quarta-feira, 19 de setembro de 2012

Three Dog Night - Naturally 1970

Three Dog Night kept up its reputation for putting other artists' songs on the charts with Naturally, one of the group's finest offerings. With HuttonWells, and Negron sounding amazingly tight and fluid, they took their soft rock dynamics and mixed them with an abundance of hooks and harmonies to produce three Top 20 singles, eventually earning the band a gold disk. The fresh-sounding "One Man Band" hit number 19 in December of 1970, followed by Three Dog Night's most acclaimed tune, the Hoyt Axton-penned "Joy to the World," which spent six straight weeks at number one, and Russ Ballard's "Liar," which peaked at the number seven spot only four months later. But Naturally's energy stretches far beyond the album's hits, mainly because Three Dog Night managed to carry the spirited groove and boundless, unconfined feeling of the late '60s into the next decade with most of the songs on this album. The peace-and-love aura of past hits like "Eli's Coming" and "Easy to Be Hard" shows up in tracks like "Sunlight" and "Heavy Church," while the remaining cuts are just as forceful, utilizing the trio's bare vocal power to produce some rather eloquent yet intoxicating music. With the help of Jimmy Greenspoon on keyboards and Mike Allsup's guitar work, songs like "I Can't Get Enough of It," "Fire Eater," and "I've Got Enough Heartache" keep the album's liveliness afloat by lending some carpeted instrumentation to the front-and-center vocals. The rest of the album is often disregarded because of the strength of Naturally's hits, when in fact this is one of Three Dog Night's most well-rounded contributions. AMG.

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Roxy Music - Roxy Music 1972

Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music's eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock's boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures. Although no musician demonstrates much technical skill at this point, they are driven by boundless imagination -- Brian Eno's synthesized "treatments" exploit electronic instruments as electronics, instead of trying to shoehorn them into conventional acoustic patterns. Similarly, Bryan Ferry finds that his vampiric croon is at its most effective when it twists conventional melodies, Phil Manzanera's guitar is terse and unpredictable, while Andy Mackay's saxophone subverts rock & roll clichés by alternating R & B honking with atonal flourishes. But what makes Roxy Music such a confident, astonishing debut is how these primitive avant-garde tendencies are married to full-fledged songs, whether it's the free-form, structure-bending "Remake/Remodel" or the sleek glam of "Virginia Plain," the debut single added to later editions of the album. That was the trick that elevated Roxy Music from an art school project to the most adventurous rock band of the early '70s. AMG. 

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The Seeds - The Seeds 1966

As mid-'60s L.A. garage bands go, the Seeds were perhaps the most primitive, which isn't necessarily a virtue. Whereas the Standells had good lyrics, the Leaves could write pop, and Love was gifted beyond comparison, Sky Saxon and company had to settle for attitude and an unintended comicalness. Their debut record is just that. It's comprised of snotty boy-girl songs and teeters on the edge of musical ineptness, though it does contain the garage classic "Pushin' Too Hard" (whose arrangement is recycled at least once here). The other significant tune is "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," which features a repetitive, haunted-house guitar riff. The rest of the record, though fairly forgettable, still reinforces the truth that pure punk appeared long before the Sex Pistols. AMG.

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Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde 1966

If Highway 61 Revisited played as a garage rock record, the double album Blonde on Blonde inverted that sound, blending blues, country, rock, and folk into a wild, careening, and dense sound. Replacing the fiery Michael Bloomfield with the intense, weaving guitar of Robbie RobertsonBob Dylan led a group comprised of his touring band the Hawks and session musicians through his richest set of songs. Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. Leavening the edginess of Highway 61 with a sense of the absurd, Blonde on Blonde is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads like "Visions of Johanna," "Just Like a Woman," and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." Throughout the record, the music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands ("Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"). It's the culmination of Dylan's electric rock & roll period -- he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again. AMG.

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George Duke - The Aura Will Prevail 1975

In 1975, George Duke was dabbling in R&B vocals. But instrumental jazz-fusion was still his primary focus, and he had yet to be played extensively on any of the genres' stations. When The Aura Will Prevailcame out that year, no one bought the LP for its occasional R&B vocal -- the main attraction was Duke's keyboard playing. "Fools" is a melancholy soul ballad that finds him singing lead and predicts what was to come on R&B-oriented releases like Don't Let Go (1978) and Master of the Game (1979), but it isn't typical of the album on the whole. This is a fusion effort first and foremost, and Duke has plenty of room to stretch out and improvise on instrumentals that range from the insistent "Floop de Loop" to the Brazilian-influenced "Malibu" (which shouldn't be confused with the Hole/Courtney Love gem). Two of the songs were written or co-written by Frank Zappa: the fusion instrumental "Echidna's Arf" and the gospel-minded soul item "Uncle Remus" (another tune that gives Duke a chance to sing lead). Without question, The Aura Will Prevail is among this artist's finest fusion-oriented albums. AMG.

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The Easybeats - Easy 1965

Their first album, not available outside Australia until the 1990s. The Vanda/Young songwriting partnership had yet to dominate the band in their early days, and most of the (entirely original) material here comes from the pens of George Young and singer Stevie Wright. It's more Merseybeatish and less oriented toward power-pop and staccato guitar attacks than their subsequent releases, which isn't really detrimental; it doesn't scale the peaks the band would shortly climb, but neither does it have the overdone good-time mania that made some of their efforts hard to take in more than limited doses. A fairly consistent, if not incredibly remarkable, relic from the Beat era, with some very Beatlesque tracks, including "It's So Easy," "I Wonder" (on which Harry Vanda sounds a lot like a young George Harrisoncirca "Do You Want to Know a Secret"), and cuts that could pass for the Searchers ("I'm Gonna Tell Everybody"), Gerry & the Pacemakers ("Hey Girl," "A Letter"), the Merseybeats ("Cry Cry Cry"), the Kinks ("You'll Come Back Again"), and Peter & Gordon ("Girl on My Mind"). Stuck in the middle of all of those delightfully derivative treasures is the most defiantly original track off the album, and (not coincidentally) their first big Australian hit, "She's So Fine," which doesn't sound like anything else here, pulsing with energy, a hot pumping bass part, and a ferocious guitar break. The Repertoire Records CD reissue enhances the original album significantly with the addition of eight bonus tracks, including five jewels from the Vanda/Young songwriting team. AMG.

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Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure 1973

On Roxy Music's debut, the tensions between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry propelled their music to great, unexpected heights, and for most of the group's second album, For Your Pleasure, the band equals, if not surpasses, those expectations. However, there are a handful of moments where those tensions become unbearable, as when Eno wants to move toward texture and Ferry wants to stay in more conventional rock territory; the nine-minute "The Bogus Man" captures such creative tensions perfectly, and it's easy to see why Eno left the group after the album was completed. Still, those differences result in yet another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting. This is especially evident in the driving singles "Do the Strand" and "Editions of You," which pulsate with raw energy and jarring melodic structures. Roxy also illuminate the slower numbers, such as the eerie "In Every Dream Home a Heartache," with atonal, shimmering synthesizers, textures that were unexpected and innovative at the time of its release. Similarly, all of For Your Pleasure walks the tightrope between the experimental and the accessible, creating a new vocabulary for rock bands, and one that was exploited heavily in the ensuing decade. AMG.

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The Seeds - Future 1967

The "A Thousand Shadows" 45 rpm from this album, Future, came in a pink sleeve decorated by gray four-leaf clovers and a negative picture of the Seeds next to a sign that says "Wishing Well - Help Us Grow." "A Thousand Shadows" is the melody as well as the feel of their Top 40 1967 hit "Pushin' Too Hard." Breaking no new ground, the band insisted on revisiting its formula, reinventing new versions of "Pushin' Too Hard" like "Flower Lady & Her Assistant." This is a sophisticated package with a gatefold which includes lyrics over pastel sunflowers as if the band was Joni Mitchell. Three colorful pages come inside the album, including two beautiful photos of the group along with single flowers representing the songs on the disc with instructions: "Cut out paste on whatever" for grade schoolers or those so strung out on LSD they have regressed to that point. "Six Dreams" is Black Sabbath's Ozzie meeting George Harrison in some biker film soundtrack with weird sound effects and a sitar. The harp on "Fallin'" underscores Saxon's passionate garage vocal. Imagine, if you will, Brian Jones during the recording of Satanic Majesties deciding to bare all the excesses of rock stardom. This album is a trip, not because it reflects the ideas captured in the Peter Fonda film of the same name, but because a band had the audacity to experiment with record company money and make something so noncommercial and playful. Droning organ sounds penetrate "Fallin'," the seven minute, 40 second final track. Saxon writes in the inner-sleeve essay "Originations of the Flower Generation" "...The farmer lives by the elements alone, the sun, the rain, and the earth, but the earth needs its seeds to sow the flower generation of the leaf...." It's heady stuff, and the melody and sound of "Pushin' Too Hard" permeates incessantly. Hardly aFuture, as the title proclaims, this is actually the Sgt. Pepper of the flower-power set, a reinvention of past efforts, but no "Strawberry Fields" or "Day in the Life" to bring it out of its cult niche. Very listenable, highly entertaining, and totally not for the mass audience. GNP stands for Gene Norman Presents, and the label should be commended for allowing such creativity which inspired Iggy Pop and the Lyres'Mono MannSaxon played his game to the hilt, and that followers like Mono Mann and Jeff Connellywould get stuck in his groove is only testament to how original and enthralling these sounds are. Tunes like "Now a Man" are low-key Ventures riffs with naïve guitar and Saxon being as indulgent as humanly possible. Fans should also seek out a 45 on Expression records, "Beautiful Stars" by Sky Sunlight and Thee New Seeds featuring Rainbow. Despite its musical limitations, Future holds up quite well to repeated plays by sitting firmly in the past. AMG.

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Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant 1967

Although he'd been a fixture on the East Coast folk circuit for several years, Arlo Guthrie did not release his debut album until mid-1967. A majority of the attention directed at Alice's Restaurant focuses on the epic 18-plus-minute title track, which sprawled over the entire A-side of the long-player. However, it is the other half-dozen Guthrie compositions that provide an insight into his uniformly outstanding, yet astoundingly overlooked, early sides on Warner Bros. Although arguably not 100 percent factual, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" -- which was recorded in front of a live audience -- is rooted in a series of real incidents. This decidedly anti-establishment saga of garbage dumps closed on Thanksgiving, good ol' Officer Obie, as well as Guthrie's experiences with the draft succeeds not only because of the unusual and outlandish situations that the hero finds himself in; it is also his underdog point of view and sardonic delivery that maximize the effect in the retelling. In terms of artistic merit, the studio side is an equally endowed effort containing six decidedly more traditional folk-rock compositions. Among the standouts are the haunting "Chilling of the Evening," which is given an arrangement perhaps more aptly suited to a Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell collaboration. There is a somewhat dated charm in "Ring-Around-a-Rosy Rag," a sly, uptempo, and hippie-friendly bit of jug band nostalgia. "I'm Going Home" is an underrated minor-chord masterpiece that is not only reminiscent of Roger McGuinn's "Ballad of Easy Rider," but also spotlights a more sensitive and intricate nature to Guthrie's craftsmanship. Also worth mentioning is the first installment of "The Motorcycle Song" -- which was updated and discussed further on the live self-titled follow-up release Arlo (1968) -- notable for the extended discourse on the "significance of the pickle." AMG.

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Queen - A Night at the Opera 1975

Queen were straining at the boundaries of hard rock and heavy metal on Sheer Heart Attack, but they broke down all the barricades on A Night at the Opera, a self-consciously ridiculous and overblown hard rock masterpiece. Using the multi-layered guitars of its predecessor as a foundation, A Night at the Operaencompasses metal ("Death on Two Legs," "Sweet Lady"), pop (the lovely, shimmering "You're My Best Friend"), campy British music hall ("Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon," "Seaside Rendezvous"), and mystical prog rock ("'39," "The Prophet's Song"), eventually bringing it all together on the pseudo-operatic "Bohemian Rhapsody." In short, it's a lot like Queen's own version of Led Zeppelin IV, but where Zep find dark menace in bombast, Queen celebrate their own pomposity. No one in the band takes anything too seriously, otherwise the arrangements wouldn't be as ludicrously exaggerated as they are. But the appeal -- and the influence -- of A Night at the Opera is in its detailed, meticulous productions. It's prog rock with a sense of humor as well as dynamics, and Queen never bettered their approach anywhere else. AMG.

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domingo, 16 de setembro de 2012

Roxy Music - Stranded 1973

 Without Brian EnoRoxy Music immediately became less experimental, yet it remained adventurous, asStranded illustrates. Under the direction of Bryan FerryRoxy moved toward relatively straightforward territory, adding greater layers of piano and heavy guitars. Even without the washes of Eno's synthesizers, Roxy's music remains unsettling on occasion, yet in this new incarnation, they favor more measured material, whether it's the reflective "A Song for Europe" or the shifting textures of "Psalm." Even the rockers, such as the surging "Street Life" and the segmented "Mother of Pearl," are distinguished by subtle songwriting that emphasizes both Ferry's tortured glamour and Roxy's increasingly impressive grasp of sonic detail. AMG.

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Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline 1969

John Wesley Harding suggested country with its textures and structures, but Nashville Skyline was a full-fledged country album, complete with steel guitars and brief, direct songs. It's a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon -- the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs. While there are a handful of lightweight numbers on the record, at its core are several excellent songs -- "Lay Lady Lay," "To Be Alone With You," "I Threw It All Away," "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," as well as a duet withJohnny Cash on "Girl From the North Country" -- that have become country-rock standards. And there's no discounting that Nashville Skyline, arriving in the spring of 1969, established country-rock as a vital force in pop music, as well as a commercially viable genre. AMG.

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The Guess Who - Road Food 1974

Road Food found the Guess Who taking a jazzy turn in a different direction from the guitar-soaked sound the group had mined to popularity for several years. Burton Cummings' piano was moved more to the front of the mix for this recording. "Star Baby" was the first single released from the album, and though it's catchy and sounds like a hit, it wasn't. However, the novelty tune "Clap for the Wolfman," featuring Wolfman Jack himself, did hit the Top Ten, providing the band with its last visit there. The rest of the album is uneven, with some snazzy, jazzy tunes and a couple of overblown ballads. AMG.

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