I love L7…but you know that. Right? Of course you do. Last year the band put out a killer record called Scatter the Rats, and they released a couple of songs today–a ripping cover of Joan Jett’s “Fake Friends,” which includes Jett on backing vocals, as well as an alternate take on L7’s “Burn Baby.” The new version, titled “Witchy Burn,” is slower and creepier than the OG–I definitely prefer it. The new songs were supposed to coincide with the band’s tour of New Zealand and Australia next month, which, of course, ain’t happening. I’ll take any L7 I can get. But you know that. Right? Of course you do. And while I have your attention, check out L7 guitarist/vocalist Donita Sparks’ campy The Hi-Low Show.
I never did give a proper sendoff to Neil Peart, so here it is with one of my favorite Rush platters. While 1978’s Hemispheres continued their run of episodic prog masterpieces, Rush entered the new decade with a grab-bag of new tricks–namely synthesizers, and a focus on more concise writing. This manifests itself right away with “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill,” a couple of radio-friendly songs, each clocking in at around five minutes. It’s not until “Jacob’s Ladder” that we get a whiff of the familiar. While synths are more prominently featured, guitarist Alex Lifeson swoops in with plenty of guitar heroics. Geddy Lee even reigns in his vocals a bit (though not his bass playing), and Peart is Peart–playing perfectly to the songs, while also doing insane things on the kit. It’s a beautiful record by a beautiful band.
A little history: I grew up in a town called Red Bluff, surrounded by hicks–hell, some of my best friends at the time were Copenhagen-chewin’, Coors Light-drinkin’, country music-listenin’ rednecks. I was introduced to Chris LeDoux, The Mavericks and Dwight Yoakam (and those were the good ones, there were many more) while getting into trouble on the mean streets of RB. Yoakam, of course, has always been cool as fuck, and I’m pretty sure I thought so even then. I picked this record up for a buck somewhere along the way, and it’s always a great beer-swillin’ and meat-grillin’ party record. I saw him at the Oregon State Fair a couple years ago–for the $2 admission to get into the fair–and, of course, he was fantastic. I also remember drinking a lot of beer and making multiple unwise fried-food decisions–further proof that you can take the boy out of Red Bluff, but you can’t take Red Bluff out of the boy.
(Warner Bros., 1971)
OK, this record smokes front to back. And I recommend ya smokes while spinning this heavy rock classic. It’s probably my favorite Deep Purple joint (there I go again), with Deep Purple In Rock coming in at a very close second. The majick common denominator is vocalist Ian Gillan, who is easily the best vocalist Purple ever employed (and I love the David Coverdale records). The title track and “No No No” will peel paint, and “Fools” is my favorite track, eight minutes of heavy propulsion with some added spaced exploration. Blackmore never disappoints, and drummer Ian Paice provides plenty of his own highlights. I listened to Fireball last night with a few pals–remotely over Google Hangouts, of course–and we all got down with this crackly, beater of a record. Do these even come without proper wear?
(Atlantic Records, 1974)
I have a ton of country records, but I’ve neglected them over the past couple years–even Willie, whom I love more than most things. But a live DJ set last night over at The Days of Lore Facebook page (which was an absolute drunken, fun and hilarious three and a half hours) prompted some requests for Kenny Rogers (rest in peace, gambler), Dolly Parton and, of course, Willie Nelson. Phases and Stages is, and always has been, my favorite Willie record, which came at his absolute creative peak in the early-’70s. It’s a concept album about a breakup, from the vantage-point of both the man and the woman. There are some pretty biting moments, like “Pretend I Never Happened” (“You will not want to remember any love as cold as mine”) and “It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way,” as well as a couple of fantastic bar-boogie shakers like “Sister’s Coming Home”/”Down At the Corner Beer Joint” and the day-drinking classic “Bloody Mary Morning.” Throughout are lovely instrumental refrains that serve as the connective tissue to the stories. It’s one of Willie’s best. And I’m glad I dusted it off, because it’s a beautiful record, by a beautiful man.
(Trap, 1983; Jackpot, 2009)
Well, “Doom Town” sounds about right, doesn’t it? Imagine if Greg Sage was in his 20s writing songs during a pandemic. What kind of bleak, fucked-up music would Wipers be making? Well, it would probably sound exactly like the songs that appear on those first three records. I’m listening to Over the Edge because it fits the current mood of hopelessness, matched by the gray Pacific Northwest skies I’m currently staring at outside my window. Plus I just finished a piece on Wipers’ first record Is This Real? for Vortex Magazine that should run in their April issue. I interviewed original drummer Sam Henry as well as Toody Cole from Dead Moon, along with others who were running loose in Portland in the late-’70s and early-’80s. It was a different time fore sure…although, was it? Is this real?
Ominous, eh? Wait until you hear it. Actually, Bruce Haack, the man behind The Electric Lucifer, spent a good portion of his career making children’s records, and even appeared on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to talk about his magick homemade synthesizers (something I touched on in my musical appreciation of Fred Rogers). Those synthesizers are the main attraction here…unless the half-baked Heaven-versus-Hell concept is more your thing. The Electric Lucifer is a pretty fantastical and fantastically weird record, ahead of its time for its use of electronics right out of Haack’s laboratory. It’s a perfect mix of robotic sizzle (“Song of the Death Machine”) and psychedelic tuneage (“Cherubic Hymn”). And you know what? It sounds exactly how I feel these days. Hail the Electric Lucifer!
(Virgin, 1980; Epic, 1982)
I love XTC. Adore them. They’re one of those bands that, sure, they’ve put out a couple weak-for-them records–but have they ever made a truly bad one? That’s a discussion for another time (the answer is no). XTC is one of those bands I am comfortably familiar with, but also continually discovering and rediscovering. Like, I just put on Black Sea for the first time in a maybe a year, and now I’m wondering if this is now my favorite XTC record (which I’ve always considered The Dukes’ records and the obvious Skylarking to be). It’s the perfect stop between the punkier White Music and more polished pop of English Settlement. Black Sea is spinning as I write this, and “Towers of London” just came on…and, yeah, this album just keeps on giving. So, yes. This is absolutely my favorite XTC record. For now.
(CBS Records, 1969)
Terry Riley’s music still sounds as otherworldly as it did when it was released. Now wrap your head around the fact his best-known work In C came out in 1964–19-fucking-64! Some perspective: It was the dawn of the British Invasion, and teenyboppers were dancing (at safe and appropriate social distances) to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Baby Love.” By the time Riley released A Rainbow in Curved Air in 1969, music was growing more adventurous…and it was still light years ahead of its time. This record remains a perfect specimen of minimalist electronic ambient music, influenced as much by Indian classical music (most notably singer Pandit Pran Nath) as it was the psychedelics Riley was ingesting. “[Drugs] had a big impact on the way I conceived a musical form,” Riley told me last year (in what ended up being the final piece I wrote for the CN&R). “It took me into details of music that I hadn’t seen before. It blew things up, like a big magnifying glass.” You don’t have to do drugs in order to enjoy Riley’s music, but it’d be a lot cooler if you did.
(A&M Records, 1979)
Anyone who knows me knows I am a lover of all things Finn: I love Tim. I love Neil. I love Liam. I love Crowded House (ssshh…don’t tell anyone). And I love Split Enz. Frenzy was released in 1979, one year before the band broke through with True Colours and became fixtures on MTV with their always-fantastic videos. This one is kind of overlooked…even by me! But as I revisit Frenzy, I am absolutely loving it. While 1977’s Dizrythmia marked Split Enz’s transition out of weirdo circus art prog, Frenzy sees the band settling into the taut new wave pop that would colour the rest of their output. A 20-year-old Neil Finn also made his Enz debut on this record (with the excellent “Give It a Whirl,” “Holy Smoke” and “Carried Away”), but brother Tim takes the lead throughout most of Frenzy (bassist Nigel Griggs also deserves a nod for his knotty post-punk closer “Livin’ It Up”). “I See Red,” “Master Plan” and “Marooned” are all pop perfection, which is essentially all you get with Split Enz. I am 4FR a frenz of Enz.