Sunday, January 20, 2008

Basket of Sounds

Picked up another couple of discs over the holidays. First up is The Dragons' BFI [Ninja Tune ZENCD135] which sounded interesting, judging by the reviews. It was originally recorded in 1969/1970 and remained unreleased apart from a track included on a mid-70's surf soundtrack. Long story short, Strictly Kev of Ninja Tune discovered the soundtrack and contacted Dennis Dragon who informed him that there was an entire lp's worth of material that Dennis recorded with his brothers Doug and Daryl. Trivia note: Daryl Dragon gained fame as "The Captain" of The Captain & Tennille).

First things first, despite what every other review states, this is not a psychedelic record. Nope. It's a progressive rock album with a touch of soul and a very good one at that. The band's arrangements call to mind the British prog band Second Hand and in a strange way, Steely Dan (probably due to the jazziness of the arrangements).

Decided after many years to investigate the legendary jazz/folk band The Pentangle. After asking for suggested titles on the Up-Tight music list, I settled on 1969's Basket of Light. I was immediately taken with Jacqui McShee's vocals: clear as a bell with an ability to soar. The instrumental backing is of course first-rate, but that is to be expected when Bert Jansch (Guitar), John Renbourn (Guitar & Sitar), Danny Thompson (Double Bass) and Terry Cox (drums) are on board. Musically quite eclectic and adventurous.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

45 rpm

There's something special about the seven inch 45 rpm record. Back in the late seventies it was my format of choice when buying music, and I've found myself buying singles again. Sure, wading through thousands of discs is a bit daunting, but when I have the time and patience I'm rewarded.

One of my favourite recent purchases is a single by The Bob Crewe Generation: Miniskirts in Moscow b/w Theme for a Lazy Girl [Dynovoice Records]. What a great single it is with that special bachelor pad/now sound 60's optimism. Who among us could pass up a song entitled Miniskirts in Moscow? Well, no one I would want to talk to, that's a certainty.

I've written about Syrinx before , so when I happened across a copy of their moog-pop instrumental hit single Tillicum (Theme from "Here Come The Seventies) b/w Melina's Torch [True North Records] I snapped it up. My search continues for a copy of the picture sleeve. You may be interested to know that there is a MySpace page for the band where you can hear both songs on the single plus Field Hymn. So what are you waiting for, go here.

I've had a bit of an obsession with Canadian Pop/Folk/Lite Psych outfit The Poppy Family for a while now. Not a band as such, but more the project of then-husband and wife team of Susan & Terry Jacks. On the surface many of their songs are straightforward pop songs, but at the same time they have a very dark undercurrent. Track down a copy of There's No Blood in Bone and you'll see what I mean. In the meantime, you may want to read Kim Cooper's history The Partridge Family + The Manson Family = The Poppy Family for a bit of background.

I had the opportunity to add two singles to my collection. The first is Which Way You Goin' Billy? b/w Endless Sleep [London Records]. Which Way... was a big hit for them and is a fine song featuring Susan's ethereal voice. The real treat is the B side which features a great garage band guitar line and lyrics about a lost love drowned at sea. Next up is Where Evil Grows b/w Concrete Sea [Underground Records]. The A side deals with an unwise romantic choice: "Evil grows in the dark/Where the sun, it never shines/Evil grows in cracks and holes/And live in peoples' minds". Did I say dark undercurrents? I meant dark overcurrents. The flip is one of my favourite tunes by the Jacks, catchy with a nice sparse production.

One thing I've noticed about Poppy Family singles is that they are repackaged for different labels with different combinations of songs. I already had a copy of Where Evil Grows as a B side for I Was Wondering on the London Label. Last week I picked up two singles for a friend in the UK: one was Which Way You Goin' Billy b/w That's Where I Went Wrong [Underground Records] and the second was Terry Jacks' big hit Seasons in the Sun b/w The Love Game [Goldfish Records]. I was surprised to discover that The Love Game is in fact Concrete Sea (the same recording as The Poppy Family track as far as I can tell) and was even more surprised to discover that I now enjoy listening to his version of the Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen song. Admittedly, it requires a certain ironic distance.

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