Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bing and Bowie

Bing Crosby and David Bowie : Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

On November 30, 1977 CBS television viewers witnessed one of the most unlikely duets in music history: between the frail 74 year old crooner Bing Crosby and 30 year old art rocker David Bowie. The taping for Crosby's TV special Bing Crosby's A Merrie Olde Christmas happened September 11, a month before Crosby's death.

Mary Crosby remembered the the meeting of two icons with People Magazine:

“The doors opened and David walked in with his wife,” she told the Associated Press in 2014. “They were both wearing full-length mink coats, they have matching full makeup and their hair was bright red,” she told the summer TV critics’ tour Wednesday. “We were thinking, ‘Oh my God.’ ”

 “They sat at the piano and David was a little nervous,” she continued, but eventually, “Dad realized David was this amazing musician, and David realized Dad was an amazing musician. You could see them both collectively relax and then magic was made.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Penetrating Voices

Penetration : Don't Dictate

In November of 1977, Penetration ( named after the Stooges song) released their debut single, "Don't Dictate", one of punk rock's classics. The band was made up of teenagers who, on just their second outing, opened for The Stranglers. They put with the same shit as every other punk band. Below, Pauline Murray is the target of showers of beer from some rude fan that gets beaten by the crowd.

Murray told Jon Robb in Punk Rock : An Oral History about the band's youth :

There was nothing premeditated about our sound. We were very young, about eighteen, and our drummer was sixteen. There was fifteen year olds in bands like Eater. Equally you had Jet Black who was ancient! (laughs) A lot of the bands were ten years older than us -- Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Patti Smith--and really very supportive of all the bands. It;s hard to believe these days, but people did genuinely enjoy and support other bands. All the bands were different. Once the record companies took over that's when it all got fragmented. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Red Light, Neon Light

Parliament : Flashlight

Has anybody seen Sir Nose?...And it came to pass that upon his return, Dr Funkenstein did find the planet to have completely lost the best of the funkentelechy, and had fallen prey tp the placebo syndrome, spread throughout the galaxy by the infamous Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk. Driven by the genius of desperation , Dr Funkenstein sends Starchild to do battle, armed with his greatest invention of all time --the BOP FUN. It's the battle of the century ..."Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome.
--Ad Copy

On November 28, 1977 Parliament followed up their classic studio album Mothership Connection with a concept album about the vapidness of Disco music and consumerism called Funkentelechy Vs The Placebo Syndrome. While critics usually call Mothership the pinnacle, fans often argue this is best Parliament album. And with good reason. First of all, there's "Flash Light"six of the funkiest minutes the 70's ever produced thanks to a synthesizer bass line played in a Minimoog by keyboardist Bernie Worrell . Second of all, there was an 8 page comic book that came with the LPs.

Here's what Ken Tucker wrote about the "funk opera"  for Rolling Stone:

Clinton triggers Parliament's album with a song so hard that bullets bounce off it. "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)" is an R and B you tickled by synthesizer fills and mugged by a gang of ribald trumpets. His lead vocal is both playful and passionate: Otis Redding as gunslinger philosopher. Later, when certain elements of Funkentelechy's plot grow cumbersome and impenetrable, Clinton blasts away the confusion by simply losing it in the riffing, which peaks on "Flash Light," a gritty disco digression.

 If the name of the main character in Clinton's latest scenario seems corny at first — he is Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk — it's only because no one could possibly foresee the multiple puns, wise-cracks and convolutions its creator can wrest from it. From the start, all Parliament Funkadelic music has been enthusiastically excessive, in everything from verbiage to the number of musicians employed. While Funkentelechy is no exception. Clinton's production work here is atypically light and clear. Whereas in the past he's usually encouraged the bass and drums to sound murky, to retard the beat and thereby offset the jangle of his raft of hardnosed and Hendrix-inspired guitarists, he's now developed an invigorating musical and verbal precision. Michael Hampton's expert guitar solos quiver starkly in the mix, and Clinton even strives to make his own lyrics intelligible — not coherent maybe, but intelligible.

And, if "Funkentelechy" and "Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk (Pay Attention — B3M)" go on too long — the fatal P-Funk flaw — "Wizard of Finance." which sounds a lot like Graham Central Station, and especially "Bop Gun" display a new rigorousness and brevity.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Naughty Boys With Sweaty Hands

The Rezillos : (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures

In November of 1977, Edinburgh's melodic punk band The Rezillos released their second single "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures". Released in Sire Records, The Rezillos shared an almost comic book approach to music with label mates The Ramones and Talking Heads. We'd be hearing a great deal from this band in 1978.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

In Rainswept Streets

Phil Manzanera and 801 : City of Light

1977's slick Listen Now teams up Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera with 801 collaborator Eno as well as 10cc's Kevin Godley and Lol Creme and Tim Finn and Eddie Raynor of Split Enz. Despite the super session origins, the album has a consistently smooth art rock sheen. One of the decade's best cut out bin discoveries.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Underneath The Velvet Skies

Eric Clapton : Lay Down Sally

On November 25, 1977 Eric Clapton released Slowhand, one of his most successful album, selling three million copies un the U.S. thanks to songs like the radio hit "Cocaine", "Lay Down Sally" and "Wonderful Tonight". The first of those was written by J.J. Cale whose quiet but driving sound seemed to inspire this album as much as it would the Dire Straits debut in 1978.  The A side of this album is pretty classic, but the second side is weighed down by an eight minute jam called "The Core".

From Rolling Stone, here's John Swenson's review:

Eric Clapton's solo albums have tended to be so evenhanded and laconic that they often seem interchangeable. His pain was always so apparent that every move he made seemed frozen for enternity. At first glance, Slowhand does nothing to alter that pattern -- a few good tracks interspersed between the usual filler -- but there's a lot more going on here beneath the surface. Clapton is showing signs of psychic rehabilitation. His love songs are pointedly realistic. In a chilling moment of self-revelation called "Next Time You See Her," he focuses his long-subliminated anger at losing his lover. Perhaps most importantly, for the first time since leaving Cream he seems comfortable with his image as the hotshot guitarist, using his old Yardbirds nickname for the album title and flashing the old superstar form. 

 The pyrotechnics are mostly restricted to a long (8:42) jam, "The Core." The band (Dick Sims on keyboards, Jamie Oldaker on drums, bassist Carl Radle and guitarist George Terry) rolls into a boogie rhythm reminiscent of Derek and the Dominoes. Mel Collins blows a searing, double-tracked soprano sax break, and Eric takes off on a lightning solo that sounds more like his classic run on "Crossroads" than anything he's done since. Glyn Johns' production is superb -- the guitar/drums relationship is crisp and authoritative, powerhouse Clapton caught in a glimpse of white hot frenzy

Except for Eric's great slide guitar playing on the hard-edged slow blues, "Mean Old Frisco," the rest of the album is more subdued, with the influence of country songwriter Don Williams dominating Eric's writing. The devotional love song, "Wonderful Tonight," the sprightly shuffle "Lay Down Sally" and the calmly vengeful "Next Time You See Her" have the same modest intensity and forthrightness of "We're All the Way," the Williams song Clapton covers here. On "Next Time You See Her" Clapton sings, "And if you see her again, I will surely kill you," an unusual enough sentiment for him. But the line is all the more powerful because it is delivered quietyly, with matter-of-fact resignation and even a touch of sympathy for the guy who will be his victim. In as striking of an effect as this it's easy to see that Clapton has learned the lesson he's been striving for all these years. He is an touch with the horrible moral power and long-suffering self-righteousness that is the essence of the blues. And that knowledge gives him the power to stand up and be himself.

Robert Christgau gave the album a C+,  writing:

As MOR singles go, "Lay Down Sally" is a relief -- at least it has some soul. But the album leaves the juiciest solos to George Terry, and where four years ago Eric was turning into a singer -- in the manner of Pete Townshend -- now he sounds like he's blown his voice. Doing what, I wonder.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Don't Be A Fool

The Damned : Don't Cry Wolf

In November of 1977, The Damned released their second album, Music For Pleasure which was produced by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. The critics suggested the best thing about the album was the Barney Bubbles cover. There just aren't any very good songs on this album, one of the classic examples of the sophomore slump. With the departure of guitarist Brian James, The Damned would reform learn to write songs, and record some remarkable tunes in the years to come

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Playground to the Rich

Iggy Pop and James Williamson : Kill City

There are some people who believe the best album Iggy Pop released in 1977 had nothing to do with David Bowie. While The Idiot and Lust For Life get all the attention, there's a third album that was released by Bomp! in November of 1977. Kill City was recorded with ex-Stooge guitarist James Williamson in 1975 on weekends when Iggy was given permission to leave his mental hospital.where he was receiving treatment for his heroin addiction.

 Iggy's state of mind comes through on the title track: "Livin' here in Kill City / where debris meets the sea/It's a playground to the rich / it's a loaded gun to me" 

More raw than Raw Power, more Alice Cooper than punk rock. . The Wire included Kill City in their list of "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP David Cassidy

David Cassidy posed naked ( for photographer Annie Leibovitz) and revealed his drug use in the May 11th, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone. "The Business of David Cassidy" --which at that point included a Top Ten version of "Cherish" and a hit TV show called "The Partridge Family "-- would never be the same.

   It pissed off everybody that was really profiting from the business of David Cassidy. I had fan letters that came to me--and there were hundreds of thousands of them, literally-- in defense of me by fans of mine, that said, "Oh David, I know that you couldn't possibly have done this because I know that you would never have posed nude for photographs", And the fact was, I had, willingly done so, had thought about it. I scratched my head and thought, you know, this David Cassidy business has really gotten outta hand. 
~ David Cassidy

Just Like Rogers and Astaire

Chic : Everybody Dance

Chic's three album run of great disco albums started with the self-titled debut, released on November 22, 1977. The best known track is the U.S.Top 10 hit "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah)", which features an uncredited Luther Vandross singing back up, but I prefer "Everybody Dance" probably because of the scene below in The Last Days of Disco.

Chic's creative forces were songwriters Bernie Edwards ( bass) and Nile Rodgers (guitar).  At one point they had hoped their rock fusion group Big Apple Band would become the black version of Kiss. When that didn't pan out, they teamed up with a pair of female vocalists, Alfa Anderson and Norma Jean Wright, and tried their hands at disco.

The debut is a bit of a mixed bag, a playful effort at sounding sophisticated by quoting old sayings like "Yowsah", adding a big band sound to "Strike Up The Band" and french lyrics like "Est-ce Que C'est Chic". There's even some quiet storm numbers like "Sao Paolo". At the time critics weren't impressed. 

When Niles moved his funky guitar up in the mix, Chic would find their most successful sound with the 1978 follow up C'est Chic featuring the #1 smash "Le Freak" and "I Want Your Love".

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Approaching In a Zoom

Earth Wind and Fire : Jupiter

On November 21, 1977 Earth Wind and Fire released All 'n'All, the first album of theirs that I bought-by mistake thanks to the Columbia House Records and Tape club. I still consider it one of the best mistakes I made with Columbia House ( and a hell of a lot better than the Allman Brothers' Enlightened Rogues or Bad Company's Desolation Angels).

Even as a teenage novice music lover, I was taken by the complex, funky horns, the spaced out lyrics and the Brazilian music influences. It remains a favorite from 1977.

Joe McEwan of Rolling Stone wrote what seems like a mixed review but he would later put this on his ten best list

At their worst, Earth, Wind and Fire indulge in some of the most pretentious excesses in current black music. As on past Earth, Wind and Fire records, All 'n All is filled with leaded brotherhood platitudes, Star Trek sci-fi and stiffly poetic love songs. This sounds overwrought and depressing (and maybe it is). But there's a catch: I like the record, for like much current black music, All 'n All elicits a schizophrenic response. If the album represents some of the worst in black music, it also has more than its share of the best.

 Earth, Wind and Fire's prime mover, Maurice White, is a former Chess Records session drummer, and his rhythmic sense is one of the group's redeeming features. The rhythm tracks on All 'n All are often enough to savage the most convoluted and awkward lyrics. "Serpentine Fire," a song about the spinal life-center philosophy of many Eastern religions, is a simple tango spiced by a subtle funk base and the incessant clanging of a cowbell. Other songs incorporate snatches of supple James Brown bass lines, delicate Latin beats and hard, insistent funk vamps.

 White's production virtues don't end there, though. The lyrics of "Fantasy" ("Come to see, victory, in the land called fantasy") may be hard to swallow, but the music is as close to elegance as any funk song has come. Voices and a light touch of strings suddenly appear over a choppy, propulsive track, swell and swoop, only to disappear at the snap of a finger and pop up moments later for an exciting, powerful finale. White also utilizes an odd instrumental mix that gives equal emphasis to percussion (except the bass drum, which is usually played down), bass, rhythm guitars and stabbing, staccato horn bursts. The result is light but substantial, and it's become a model for many other bands.

Escapism and fantasy are prominent in the lyrics of many soft-soul groups, but usually (intentionally or otherwise) they're used humorously, or at least with tongue in cheek. At times, Earth, Wind and Fire is also capable of such fluffy warmth; in fact, torchy love ballads sung by Verdine White, Maurice's brother, have become a recent trademark. Verdine often sounds like a straining Eddie Kendricks and here, on "I'll Write a Song for You," which is distressingly close to MOR, he has the type of lush romantic vehicle that one wishes Kendricks still employed.

 But that warmth isn't always felt, and despite the musical gloss, much of Earth, Wind and Fire's escapism seems unintentionally obsessive and desperate. It's easy to be seduced by the artfulness and grace of Earth, Wind and Fire's music and accept it for its craftsmanship and listenability. On that level, the group is challenging and fun. It's also easy to by cynical about a line like, "Jupiter, come from the galaxy/I want to meet you, to make you free," which seems as potentially dishonest and escapist as shooting dope.

 There's a strange contrast to be drawn between All 'n All and Sly Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On. Riot was druggy, down and honest. All 'n All is flashy, bright and fanciful. Sly saw what he didn't want to see. The Earth, Wind and Fire album is like looking at yourself in the mirror and finding that nothing is there. Maybe that's what makes All 'n All so compelling -- and scary.

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ writing:

Focusing soulful horns, high-tension harmonies, and rhythms and textures from many lands into a first side that cooks throughout. Only one element is lacking. Still, unsympathetic as I am to the lyrics about conquering the universe on wings of thought, they make me want to shake my fundament anyway. 

  And from Tom Moon's 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die :

Easily the most intense three minutes ever committed to tape by '70s hitmakers Earth Wind & Fire is "Sing a Song," the tightly wound but never fully erupting essay in funk lavishness that was a hit single from the band's 1975 album Gratitude. Next on the list might by "Reasons," the ballad showcase for the skyscraping falsetto of vocalist Philip Bailey from That's the Way of the World, which was also released in '75. In the time-compressed shorthand of pop, those are the must-have moments.

 But they're not the whole story. At the time of these successes, the Memphis-based band, led by drummer, producer, and part-time mystic Maurice White, was attempting to move beyond singles. All 'n' All, which came out in 1977, was EWF's first and best attempt at developing a wholly satisfying album experience, a cycle in which every song mattered. The unifying thread was Brazilian rhythm. "We'd been hanging out for a month in Argentina and Brazil, especially "Rio," White recalled in the liner notes. "Man, we heard stuff that blew our minds, opened our heads up wide. I wanted some of it in our music." After studying the progressive funk of Banda Black Rio and the arty songs of Milton Nascimento, White and his core group wrote pieces that embraced undulating samba and chants heard at Carnival, and integrated elements of Brazilian rhythm into the EWF lockstep funk. The wordless focal "Runnin'" with is ba-bee-da-boo-whees, turned up on jazz radio, and several album tracks, including the jittery "Jupiter," were easily catchy enough to follow the high-gloss "Serpentine Fire" onto the radio.

 White connected the tunes with a series of interludes built on the African thumb piano known as kalimba and street percussion; one, "Brazilian Rhyme," was based on a Nascimento song. Though brief, these pieces unified the album, and gave it a cosmopolitan sound that, like the music that inspired it, opened heads heads up wide.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A New Day's Dawn

John Martyn  : Small Hours

In November of 1977, the British songwriter John Martyn released One World. Next to 1973's Solid Air, it may be his most cherished album. NME called it "mean, moody and magnificent". 

What you would never guess from listening to this man's soft voice and the experience of having his beautiful music wash over you is that Martyn was incredibly tempestuous. By 1977, following the death of friends Nick Drake and Paul Kossoff, Martyn was fully engulfed in his heroin addiction and heavy drinking lifestyle.

   One World was an opportunity to return to what he did best. At Island Records founder Chris Blackwell's Berkshire home, Martyn made a mesmerizing album with the help of Stevie Winwood and friends who helped on Solid Air.

When people talk about One World, they inevitably bring up the nearly nine minute closing track "Small Hours". It was recorded outside, near a lake, with Martyn improvising with his guitar and echoplex. The unmistakable sounds of birds ( Loons? Geese?)  can be heard. There's some percussion. Some organ from Winwood and Martyn singing " Keep on loving while your love is strong, Keep on loving 'til your love is gone away".

One of 1977's transcendent moments.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sleepy Head Kid Sister

Wings :  Girls School

On November 19, 1977 the other side of the new Wings "Mull of Kintyre" single entered Billboard's Hot 100 single chart at #83. It's a bit of a racy rocker from Macca who wrote the  lyrics about taking drugs and a sister who runs a "full body out call massage parlor" while vacationing in Hawaii. The single would peak at #33 in the US which ignored the UK phenom on the other side.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Standards Rule OK

The Jam : Standards

On November 18, 1977 The Jam released their second album, This is the Modern World, just six months following their debut. The main inspirations remain The Kinks and The Who. ("Standards" uses an updated riff from "I Can't Explain"). The difficult second album? Not really. It's actually just more of the youth explosion that made the reality of In The City so hot!

Mick Farren wrote this review for NME :

So this is the modern world. I´m glad they told me. For an instant I´d thought I´d been transported back to 1965 ... He doesn´t need me to tell him (Weller) that The Jam are playing excellent, streamlined rock and roll. He also won´t want me to point out that the production by Vic Smith and Chris Parry is well on the thin side, that some of the riffs don´t stand up to the amount of repetition that they are subjected to and that after a couple of tracks the vocals do lean towards the monotonous ... What The Jam have in common with the rest of the British new wave is a kind of sullen gut level nihilism ... I doubt anything I could say would add to or detract from its obvious status as a hot item, buy wise. So roll the commercials.

From Chas de Wally writing for Sounds:

And people were trying to tell me that this was a lousy album and The Jam were all washed up ... It´s one of the best albums I´ve ever heard in a long time ... Admittedly Paul Weller´s voice still leaves a lot to be desired ... Not everything here owes a debt to The Who ... The Jam capture the essence of transistor radio rock. Bright and naive. Timeless. Brilliant ... Weller is a dry and impassive observer ... In some cases you might even call him genuinely and humanely perceptive ... The Jam are streets ahead of their rivals ... The Jam are young and brave ... Still as real and ingenious as it possible to be in the rock business ... As a live band they are quite one of the best ... It still isn´t their masterpiece.

And from Chris Bazier writing for Melody Maker :

The Who´s influence is marked on both the construction of the songs and the instrumental style ... much of the record suffers precisely because it´s typical Jam -- ´Standards´, ´Here Comes The Weekend´, ´In The Street Today´ and ´Modern World´ are all adequate but thoroughly ordinary and don´t represent any development ... Some of the songs are lyrically weak ... ´Standards´ seems to ridicule the kind of Tory attitude Weller once espoused , which is fine but the attack is too glib and exaggerated ... Existence does have its highs and it´s when Paul Weller is glorying in it that he seems to write his best ... The Jam spiriting us towards the second psychedelic age? ... Paul Weller should mature into one of our best songwriters, provided he keeps his mind open... This album only hints at what The Jam are capable of.

Finally there's Barry Cain from Record Mirror

Forget the sixties. Forget comparisons. Forget Jam, The Who, Beatles, The Kinks. Forget the naive neurosis of the plagiarists. The Jam are here. And now ... "This Is The Modern World" reflects a definite PROGRESSION (remember that?) a definite identity mould ... here Weller is making an obvious attempt at creating a Jam SOUND. He succeeds. Brilliantly. It is in fact a ceremonial uncovering of the post-pubescent metropolitan veil -- moth eaten but nonetheless sacrosanct ... The name of the game is simplicity ... It´s not that Weller is softening, it´s just that he´s learning ... His cracked pavement voice has often been a cause for concern in certain circles which I could never understand. It´s perfect for his songs ... he sings like he looks. Freddie Garrity could never say that.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Et Maintenant Ils Pleurent

Jacques Brel : Orly

Final albums can be fascinating. Bowie's Black Star remains my favorite and most emotional listen of 2016 and Warren Zevon performing Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door" on The Wind is an act of sheer courage. Well in 1977, the theatrical French singing legend Jacques Brel was down to one lung thanks to a 100 filterless cigarette a day habit. He knew he had terminal cancer when he entered the studio to record Brel a.k.a Les Marquises.

Brel's health was failing so much he could only manage three takes per song. If you think you're hearing a bad note, that's because you are. Tant pis pour toi! 

Brel had written many of the songs in the South Pacific where he had retired to sail around in his yacht. His home was in the French Indonesian Maquesas Islands.

To avoid giving interviews, Brel returned to the Marquesas Islands but in his home country of France, word of the new album spread. A million fans placed advanced orders for Les Marquises.

Brel lived for eleven more months. The only comment he ever publicly made about the album is that he hated the cover.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Big Bosom Lady With a Dutch Accent

Rod Stewart : You're In My Heart

In November of 1977 Rod Stewart released Foot Loose and Fancy Free, his eight solo album. And like every album since his masterful Every Picture Tells A Story, it follows a formula. Big rocker at the top ("Hot Legs") . A Motown cover (a lugubrious "You Keep Me Hangin' On), and some singles featuring acoustic guitars ("You're In My Heart", "I Was Only Joking"). The album sold well but nothing could prevent the inevitable disco album, Blondes Have More Fun, from following up.

Writing for Rolling Stone, critic Joe McEwan suggested Rod the Mod was a man out of his time.

There's something to be said for the New Wave rebellion against (to borrow a phrase from the not-so-young-himself Willy De Ville) "old meat." Even if this reaction is mostly confined to England, it seems very healthy. There are a lot of kids in England who don't care what kind of fashionably gauche trinkets decorate Rod Stewart's high-class, Hollywood home or what the exact terms (if any) of his separation from Britt Ekland will be. They do care that Stewart has lost touch with them, not only musically but culturally as well. And for Rod Stewart this dilemma seems particularly complex. After all, it wasn't too long ago that Stewart (who began his career idolizing Sam Cooke, David Ruffin and Ramblin' Jack Elliott) was digging graves for a living and feeling a little testy himself. 

 To his credit, Stewart decided not to take the easy way out this time. Instead of returning to Muscle Shoals and American sessionmen for a comfortable followup to A Night on the Town, Rod opted to form a band and cut an album of mostly rock and roll. Foot Loose and Fancy Free is the result. But there's just one problem: the record falls flat.

Part of the trouble is the band, which sounds stiff and not particularly inspired. Guitarists Gary Grainger and Billy Peek dredge up familiar "Brown Sugar" chords on "Born Loose" and "Hot Legs" (a hedonistic revel that might have worked five years ago but now sounds only lecherous and silly), and "You're Insane" tries to combine funk and reggae but dies because drummer Carmine Appice (ex-Vanilla Fudge) just can't pull it off. The Faces rhythm section was creaky, too, but at least it made up for the lack of swing with an energetic, good-humored sloppiness. 

 Then there's the inclusion of a seven-and-a-half-minute version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (with, yes, the Vanilla Fudge arrangement), an odd lapse of taste for the normally scrupulous Stewart. A cover of Luther Ingram's "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want To Be Right)" comes off much better. Where Ingram sounded forlorn, Stewart is damned positive he's making the right decision. And when he sings the hook in the third chorus, the pull of his voice is still capable of creating Herculean emotional drama. Finally, there are the separation songs, which are drenched with a bitterness the arrangements don't always bring out. It's hard to be discreet when the disintegration of your romance is fodder for every two-bit publication in the world. But Stewart doesn't even try. "You're in My Heart," the current single, is a cheeky, none-too-subtle put-down that deserves awkwardly tacked to a singsong narrative. The subdued "You Got a Nerve" is more straightforward and features this chilling couplet: "Oh what pleasure it gives me now/To know that you're bleeding inside." It's been a long year for Rod Stewart.

According to Greil Marcus, Graham Parker (who was pumping gas in England until two years ago) is quite content traveling between current U.S. tour dates on a bus -- a big improvement over the station wagon that carried Parker around last year. The press notes for the current Stewart tour advertise that his entourage will also be making the rounds by bus. But you can bet Graham Parker isn't lugging around 64,000 pounds of equipment, a seamstress, a masseuse, a tour photographer and a makeup "girl." As for Foot Loose and Fancy Free, it's sure hard to care much about "Hot Legs" with Elvis Costello and the Sex Pistols around. Even Rod Stewart can't get lost in this rock and roll. It's pretty vacant.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Music Loud and Women Warm

Bee Gees : Stayin' Alive

On November 15, 1977, a full month before the movie came out in theaters,  RSO Records released the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. The first side of the double album would be inescapable in the year that followed. I first heard the soundtrack at a dinner party given my some friends of my father and the woman who would become my second step mother. They were in the first giddy months of their affair, and she actually thought I'd want to dance in these people's living room. It was only the first time I would disappoint her and my father. 

Perhaps the same scene was happening in 15 million other living rooms?

Susin Shapiro wrote the review for Rolling Stone, which still stand up to day

While the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever is generally uninteresting, the Bee Gees are an exception. The brothers Gibb not only have the best falsettos in the business, but also the keenest sense of disco's potential for transcendence.

 The Bee Gees have everything going for them: lyrics that don't insult, a band that can open up and utilize each and every electric and/or acoustic possibility without sounding overproduced, great harmonies, superb dance music. Indeed, "You Should Be Dancing" comes as close to disco perfection as anything I've heard, save perhaps Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Bad Luck" and Labelle's "Lady Marmalade." The Bee Gees are very busy on Saturday Night Fever. They perform six of their own songs (four new, two old) and wrote the record's only other worthwhile track, "If I Can't Have You," sung by Yvonne Elliman, who sounds authentically resonant enough to give it the necessary poignancy.

Generally, however, this double album is irritating when it's supposed to be exciting, funny when it's supposed to be dramatic. "Night on Disco Mountain," adapted by David Shire (who did most of the scoring) from Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, is but one example of high hilarity, while K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Tavares and MFSB are better represented by their own LPs. 

 Though Saturday Night Fever is more dross than gloss, it winds up being saved by the grace of the Bee Gees. God bless 'em.

From Billboard:

An all-star lineup, spearheaded by the Bee Gees, join forces on this two-record soundtrack from the forthcoming flick starring John Travolta. The Bee Gees perform on six tunes including its fast-rising "How Deep Is Your Love" while penning five new ones, one performed by Yvonne Elliman. The other contributors are Tavares, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, the Trammps, Kool and the Gang, Walter Murphy, Ralph McDonald, M.F.S.B. and David Shire. The music contains something for everyone, from disco to soft jazzy instrumentals to out and out boogie to ballads and rockers. Singularly, the Bee Gees are the standouts and nucleus, yet collectively this album is filled with bundles of talent. Best cuts: "How Deep Is Your Love," "Staying Alive," "If I Can't Have You," "More Than A Woman," "Night Fever," "Boogie Shoes."

Our pal Robert Christgau gave the soundtrack a B+ review.

So you've seen the movie -- pretty good movie, right? -- and decided that this is the disco album that you're going to try. Well, I can't blame you. The Bee Gees side is pop music at a new peak of irresistible silliness, with the former Beatle clones singing like mechanical mice with an unnatural sense of rhythm. And the album climaxes on a par-tee even non-discoids can get into, beginning with the best of David Shire's "additional music," then switching almost imperceptibly to something tolerable by MFSB and revving into all 10:52 of the Trammps' magnificent "Disco Inferno." But I find the other two sides unlistenable, mostly because the rest of Shire's additions are real soundtrack-quality stuff -- he even discofies Moussorgsky without making a joke of it (compare Walter Murphy on side two). And there's one more problem. While you're deciding to buy this record, so is everyone you know. You're gonna get really sick of it. Maybe you should Surprise Your Friends and seek out Casablanca's Get Down and Boogie instead.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Rebel's Last Stand

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel :  Make Me Smile (live)

It was actually in July of 1977 that Steve Harley released the double live album, Face To Face, the day after he announced he was breaking up the band. The recordings came from eight-date UK tour in December 1976.  Harley told Record Mirror he was excited about the shows: 

"We did eight concerts and every night was great. I'm not just saying that. Jimmy had left to join Rod Stewart's band and Jo Partridge brought new energy. It was our fourth major tour and the fans were on my side from the word go. They're a great audience. It was the best concert tour I've done in my life. I've never enjoyed playing so much in my career."

Audience participation plays a big role especially in the final cut, Harley's UK #1 smash hit "Make Me Smile ( Come Up And See Me)" . As the band leaves the stage the audience sings the chorus to "Tumbling Down".

Geoff Barton of Sounds says the album gets better as you get deeper into the trackss.

"Although his career at the moment appears to be at its 'lowest ebb', Harley can still fill halls to capacity. I count several Rebel concerts to be amongst the most emotional and enjoyable I've ever seen. Side one gets off to a slow start, non-atmospheric and yawn-prompting, Cockney Rebel sounding curiously leaden. Side two suffers from the same kind of problems. By contrast, side three and four are magnificent, compulsive. The involvement builds and builds until, towards the end, everyone sings along in fine football chorus tradition. Highly charged, sincere, spine-tingling stuff. The latter half of "Face To Face" is quite magical, strikes a deep emotional chord. And I can't think of many albums that do that, can you?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Past Painted Deserts

Wings : Mull of Kintyre

On November 13, 1977 "Mull of Kintyre" entered the U.K. charts at #48. It was recorded August 9 1977, during a break from London Town. "Mull of Kintyre"was named after the Scottish peninsula where McCartney has owned a farm since 1966.

"I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living: an area called Mull of Kintyre," McCartney said. " It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was traveling away and wanting to get back there ."

McCartney recorded the guitars outside and brought in the Campbeltown Pipe Band to ply bagpipes. The single would hit #1 over Christmas on its way to selling a record two million copies, the biggest selling hit single until Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?".

The song would later be covered by Glen Campbell.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hot to Go Like Jimmy O

Blondie : Detroit 422

On November 12, 1977 XTC opened for Blondie who were back for their second tour of the U.K, with a new bass player. The English musician Nigel Harrison replaced the departing Gary Valentine ( like Frank Infante too late to make the cover of the following album Plastic Letters). Harrison would co-write some memorable songs for Blondie including "On Way or Another" and "Union City Blue".

  There's actually a webpage dedicated to the gig. XTC is described at the time as a "fast rising" "cross between The Clash and Roxy Music and seem to have the writing power to come right through the centre of the field and stay in front".

The video below--shot a week later in Amsterdam-- gives a sense of Blondie's life on and off the stage.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Mist Leaves No Scar

Leonard Cohen : True Love Leaves No Traces

On November 11, 1977 Leonard Cohen released the Phil Spector produced Death of a Ladies Man, often considered the worst album of Cohen's career. The kindest review probably came from Rolling Stone's Paul Nelson who described the record as "either greatly flawed or great and flawed--and I'm betting on the latter".

Despite having the feel of Dion's Spector produced Born To Be With You, a now certifiable great album, Death of a Ladies Man comes across as a producer/artist mismatch. After all Cohen's songs work best with the least musical adornment. Here, he literally gets plowed under by a wall of sound. Cohen says he was singing live in a room with twenty five musicians-- including two drummers, three bassists and six guitars.

Something Cohen would agree with in later years:

It was one of those periods when my chops were impaired, and I wasn't in the right kind of condition to resist Phil's very strong influence on and eventual takeover of the record. There were lots of guns around in the studio and lots of liquor, a somewhat dangerous atmosphere. He had bodyguards who were heavily armed also. He liked guns - I liked guns too but I generally don't carry one, and it's hard to ignore a .45 lying on the console. When I was working with him alone, it was very agreeable, but the more people in the room, the wilder Phil would get. I couldn't help but admire the extravagance of his performance, but at the time couldn't really hold my own.

That said I've become a little obsessed with the opening track.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Not Even Curiosity

Wire : Mannequin


In November of 1977, Wire released a three song EP, previewing one of the very best albums of the year.

“Mannequin” is the clearest example on Pink Flag of Wire’s penchant for pitting the tone of the lyrics against the sound of the music. The words are aggressively negative. ‘“Mannequin’ was a very direct put-down of a friend’s boyfriend, somebody quite vicious,” explains Lewis: “You’re a waste of space, no natural grace, you’re so bloody thin.” And it doesn’t get any better: “You’re an energy void, a black hole to avoid, no style, no heart.” Despite expending this vitriol, the speaker amusingly assures his subject that the motivation for this depiction is “not animosity.” Lewis remembers the target of his spleen: “The person wouldn’t possibly have dreamt it could have been about him. That’s the kind of individual you’re dealing with here.” 

 Excerpt From: Neate, Wilson. “Wire's Pink Flag.