Archive for Yes

Back To Black: Headphone LPs

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2012 by 30daysout

Koss headphones and a porn star mustache got the chicks every time.

Way back in the dark ages (the 1970s) I’d heard that a few albums sounded really great on headphones. Well, my parents had a stereo but we didn’t have headphones. They cost about $12 apiece then, which in today’s dollars would likely be a monthly mortgage payment.

So I borrowed a couple of albums from my good friend Randy Fuller and took ‘em home to experience “true stereo.” My homemade headphones substitute was putting two stereo speakers on the floor facing each other then turning them out at about a 45 degree angle, just enough to slip a pillow and my stupid head in between.

With the volume set real low, it was a great substitute – until a little brother sneaked into the room and jacked it up to threshold of pain level. I still hate those guys.

Back in the day, one used to see magazine ads like this.

Anyway, with Record Store Day approaching, I thought I’d pull out a handful of my favorite “headphone” LPs and give ‘em a spin. These records were best listened to on those big clunky headphones, like the kind the Koss company used to make. You really got good spatial separation and a sense of true depth by listening to rock albums over headphones, and they were great soundtracks to some, ah, chemical stimulation. Or so I have been told.

For me, the granddaddy of all headphone LPs was Fragile by Yes (1971), which was one of the albums I borrowed from Randy back then. It was the group’s fourth album and the first with new keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and these prog-rockers really explored the studio space. “Long Distance Runaround” and “Roundabout” got a lot of radio airplay, but hearing those songs on AM radio really didn’t do them justice. The extended jam “Heart of the Sunrise” would usually send me into space or more accurately, a deep sleep.

The progressive rockers were great for headphone music: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973), Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues (1967) and In The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson (1969) are classics. Randy likes Pink Floyd’s Animals (1977) for its crossing, slashing guitars and in 1976 I went for Rush and 2112, considered by many a headphones classic.

Randy remembers Quadrophenia by the Who (1973) as a nice headphone experience, and I always used to go for Electric Warrior by T. Rex (1971). And for some reason: Phoenix by Grand Funk Railroad (1972) got a lot of headphone mileage, but maybe I was just too lazy to take it off the turntable. And let’s not forget: Abbey Road by the Beatles (1969), Ram by Paul and Linda McCartney (1971) and Best of Spirit (1973), all favorites of mine.

Our memory wavelengths converge on one act who always sounded great in stereo: The Firesign Theatre. Not musicians, this was a comedy troupe whose medium was the stereo album. Their stuff is multi-tracked and brilliant, and you can listen to their setpieces over and over again just like a great rock song. Their very best albums – Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers (1970) and Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974) are rich experiences on headphones, but hands down their best for special effects and stereo is the futuristic I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus (1971).

Look at me, going on about all this stuff. I could talk about old records and music all day. And there’s a perfect day to do just that: Record Store Day, April 21 this year. Go out to your independent music store, grab up some special vinyl and see how many people are music freaks just like you and me.

MP3: “Long Distance Runaround” by Yes (from Fragile)

MP3: “Planet Queen” by T. Rex (from Electric Warrior)

MP3: “Flight Of The Phoenix” by Grand Funk Railroad (from Phoenix)

MP3: “A Passage To Bangkok” by Rush (from 2112)

MP3: “Sheep” by Pink Floyd (from Animals)

MP3: “The Breaking Of The President” by the Firesign Theatre (from I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus)

Ridin’ Out The Storm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by 30daysout

Hurricane Ike from 2008.

By now everyone should be ready for this big storm. Just remember – when the wind’s blowin’ stay indoors, and try to find high ground when the floodwaters come. These big storms are gifts from Mother Nature, who doesn’t give a shit if you live in New York City or Podunk, Texas.

She couldn’t care less if you have someplace to be or something to do, and if you think you are going to show Mother Nature how tough you are then she may just want to show you back. That’s usually when we read about you in the paper – in the past tense.

Be smart, stay high and keep dry. Do that and you’ll stay safe. Here are some tunes to help you ride out the storm.

MP3: “Ridin’ The Storm Out” (live) by REO Speedwagon

MP3: “Stormbringer” by Beck

MP3: “Storm” by Blackmore’s Night

MP3: “Stand Out In The Rain” by the Jayhawks

MP3: “Into The Storm” by Yes

MP3: “Stormy Weather” by Dizzy Gillespie

MP3: “Thunder Island” by Jay Ferguson

MP3: “Rainy Night In Georgia” by Conway Twitty & Sam Moore

MP3: “Rainy Day Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

MP3: “Box of Rain” by the Grateful Dead

MP3: “Didn’t It Rain” by the Band

MP3: “Rainy Day” by America

MP3: “Let It Rain” (live) by Derek & the Dominos

MP3: “When the Wild Wind Blows” by Iron Maiden

MP3: “Light From Your Lighthouse” by the Fireman

MP3: “After The Storm” by Mumford & Sons

MP3: “The Only Living Boy In New York” by Simon & Garfunkel

National Hurricane Center

The Weather Channel

Mike’s Weather Page (This excellent page is one of the best I’ve seen – it’s a virtual hurricane command center)

Review: Is It New Or Is It Old?

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by 30daysout

Well, here we are almost to the end of summer 2010 … and we have a handful of new records that sound nothing like the summer of 2010.

Now I am a HUGE fan of Brian Wilson, and the Beach Boys – but I must admit Wilson’s new Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin leaves me kinda cold.   Wilson has said many times that George Gershwin is his all-time fave, and as a result Gershwin’s heirs have asked Wilson to create a tribute to the long-dead composer.   There’s no doubt that Brian Wilson’s genius ear for arrangement is still on-target, that’s obvious on the beautiful, accapella version of “Rhapsody In Blue” that opens and closes the album.  And “Summertime” (from the musical “Porgy and Bess”) with Wilson’s voice is just about perfect for this time of the year.  It’s on some of the other tracks where I get a little lost:  the instrumental “I Got Plenty O’ Nuffin’ ” sounds like a Pet Sounds outtake, and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” was better when it was “Little Deuce Coupe.”  Oh, this is all right I supppose, particularly if you’re more a fan of Gershwin than of Wilson.  In my case, I kinda wish Brian had devoted all this energy to writing some new songs.  Ah well, maybe next time.

Listen to piano demos Brian Wilson used to create songs for the new Gershwin album

John Mellencamp strips it all down and gets back to his “roots” with the new No Better Than This. Rather than reinterpreting old songs like Brian Wilson, Johnny Cougar’s done the opposite – he casts some freshly written tunes in “old” settings.  He visits Sun Studios in Memphis to cut a rockabilly tune, he records a bluesy tune in San Antonio’s Menger Hotel, where Robert Johnson recorded … you get the idea, right?  The title song manages to rock out,  and that Menger Hotel tune “Right Behind Me” manages to summon up the right amount of spookiness.  Complete with low-fi production from T-Bone Burnett, No Better Than This seems to be the right step for Mellencamp.

MP3: “No Better Than This” by John Mellencamp

Let’s go back even farther in time, say Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three.  The band’s Riverboat Soul could have been heard on a dark night along the Mississippi, circa 1933.  For lack of a better adjective, this is pure Americana – with heaping teaspooons of ragtime, bluegrass and back-porch blues.   Impeccably played and sung, the songs never break character for a modern-day wink and that makes Riverboat Soul all the better for it.

MP3: “La La Blues” by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three

You gotta love YOSO, and not just for the name.  YOSO is made up of former members of Toto (singer Bobby Kimball) and Yes (keyboard player Tony Kaye and bassist/singer Billy Sherwood).  Elements is the band’s first album, and there are strong original numbers like “Path To Your Heart” and “To Seek The Truth.”  Kimball’s vocals are pretty solid, but on a few numbers he threatens to lose control; I think “Walk Away” could have been stronger with a few more takes.   In case you have a short memory, Elements comes with a second CD of live performances of a few of the new tunes and some Toto/Yes classics like “Hold The Line,” “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” and “Rosanna.”  Now this is classic rock!

MP3: “Walk Away” by YOSO

Happy Fourth!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2008 by 30daysout

                              

We’re taking a few days off for the Indpendence Day holiday and should be back in the saddle on Monday.  Meanwhile, enjoy these:

MP3: “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

MP3: “The Great Compromise” by John Prine

MP3: “Spirit Of America” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “49 Bye Byes/America’s Children” (live) by Stephen Stills

MP3: “U.S.A.” by Bill Withers

MP3: “America” (single edit) by Yes

MP3: “Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash and Friends

MP3: “Living In The Promiseland” by Willie Nelson

MP3: “Surfin’ U.S.A.” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Star Spangled Banner/Purple Haze” (live at Woodstock) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience