“It’s 1970 and Elton John is still a ways from superstardom. Which doesn’t mean he may already have recorded the best album of his career. It’s called Tumbleweed Connection and yeah, it’s working a slightly silly concept about the old west, but the songs are so good, who cares? With Love Song a particular standout for me if only because it’s been so overlooked in its understated, ambient lushness. Almost too beautiful. And it’s a cover. Lesley Duncan wrote it.” (Philip Random)
“Second of two in a row from Neil Young’s endlessly rich early mid-70s phase, though the album in question, Zuma, is not considered part of the Ditch series. Hard to say why really as, to my ears, it seems rather in line with the previous three albums’ grief and brooding and overall shambolic beauty. In the case of Barstool Blues that means an anthem for all the times you’ve just got to sit at the bar all night and drink, reconciling all the stupid shit you’ve perpetrated, and how its fallout got you there, sitting, drinking, reconciling, moaning those barstool blues … maybe somewhere near Zuma Beach, a thick haze of L.A. smog hanging over everything reminding you that every breath you take is a tiny piece of your inevitable death, but in a good way.” (Philip Random)
Tonight’s the Night is oft thought of as Neil Young‘s death album, and the deepest, darkest depths of the so-called Ditch Trilogy. Stark cover, mostly black. Stark songs pulling no punches about various dead friends, and in the case of Tired Eyes, a friend who left death in his wake, got caught up in an ugly drug deal, ended up in prison for a long time. The damage done.
“It’s true. Can saved us all at least a decade before most of humanity even knew of their existence (my corner of it anyway). While everybody else was reeling from the meltdown of the Beatles, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the end of 1960s in general, backtracking deeper and deeper into so-called authentic blues, or going all progressive, singing of castles, strange kingdoms, lost dimensions (not that there was anything particularly wrong with it) … the Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can (operating out of their own schloss in Koln, West Germany), were still fiercely working the Now, deep into the pretty much infinite groove of Halleuwah, the Lord be praised indeed! Howls and riffs and passing rips of melody and noise and the best f***ing drummer ever — the whole mad stew still sounding fresh and dangerous and profoundly ahead of our time even now, decades later. Why is it not way higher on this list then? Good question. I guess I must’ve been just post a phase of listening to it too much when I was compiling things.” (Philip Random)
“If you’re British, you’ve likely heard plenty of T-Rex in your time, maybe way too much. But over here in the Americas a track like Ride A White Swan never cracked pop radio back in the day, so it still retains the kind of freshness that turns heads, gets people nodding along, smiling, wondering, ‘Who is this?’ Like it was recorded last week, not better part of half a century ago. Still makes me smile pretty much every time I hear it, Marc Bolan’s oddly spry little ditty about skyways, sunbeams, druids and tatooed gowns. Some say it invented Glam. I ain’t arguing.” (Philip Random)
There’s nothing nice about The Stranglers, particularly through their earlier, better years before the heroin started slowing things down. With a song like Nice and Sleazy hitting like crude, ugly throwback to at least the Dark Ages … except it’s just so damned good. Groovy, heavy and really just reminding us where rock and roll came from anyway. As sleazy as it needs to be.
“More proof that when it came to a certain kind of sunlit psychedelic sweetness (which it seems was only ever achieved by anybody in and around 1966-67) the singer songwriter (some called him a poet) known as Donovan had no peer. Yes, Bob Dylan’s poetry went deeper and destroyed more fascists, and Donovan did on occasion get lost in hippy dippy wormholes, but its damned hard to argue with the mystical magical stuff of Sunshine Superman (the album) a song like Legend of a Girl Child Linda in particular … whatever it’s about. Because I never really seem to be able to track it all the way through, the trance takes me, like I’m stuck in someone else’s dream, and sumptuous it is, all cascading crystals, hillsides of velvet, valleys of flowers.” (Philip Random)
“I guess I was twelve when I first started hearing about this guy named Alice Cooper who was some kind of reincarnated witch that murdered chickens on stage and hacked baby dolls to pieces, and his shows always ended with him getting hung from the neck until he was dead, but being a demon, he could never really be killed. But what was truly shocking was the music when I finally heard it. How good it was. Not just ugly noise like you’d expect from a baby murdering demon from hell, but actually kind of nice in places, beautiful even, which made the evil stuff all the more frightening, twisted, and yeah, hilarious, because anything that could piss off adults that much had to be hilarious. The album in question was Killer and now some decades later, it’s still song-for-song one of the best I’ve ever heard, from any band, from any era, with Dead Babies the epic track toward the end about, you guessed it, dead babies and how they just can’t take care of themselves. Sad but true.” (Philip Random)
“The mid 1980s were actually one of the coolest times ever on planet earth. It just didn’t make the papers much. You had to do some digging, listen to the right radio stations, go to the right movies. And few movies have ever got it more right than Return of the Living Dead – the one that doesn’t take anything remotely seriously and ends up being fiercer, wilder, better than than pretty much every other zombie movie ever made before or since. And the soundtrack album’s a definite keeper. Look no further than Roky Erickson‘s Burn The Flames, work of a certifiable madman, completely concerned with luxuriating in the very flames of hell. All for the love of brains.” (Philip Random)