Budo, Kan You Spare A Dime? (GDLIYWI) #49

Bob Dylan at Budokan is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released April 1979 on Columbia Records. It was recorded during his 1978 world tour and is composed mostly of the artist’s “greatest hits”. The performances in the album are radically altered from the originals, using the same musicians that backed Street-Legal, but relying on a much larger band and stronger use of brass and backing singers. In some respects the arrangements are more conventional than the original arrangements, for which the album was criticized. For a few critics, such as Janet Maslin of Rolling Stone, the differences between the older and newer arrangements had become less important.

Many moons ago (mid-eighties), I had a book about the 50 worst rock albums of all time. Now the usual suspects were on it: Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, Having Fun On Stage With Elvis and CSNY’s American Dreams. This album was one of the two Dylan albums to make the list (Self Portrait was the other) and for years, because of that review, I’ve done my utmost to avoid coming into contact with it. Described by one critic as “the least essential live Dylan albums from the 70’s” and reading about the radically rearranged versions of his classic songs, I felt a little trepidation approaching this record.

First off, I’ve seen Bob Dylan twice (one good experience, one abysmal experience) so I’m used to him rearranging his songs, and I love and appreciate artists that do that to their material, and for the majority of the time it works; however this is rearrangements gone awry! Most of Dylan’s classic 60’s songs (Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Maggie’s Farm, Ballad of a Thin Man) have had all their venom, anger, and sarcasm removed and replaced by saccharine Sunday-school-happy-clappy sing-a-longs; the addition of brass and the backing singers bring on air of musical theatre to the songs, and if the flute met with a (non-fatal) accident before the show the album would have been slightly improved! It’s not all non-offensive showbiz blandness, occasionally one or two of the arrangements work: Dylan’s plaintive vocals on a slow I Want You is a particularly good example of him getting it right (despite the flute!) but I’m struggling to find any other highlights. A very bland, insipid album that makes Dylan and the Dead positively metal!

Thankfully no track is over 10 minutes, there’s no way I’d either recommend this or listen to it again, and how I wish to Hathor there was a drum solo somewhere in this fetid pile of camel feces. Worse than the ELP triple album monstrosity. 1/10.

The next album up looks like it’s one that will test my patience and will to live, so fun times for all! But until then, TTFN.

Get Your Rocks Off

(this post was originally posted on my ‘Pish And Mince’ WordPress site back on 26/11/2015)

So the past week or so I’ve just been wandering about kicking rocks and such and was amazed to discover that rocks didn’t like to be kicked but they did like to have their pictures taken and have a good old natter as well.

This is Gerald.

He’s a happy, little soul with a kind word for everyone. You can see him round town smiling, giving friends and strangers a cheery wave and a happy “Hello!” to any and all passers-by. Gerald is one of the good guys in life that will make you smile and will make you feel good about yourself. Next time you see him ask him about his thimble collection; it’s a good three or four hours well spent in convivial company.

Next up is Rhett and he’s a handsome bugger, to go with such a handsome name. The reason why he has that enigmatic smile is that he is the real reason why Carly Simon wrote ‘You’re So Vain’. The way Rhett tells it, Carly was backpacking round the country and stopped off one night in a local tavern where she caught the gaze of a shy, but handsome young stone. Their eyes locked and, to spare Rhett’s blushes and those of my more sensitive readers out there, magic happened and the next morning Carly was inspired to wrote a heartfelt, passionate and quite obscene song about that night. However, once passions had cooled and the cold light of the afternoon had cleared young Carly’s mind, she realised that she would have to change the lyrics as she wasn’t 100% sure her record label would allow such words as ‘clitoris’, ‘labia’ ‘penetration’ and ‘thrusting rock-cock’ to be in one of her songs; although on a side-note, nobody batted an eyelid when Whitesnake used those words in there 1978 hit “(I’ve Got A Cock) Bigger Than A Cadillac”. So, despite all the rumours of who the song was really about (Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Harvey Korman) no-one really knew it was about a young, handsome stone with an enigmatic smile.

This is Terry and he’s a bigoted old git! He’s prejudiced against gravel (“liberal know-it-alls”), pebbles (“work-shy scroungers”), rubble (“bloody foreigners!”), cobblestones (“unnatural perverts!”), boulders (they smell!”) and shale (“they’re not even real stones!”). So if you see Terry around town, avoid him like you would avoid chuggers.

Finally we come to Melvin. Melvin’s story is a sad: a stone who remembers the time when he was worshiped and loved by his people; when people left food and libations for him; when the virgins of the village danced naked around him in the moonlight in the hopes of finding a suitor; how young couples would make love beneath his shadow in the hopes of their newly-made baby would receive Melvin’s blessing; how, on sacred occasions, all the men and the women of the village would partake in coupling ceremonies to help keep the village safe and strong. Melvin was happy and content with his life until one day strangers from another land came by and removed Melvin from his sacred place and brought him back to their land; a land where no naked, nubile virgins cavorted and frolicked in front of him; where no shy, young couples would make love in his shadows and where he his magic powers and gifts could not be bestowed on anyone anymore. It is said that when the moon is waxing gibbous and the night air is still you can hear a strange, plaintive cry across the fields of: “You fucking bastards! I’ll kill the fucking lot of you! You utter, utter arseholes! Where’s the naked women, you fuckers!” That will be Melvin, a nice guy really but just keep clear of him at certain times of the year!

Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #33 Just Another Band From L.A.

cover art by the ever wonderful Cal Schenkel.

Just Another Band from L.A. is a live album by The Mothers, released in 1972. It was recorded live on August 7, 1971 in Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. A notable inclusion on this album is Billy the Mountain, Zappa’s long, narrative parody of rock operas, which were gaining popularity at that time.

Originally planned for release as a double LP with solos from Studebaker Hoch and The Subcutaneous Peril taking up most of the second LP in addition to parts of Billy the Mountain itself, and often overlooked by reviewers, this album marks an important period in the band’s career (citation fucking needed!) which was soon ended by Zappa’s severe injuries after being pushed off a stage.

And as if by magic, following on from the last ‘Ranking…’ post, here’s the final Flo & Eddie-era Zappa album left to review. This is the least worst album from that period, and whilst that sounds like damning with faint praise it actually isn’t, as this features pretty good renditions of Dog Breath and Call Any Vegetable and decent-ish numbers like Eddie, Are You Kidding? and Magdalena, Aynsley Dunbar’s drumming is always a pleasure to listen to and the rest of the band sound good. My biggest gripe with this album though is the 27 minute epic, Billy The Mountain, a song that, by rights, I should love: Zappa’s trademark humour, the guitar solo, the absurdist storyline; however the live setting and Flo and Eddie’s vocals don’t hold my interest as much as its unofficial follow up (The Adventures of Greggery Peccary) which was studio based and has a lot more nuance than Billy.

The best Flo and Eddie album, for me, but no where near Frank’s best. 3/5

Personnel:
Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
Don Preston – keyboards
Ian Underwood – woodwinds, keyboards, vocals
Aynsley Dunbar – drums
Howard Kaylan – lead vocals
Mark Volman – lead vocals
Jim Pons – bass guitar, vocals

The Documentaries of Wolfgang Büld

Due to a combination of the nights fair drawing in, some slight (non-Covid) sniffles, and the rain lashing down so hard that a 600-year old man knocked on my door and asked if I had any spare gopher wood, Xmas at mi casa was an sedate, indoor affair. After filling up on so much sugary Netflix Xmas movies that I almost contracted diabetes, I was in dire need of a palette cleanser and I ended up stumbling upon these 4 music documentaries by German filmmaker Wolfgang Büld.

Wolfgang Büld (born on September 4, 1952 in Lüdenscheid, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) is a writer and director, known for Sea of Lies (2018), Hangin’ Out (1983) and Neonstadt (1982). From 1974 to 1977 he studied at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München and made music documentaries such as Punk in London (1977), Reggae in Babylon (1978) and British Rock (1979). In order to document the punk movement, he repeatedly stayed in London. In 1979 he made the television film Burning Boredom with the amateur actors Ian Moorse, Monika Greser and the band The Adverts. In 1980 he made the documentary Woman in Rock with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nina Hagen, Mania D, Slits and Liliput, a Swiss all-girl post-punk band.

Punk In London not only features live performances of big name bands from the likes of The Clash, The Jam, The Boomtown Rats, etc but also ‘lesser’ known acts like Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, Subway Sect, and The Killjoys (which features a pre-Dexy’s Midnight Runners members Kevin Rowland and  Kevin Archer and pre-Girlschool bassist Gil Weston). It also has interviews with managers Miles Copeland and Andrew Czezowski, and briefly mentions Sniffin’ Glue, Sounds, Rough Trade and the Roxy, Marquee and 100 Club venues.  The narration is ok but it could be a little more informative, especially when they interviewed several people without telling the viewer who they were. Still it’s a really good documentary with some great live performances and some pretty interesting interviews.

Punk In England (or British Rock) follows the same style as Punk in London but expands it’s musical scope to include Ska, New Wave and the Mod scene and that makes this documentary more richer than the first one. There’s musical crossover with that documentary but also live performances and interviews with Spizzenergi, The Police, The Pretenders, Selecter, Gary Numan, and Ray Davies from the Kinks (who had a mini-revival in the UK thanks to the punk movement). Like the first documentary, there is excellent footage of a plethora of bands performing live (either on stage or in a rehearsal room) interspersed with short interviews of said bands, and drab, squalid, grimy footage of 70’s London; there is little-to-no narration and precious few captions which, on the one hand, allows the footage and the people to speak for themselves, but on the other side it does make it difficult to know who is who and why their opinion on the subject matters.

This is especially relevant on Reggae In Babylon, which contains a lot of footage of English reggae pioneers (Aswad, Steel Pulse, Jimmy Lindsay) performing on the underground club circuit and has extensive interviews with prominent people involved with reggae music pertaining to lack of mainstream media airplay, the rastifari culture and marijuana, but as my knowledge of this genre is minimal at best, I had no real clue as to who was who. Fortunately, for the music at least, somebody uploaded the soundtrack to Spotify (link at the end of the article) so that helped me discover who was playing. Another issue I had with the documentary was it was only 48 mins long (compared to the 1hr 51 mins of Punk In London and 1hr 25 of Punk In England) and I felt quite cheated that it didn’t go deeper into the rich vein of that genre or show more acts as it did with the punk documentaries.

If the reggae documentary felt like a missed opportunity, then I can confidently state that this documentary is a hugely missed opportunity. Considering how much punk empowered women to find their voice (and how well Büld did his previous punk pieces) this documentary is sorely lacking in content For one, it’s only 35 minutes long(!), for another, other than Siouxsie and the Banshees, Girlschool and The Slits, I had no idea who else was being interviewed. Thirdly, despite opening and closing the documentary Nina Hagen was not interviewed at all, and this whole documentary was filmed in Germany! There’s a great documentary about women in punk/rock/ out there but this is not it. It’s the weakest of the four documentaries, but it’s still a good watch, particularly for the three live Banshees performances.

If you’re looking for something a little different in your music documentaries, interested in seeing some pretty run-down places in London and spotty herberts aplenty and finding out just what it was like in the ‘good old days’ then you’ll probably get a kick out of binge-watching these.

Please note: I’m living in Galicia and I receive Netflix Spain, so I’m not sure if these documentaries are available where you live.

Boris Johnson Is Still A Sausage Roll.

NB: the link below leads to a song with a very NSFW title and lyrics by a band that has a very NSFW name, I’m just using the SFW song title (and also I’m just here so I don’t get fined).

Click the link below to find out how to send this timely ditty to the top of the UK charts in time for Xmas by buying on Amazon or iTunes and there are links to 24 hour streams on Spotify, YouTube, Amazon etc. And once again, NB: the link below leads to a song with a NSFW title and lyrics by a band that has a NSFW name, I’m just using the SFW song title (and I’m just here so I don’t get fined).

http://borisjohnson.info/

Too Slow, Too Long. (GDLIYWI) #48

It’s Alive is the first live album by the American punk rock band the Ramones, titled after the 1974 horror film of the same name. It was recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on December 31, 1977, and released in April 1979 as a 2-LP set. The album draws material from the band’s first three studio albums, Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977), and Rocket to Russia (1977). Four concerts during the UK tour were recorded, but the New Year’s Eve performance was chosen because ten rows of seats were thrown at the stage after the concert and it was considered the best of the performances at the venue.

It’s hard to believe, but I think I’ve found an album that’s almost as awful as the ELP triple live album!

I was never the biggest Ramones fan; I know about their legacy and influence and I do enjoy a few of their songs but they’d never really enticted me to explore a whole album of their simplistic 1-2-3-4 punk rock and after listening to this, I honestly don’t really feel I’ve missed out. Despite having 28 in 53 minutes and having no song longer than 3 minutes, it’s all very one-dimensional and the songs start to blur into one another, that halfway through listening to this I was checking my watch to see when it was going to end. I did give this several listens to see if I was missing anything but nothing connected with me and I got so distracted I ended up doing housework to keep me occupied.

It was quite a dull listening experience and not an album I’ll ever listen to again, and I wouldn’t recommend it either. 3/10

Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #34 Chunga’s Revenge

Lol, my boss just called me into his office and told me I’ve been spending too much time on Twitter.

Hold on he’s saying something else now….

Chunga’s Revenge is the third solo album by Frank Zappa, released on October 23, 1970. Zappa’s first effort of the 1970s marks the first appearance of former Turtles members Flo & Eddie on a Zappa record, and signals the dawn of a controversial epoch in Zappa’s history. Chunga’s Revenge represents a shift from both the satirical political commentary of his 1960s work with The Mothers of Invention, and the jazz fusion of Hot Rats into a more juvenile, smutty incarnation of the band featuring tales of sex, groupie encounters and life on the road as a touring band.

Regular readers of these posts may know that I’m not the biggest fan of this version of the Mothers; other than this album and Just Another Band From L.A. I do not have a lot of time for them. In my mind, probably the best thing to happen to this band was Zappa being pushed off the stage in London (by a jealous fan) and sitting in a wheelchair focusing on writing proper music. And if that sounds snobby to some people, we’ll then I’m a snob.

Chunga’s Revenge is quite a schizophrenic album: there’s a couple of great guitar heavy songs (the title track and Transylvania Boogie), the bluesy Road Ladies, a jazz number recorded during the Hot Rats sessions (Twenty Small Cigars) and they rub shoulders with several poppy numbers (Tell Me You Love Me, Would You Go All the Way?, Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink, Sharleena) that have some small charm to them, although Sharlenna and Tell Me You Love Me would be performed much better by later Zappa bands. The vocal songs were also, according to the sleeve notes, a preview for the forthcoming 200 Motels film/record released the following year (an album/film I have little-to-no time for).
The guitar tracks on here save it from being much lower down on the list, (as does The Nancy and Mary Music an avant-garde improvisation taken from a live performance of King Kong) but this album is still lower mid-tier Zappa. 3/5

Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals, harpsichord, Condor, drums and percussions
Ian Underwood – organ, rhythm guitar, piano, electric piano, alto saxophone, pipe organ, electric alto saxophone with wah-wah pedal, tenor saxophone, grand piano
Aynsley Dunbar – drums, tambourine
John Guerin – drums
Max Bennett – bass
Jeff Simmons – bass, vocals
George Duke – organ, electric piano, vocal sound effects, trombone
Howard Kaylan – vocals
Mark Volman – vocals, rhythm guitar
Don “Sugarcane” Harris – organ

Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #35 Broadway The Hard Way

I started a pessimism jar – kind of like a swear jar where you put money in if you have negative thoughts. It’s already half empty.

Broadway the Hard Way is a live album recorded at various performances from Zappa’s troubled final 1988 world tour. It was first released as a 9-track vinyl album through Barking Pumpkin Records in October 1988, and subsequently as a 17-track CD through Rykodisc in 1989.
The album features a lot of songs that are satirical of prominent contemporary figures, chiefly in the political sphere, and of current social and political trends and it was probably one of Zappa’s most political album and tours, on the U.S. legs at least, for a while. Some of his songs hit their target: Dickie’s Such An Asshole (originally written in 1973) references both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk (the album’s highlight for me) deals with notorious TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Pat Robertson and the rise of the evangelical Christians’ influence on the Republican Party (Robertson was rumoured to be running as a candidate in the ’88 election); other tracks like the cod-country RhyminMan (a song about Democrat candidate Jesse Jackson) and Promiscuous, an ill-advised ‘rap’ ‘song’ that talks about surgeon general C. Everett Koop and the AIDS virus (and is actually the worst piece of music Zappa’s ever written) miss the mark in spectacular fashion. There’s some good moments on here: Stolen Moments is a lovely little jazz number enhanced by the 5 piece horn section and leads nicely into an appearance by Sting and a cover of his Murder By Numbers song; album opener Elvis Has Just Left The Building is fun as is Why Don’t You Like Me-a reworked Tell Me You Love Me with lyrics about Michael Jackson but like other mid to late 80’s Zappa releases it’s another non-essential record that does not have that it factor to induce repeated listenings. 3/5

Personnel
Frank Zappa – guitar, producer, main performer, vocals
Eric Buxton (an audience member) – spoken narrative during middle 8 on “Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk”
Sting – lead vocal on “Murder by Numbers”
Ike Willis – guitar, vocals
Mike Keneally – synthesizer, vocals, guitar
Robert Martin – keyboards, vocals
Scott Thunes – bass guitar
Chad Wackerman – drums
Ed Mann – percussion
Paul Carman – alto saxophone
Albert Wing – tenor saxophone
Kurt McGettrick – baritone saxophone
Walt Fowler – trumpet
Bruce Fowler – trombone
References

Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums # 36 Them Or Us

artwork by David Roller Wilson

Them or Us is a double album by Frank Zappa that was released in October 1984 by Barking Pumpkin Records. As with other Zappa rock albums of this era, many of the tracks are sourced from live recordings and later on studio overdubs were liberally applied, although there is no mention of these overdubs in the album notes.

This was my first Zappa album I bought and although I loved it at the time, it does not bear many repeat listenings in my household. Now it has the usual mix of Zappa infused rock, blues (In France is an excellent bluesy number featuring the always fantastic Johnny’Guitar’Watson on vocals) and doo-wap: the album’s opener The Closer You Are is one of Zappa’s best vocal moments. It also has a ton of guitar solos: the title track, a reworking of Sharleena, Marque-Son’s Chicken and Sinister Footwear II, for the more complex solos; and there’s nothing really too bad on here: Planet of My Dreams, a 1981 studio recording taken from the score of Zappa’s unrealized 1972 stage musical Hunchentoot, it OK it just seems out of place amongst all the guitar solos and Ya Honza, a song satirising the ‘backward-masking’ panic of the 80’s and featuring lyrics from Sofa #2, Lonely Little Girl and unreleased Moon Unit vocals from Valley Girl, is OK for the first few listens but is easily skippable, are probably the two weakest ones on here. The best two on here are Zappa’s version of The Allman Brothers’ Whipping Post (a cover 7 years in the making, thanks to recruiting Bobby Martin for Zappa’s ’81 tour who knew the song) and Be In My Video, which pokes fun at clichés in music videos with particular reference to David Bowie and his Let’s Dance video, and yet despite all these highlights the album is disjointed and lacks any focus. It’s a good album with some good stuff on here but it’s not an album I want to listen to the wholeway through. 3/5

Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
Ray White – guitar, vocals
Steve Vai – guitar
Dweezil Zappa – guitar
Tommy Mars – keyboards
Bobby Martin – keyboards, saxophone, vocals, harmonica
George Duke – piano, vocals
Brad Cole – piano
Scott Thunes – bass, Minimoog
Arthur Barrow – bass
Patrick O’Hearn – bass
Ed Mann – percussion
Chad Wackerman – drums
Ike Willis – vocals
Napoleon Murphy Brock – vocals
Roy Estrada – vocals
Johnny “Guitar” Watson – vocals
Moon Unit Zappa – vocals
Bob Harris – vocals
Thana Harris – vocals

A Sting In The Tail (GDLIYWI) #47

Rudy Schenker is appalled by the lack of creativity in the post title.

Tokyo Tapes is a live album recorded by the Scorpions during the band’s Japanese tour in 1978 and were the last performances of guitarist Uli Jon Roth, who had announced his departure after the release of the studio album Taken by Force. As well as two cover versions (Hound Dog and Long Tall Sally) the album also features Kōjō no Tsuki (荒城の月, lit. The Moon over the Ruined Castle, a Japanese song written in the Meiji period 1868-1912). The Scorpions’ version is in the form of a power ballad and is said to be one of the rare tracks that follows Taki’s original song. (A jazz arrangement was recorded by Thelonious Monk under the title Japanese Folk Song on his 1967 album Straight, No Chaser. This version can be heard in the movie La La Land, as one of the main characters tries to memorize and play it).

And after mining that little fact-nugget, we delve into yet another live album I’m really familiar with. The Scorpions were one of my favourite bands when I first started getting into rock/metal, mainly from around the Lovedrive period, and it was a few years later that I started listening to their older stuff (the aforementioned Taken By Force being the first Roth album I bought); and whilst I’ve not really been interested in them since around Wind of Change, I do find myself going back and enjoying their 70’s material as I find it to be some of their best work. Tokyo Tapes sees the 70’s incarnation of the band in full flight; vocalist Klaus Meine is excellent, Roth’s guitar playing is fluid and electrifying and the rythym section of Schenker, Bulcholz and Rarebell keep the band’s hard rock/quasi-metal sound going.

As with the Thin Lizzy album (see previous post), this is an album I’ve grown up with and barring one or two mis-steps (the two rock n roll covers, Uli’s vocals – a great guitarist no doubt, but not a great live singer, and the drum solo in Top of the Bill) it still holds up 40+ years later. If you want to hear prime Roth-era Scorps, then this is the album to pick up. It’s not very excessive or overblown (the drum solo is dropped in halfway through a six-and-a-half minute song), just a slab of great hard rock by a band who’ll go onto bigger, but not necessarily better, things. 8.5/10

When I first started this, I did so wondering how excessive, and overblown live albums from the seventies were but with the past few albums it seems to be moving away from excessiveness, the 20 minute drum solos, and the triple albums. Maybe it’s the punk era and influence of counting to four and just going for it. And with that said, join me next time for a band that personified counting to four! Until then, TTFN.

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