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, $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:


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?


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