Posted by Dave Kopperman
Yesenia suggested that we head over to the Nyack* street fair. Beautiful day for it, too – the storm yesterday took itself and all of its horrible heatmidity with it, leaving today beautiful and bright. Perhaps too bright – I neglected to put any screen on, and could feel myself baking as we worked our way through the jewelry craft tables, the student orchestra and the simply insane number of baby strollers.
I had a good time, although only two stalls had anything that I wanted to buy (Yesenia picked up a few things for herself, such as an incense box and a funky pair of reading glasses). The first stall was the record dealer, which I passed up on the way up the fair because I knew a stop there too soon would drain all my energy. The fair itself ran at least a half mile up Broadway and then around the corner to Main, so a lot energy was needed to push through the crowds while deftly avoid the various smiling pushers of charity organizations from both ends of the political spectrum.
The second booth was a soapmaker, and in the last couple of years, I’ve developed a loathing of all mass-produced soaps, and instead prefer small-brand oil and organic soaps. I know, Ghod help me, I’m turning into a fucking poodle, but there it is. I could say it’s because of my eczema, but you and I know the truth: I’m a flaming liberal, and my soaps must match my political agenda.
On the way back, I rushed ahead of Yesenia and took about fifteen minutes digging through the record man’s wares. And he was a man after my own heart, having four large bins dedicated to old prog records among his very limited sales space. About the only comment I would make is that he was a little heavy on the Brit stuff overall, with the other side of his booth being Brit-rock A-Z in four bins, and two whole bins in the front dedicated to Beatles. American music got lumped into two small bins, with all genres and eras mixed together.
Anyway, here’s a list of the results, with limited commentary.
Anthony Phillips, The Geese and the Ghost
Graham Nash/David Crosby, Graham Nash/David Crosby
The Anthony Philips record is quiet and shimmering, as expected, with a lot of 12-string textures (supplemented with flutes and cor anglais and the like) with Mike Rutherford, a call back to the early Genesis sound they forged. Nice but not indispensable, although a visiting Phil Collins does give two of the three vocal tunes some depth. I think I may really like his duet with Viv McCauliffe, ‘God, if I Saw Her Now,’ quite a bit. Interesting topic for a song, too – the lyric is in the form of a married couple conversing, the man reflecting on his first girl and his wife growing more insecure as his reminiscence becomes a lament of loss.
I’ve only listened to side A of the Nash/Crosby, but it’s vintage and good. Crosby has really been running the dark horse race for me of favorite composer of the singer-songwriter era, and this is more fuel for that particular fire. Nash isn’t at Crosby’s level of harmonic interest or sophistication, but he can at least write a decent melody. Their voices together are probably the best blending of the entire rock period – although they cheat a little by doing their best singing over a minimal, introspective instrumental bed.
Already posses on CD:
Gentle Giant, Octopus
Traffic, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys
Although my Traffic and Gentle Giant phases are both about fifteen years in the past, I still enjoy both of these records when I listen to them.
Octopus, while not my favorite GG album (that would be Acquiring the Taste), is an impressive studio production that manages to capture all of their ambition while minimizing their increasing tediousness. They’d finally settled on their permanent drummer with this album – a very straight-ahead thwacker named John Weathers, who, in my estimation, locks the music down a little too much for its own good.
The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, on the other hand, is high Traffic, pretty much the only truly seamless album the band ever produced. Although the early Dave Mason era quartet had a lot of energy and writing power, the material is too much a part of its hippy-dippy/hippy-trippy** time to really sound like anything other than an interesting artifact. The trio-era one off John Barleycorn Must Die boasts their strongest collection of material, but is marred by some lame musicianship, due to Winwood playing all the instruments (including drums) on some tracks.*** But Low Spark… finds Traffic’s sweet spot and keeps pressing it: a decent collection of sketched out songs, with room for the full and expanded line-up to stretch out on some of the best rock jamming of that era (1971) or any other.
The title track features my favorite single chord of all time, wrapping up a climactic jam section with a low, horrid and tense cluster of Farfisa notes that sustains for long enough to produce mild panic, then resolves into something only marginally less anxiety-inducing, just before the fade.
Have previously heard excerpts, liked enough to want to hear more:
Jon Anderson, Olias of Sunhillow
Nektar, Remember the Future
The Moody Blues, The Other Side of Life
Unowned & unheard, by artists I have familiarity with:
The Rascals, Freedom Suite
Chris Squire, Fish Out of Water
The Souther/HIllman/Furay Band, The Souther/HIllman/Furay Band
Justin Hayward/John Lodge, Blue Jays
Robin Trower, Twice Removed from Yesterday
Richard & Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights
Donovan, Donovan in Concert
The Rascals, Freedom Suite
Renaissance, Turn of the Cards
The Souther/Hillman/Furay Band answer the question, ‘what happens when you put together journeymen from The Byrds, Poco and The Eagles?’ Probably a huge slab of 70’s SoCal ennui, but I still wanted to find out for myself.
Shoot Out the Lights is perennially at the top of critics picks of albums of the 1980’s. Legendary album that I’ve never heard note one from. Critically lauded, but probably more for the fact that the couple was breaking up at the time of recording, with the stress wreaking such havok on Linda’s voice that she had to record some songs line-by-line… which is just the kind of stupid thing critics prefer over actual quality, it sometimes seems.
While I’m not a huge Donovan fan, I find a lot of these artists work much better in a live context, once away from the overbearing producers who made their records fit a particular niche.
1977, CBS Records. And that’s all I know. I’m even going to resist the temptation to look them up online until I hear the record – which I’m going to do now. Judging by the credits, they could be a Scots-born Kraut-Rock band, for all the sleeve has to offer.
*Nyack: local river town that moves up and down the economic scale over the years, from slum to chic and back again.
**Hippy-dippy/hippy-trippy: apologies to PCMA.
***I believe John Barleycorn… started life as a Winwood solo album in the wake of the first Traffic line-up imploding, but Capaldi and Wood joined in later in the proceedings, making it the next Traffic line-up – basically, Traffic minus Dave Mason.
P.S.: Day ended up with Yesenia making one of the best all-time salads: red leaf lettuce, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, green olives stuffed with gorgonzola, holland pepper, baked tofu, diced jarlsberg, sun dried tomatoes, sliced apple, red onion, and stuffed grape leaves. I do love that woman of mine…