciate some under-listened-to or haven't-listened-to-in-a-while music. It helps me remember the time when I first got it.

So why do it again?

Well, it’s time. I last did it around 2000-2002. (Yeah, it takes that long.) In 1977, when I only had about a hundred albums, it only took a few months.

And this will probably be the last time I do it. I’m pretty fatalistic, so I imagine I won’t get another decade to do it again.

Oh, don’t cry. Hypochondriac that I am, I’ll probably outlive everybody. (The key to a long life is to not enjoy it!) The point is that I’d never presume to do so.

But the “real” reason I’m doing it has to do with my World History Project.


Birth of a Dumb Idea: Novels

This will go down as one of the dumber things I’ve ever done, but I like my little cheap thrill projects. They simulate real life, which I’m somewhat averse to.

Anyway, the World History Project is where I read Important Books in Chronological Order.

Now, why would I do that?

I think it started with a funny column by Ian Frazier in the New Yorker. It was sent to me by Roommate and Friend Mike back in the 1980s.  It’s about Great Novels. He mentions Remembrance of Things Past, Bleak House, Ulysses, Madame Bovary, Buddenbrooks and War and Peace.

Always one to want to read The Great Books, hear The Great Albums, see the Great Movies, eat the Great Pizzas. use the Great Bathrooms, etc…, I was intrigued.

So, armed with a gift certificate (remember those?) for Barnes and Noble (remember them?), I bought some Great Novels I seem to remember getting:
Moby Dick
Don Quixote
Buddenbrooks
Bleak House
War and Peace
The Brothers Karamazov

All of which I’ve since read (No big deal, it’s been thirty years.) except Buddenbrooks.

But did I just read them?  Of course not.

Never one to leave well enough alone, I began to think that the best way to read them would be in chronological order. Better to see the “development of the novel” (Like I’d know it when I saw it, but whatever.) The real reason is that I can’t just do something. It’s got to be planned, pre-meditated fun. Yes, I’m the original Buzz Killington.

Then, it occurred to me that if I were to really do that I’d have to include a lot more books than I actually owned. But which ones?

Well, I’d already started keeping a list of books I wanted to read. And then I’d keep my eyes open for articles that recommended books. And thus the Book Spreadsheet was born.  Yes, another spreadsheet.

So I read and read and read, making my way from Don Quixote (1615) to The Way of All Flesh (1884).

Then something happened.


Nine F*cking Eleven, or Don’t Know Much About History:

I continued to read over the fall of 2001, but like a lot of other ignorant Americans, I realized I needed to know more about history.

I decided to start over again.

But this time, I’d include history. And after scouring my own bookshelves and libraries, I found myself back around 1000BC, reading about Rome, Greece and anything momentous from elsewhere.

Despite my best efforts, my focus ended up being Western history, which in a way defeated my original purpose of not just learning about it but of also getting outside it. I’ll still allow myself the odd tangent here and there. (Yes, in my limited brain, the entirety of non-Western history constitutes a tangent. Call me what you will. Just not Steve King, okay?)


At the Movies:

And now I realized that I didn’t have to limit myself to books.  Sometimes a movie could cover some important time period or event in a relatively short amount of time, that a book would otherwise take weeks to get through.

And while I’m at it, why not include movies that aren’t strictly historical?  If they were Great Movies (see above) I should seem them. And if they weren’t historical Great Movies, I’d just watch them when I get to the time period in which they were made. Of course, this would mean that they wouldn’t start showing up in the WHP until the twentieth century.

And did I mention that this also goes for Great Television?

Care to guess how many DVDs are in my Netflix Queue?


And Art, for Art’s Sake!:

And as long as I was going back that far, I’d also read things like the Gilgamesh, The Canterbury Tales, The Inferno, some Shakespeare  and even the Bible.

But I also found Janson’s History of Art amongst my books, and realized that since I was making room for plays and poetry why not Art?  The history would add context to the art I had trouble understanding before.


My Own BC and AD - Pre and Post 9/11:

Now, one weird aspect (one Jaybee?) of this process is that I split everything into pre and post 2001. I will read the former in order. Why?  Well, it’s almost because I think it all leads up to that moment.

I’ll allow myself to read post 9/11 things now since I can’t live my entire life in the past now, can I?


The Last Great Recycle, or It Always Ends With Music, Too:

And what does that Recycling I was talking about before have to do with all this?

I was going to do the Recycling thing anyway, so why not do it in the context of the WHP? I’ll listen to music when it was composed, more or less.

Well, since I’m playing them in chronological order, I’ll just added it all into the World History Project.

And it’s already started.

My “earliest” album used to be  a cassette tape from Friend Joann, containing all sorts of oldies-but-goodies running from 1700 to 1900 or so by the Academy of St. Martin-In-the-Fields.  It has since been replaced by Chants by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, which I place at about 800 AD.

Then I jump to Monteverdi’s Madrigals which show up around 1638 AD.

I’m sure there were a few tunes hummed during these intervening 838 years but I may never hear them.

As you can see, things are a bit hit or miss here. Again, which the odd exception I’m pretty confined to Western Music,

And Classical in particular. There’s a case to be made for including all kinds of folk music, but I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m hoping that some of that will make its way through Celtic and British bands like Fairport Convention.

So why am I telling you this?

To explain why I’d get an album of Chants or Madrigals in the first place, I guess. But also why I’ve recently gotten Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Handel’s Water Music, which I’ll deal with later.

So where am I now?

Oh, about 1726.

Book: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Movie/TV: Nothing at the moment, but I’m considering “Outlander”, which starts around 1743.
Music: Handel, Vivaldi  Bach


The Last Great Recycle, or Running Out of Time:

So you can see the size of the useless and futile task I’ve set for myself.  It will encompass books and art and music and film.  This music recycle will take MUCH longer than usual since my progress on reading will hold things up.

If 1977 it took a few months, 2000 a few years. This will take, well…

So I’ll be checking in periodically on this, writing posts filled with my incomprehension of Classical music, treating Bach no better than Beck.

This is how morbid I am: Back when I was about 18 and joined a book club (remember those?), I looked at my now crowded bookshelf and realized that I would be dead before I actually read all of these books.

Now that I’m 58, this has become much truer, and it applies to my records, too.

So, another reason to recycle is that I will get to hear everything one more time.

Does that sound pessimistic?  I think it sounds optimistic that I’ll make it all the way through.

Hmmm. Maybe the real reason I’m doing it is because I secretly think it will keep me alive…

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Jazz for a Rainy Day

Saturday morning. 1980, I think. Summertime. Didn’t seem like it, though.  It was cool, raining and windy as hell.

It was closing in on noon, and we (me, Roommate Mike, his brother and whoever slept over from bar-hopping the night before) were just getting up. And what, with the weather being what it was, no one was in a hurry to go anywhere.

So we decided to have breakfast, which at that time, meant an omelet for some reason, which was a big production.


Now there were a lot of things about this morning that were a just a little weird.

We usually made the omelets on Sunday. That’s when we would be recovering from a very late Saturday night out. Friday nights could be pretty late, too, but if you got up for working that morning, that seemingly bottomless supply of youthful energy was at least somewhat dissipated. So Saturday nights were usually the later ones.

Plus, there were usually things that had to get done on Saturday. But like I said, due to the weather, no one was in a mood to go out and do them.

And the very non-summery weather itself.  The rain was moving sideways. Like a mini-hurricane.

There were too many of us to fit in the kitchen, and since we wanted to see the weather anyway, we set up a table in the living room.


I was always the one putting on music, and now that the omelet was in progress, I’d have to find something suitable for the fragile sensibilities of hungover twenty-year-old white guys.

But it was such a weird day it was hard to find anything that felt right.

Mike and I had combined our record collections when we moved in. Mike’s collection was pretty respectable, and he inherited some albums from his uncle, which gave us some needed breadth. When I’d go through those records (btw, if you ever invite me to your house, I’m going to go through your records, and judge you accordingly), I could usually identify the artists, even if the music wasn’t in a genre I loved.

But there was this one record I didn’t know what to make of. The cover had a picture of a young woman (in pre-1960s style dress) standing on the rocks of a beautiful seashore, with her arms extended over her head in celebration. The record was called "Concert by the Sea".


What kind of music could this be?  Not muzak, certainly, as I assumed that it was painful enough to record that crap the first time around, why would anyone take the trouble of playing it again, in public no less, where rocks could be thrown?

Thus eliminating that genre as a possibility, and noting the overall weirdness of the day, I said, what the hell, and put it on.

And how was it?
Well, it wasn’t the dreaded (to me) overly familiar.
Nor was it an artist some of us (everyone but me, that is) loved but that the rest of us (me, that is) hated.
It didn’t have the taint (to me) of nostalgia since none of us had heard it before.
It didn’t contain any overplayed radio hits.
It wasn’t even the beloved familiar, which would not have fit this particular situation.
But what it was, was perfect.

“Wow, what is that you put on?” Mike asked from the kitchen.
“It's one of yours.”
“Oh, yeah? Who is it?
“Erroll Garner.”


Okay, some of you may recognize the name. Mr. Garner wrote “Misty”,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JwhJMFDybQ
after all. But what did I know at the time?

But when Erroll starts to play, there’s no stopping him. The music just flows effortlessly for 45 wonderful minutes.

The recording was not of the best quality, and the record was scratched. Yet this added to the overall otherworldliness (to us) of the music. If we put on anything else that morning, I have no recollection of what it was.

For some reason, this older African American pianist (accompanied by bass and drums) playing jazz versions of songs from the American songbook that I didn’t even know at the time, on a sunny beach in California in 1955, magically transfixed five hung over white guys having breakfast during a stormy Saturday morning (or by now, afternoon) in 1980.

From what I understand now, Errol was considered somewhat of a sellout. Jazz was getting very adventurous around 1955, and this record was probably very commercial sounding compared to what other jazz artists were doing.

But to someone like me it was completely new. I had already gotten Kind of Blue so Concert by the Sea wasn’t my first jazz album.  But KOB was easier to absorb because it used some very simple modal themes that even a rock n roller could absorb. CBTS however, is filled with standards that I didn’t know, so there was the parsing of the songs themselves, then the arrangements, and finally the improvisations. There was a lot to hear and learn, but it was played in such an entertaining way, I kept going back to it.


After Mike moved on (and out) I had to buy my own copy – this time with a slightly altered cover and a “Jazz Masterpieces” sticker on it and the bright colors replaced by a monotone one that was supposed to be an improvement. The sound quality was only improved by the lack of scratches.


Erroll Garner: Concert by the Sea 

And while it was all still quite enjoyable, I never captured the magic of that first listen.

That’s okay. There was plenty of magic still to be had. And now there’s more.


The original record was a single disc with 11 songs, so it obviously was an edited version of the show. Recently, however, the Garner family discovered tapes containing the entire concert, which has now been released.


Erroll Garner: The Complete Concert by the Sea

This version consists of three CDs: the first two of which comprise the entire concert, and the third containing the original album plus a long (and  unnecessary) interview.

And the original cover has been restored in the best possible way. The bright colors of the shore are back, but now the young lady is African American. Why? Probably because at the time it was originally released record companies were reluctant to put non-white women on jazz album
covers. They didn’t want to scare away the white customers, who I'm sure weren't racist.

Anyway, the expanded version is better, if less intense, than the original. There’s more room for variations of mood and pace. And the cool thing is that if you don’t have time for the entire concert, you just put on the third disc. This is one of those rare instances where more is better.


I had no idea what to expect when I first put this record on, but it provided the perfect soundtrack to that very weird day. And now it’s back and almost as good as that first time around.

I don’t know exactly where this record stands historically – commercial sell out or jazz cornerstone – but I am sure I wouldn’t want to live without it.

A

"I Remember April"


Saturday, June 18, 2016

It’s Complicated

Although Grimes brought me pretty much up to the present, for the most part I’m dwelling in the past.

There is my foray into the 1970s - the Kinks, Roxy Music , Fairport Convention, etc.

Then there have been my retreats into ambient music where the amount of sensory input is limited, which, believe me, has its uses.

And then there’s the classical music I’ve been delving into, which I’ll get into another time.

And now, it’s 1940s blues. Why? No philosophical reason. It’s just because Barnes and Noble told me so, for $4.99.  Totally worth it, too.



Muddy Waters: The Plantation Recordings (1941)

This one fits most of the above criteria of what I need now.  Out of this current time. Limited sonic input.

On the first count, it brings us back to the 1940s. Yet that makes it way newer than the classical music I’ve also been listening to. And yet, much more “primitive”. (I like primitive, btw.)

Doesn’t that make it inferior to classical music? Yeah, bullsh*t. If anything, it’s a response to it. After all, the people creating and listening to classical music had the money and the education that enabled them to create and consume said music. And they got the money, etc by giving the blues to everybody else.

Whatever. Peace and love, etc. Back to Muddy.

On that latter count (limited sonic input, in case I lost you), it couldn’t be more different from Grimes, say.

At the time of this recording, Muddy was about the same age as Grimes was for Art Angels. But he sounds way older. By about a thousand years.

This record is mostly just him and a guitar, which is more than enough, usually. I will admit I slightly prefer his later electric sound. (Not many electric guitars on the plantation, you know.)

Muddy isn’t quite as exciting as Howlin’ Wolf  vocally, and Elmore James plays a meaner guitar. But he's probably the best overall.

And he’s full of seeming contradictions, at least to a clueless dolt like me. He sings about being poor but looks like a million bucks on the cover. (Where can I get a suit like that?) Then he’s singing about god on one song and then sin on the next. And love, too, and it’s sometimes bitter aftermath.  In other words, in a dozen or so "primitive" songs, you get life in all it’s complexity.

Okay, there are several interview tracks sprinkled throughout, but they’re not as annoying as you’d think.

So, not exactly rousing, but very, very down to earth. Literally.

Because of the low volume on this one, I count it as morning music. But it has to be a pretty bad morning.

But that’s okay, if that happens, you just begin to sing:

Woke up this morning…

And you take it from there.

A-

“You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Older Men and Younger Women, or, Sometimes the Present is Actually Bearable

Despite my recent disappointments, some current music does occasionally work for me.



Grimes: Art Angels (2015)

“I’m surprised you like this” is something Mrs. Jaybee says whenever I get something on the poppy side.

And it probably looks a little ridiculous that a man like me - dangerously close to 60 years old - is listening to this very girlish sounding woman with tunes on the beat-y/dance-y - but pretty - side.

I usually do find this sort of thing annoying, but that’s not the case here.

I did get this too soon. This is Spring/Summer music if ever I heard it.  Meanwhile, I got it oh, back in January?  No problem, I now know to put some things away until the time is right.  And with Spring now here, this sounds just lovely. It makes you want to go out and enjoy the global warming.

And although she sounds very young, and is, what she says is a bit more grown up.

What I love about this:

  • She finds strong melodies and arrangements to best complement that voice.  
  • Although the music is on the dance-oriented side, she usually starts off with an electric guitar, and preserves its tone, texture and rhythm throughout the track. She likes to keep one foot firmly in the rock n’ roll camp.
  • All of the above elements are used to their best effect, and work together, so although there’s a lot going on, it never seems overly busy.

And the above is pretty much the definition - for me - of great pop music.

There are flaws, of course. She goes girly a lot, and the songs that are more purely dance-oriented aren't as original as the rest of the record.

But, to answer your question, Sweetheart, yes, I do like it.

I don’t know if I’ll play it loud in the car like that elderly fella on the motorcycle did the other day. I tend to attribute such things to mid-life crises. But it would appear he’s a little more secure in his manhood than I am.

A-

“Artangels”






Saturday, June 4, 2016

My 70s Show

Like I’ve been saying, I’m losing my taste for current music (or it’s losing its taste for me).

And, as I mentioned in my last post, our 15 year-old musical selves usually turn out to be our lifetime musical selves. I fact-checked this on my record database (and encourage you to do the same! What?  Oh, never mind!) but didn’t find an exact correlation.

But that’s because I didn’t start really buying records until I had a real job, which was in 1974. Once I did, though, I went apesh*t and got about 200 records over the next four years.  I was clearly making up for lost time.

When you don’t have a lot of records, though, as my 15 year-old self didn’t prior to that year, you relied on your friends.  You had to wait to hear those records at their houses or when they would let you borrow them.  But even when I finally started getting my own records I didn’t always go back and get those other records I associated with my friends.

Those records would occasionally pop up in discount bins, and I would find myself weighing the option getting them - something known and inexpensive - against getting something new and more expensive.  The cheapskate in me usually held out for the new and cheap.

Another thing holding me back was the thought that these records were either played out or that I’d simply not like them as much as I did back then. So there are plenty I never did get.

But last year, in my desperation, I was tempted many times (thanks, amazon.com $5 mp3s!) to revert to the early 70s rock of my formative years. In other words, music I shouldn’t be going to now since “my tastes have changed” somewhat, but that in fact may have burned itself into my brain’s synapses regardless.


And a few made the cut:


Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (1974)

This was lent to me by Friend-Back-Then Maureen, along with For the Roses, and it was always overshadowed by that record which is easily in my all-time top 25, along with Blue.  This allowed me to burnish my pop snob credentials by dissing this one in comparison.

But “Free Man in Paris” is easily one of the greatest pop record ever made. Melodically, rhythmically, lyrically. And everything else on side one - with the exception of the merely good hit-single “Help Me” is damn near perfect, which makes it one of the greatest pop sides ever.

So it’s natural that side two can’t quite keep up. But now that I’m finally giving it a chance I find it’s quite good, and beats Steely Dan out on the jazzy-LA-sound by at least three years. And she does it better, too. A

"Free Man in Paris"



If I remember correctly, this next one was borrowed for an extended period from Brother Pat’s Friend Kenny:



Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die (1970)

“Stranger to Himself” - which is far from the best song here - has played in my head on and off for decades. Is it the nice jarring chord progression and rhythm, or the weird intro with the acoustic guitar? I don't know, but it's stuck up there.

Anyway, back then I assumed that this was one of the best albums ever made, but I’m having trouble believing me now.

Why? I mean, who doesn't like Steve Winwood's voice? But man, he can be a sloppy singer. Try a little harder, man! Like on “Gimme Some Lovin”.

And it all sounds a bit thin. Maybe if they got an actual bassist, things might have had a more oomph. That’s the very talented Mr. Winwood spreading himself too thin.

Speaking of which, the live disc that comes with this Deluxe edition is almost a total waste. It really shows the shortcomings of a band that relies on one key person to handle too many critical chores.

And let’s not dwell on the words too much. They just seem to be there because words make the singing make sense.

But I carp. “Empty Pages” shows some needed emotion, if not intelligence. The title song is done to perfection. And “Every Mother’s Son” has a great guitar riff and a rousing finish. The rest is not bad at all.

So it holds up pretty good. No, not in my top 100, but a worthwhile record for sure.  A-

“Every Mother’s Son”



This one was probably lent to me by Childhood Friend Mike.


David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)

I was bracing myself to hate this one.  After all, he is one of the biggest assholes in rock and roll history. (And isn’t that saying something?)

Critically reviled in its time, but kinda liked by foolish teens like myself , this is actually a lovely record. Not much, lyrics-wise. But Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel adds great atmosphere and his lead some needed edge.  Even Grace Slick gets all strident at the right time.

By the way, Dave’s version of “Laughing” is the best one out there.

It’s all about the vocals and the atmosphere, folks, and the LA mafia pretty much nails it here
.
And we all know that with DC we could do a lot worse. (What, are you f*cking kidding me?)

But better, too. (Now that’s more like it!)

Anyway, here’s the high point on this record:
"Laughing"

B+


So I managed okay with these records.  Oh, I don’t listen to them all that much but I knew that would happen. Still, I’m happy with what I did get.

The big question now is Should I Leave Well Enough Alone?

I’m now considering digging into some albums from that era that I never heard, but that bear the allure of the time (or the stench of datedness, depending on your viewpoint).

Leon Russell, anyone?

Jethro Tull?

Bueller?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The 16, 19, or Maybe Even My, 70s:

I’ve heard it said that your long term musical interests get imprinted on your brain when you’re around fifteen years old.  So whatever you were listening to at that time, is the type of music you’re listening to now.

For me, that would be 1972. And it works, to a certain extent.  I did become a huge Allman Brothers fan around then, with the Dead following close behind.

But I always thought my real musical imprinting came in 1979, when I was 22. It was the year punk broke (my eardrums, anyway). There was an avalanche of records that not only sounded great, but that put me on a decades-long path of exploration that is only now dying down (or branching off even further, depending on how you’re looking at it.)

But now I’m not so sure. As I find myself less and less moved by current music, I’ve been reaching back to albums from the early seventies for a boost.

In the past few months I’ve been enjoying records by Roxy Music circa 73-74 and the Kinks from 1971.

And now I’m reaching back another (three hundred) year(s) or so:




Fairport Convention: Liege and Lief (1970)

“Is this all one song?” asks Mrs. Jaybee, who, not being of Celtic origin (what a relief) doesn’t yet fully appreciate the subtle differences in/of these ten tales of tragedy and despair. To be fair it took her this long to get used to the drinking and passive aggressiveness.

“But it’s a good song!” I reply, using an argument once used against me by a fan of Slade back in high school when I was on the other side of the argument. Boy, did it sound dumb at the time. Not much better now.

Okay, I’ll admit that most of these melodies came from somewhere else first. At least half the songwriting credits say “Traditional”, which is a higher batting average than say, oh, Led Zeppelin.

Anyway, FC plays and sings these tunes with gusto. After all, they’ve got Richard Thompson on guitar, a damned good rhythm section, and Sandy Denny on vocals.

So much gusto, in fact, that the originals sound like they could have been written three hundred years ago.

And I’m sure whoever was 15 at that time would have loved them, too.

And I'm willing to bet Mrs. Jaybee comes around, too. She married me, after all. A-

“Come All Ye”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another Life, Another Bryan

After going on at such length about Brian Eno, I wanted to give his old bandmate/nemesis Bryan Ferry his due.

As weird as Eno seemed at the time, weird, at least, was in.

Ferry matched him by going to the other extreme. He went completely against the grain of the time by wearing dinner jackets and crooning like Rudee Vallee. He was so non-threatening looking that it was scary.

And irritating, too. Those aspects of his image, along with his taste for 50’s-style pop music, and a seemingly nuclear-powered vibrato, he had at least four things going on that I couldn’t stand at the time.

And pictures of him show him looking unreasonably sullen or unreasonably cheerful. Here he’s kind of in between:



Just look at him! American Psycho or what?

See what I mean? Normal, yet strange.

So, now take him, add Eno and put drag queens on your album covers, and Roxy Music gave you’ve got a lot to ponder.

I recently touched on the first two Roxy Music albums, which covers the time Eno was with them, and all I’ll add is how the first one   - for all its strange trappings - is at heart a rock and roll, and song, album. Those songs, Phil Manzenera’s riffs, and the band’s headlong propulsion easily get you more than halfway through the record. Okay, things do slack off after that, but still not a bad start.

And while not entirely successful, For Your Pleasure is pretty good, tool. Just not great, whatever hardcore RM fans may tell you.

So, Eno leaves and Ferry can now really show what he’s made of.


Post-Eno Roxy:


Stranded

Their third, and first without Eno, and you can immediately tell the difference.  Like that the person on the cover is almost certainly a woman. I say this only to point out that Bryan and the band seem to be simplifying things a bit.

The music is simpler, cleaner, poppier. But Ferry’s as weird as ever, and without Eno there to distract you, it sticks out all the more.

So for every triumph like “Mother of Pearl”, there’s a slow tiresome drag like “Song for Europe”

But I think they’ve turned a corner here. The weird old Roxy Music came to a crossroads and chose a straighter path. The kinks are not all worked out. (And I do mean kinks.), but there are glimmers of a really fine pop band here.  B+

“Mother of Pearl”

Don’t get me wrong. When in doubt, I usually favor the weird over the pop, but some people are just better at the latter than they are at the former. And I think it’s true for Roxy.




Country Life

A more sexist cover, which is a shame, (Still trying to wash that Eno taste our of your mouths, guys?) but another step forward, musically.  The keep it light, they keep it fast, they keep it rocking.  They only falter when they slow it down. But even there, those lesser tunes add some contrast.

So the strategy is the same as last time, but their batting average has improved. Nothing quite as good as “Mother of Pearl”. But overall much more consistent. A-

“Prairie Rose”




Siren

Their peak.

My first RM record and easily my favorite. (That’s Jerry Hall on the cover, btw.  She went on to Mick Jagger and Rupert Murdoch, because money and fame are all that matter, right?).

Everything comes together here. The band, while not quite as hard rocking, are game for whatever Ferry throws at them - ballads, rockers, dance songs. And Ferry’s singing has smoothed out some more. The melodies are as good as ever.

A masterpiece, and one of my all time favorite albums. Definitely in the top 25. A

“Both Ends Burning”




Manifesto

After a three year break (and various solo records), they come back with a very commercial, but very winning record. I’ve been told that they embrace disco here, but I’m not hearing it that way. They just know how to entertain. Catchy as heck.  A-

"Dance Away"



Avalon

Everyone tells me that this is their masterpiece. I beg to differ. Too smooth by half. Meh.

But if you like it I can’t blame you.

And I admit that “More Than This” is one of the most beautiful songs ever.

B+


And the rest:

I left out a whole bunch of other Roxy records, not to mention all those Bryan Ferry solo albums because life’s too short, and I’m not as big a Ferry fan as an Eno fan.  But you get the idea.

Roxy Music got lumped in (justifiably) with a lot of glam acts at the time and were dismissed for that reason, at least by the classic rock stations.  But they were a great band, and once Ferry worked out all his issues, the songs came out great.


Oh yeah, that other Brian:


I got around to his Music for Films BECAUSE I DON’T ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH RECORDS BY HIM.

And it’s pretty good, not great.  In these 18 snippets I do hear not quite worked out ideas that would make their way onto Another Green World and Before and After Science.

And some of cuts don’t age well. Back then they may have sounded cool, but now you can smell the cheese.  And the New Age (and not the Velvet Underground one, either). Thanks a lot Brian!

But it all, oddly, holds together.  B+

“Two Rapid Formations”


And the Boys Make Up:

Right about now you’d think Bryan (F) would be objecting, saying that, yet again, I got distracted by favorite child Brian (E).  But no, they’re all past that now.

They even got together to work on something a few years ago and produced this lovely song on Bryan’s solo album Frantic

“I Thought”


I knew those guys would work out their differences! And look, it only took them thirty years!

So how is Bryan looking these days? (If you remember Brian E went through quite the transformation from glam robot he-she to middle class next door neighbor.

And here we see Bryan F also arrive at his version own of normalcy, looking like someone’s dad:



Better looking than Mick Jagger and Rupert Murdoch, too! (Ah, but isn’t everybody?)

And good for him, I say. So as pouty and strange as he could be, he’s responsible for quite a lot of great music.

Thank you, Brian!  Ooops! I meant Bryan!