Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Week In Review: Chris Squire RIP, Foghat, The Flag

The big news is Chris Squire passing away at age 67 from a rare sort of Leukemia.  Squire played bass for all of the Yes albums and basically was the anchor of that revolving door of members who came and went.  Squire wasn't content to keep a straight rhythm, he played bass like a lead guitar.  I consider him one of the best all time bass players ever.

Which got me to play some of Yes albums and perhaps the best one to hear Squire would be Fragile although Close To The Edge is a close second.  Another good example would be Relayer, although I was never that impressed with that album.  In later years Yes would reinvent themselves as MTV darlings with the surprise 1983 comeback album 90125 which was the Atco catalog number of their album, which included the overplayed Owner Of A Lonely Heart.  The Trevor Rabin and beyond years might be spotty but I tend to think that the 1999 album and Bruce Fairbairn's final production The Ladder is their best of that era.  That's saying something.  But still, the early Atlantic years, while their searching for a sound with Peter Banks on guitar do have worthwhile moments.  Steve Howe changed the game when he came on board for the Yes Album and they became progressive rock heroes.  I'm sure Yes will solder on, but without Chris Squire around, they become a tribute band.  He will be missed.

The world remains an old place.  The Confederate Flag, which has been flying in South Carolina has been targeted and it seems that everybody wants the flag down.  Except for the rednecks who are out and about in their SUV and pick up trucks and showing it around. But some good ole boy wasn't paying attention and he ended up rear ending somebody. It is in here somewhere:

Related, Nick At Nite TV Land has decided to end showing the Dukes Of Hazzard since the Confederate Flag is on top of the car. It was also on CMT.  Never really got into the show myself, I always thought it was dumb, although having Waylon Jennings do the voice over was kinda cool.

Playing somewhere live as we speak. Foghat. (Alameda County Fair 7-1-15)  But as Savoy Brown (with Kim Simmonds in tow) they made Looking In, the only album that has Dave Peverett doing lead vocals.  I consider this to be the first Foghat album (in a way).   Looking In is still Savoy Brown doing blues rock but the success of this album would leave Dave, Roger and Tony looking for a more rocking sound and become Foghat. But Kim Simmonds  talks about the album.

Someone wanted some comments about "Looking In"?
Kim Simmonds recalls ....

Back then, vocalist Chris Youlden had left the band and I had a strong belief that 2nd guitarist Lonesome Dave could take over the singing duties (after all, he had subbed for Chris on the Blue Matter album). Dave was a singer in his own right but was, understandably, intimidated by the talent of Youlden.

The songs I contributed for "Looking In" were based around Dave's voice. I knew Lonesome's vocal range and I picked keys to enhance his singing. Sometimes, as in "Take It Easy", I deliberately kept the vocals in a low key so as to give variety. Bassist Tony Stevens also wrote a couple of great songs for the album (the best ones I think) and Roger Earl's creative drumming was simply outstanding. Really (as you know), it was a terrific band. I produced the album and I couldn't go wrong.

A couple of the songs were written around my guitar playing. Those were the guitar instrumentals on the album. "Sunday Night", for instance, was a last minute idea thrown in on the final day of
recording (it was a Sunday night) and "Sitting 'An Thinking" was a vocal song that wasn't working out, so we turned it into an instrumental with Dave playing the theme on lap steel.

I remember taking the tapes to New York City and mixing the album there prior to a US tour.
Now, when I listen to the "Looking In" record, I'm surprised at how simple the guitar playing is, considering the "over the top" jamming I would do on live stage shows. I suppose, even then, I was beginning to become introspective regarding my playing (yeah, it's a 60's thing).

The album was a huge success and only held back from being a top five charter due to London Records being a smaller company and not Warner Bros. (who wanted to sign the band the previous year .... but that's another story).

Today, live, I play two songs from the album ... "Poor Girl" and "Sunday Night" (maybe that means they are my two favorites) in addition to the title track.

Do I like the album? Yes, I do. Where is it among all the others? I'd say top five. What is my favorite track? That's too hard to pick and I'll leave that to you!

-- Kim Simmonds

PS: The band and I went separate ways after recording "Looking In". I had written the "Street Corner Talking" material and, after trying it out with the guys, it wasn't a fit. Later, on tour, it became apparent that the band wanted to continue more as a rock 'n' roll band and I wanted to move in other directions. Thus, they became Foghat and I recorded "Street Corner Talking" with a new line up.
PPS: I just realized I haven't commented on the cover art. Well, it's my favorite Savoy Brown album cover. The artist (a friend of Lonesome Dave's) hit it out of the park. The concept probably came from my brother Harry and the band manager. Back in those days, the managers were almost band members .... they were so involved.

Deen Castronovo is in trouble again.  He got arrested for rape and abusing somebody. Which means while he sits in jail, Journey continues on with Omar Hakim who played alongside Peter Gaberial  and Sting to name a couple.  Deen attacked his wife about three years ago, so his reputation  isn't getting any better.  He may not be back in Journey way things are going.

Zuzu Eca is one of the new discoveries at Record World.  She's into poetry and best way to describe her poetry set to music is somewhat like Patti Smith.  You can hear her work via Lucky Star Radio, the real alternative music and poetry station.

Apple pie anybody.  Mary Louise Parker testing the limits of censorship here. 

Reviews of the week;

Neil Young-The Monsanto Years (Reprise 2015)

You gotta hand it to Neil to keep the protest music going, even if it's sloppy and underdeveloped.  It was like that when he rushed out Living With War a decade ago and it's no different with The Monsanto Years, a rushed out effort that he did with Promise Of The Real, a band led by Lukas Nelson (Willie's Son) and with a more ragged sound moreso than Crazy Horse although The Stray Gators are more the band in question.  The music isn't the problem, Promise Of The Real has that ragged glory sound pat, the problem is that Young pretty much jotted down the lyrics and sang them in a one take feel, leaving a lot of his withered vocals out in the mix and sounds like his close to 70 years.  As for protest music, Young is pissed off and frustrated as you and me but the whistling on A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop kinda contradicts the whole thing, the song isn't good timey but it's listenable, unlike the wondering all over the place 7 and half minute title track.  Like Living With War, the opening track does rock and A New Day For Love does rock out.  His heart is in the right place, but I find The Monsanto Years to be more spottier than Living With War or even Fork In The Road, an album about his car that eventually would burn down his garage a year later.  But for a listenable protest album, The Monsanto Years' lifespan is basically shorter than those GMO products he's been railing about.  But anybody that throws a raspberry at Citizen's United gets my flaming liberal seal of approval.  Even if the album itself doesn't.
Grade C+

Kacey Musgraves  Pageant Material  (Mercury 2015)

First half of the album is just as good as her Same Trailer Different Park album, certainly Dime Store Cowgirl and the title track continues Musgraves' trailer park country and Americana that does Gram Parsons proud as she namechecks him.  But around Biscuits, Kacey aims for the country chart, and guess what?  Country music radio banned it.  Certainly they'll let anything stupid from FGL or Luke Bryan or Cole Swindell on the airwaves but banning Biscuits?  In the words of Corbin Easton... Damn Girl!  Guess the world can't mind their biscuits and life would be gravy.  Certainly not on country radio.  However, the problem is that Kacey plays it too safe, no denying that songs like This Town or Family Is Family are good selections and Kacey and her co horts can write a good song, sometimes the songs don't stand out like they did on S.T.D.P.   The keeper on side two is Good Ole Boys Club, which a reference to a big machine might be a dig at Scott Borecetta and Big Machine Records, and not Taylor Swift to which comments were made that say differently.  Then Kacey returns back to a play it safe mode, which we hear lots of weeping steel guitars that tend to grate on the nerves after a while, especially on closer Fine and then return on bonus track Are You Sure, which the ageless wonder Willie Nelson plays guitar and sings as well, however he does sound like his 82 years, so consider it a duet with Father Time.   Pageant Material, starts out strong, but then coasts down the finish line, which it pales in comparison to S.T.D.P.  Here's hoping Kacey stirs up the pot and make the next album more exciting.  If you can tick off country radio with Biscuits I can imagine what she could come up with on the next album.  She's more outlaw than any of the country guys out there and she's not trying that hard.  Even on autopilot, she's 10 times more smarter than FGL or Luke or Brantley.
Grade B

Counterpoint: Christgau: Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material (Mercury) Nice girl makes nicer—uh-oh ("Family Is Family," "Late to the Party") * B-

Screaming Trees-Ocean Of Confusion (Epic 2005)

They were not grunge like their Washington state bands of note, perhaps they were the most Psychedelic of them all.  This naturally, focuses on their 3 Epic albums and a couple of the radio heard songs are not on this (Bed Of Roses, All I Know)  which kinda makes this music product rather than historical greatest hits document.  I come to find that Sweet Oblivion was their classic album to which 7 tracks (plus the bonus Japan cut E.S.K.) are represented.  The five chosen off Dust are uneven and missing All I Know and Gospel Plow tracks should have been included.  Mark Lanegan, originally stoner quarterback, hooks up with Van and Gary Lee Conner with a love of 60s music and Black Flag, and with Mark Pickeral, they made Uncle Anesthesia, a album that can't decide if they want to be flannel rock or lava lamp 60s.  Getting Barrett Martin was an upgrade, and Lanegan's combination of Jim Morrison's croon and growl was perfect for the band, Sweet Oblivion was the result.  As I remembered from Dust, it seemed that they were going for more of a sound that was Free rather than Nirvana Soundgarden and that record should have been much better. The unreleased songs from Oblivion make this compilation worth getting if you can't find S.O as a standalone album.  However Ocean Of Confusion is a  perfect title of this comp, an uneven overview of a band that got lost in the tide of Seattle flannel that ruled the airwaves in the 1990s.
Grade B

The Thompson Family (Fantasy 2014)

Perhaps the first true family album since the Cowsills, Mom and Pop are rock royalty.  Papa is Richard Thompson, guitar wizard and acidic songwriter, Mom is Linda Thompson, next to Sandy Denny the best female singer ever. The son Teddy has made five albums on his own and Kami the daughter and hubby to James Walbourne (they perform under the name The Rails), and perhaps Kami is the more related with a voice like her mom's and a songwriting like her dad's. Jack Thompson, plays bass on the new agey At The Feet Of The Emperor (with Richard playing guitar).  Basically Teddy's idea of bringing the family into this album, it's a varied and mostly low key affair of songs that each member gets two numbers, Jack gets a bass solo number and Zak Hobbs a nephew gets Root So Bitter.  Overall a mixed bag of songs, Teddy does two, Family with Linda singing in the background and the uptempo Right, probably the only uptempo song, Linda gets the two mellower ones and Richard gets two, the last one That's Enough to which the whole family gets to participate in.  I wouldn't know if this is music therapy but That's Enough does sound like a Fairport Convention song.  Perhaps the best song comes from Kami Thompson, the duet with her hubby I Long For Lonely ends the record but Careful, with dad on guitar is the standout track. I heard great things about her and James' band The Rails but don't look for Universal Island to issue that in the US anytime soon.  Although The Thompson Family might be a one off album, it's nice to see The Thompsons playing together, even if it is  for only one song.
Grade B+

Falcon Eddy (Music Staff 1984 thereabouts)

They were popluar in the 80s, John Thomson would later become staff producer and engineer for Catamont Recording Studios, but this band is basically new wave pop in the style of Little River Band or Oingo Boingo or The Tubes.  Copies of this album can be found at the thrift stores.  There's kinda hard rock to Tell Me What You Mean, and a bit of Prism thrown in on Can You Feel It.  At times they get to be too smart for their own good, and sound dates itself.  There's worse out there, but this type of music does make me smile for the duration of the record.   If only we can return to those good ole days of new wave pop.
Grade B-

Record Porn: Arnold Layne by The Pink Floyd (Tower 333)
(Photo and record from the collection of Mark McKernon)

Many years before, The Pink Floyd was banished to the Capitol satellite label Tower, since Capitol had no idea how to promote a strange band from the UK.  Before FM radio embraced them and Dark Side Of The Moon, a album that has never moved me all that much. Still Dark Side did get me to discover the earlier Floyd albums and then the love affair with the first album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn happened.  I got to know Arnold Layne, the single not from Relics but rather the 1985 Works album.  To compare Relics to Works, I still prefer Works, for the inclusion of selections from Ummagumma and obscured By Clouds.  And still enjoy Syd Barrett's deranged songs, for the matter that classic rock radio doesn't play Syd Barrett at all here, (at least not on the Fox). Even in my years,  B Side Carrot And A Currant Bun sounds like a spaced out version of The Creation.  You can have Another Brick In The Wall, I'll take Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and all of Syd's freaky singles.

And The Townedgers fall from number 1 to Number on this week's top requested songs at Lucky Star Radio.


2000 Man said...

That's a real drag about Chris Squire. He was in my first favorite band in the whole world with Yes, and I just thought he looked as cool as any rock star ever could with his glittery capes and strutting with that bass while he blasted out as many notes as Rick Wakeman or Steve Howe any time he felt like it. I really didn't find a lot of Prog Rock very interesting, and I always kind of thought Yes was light years ahead of the competition, but they were still the only ones I really loved. I've been trying to listen to a little more these days, but thats partly because if I'm not careful the music I like keeps getting simpler and simpler and at some point if it isn't a guy hitting a rock with a stick I'm in danger of calling everything a bunch of poseur crap!

Why don't the Rednecks fly the LAST confederate flag? You know, the white one on a stick. Fuckers.

R S Crabb said...

Hi 2000
I like that Redneck comment. Couldn't said it any better myself.

Chris Squire was in pretty bad shape but I didn't think he'd pass on but then again he was 67. I suspect Yes's classic period was the early 70s when Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman joined up, but I'm partial to Drama, the 1980 album and of course their pop period of the mid 80s and The Ladder, their underrated 1999 album. In my old age, I think I can tolerate prog rock more than I did than in my youth but I think I was the only fifth grader that had the Fragile Lp. Good times.