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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/11/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #537:

Mama Cass Elliot – Dream a Little Dream

What a voice.What soul, and longing, and sensuality. Some of the tunes on the 60s cult heroine’s torchy 1968 debut release, like Burn Your Hatred and Rubber Band, are a little dated, but those vocals are timeless. And it’s too bad she isn’t with us anymore (the story about choking on a sandwich is cruelly untrue – it was bad dope that did her in). As you would expect from the hippie milieu she inhabited at that point, a lot of usual suspects stepped up to help out. Steven Stills’ guitar spices up the surprisingly plaintive Talking To Your Toothbrush; the Band’s Richard Manuel contributes Blues for Breakfast; John Sebastian throws in the pensive chamber-pop Room Nobody Lives In; and Leonard Cohen – who knows something about sexy allure – gives her You Know Who I Am (and she reciprocates mightily). There’s also the heavily reworked title track, a Bessie Smith hit forty years previously; California Earthquake, a psychedelic pop period piece that still resonates;  the big ballads What Was I Thinking Of and Long Time Loving You; the blue-eyed soul of Sweet Believer, and the jokey but actually very spot-on Jane the Insane Dog Lady. Here’s a random torrent via Jensen Brazil.

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August 11, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/30/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #549:

Genesis – Nursery Cryme

While the veteran British art-rockers’ legacy suffers under the weight of a lot of lousy material from the Phil Collins years and then the 80s, up through the mid-70s they were a sensationally good, theatrical, guitar-and-keyboard-driven symphonic rock machine. This 1971 album may be the best of the bunch, although everything else they did while Peter Gabriel was in the band is worth hearing. Trippy, surreal and often macabre, it’s got many of the band’s best-loved epics: The Musical Box, a metaphorically-charged suite; The Return of the Giant Hogweed, which reminds that in the end, nature always wins; the bizarre, mythological Fountain of Salmacis; the wistful folk-rock vignette For Absent Friends, and Harold the Barrel, one of the weirdest, creepiest three-minute songs ever written. Gabriel imbues it all with a defiant, literate individualism, much as Roger Waters did in Pink Floyd. Here’s a random torrent.

July 30, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/25/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #554:

The Who – The Who Sings My Generation

OK, OK, this is “classic rock,” the one thing we’re trying to stay away from here. But what a rhythm section – and a tragedy that both John Entwistle and Keith Moon both left us so young. This album came out in 1965, when the band’s sound was new and fresh, before Pete Townshend turned into a Jimmy Page wannabe and Daltrey…well, the music here is good enough to make you forget he’s on it. With his completely unpredictable rumbling thunder attack, Moon absolutely owns La-La-La-Lies and Much Too Much. A Legal Matter mines the same amped-up R&B style as the Pretty Things and the early Kinks; the Good’s Gone foreshadows the Move. There’s also the country dancehall stomp of It’s Not True, the blue eyed soul ballad I Don’t Mind and Out in the Street, with its cool tremoloing intro. Oh yeah, there’s also an oldies radio standard, a future movie theme and a primitive, fuzztoned quasi-surf instrumental. The band only miss when they misguidedly try their hand at James Brown. Here’s a random torrent.

July 26, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/20/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #559:

Jethro Tull – A

Some of you may be wondering what kind of drugs we’ve been doing, considering that there are now not only one but two Jethro Tull albums here (Aqualung is also on the list – see the “obvious picks” page). And while there is a track on this album called the Pine Marten’s Jig, it’s the only hobbity tune here. All the jigging and whistling – and the band’s atrocious metal albums from the late 80s – obscure the fact that when this band was at the top of their game, they made several albums’ worth of terrifically lyrical, absolutely unique, metal and Britfolk-flavored art-rock. This is a 1980 concept album about nuclear armageddon (back then, everybody thought that the world would end in a shower of bombs instead of a meltdown in Japan). Thematically, everything that can go wrong here does. Crossfire was inspired by a hostage situation at the Iranian Embassy in London, while the catchy, spiraling Fylingdale Flyer looks at the logical extreme created when a false alarm signals a nuclear attack. The swaying Working John, Working Joe is a call for solidarity; the real gem, Black Sunday is a tricky, eerie countdown to the end. The metalish Protect and Survive has lyrics taken from a Soviet army manual, followed eventually by the creepy, surreal Batteries Not Included, the nonconformist anthem Uniforms, and the requiem And Further On. In lieu of the album – absolutely impossible to find online because of the title, and because ours is on vinyl – we give you this contemporaneous 1980 live set, with many of these tracks, via theultimatebootlegexperience.

July 20, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 5/9/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #631:

Steely Dan – Katy Lied

Let’s stay in 1975 for another day, huh? This is self-mythologizing, deviously literate jazz-funk from Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and a cast of studio pros. Great band, but practically every one of their albums has a real clunker to go along with the good stuff, so that’s why we picked this one.There’s only a couple of super standouts here – Any World That I’m Welcome To, where Fagen lets down his guard and bares his fangs at the morons he grew up with, and the absolutely macabre Black Friday – but it’s solid all the way through. Bad Sneakers is a spot-on period piece, a couple of losers “with a transistor radio and a whole lot of money to spend” making their way up Sixth Avenue past Radio City. Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More works an oldschool blues vernacular better than any of the band’s contemporaries could, while Chain Lightning goes in a slow, funkier direction. Rose Darling and Everyone’s Gone to the Movies offer a leering, cynical look at romance, the surreal Dr. Wu was a pseudo-hit, and Your Gold Teeth II and the closing track, Throw Back the Little Ones reach for a distant, offhand menace. Here’s a random torrent via Walrussongs.

May 9, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ian Hunter Wails in Hoboken

Ian Hunter is an inspiration: at 72, he’s at the peak of his career, as his careening show at the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival last night reaffirmed. With an excellent band including Mark Bosch on lead guitar, James Mastro on rhythm guitar, a second keyboardist supplying rippling organ and incisive piano, and a rhythm section, Hunter stomped with a nonchalant intensity through songs from the glam era up to the present. The old stuff was represented by Angeline, which has aged well; the woozy All the Way to Memphis, which hasn’t; and of course the requisite All the Young Dudes which at this point is on autopilot and needs to be retired. The more recent material, unsurprisingly, was the best. Mastro grinned and played purist, straight-up rhythm throughout the show, switching to mandolin on a couple of songs, Bosch firing off noisy, shattered blues when it came time for solos. Hunter began on piano: a singalong of Cleveland Rocks appeared early on, along with a noisy version of Life After Death that alternated anguished guitar screams with stillness.

Hunter switched to acoustic guitar early on; they hit a pretty indifferent riff-rock vibe mid-set but regrouped with the best song of the night, a rough, rampaging version of the towering gutter anthem Man Overboard, title track to his excellent 2009 album. They followed that with a slightly less pessimistic, incisively roaring 23A Swan Hill, another cynical, regret-tinged disollution anthem. Maybe it was because they did everything generously and expansively, with plenty of room for intros, outros and solos, but when they closed down the set with a pounding cover of Sweet Jane at close to half past five, it seemed like a short set. Or maybe that’s because Hunter’s catalog is so deep that there’s no way he’d be able to get to all the gems in a single concert. He’s got several dates lined up at City Winery in September for those who need to see more – and by the crowd’s reaction, those shows will probably sell out.

May 2, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Album of the Day 4/3/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album was #667:

Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter’s

The bass player owns this album. Jack Casady’s growling, spiraling climbs, slinking funky rhythm and burning chords defined the Airplane at peak altitude, 1968. Add to that Paul Kantner’s stinging rhythm, Jorma Kaukonen’s crazed, jagged twelve-string leads, Spencer Dryden’s jazz-influenced drumming and Grace Slick’s presence (on the wane at this point) and you have a psychedelic rock classic. Kaukonen’s anxious ballad The Last Wall of the Castle, Slick’s darkly hypnotic James Joyce homage, Rejoyce and Kantner’s ferociously incisive Young Girl Sunday Blues are all great cuts. So is Two Heads, pulsing along on Casady’s bass chords. Watch Her Ride and Wild Tyme are slamming upbeat numbers; The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil a big crowd-pleaser and Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon a reversion to the folk-rock of Surrealistic Pillow. There’s also the woozy instrumental Spare Chaynge, which sounds like Jorma and Jack jamming out after way too much ganja, forgetting that the tape was rolling. It was also the last good studio album the band did. Here’s a random torrent.

April 4, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 3/20/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #681:

Pink Floyd – The Final Cut

While the rest of the world watches the events at Fukushima unfold, we’re going to sneak another Pink Floyd album onto this list. Where armageddon right now looks like a water table saturated with plutonium, Roger Waters – and pretty much everyone else in 1983 – saw the world ending in a deluge of atom bombs. Part murderous response to the fascism of Thatcher and Reagan, part continuation of The Wall to its logical extreme, this was once rated one of the ten most depressing albums of all time by a fashion magazine – reason alone to make it worth owning. The raging hiss of vignettes like The Post War Dream, One of the Few and Get Your Hands Off My Filthy Desert put everything in historical context. It’s hard to imagine a more poignant requiem for lost time than Your Possible Pasts, nor a more plaintive war widow-to-be’s lament than Southhampton Dock. The Hero’s Return is beyond sarcastic; The Gunner’s Dream floats cruelly down to end in a fatal plane crash. And The Fletcher Memorial Home is a musical death warrant for some of the era’s evillest despots, among them Thatcher, Brezhnev and Begin. The gorgeously quiet, completely apt piano ballad Paranoid Eyes and the sweeping, epic grandeur of the title track complete the picture along with the sludgy metal anthem Not Now John (a big FM radio hit) and the rhythmically tricky, pensive end-of-the-world tableau Two Suns in the Sunset. Antiwar songs have seldom been more powerful. Here’s a random torrent.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Damian Quinones’ Happy Accidents – Purist Rock Fun

For over a decade Damian Quinones has been simmering just under the radar writing tuneful, fun, smart psychedelic rock songs in somewhat of the same vein as the Zombies. His new ep Happy Accidents explores his edgier, harder-rocking side, sort of like a lo-fi version of Love Camp 7. This album took shape as Quinones began demoing songs in his home studio and then must have realized that what he had – with some welcome contributions from a brass section – was perfectly fine for public consumption. Here he plays guitars, bass, percussion and keys, along with Greg Richardson on bass, Brian Baker and Geoffrey Hull on trumpets, Eric Fraser on bansuri flute and Patrick McIntyre and Seth Johnson on drums.

The opening cut, Arecibo, is a catchy backbeat pop song with bracing doubletracked lead guitar. Tesla’s Love Machine is deliciously arranged mid-70s-style rock with psychedelic touches. Quinones is tremendously good at arrangements and fun, imaginative riffs: blippy white noise oscillating into and out of the mix and sunbaked sustained lead guitar lines that get switched out for bright slide guitar on the last verse.

Annabelle, a casually shuffling, thoughtfully psychedelic folk-pop tune with balmy, period-perfect 1960s horn fills, picks up with a sway at the end. Life in the Dog House paints a picture of a guy who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, in fact much of anything. “My last payday they say we’re moving the plant to the south of Japan,” he announces; later on he’s “dodging swings from a rolling pin” swung by his wife, but he doesn’t give up. Daddy Legs, a full band track, slinks along on a hypnotic latin groove with tasty horns and electric piano, Gregorio Hernandez’ trombone prowling around suspensefully. Five songs, five bucks at Quinones’ site, worth every penny for fans of catchy, purist rock songwriting. Watch this space for upcoming NYC shows.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Formerly Whooping Crane, Now Strange Haze, Same Great Album

“You have to be stoned to listen to this” is usually an insult. We don’t ordinarily advocate for or against the use of one substance or another – that should be an individual choice, and a legal one. But if the phrase “strange haze” has any kind of special meaning for you, Strange Haze’s album Riffin’ for Rent is the kind that you really ought to hear after indulging. If your dad still gets stoned, smoke him up and then try to convince him that this band was around when he was doing it all the time. He just might believe you.

Strange Haze (formerly known as Whooping Crane) should have been the band in Almost Famous. Hilariously satirical, sometimes cruelly, sometimes fondly, the Brooklyn rockers’ stoner shtick works as well as it does because they’re such excellent musicians. When’s the last time you heard a metal band with a drummer who can swing like crazy? Everybody knows that you have to have chops to play metal really well, but these guys don’t just know their early 70s stoner music, they know soul, and Stones, and Sabbath, and Skynyrd, and probably a bunch of bands from that era who were quickly forgotten because they weren’t as good. That’s what Strange Haze sound like. They’ll riff on a single chord for what seems minutes on end, and yet there’s something fresh and unselfconsciously fun about it. They know every cliche in the book and aren’t afraid to employ them wherever they’d be the most ridiculous. Likewise, their lyrics, delivered in a deadpan, period perfect faux-bluesy drawl, are beyond hilarious.

The opening track is She’s a Knockout, which sounds like the MC5 as done by Grand Funk Railroad. It’s about a girl “who was born in the heart of the whooping crane,” with an irresistible multiple-tracked bluesmetal solo out. Track two, Tomm Tapp starts out as sludgy but swinging riff-metal in the Poobah vein and adds honking harmonica for, you know, that authentic bluesy feeling – and suddenly goes all starlit and rapt for a second before the bludgeoning begins again. “Can you see the fork in the road? Close your eyes before they explode!” They follow that with Hang Loose, six minutes of wah funk, Sabbath style with some woozy southern overtones: “Summer of love don’t tell no lies ’cause we’re underneath the firefly…smoking the kingsized ultralights, still looking kinda tight.”

One Hit Sally is a tribute to a girl convinced that her smoke-filled room is more interesting than anything that could possibly exist outside it, pulsing along on a Stax/Volt bass groove with grand guignol art-rock guitar flourishes. The perfectly titled Voomp! keeps the funky groove going (if you remember early 70s Texas “hard rock” band Bloodrock, this is that kind of thing). The funniest song on the album is Straight Dope, playfully taking a 60s soul riff, adding more of that honking harmonica and a priceless lyric:

Walked down to the marble garden with a buckskin bottle of wine
Sometimes I get so drunk I can sing just like a child

The bonus track that you can get from their bandcamp site is That’s More Like It, working both sides of the Atlantic for a riff-loaded hash buzz, then a skunkweed heartland metal vibe: “Make you crawl like an armadillo, armageddon in an armchair!” In addition to this one, Strange Haze will be on the Soda Shop’s upcoming free compilation coming out Feb 22.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment