Posted tagged ‘classic rock’

Rock Music I Listen To At 68 – Oct. 20, 2019

October 20, 2019

Now that I’m retired, I play more music and actually listen to it.

We have a 5-CD player that shuffles the CDs and the tracks.  I dig through my collection and find five that I think I’ll want to listen to for awhile.

Then I sit back and listen to the random gifts from the player, and think why I like them.

(This may be an occasional, if I feel like it, series of blog posts.)

This time we have:

1) “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2) “House of Ill Fame” by The Trews
3) “Action Pact” by Sloan
4) “The Singles Collection” by The Kinks
5) “The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra”

1) Southern Accents

This is a CD that I hadn’t heard much about, and just got recently.  Recorded 1985.

From the first track Rebels on through It Ain’t Nothing to Me to The Best of Everything, to me it’s the sound of a band creating and playing music for themselves, most of all.  That is, there is no second-guessing about what they’re playing.

Southern AccentsIn It Ain’t Nothing to Me I think we find Tom Petty’s operational philosophy.  It’s about “spare me the bullshit.”

He’s not impressed, dazzled, enthused, thrilled, chilled or chuffed by what you say.  “Might mean something to you. It ain’t nothing to me.”  It’s the sound of a necessary self-defence, making his way in the music business.

I like the Best of Everything, the last song of lost love, about a girl he knew so well and whatever happened to her:

“Yeah and it’s over before you know it / it all goes by so fast.”

The best known song on the album of course is Don’t Come Around Here No More.

2) House of Ill Fame

TrewsThis was the first album by the Trews, recorded in 2003.  They were so ambitious, so fired-up, this Canadian rock band.  Some might call them hard rock, I just hear them as an incredibly talented rock quartet.

Not Ready to Go is a favorite.  Nothing too deep in the lyrics, just going-for-it rock ‘n’ roll.  More often than not I’ll start boppin’ around when it comes on.

Likewise with When You Leave and Black Halo, catchy tunes with a lot of energy behind them make me glad the band is still around.  They’ve just released a new album, “Civilianaires.”  I’ve listened to some tracks on YouTube.  More sedate, and mature probably, after 15-16 years.

3) Action Pact

To me, Sloan is the Canadian rock band.  Based in eastern Canada, we don’t hear them as much on the west coast as we should.  They are as tuneful, hard-rocking, melodic and often thoughtful as the Beatles, the Kinks or even Cheap Trick.  One reviewer in 2004 wrote,  “Sloan has written better songs than anything The Rolling Stones have put out in 20 years.”

SloanThe band was only formed in 1991, and to date they’ve put out 12 albums.  With the same personnel!

According to Wikipedia, this 2003 album was a serious effort by the band to break into the US market, which apparently it didn’t do, although it was well-received in Canada.  The band is well-known for vowing to keep Canada as their home base.

Usually all four members share at least some of the writing. On this album the primary drummer’s input was lacking, and some reviewers claim this hurt it.  Others cite the album’s “incredibly tight vocals” and “arena-rocking songs.”

Not necessarily my favorite Sloan album, it’s a pleasure to listen to (as are all the other Sloan albums I’ve accumulated).  The tracks Gimme That, The Rest of My Life, and False Alarm stand out for me.

4) The Singles Collection

The Kinks have to be one of the most versatile sounding bands in rock history.  They moved from covering Little Richard classics and getting Motown influence from Earl Van Dyke’s band, to gritty singles like You Really Got Me to melodic pop songs like Set Me Free.

KinksMy favorites though tend to be the satirical songs like Dedicated Follower of Fashion and A Well Respected Man.  The songs in this collection date from 1964 to 1970.  They of course went on to more success after that period.

They had so many good songs, but my favorite, strangely enough, is Victoria.  When I first heard it, I was attending the University of Victoria, here in British Columbia.  The song is all about Queen Victoria, I guess, but the wonderful rhythm, singing and driving down tree-lined streets in my old red MGA convertible conflated it into the memorable tune it is for me.

The 1960s and 1970s really do seem like a different era and the Kinks exemplify that in many ways.

5) The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra

Jeff Lynne is an underrated (in some quarters) musical genius, and the Electric Light Orchestra has been his vehicle.  Formed in 1970, Lynne became the band leader in 1972, and he and ELO are still making music until the present day.  However, ELO did disband for a time in the eighties.

ELOUntil you listen to a collection like this (on Playlist from the Epic/Legacy label in 2008), you don’t fully realize how many hits ELO have had.  (And add to that Lynne’s participation in the Travelling Wilburys, his solo albums, and all his producing credits.)

Many of the songs on this CD are nostalgic reminders of the seventies and eighties.  There are often classically influenced strings present, and rock ‘n’ roll rings out in every song.  There is often a sense of elegance and musical creativity.  Some of my favorites are Do Ya, Can’t Get It Out of My Head, Mr. Blue Sky, Hold On Tight, and of course Roll Over Beethoven.

If I ever go to an elderly sock hop, this would be the music I’d like to hear….

I always feel better after listening to ELO.

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Revisiting Grand Funk Railroad

July 5, 2018

Many of the thronging hordes that frequent this blog may not have even been alive when the power trio Grand Funk Railroad were in their heyday.

I was around in the late 60s, early 70s when at least one of their songs became unfortunately very popular.  I say “unfortunately” because an almost meaningless song like “We’re An American Band” was constantly on the radio, when they had so many other great rock ‘n’ roll songs we should have heard more of.

However, I can forgive “American Band” every time I hear “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home.”  Take a moment now to listen to it….  Or the live version at Shea Stadium.  Isn’t that epic?

I listen to it as if it is a mysterious fable wanting to tell me something. At the end I’m never sure what, but I’m still touched by the telling.

Despite the album version being 10 minutes long, it did get considerable play in its day especially on FM radio, which at the time was almost as free spirited as the early internet.

The song became an unofficial anthem of Vietnam vets, who came to hold the song and its writer Mark Farner in high regard.  It resonated with their experiences wanting to come home from the war.

So, Mark Farner on guitar, Don Brewer on drums and Mel Schacher, bass, made up Grand Funk Railroad, which was formed in 1969.  (However, others participated in the future.)  Its original configuration was that of a power trio.

Power Trio!

(“Gramps! Gramps! Whatever is a ‘power trio?”

“Why, little one, for a short time it was a magical combination of musicians for playing rock music.  It was loud, energetic and expressive in a tempestuous time.”)

In those days, some people thought Grand Funk borrowed a lot of their sound from Led Zeppelin, a quartet.  But they were really in the mold of Cream, that famous power trio.

But listening to them as I have been recently, they seem more like a northern yankee version of the Allman Brothers Band, a much larger unit.

The Funk were good.  So together in their playing.  It’s amazing, as was the case with other good power trios, that they could raise such a mighty and melodic wall of sound.

Mark Farner’s lead guitar is often restrained but capable of wonderful passages.

The compilation I have is Classic Masters – Grand Funk Railroad. I will mention some of the songs in rough chronological order.

The history of the band can be divided into two approximate periods, Terry Knight as producer, 1969-72, and the well-known Todd Rundgren for most of the time after that.

“American Band” and their other #1 hit “The Loco-Motion” (which I do like a lot better than “American Band”) came from the Rundgren period in the 70s.  He brought a more radio-savvy appreciation of the times and of what could be a possible hit.

“Time Machine,” their first single back in 1969 from the Terry Knight years, is blues-rock which chugs along so lovely.

“Heartbreaker” is from that early time too.  A blues wailer to start which turns into a power anthem, so controlled, then surprising in its rendition of majestically combined voices.

“Miss Mistreater” is the only GFR live recording released as a single.  A morose sarcastic ballad is sung with a sense of experience and understanding which transitions to a high-tempo freakout, then slows again.

Then “I’m Your Captain” arrived and impressed many, although there were some who considered it musical gobbledegook.

The band added a keyboardist, Craig Frost, and went off to Nashville to record songs like “Rock and Roll Soul.”  This is a pretty standard hollerer about rock ‘n’ roll, which you know will live forever, man!

I have to say that the band’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” outdoes the original.  They truly made it their own.

I won’t mention every song in the compilation at hand, but I did like the hard rocking “Shinin’ On” a lot from 1974 and the Rundgren period.  Great intro….

After Rundgren, a new producer Jimmy Ienner got involved in the mid-70s.  “Some Kind of Wonderful” — can I get a witness! — and “Bad Time” come from this time.  “Bad Time” is catchy and definitely gone beyond into pop music.

“Take Me” was released as a single in December, 1975.  Great guitar solo from Mark Farner.  He sounds a little like Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits here.  And then there was no more of substance to hear from the band.

Listening now, I think Grand Funk Railroad are much better than what may be their general reputation in rock music.  It’s true at the time when they were producing music I didn’t think they were so great, yet every time I heard “I Am Your Captain/Closer to Home” I had to stop and listen.

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