For this week's pledge drive
special, we are revisiting the 50th Anniversary of 1971 - one of the
greatest years for music! A new thing exploding that year was "jazz
fusion": jazz musicians playing loudly on amplified rock instruments.
By my count, this was the fifth time in Miles Davis' legendary career
that he was at the center of a major new innovation in jazz music - the previous
instances were: 1) BeBop with Charlie Parker's band, followed by 2)
"Cool" jazz in the late 1940's, 3) modal jazz in the 1950's (the template for psychedelic rock jamming), and 4) that quintet of his from the 1960's, a group so singular there isn't a name for their style because they were the only ones who could play it. Live-Evil has a lot of the epic, mystical qualities of his previous double elpee Bitches Brew,
but a smaller funkier band (yet also "more space") and I think a lot of
it was recorded live. Then masterfully edited into "progressive rock
suites" by Teo Macero, the secret weapon behind many of Miles' many classic albums.
- Miles Davis "Live-Evil" 1971 (USA)
The Welsh power trio Budgie's first four albums should be considered landmarks of early heavy metal; the other three have been classic albums already. Their first two were produced by Rodger Bain, in between his stints producing the earliest works of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest! Budgie also has a weird doppelganger relationship with Rush
(another heavy power trio with a dorky singing bassist who sounds cool
in spite of his weird high-pitched voice). Budgie owes a lot of their
semi-popularity in recent decades to the fact that Metallica covered
two of their most classic songs back in the 1980's, including the leadoff track of this week's CAOTW.
- Budgie "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" 1973 (UK-Wales)
music is so hip it hurts: retro-futuristic indie rock art pop that
seems to reference the entire history of 20th century underground
sounds: influences they wear on their sleeves would include NEU!, Serge Gainsbourg, The Free Design, Silver Apples, Perrey & Kingsley, Enoch Light, Rhys Chatham, Suicide, Faust, Spectrum, The Velvet Underground and Sun Ra. Yet
despite that unbearably "hip" list of influences, their music has
always been very catchy! Back in the 1990's, they had a string of
classic albums from 1993 to 1999 where every album was a clear advance in sound and concept from the previous one. Looking back from the 21st century, Mars Audiac
stands out as their most live-sounding and "rockin" record. Though they aimed for
studio-perfect space age sounds on record, in concert they were always
a loud, heavy rock band, driven by two ancient analog keyboards (Farfisa and
Moog) and a throbbing guitar-bass-drum rhythm section.
- Stereolab "Mars Audiac Quintet" 1994 (UK/France)
Speaking of French-influenced retro/electronic pop, Yasutaka Nakata has recently dropped new singles for the two most popular artists he works with: Perfume's new song "Polygon Wave" (tre chic, mon ami!) is the new theme song for Japan's version of The Masked Singer which the trio will also appear on as judges. Meanwhile Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's latest is "Genten Kaihi"
which means "Avoid Your Roots" (a pun on "Genten KaiKi" which means "get back to your roots") - the symbolism of the music video where she
is being chased by a giant bow references her trying to escape her
early 2010's "Harajuku Idol"
image (oversized bow in her hair, false eyelashes and platform
sneakers). I am hoping this means she has a new album on the way (and
sounds like she may be planning to reinvent her image?)
70th birthday Rob Halford! A singer so legendary his nickname is "The
Metal God", Halford has always been the most exceptional member of
Judas Priest. Founded in Birmingham, England in the early 1970's,
Priest arguably did more to define "heavy metal" than any other
band, including even the mighty Black Sabbath
(who are also from Birmingham). Sabbath may have invented the metal,
but Priest added speed, precision, black leather, and outrageous
operatic vocals courtesy of this week's birthday boy. Stained Class
was their fourth album but the first where they finally shed the last
vestiges of the early 70's prog and psych sounds you can find on their earlier records.
From this album onward, Priest is all shredding and wailing and black
leather, all the time. Also having a birthday today: Gene Simmons is 72!
- Judas Priest "Stained Class" 1978 (UK)
"Dusty" Hill, the bassist and second vocalist from America's longest
running band, has passed away. ZZ Top released their debut album 50
years ago, and over all these years have not had a single change in
membership: they were the longest lasting group since the dawn of
pop music. The "tres hombres" (three men) were always Dusty, Frank
(drums) & Billy (guitar and the main singer and songwriter).
Although this isn't the end of the road - per Dusty's wishes, the band
will continue with longtime roadie Elwood Francis taking over on
bass (I hope he has a long beard). Probably inspired by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
(but with a laser focus on The Blues), ZZ Top's breakout album was
their third, this week's CAOTW, which includes ultra-classic rock
tracks like "Waiting For The Bus", "Jesus Just Left Chicago", and their
first big radio hit "La Grange".
- ZZ Top "Tres Hombres" 1973 (USA)
Also on the show this week: "Flux", the title track from the forthcoming new album by Poppy.
Costa (born Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos) is one of the
top singers from the groovy Brazilian music scene of the late 1960's.
She still has an active career, in fact she released a new album in
2021 at age 76! Costa debuted in the mid-sixties and appeared on a
landmark 1968 compilation album called Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis
which featured a who's-who of the leading Brazilian psychedelic (or
"Tropicalia") artists, namely Tom Ze, Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes. Her second full-length solo album Gal
is one of the most out-there experimental pop albums of the entire
1960's decade, sounding like a bossa nova mash-up of Barbra Streisand
(soaring vocals) and Jimi Hendrix (everything swimming in a sea of fuzz
- Gal Costa "Gal" 1969 (Brazil)
Also on the show this week, new underground rock from Japan: psych-punk power trio 88-Kasyo Junrei has a new album coming out later this month and art-punk poetry-rapper Haru Nemuri keeps releasing singles (and music videos).
Alarm Clock is the grooviest, baby! They are best remembered for
their #1 smash hit "Incense And Peppermints", though they are
technically not a "one hit wonder" (their other Top 40 hit was a song
called "Tomorrow" from their second album). The SAC was formed through
the merger of two obscure LA groups, Thee Sixpence and "Waterfyrd
Traene" (what a terrible name!) Thee Sixpence had already written the
tune "Incense And Peppermints" but didn't like the original recording
they had made, so somehow in the re-recording process they became "The
Strawberry Alarm Clock" and the song also wound up being sung by a
16-year kid who wasn't even in the band (Greg Munford's only appearance
with the group). After the song became a huge hit, the personnel
solidified and they rushed out a debut album (this week's CAOTW) and
then released three more albums before breaking up at the end of the
decade. Their albums get weaker as they go, but there is plenty of
classic California psychedelic rock on the first three in particular.
Two other notable things about SAC: 1) they appeared in a pair of
classic psychedelic movies in the 1960's: Psych-Out (1968) starring a very young Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern, and Russ Meyer's camp masterpiece Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
(1970); and 2) believe it or not, their lead guitarist Ed King went on
to be a founding member of Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd!
- The Strawberry Alarm Clock "Incense And Peppermints" 1967 (USA)
Clinton, the founder and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, turns 80
years old this week. This time we're inducting one of Funkadelic's
classic guitar shredding funk albums into the hall of fame. All of the
musicians in the original Funkadelic band were legendary, but lead
guitarist Eddie Hazel has always gotten particular notice for being
"the second-best Hendrix-style guitar player after Jimi Hendrix".
However, Hazel quit the band around 1972 after feuding with Clinton
over money. But then he returned in 1974 to record this week's CAOTW,
which therefore naturally features heavy guitar more prominently than
most of their albums (it's also the only Funkadelic album where Hazel
co-wrote almost every song). In addition to the classic title track,
this album also features a 12-minute guitar showcase called "Good
Thoughts, Bad Thoughts" which is a worthy successor to Hazel's earlier
guitar epics like "Maggot Brain" and "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow".
- Funkadelic "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On" 1974 (USA)
the late 80's, Fishbone seemed poised for greatness. But then "grunge
rock" and hardcore rap took over the music scene and their sharp
combination of punk, funk, ska, soul and metal didn't fit those molds.
But then, they really didn't fit any mold in the first place which was
one of their great strengths (though also a great weakness since major
record labels are generally not good at promoting artists that can't be
easily pigeonholed). Their other great strength is impeccable
started by band nerds in junior high school
in the late 70's, the core members developed a remarkable chemistry
because they literally grew up playing together. (Their band name
reflects their band nerd roots: "Fish" for the Fisher brothers on bass
and drums and "bone" because their keyboardist doubles on trombone).
Only one of the seven full-length albums they released between 1986 and
2006 managed to scrape the bottom of the Top 50 on the American album charts, and they
haven't had a major label record deal for more than 20 years now, but
the group soldiers on to this day with 5 of 6 original members (and
even had a full reunion of the original lineup in late 2020). But for
all their legacy, I think their greatest moments on record can all be
found on their debut, a nearly perfect 6-song EP which is our CAOTW
- Fishbone "Fishbone" EP 1985 (USA)
Chambers Brothers were four brothers from Mississippi who wound up
starting a folk and gospel singing group in Los Angeles in the 1950's.
In 1965 they made a splash at the Newport Folk Festival at the same
time Bob Dylan was electrifying and
"inventing folk rock". Their biggest hit came a couple years later
by which time they had become more of a psychedelic soul garage band:
the original album version of "Time Has Come Today"
was a masterful 11-minute psychedelic freakout which didn't make the
charts until they chopped it down to a 4-minute single almost a year
later. They never scored another hit anywhere near that big, but
recorded plenty of great tracks in the late sixties. Their most
ambitious release is this week's classic album: a double elpee with one
live concert record and one studio record, half of which is the titular
track which takes up a whole side of the record and is their longest
epic (16 minutes of groovy psychedelic soul.)
- The Chambers Brothers "Love, Peace And Happiness" 1969 (USA)
der Graaf Generator, a lesser-known British prog-rock band that has
existed off and on since the late sixties, was planning to do a tour in
2020 and should be hitting the road later this year. This week's CAOTW
was their first proper album, released more than 50 years ago.
Following a debut album (The Aerosol Grey Machine 1969) which was really a solo project by the group's singer/songwriter Peter Hammill,
the band's line-up solidified around Hammill, Hugh Banton (keyboards),
Guy Evans (drums), David Jaxon (horns) and Nic Potter (bass). Although
Hammill occasionally played guitar, their usual lack of that instrument
was a distinctive ingredient in their sound (like the Canterbury band Egg only with horns). After their next album,
the bassist left and then their music was arranged for the unusual
combo of just keyboards, drums, horns and voice. The group broke up in
1971 (but not really; they still played with Hammill on his solo
albums), but then regrouped in 1975 for a
few more records before falling silent through the 80's and 90's. The
classic quartet reformed again in the early 2000's, and have
sporadically continued as a trio of Hammill-Banton-Evans after Jaxon
left about a decade ago. Their most recent album came out in 2016, and
happily I wouldn't be surprised if they still have one more in them.
- Van der Graaf Generator "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" 1970 (UK)