Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Random Rock Bloggage...

Some musical discoveries I made thanks to Wal-Mart's music downloads store:

Vanilla Fudge: “Shotgun”
I first heard this song earlier this year, on a couple of clips on YouTube. I was amazed—what a kinetic, powerful track this is! It’s a snapshot of a transitional time, when psychedelia was morphing into early 70s hard rock. Meaning, there’s a fair amount of wah-wah, but Carmine Appice’s drums crack like rifle shots. It is surprisingly light on the “groovy” elements that date so much music from that period, although it does include a surprising “acid jazz” solo from bassist Tim Bogert. Why didn’t I hear this song on the AOR radio station when I was growing up? Why isn’t it on the classic rock station nowadays? I’ve seen interviews with Appice in some online rock e-zines, where he’s complaining about how undeservedly forgotten Vanilla Fudge and its spin-off, Cactus, have become. I don’t know about the rest of their music, but this song is a ripe candidate for widespread resurrection.

Just Plain Bill: “It’s All Too Much”
The original Beatles song, a Harrison composition (and his only entry in the mid-60s Guitar Hero sweepstakes), is a wild, acid-aided shout of joy for being part of The Infinite. This cover version is more of a pastoral, stoner take on the same sentiment. There's no fiery guitar work; instead the song is built on a thick carpet of...well, I guess you'd call them Beatleisms, sonic effects grabbed from a lot of different Beatles songs and re-woven into new material. I don't mean that it's cobbled together out of a bunch of samples; I mean the band recreated a Beatly tone. The organ-sounding flanged guitar, the sitar, the backward loops, they're all here, confected into something quite new, and special. The drumming is punchier than the original, but other than that the verisimilitude is spot-on.

Weather Report: “This Is This”
The title track to Weather Report’s final album. Jaco Pastorius was long gone, (and well on his way to being a derelict) but it’s no loss. Joe Zawinul’s keyboard serves up a burly big-band brass section, along with a funky standard synth part. And there’s a hot-hot-HOT helping of guitar ornamentation by guest ax-man Carlos Santana. This is the way to say goodbye!

The Picketts: “Baba O’Riley”
A slow country-tinged version of The Who’s titanic anthem? Yes. described this mid-90s band’s work as “grange rock”. It features a simply terrific twangy guitar riff, and some breathy female vocals. When they croon “Out here in the fields…” you can practically see the wind rippling through the wheat. A total, and totally successful, re-imagining of a hard rock classic.

David Belmont: “Moonlight Mile”
Much in the style of the late Michael Hedges. Features an acoustic guitar flanged and reverbed to positively oceanic depths, along with some shuffling, rattling electronica effects. Very nice, and not at all New Agey, even keeps some of the Stones character of the original.

Fanny: “Badge”
Proof that not all the obscurities are gems. A forgotten all-female band from the early Seventies, that didn’t even garner much of a cult following, does an acceptable cover of Cream’s final single. They go “waaahh!” in the choruses, a la Karen Carpenter in “Close to You”, firmly stamping this with one of that decade’s sonic watermarks.

UPDATE: Corrected Just Plain Bill; I guess I got 'em mixed up with Right Said Fred.

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