“Because sometimes it’s not about the notes or the words or the chords etc – sometimes what makes for great music is its architecture. Which is certainly true of Pink Floyd and how they made it and played it through the late 1960s, early 1970s, post the psychedelic implosion of their main man, Syd Barrett, pre all that Dark Side of the Moon seriousness and precision. The live Ummagumma version of the ‘song‘ that was originally known as The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules gets the nod here because it’s prime evidence of just how far (and deep and high) the Floyd’s free live adventures had taken them in a comparatively short stretch of time, the key word being stretch. Because it may have been only year in a temporal sense between the release of Saucerful of Secrets and the live show that made it to Ummagumma, but clearly aeons had passed in more psychedelic realms. Never played the same way twice, and even if it was, it was never heard the same way, or so it was explained to me once. Which is what the cover of Ummagumma is all about apparently. Eternity simultaneously repeating and collapsing within itself on nice summer day, somewhere in England. I’d say maybe you had to be there, but I think we all were in some strange and metaphysical way.” (Philip Random)
“A friend of mine wrote a movie around this one that never got made (like all the best movies). Sort of Goin Down The Road, the mid-80s post-punk version, two smartass losers stumbling around big and small town Canada, having shambolic adventures. Toward the end, they find themselves drinking their sorrows in a low rent piano bar, some guy doing half-assed lounge takes on various standards in the background. Until one of our heroes decides f*** it, he slips the guy his last twenty bucks, requests his favourite song, The Impossible Dream. And it turns out the piano guy is no less than Scott Walker himself, in all of his strange and obtuse mid-80s glory, so of course, he nails the song with all due power and nuance, the big dream never being more impossible than it was in say, 1985, and thus all the more reason to dream it — to right the unrightable wrong, to reach the unreachable star, no matter how hopeless, how far … because we’re humans with souls, it’s our duty. I think. Anyway, it would’ve been a great scene in a great movie.” (Philip Random)
“It was only a few years ago that I first stumbled into the thrall of Pharaoh Sanders‘ The Creator Has A Masterplan. It just seems like a different age. I guess I was high. A Saturday afternoon at the flea market, packed as usual, a cacophony of vision and sound, anything and everything vying for my attention. Until rising from the far right corner, a more marvelous cacophony, saxophones and drums and keyboards and voices, yodeling even. Something about peace and happiness through all the land. It drew me to old Ike’s vinyl stand and all the wonders therein. Ike’s dead now. Cancer got him in the throat. Yet he still lives in so much of my collection, particularly the weirder, wilder, more expansive stuff, like Karma, the album in question. Apparently, it’s jazz, the free kind, a logical next step from what Mr. Sanders had been doing with John Coltrane in the last few years before his death. I just call it music, everlasting.” (Philip Random)
“1969 is the highest Stooges track on the list because I only have the one album and I’ve got to assume everybody’s already heard I Wanna Be Your Dog. Which isn’t to diminish 1969, it’s solid and raw all the way. It was the year of Woodstock, the year we all got back to the garden apparently, but Iggy wasn’t seeing it that way. He just saw war across the USA, and another year with nothing to do, except maybe get the ball rolling on inventing so-called punk rock.” (Philip Random)
(Photo: Glen Craig)
Marianne Faithfull’s take on Sister Morphine is probably the best Rolling Stones record ever that most people haven’t heard, even if it’s not Mick singing and it’s not technically the Stones. Because Mick is apparently playing some guitar (along with Ry Cooder) and that’s Charlie on drums. Who knows where Keith is? Probably on the nod. Which drives home the point. Marianne Faithfull gets the credit and she deserves it all the way, but Sister Morphine is very much a 1969 Stone-truth being imparted. It’s not the Summer of Love anymore. The drugs have gotten too heavy. Souls are being crushed. None of this is going to end well.
Wherein Peter Green, main guitar man for the early Fleetwood Mac, lays down a blueprint for a blues rock that aims to move so far beyond the bounds of either blues or rock that a new name will probably be required – something that contains the fierce grit of the Mississippi Delta circa 1930, waters rising, levees about to overflow, but also the majestic sweep of a Ennio Morricone Spaghetti western soundtrack, that scene where the cold eyed killer looks into the mirror and sees something monstrous looking back. Which sadly, is what happened to Peter Green, sort of. He got swallowed by the monster – the Green Manalishi he called it in another song. Some say it was just money, greed. Others that it was the devil himself. Either way, Mr. Green disappeared down his own nasty psychedelic wormhole, went mad for a while, got lost. As for Fleetwood Mac, they did what any proper blues outfit would do. They played on.
“Barabajagal (the album) is not Donovan‘s strongest effort. Call it inconsistent, I guess, a hodge podge of hippie-dippy mucking around that may have nailed the zeitgeist had it been released two years earlier, but come 1969, well let’s just say, something harder, more fierce was required. Like Barabajagal (the song). Truth is molten indeed. It helped that Jeff Beck and band were on hand, not so much backing things up as kicking them forward. Also Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan and Suzi Quatro! As for who or what a barabajagal is, apparently it’s just a made up word, but it’s a good one.” (Philip Random)
(Art: Victor Atkins)
Yeah, you’ve probably heard No Time a million times already on oldies radio, The Guess Who (Canada’s own Beatles) rocking it hard, melody as big as a Manitoba sky, getting it all just right. But you probably haven’t heard the longer, rawer, more psychedelized original version that showed up on 1969’s Canned Wheat. Like the band just didn’t realize what they had, how truly world class they were, being just a bunch of wannabes from the middle of nowhere. And thus, they were at their peak.
“It was a summer party, a backyard thing, 1980 or thereabouts, the evening shifting sweetly into twilight, everybody else having gone inside leaving just me and the stillness, and the music, the stereo having been dragged outside earlier, various mixtapes coming and going, and now, miraculously, as though ordained from on high, the Moody Blues‘ epic and spacious finale to Threshold of a Dream, their third and best album — it suddenly seemed to contain everything, capture all the complexity of the moment in strange apprehension, like a painting, but not looking at it, being inside it. Definitely the threshold of something. The acid was kicking in.” (Philip Random)