Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (1972)
Jordy: The history of the writing, recording, and mixing of this album is so convoluted as to render it fairly moot to the modern listener. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter one fig who was having tax, drug, or lady trouble or who wasn’t getting along with whom or who was bored with rock and roll. What matters on Exile on Main St. are the songs and there are a lot of them here so let’s get to it.
Townes Van Zandt: Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (1977)
Adam: Legend (by which I mean Wikipedia) has it that the Old Quarter could “Comfortably accommodate 60 patrons” and that “More than 100 jammed into the room” for this week of shows in July, 1973. Now, being the middle of July in Houston, it was tremendously hot. Early on the album, Townes mentions something about the air conditioning being off, and how it’s really hot. Thus, this album is best experienced on a sweltering summer night with no air conditioning. In addition to the music (which I’ll discuss in a minute) the ambiance on this recording is second-to-none. During quiet moments in the performance, we often hear beer bottles clinking together, and at one point a telephone rings. These ambient noises do not detract whatsoever from the performance; they aren’t that loud. In my opinion, the extraneous noise adds to the performances, in part because it allows one to understand how quiet those hundred hot, thirsty people had to be to allow those faint sounds to be audible on the recording. Continue reading
Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)
Glenn: There’s a spot on I-77 between Fancy Gap, Virginia, and Lambsburg, just north of the North Carolina border, where the road rises sharply to summit the Blue Ridge. The interstate clings to the hills and winds along steep edges and narrow passes for 10 miles. The air gets wet up there — fog seems to rise out of the rock — and if you are lucky enough to be heading south and riding shotgun you can look southeast from the hills, out over the flatlands of Carrol County, Virgina and Surry County, North Carolina. It’s farms and gas stations and exurb subdivisions — very few lights — but at night, just after dusk, from the height of I-77, the long stretch of dark land sometimes looks like Los Angeles, as viewed from Mulholland Drive. A sparsely populated L.A., an L.A. without smog or skyline, without superhighways. You’ll have to trust me here. Because even though the rural counties of the N.C. Piedmont are nothing like L.A., this stunning view kindles something in the collective memory to remind you of the L.A. you know from movies, from books, from hints, from mid-’70s rock albums maybe most of all. The sheen and glamor, the nightclubs and stubble, the cocaine, the hazy smoggy dawns and the never-night of streetlamps. The stars holed away in the hills. This is what I think of when I descend from I-77 headed south toward home.
Tonight’s the Night captures all that.
The Kinks – Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround: Part One (1970)
Adam: The Kinks’ early career closely resembled that of most of the other British Invasion bands. They were singing blues-based songs about girls (e.g. “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and all of the Night”). In the late 1960’s, as the themes that rock music addressed became ever darker, the Kinks went the opposite way with the Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, which focused on nostalgia for simpler times. By the time The Kinks released Lola in November 1970, The Beatles were history, the Rolling Stones were a few months away from releasing Sticky Fingers, and most other British Invasion bands had faded into obscurity. Continue reading
Can – Tago Mago (1971)
Glenn: Deep funk you’d feel weird shaking your butt to. Crisp production, with oddly EQ’d drums — muted. Like what you hear with a head cold or a fever. Two long sound collages — one of which contains my all-time favorite 2 minutes of Can (that’d be the opening of “Aumgn”), and the other of which is made up of shouting, carnival blee-boop organ licks, and delay pedal fuckery. A distanced feeling throughout. So is this emotionless post-rock jamming more to be admired than to be enjoyed? Or is there blood in these grooves?
Jordy: There is vibrant life in these grooves. As my liner notes quotes keyboardist Irmin Schmidt: Can was like a “mighty, pulsing organism.” Similarly, I would define the “life” of Tago Mago more in biological terms. It has a regular heartbeat and bowel movements, for instance. (Excuse me while I abandon this analogy…) Continue reading
Warren Zevon doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a great songwriter. He was well-respected among other musicians, and his songs are often covered by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and others. As a teenager, Zevon briefly studied modern classical music with Igor Stravinsky, and in the 1970s, he was the touring keyboradist with the Everly Brothers as well as with Don and Phil Everly on their respective individual tours. He was also an occasional stand-in for Paul Shaffer on both late-night iterations of David Letterman’s show.
“Carmelita” from Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings (2007)
“Carmelita” is a junkie’s lament and one of Zevon’s most famous songs, after “Werewolves of London.” The song first came to my attention recently after hearing a cover by GG Allin, of all people. The version I’ve posted is an acoustic demo, but after comparing it to the original release I felt this version was more affecting.
“Searching For A Heart” from Learning to Flinch (1993)
I very much like songs that are able to distill the complexities of love into such simple words, and yet still convey emotional depth, and “Searching for a Heart” succeeds admirably in that regard.
“I Was in the House When the House Burned Down” from Life’ll Kill Ya (2000)
This is just a great song that showcases some of Zevon’s darkly comic style.
Posted by Adam
Guy Clark – “L.A. Freeway” from Old No. 1 (1975)
T’other day, Glenn mentioned that he was playing this song with his sometime band. I first heard it a few years ago and found it to be one the best ramblin’ tunes I’d ever heard. I still feel that way (I also dig the spare Wurlitzer piano). This whole album is terrific and showcases some of the very best lyrics in the genre (see “Instant Coffee Blues” in particular).
Buy it here
Posted by Jordy
Filed under 1970s, Country