“With a small handful of exceptions, the very best Bob Marley is the very early Bob Marley, the stuff he recorded long before we, the godless multitudes of greater Babylon, had a clue that even existed, when he was still just some struggling Jamaican local trying to believe in his soul. In particular, you’ve gotta love what he did with the singularly unsaneLee Scratch Perry in the producer’s chair. I do anyway, the two of them (and the band, of course) exploring far darker, edgier realms of soul and rebellion than what would eventually come to hog all the space on the Greatest Hits albums, get hippies dancing around bonfires, pretending they’re little birds.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from the soundtrack to the movie called Performance, which if you haven’t seen it yet, why not? Memo From Turner being the single Mick Jagger track that puts the lie to the entirety of the rest of his so-called solo career (ie: it’s really quite good), managing to sound every bit as down and dirty and relevant as what his regular crowd were up to at the time (ie: riding their sustained peak).
Performance (the 1970 movie) is almost as good as its soundtrack, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it’s a dark, dark gem – something to do with gangsters, an illusive rock star, drugs, sex, nihilism, and the only true performance ending in madness. As for the music, it covers at least as much ground and features all manner of then essential contributors, with producer/composer Jack Nitzsche at the heart of it all, delivering just what you might expect from a fatally bored rock star with piles of money but precious little inspiration, desperate for something/anything that might allow him to haul himself back into a world where anything matters.
“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)
“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)
The band known as Jethro Tull blew things wide open in 1972 with a single 43 minute song/concept album that hit #1 everywhere from Denmark to Australia to the Americas, even Vietnam. Which suddenly meant that Ian Anderson and the band could do pretty much anything they wanted career wise, including the release of a double album of (mostly) unreleased stuff from the previous four years and four albums of their career (so far). Living in the Past it was called and full of odd gems it was including a live version of Dharma For One which initially showed up as an instrumental on their first album but come the concert trails of 1970 had picked up some lyrics and otherwise expanded and evolved into a longer, wilder, more progressive beast indeed. The word gobsmacking comes to mind, though the drum solo does go on a bit.
“Derek and the Dominoes‘ only studio album was a 1970 release, but it didn’t cross my teeny bop consciousness until summer 1972 when they finally got around to releasing Layla as a radio single. Which led to my friend Malcolm getting the album, which mostly went way over our heads – all that loose jamming (and the drugging behind it) being more for the older kids. But I’d eventually come back around to it maybe twenty-five years later, particularly stuff like Key To The Highway where misters Eric Clapton (already well into a heroin addiction), Greg Allman (due for a fatal motorcycle accident), Jim Gordon (fated to go mad and murder his mother) and essential others sort of lay back and go long, delivering the news of what is to be genuinely free (you’ve got the key, you’ve got a vehicle, you’ve got an open road – what more could want?) for almost ten minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
In which Jesus loses his cool when he discovers the sacred temple of Jerusalem has been taken over by the moneychangers, goes all punk rock on things. But seriously, when this Original London Cast recording gets to humming (not to be confused with the okay-but-just-not-as-good movie soundtrack), it’s as cool as funky as rockin as any dozen satanic offerings. Of course, it helps having Deep Purple’s soon-to-be front man Ian Gillan playing the title role, leaving no sonic scenery un-chewed.
Performance, the movie, needs to be seen. It’s the one where Mick Jagger plays a sort of Satanic rock star who’s messing with the mind of gangster who’s on the lamb, mainly out of boredom, it seems. But that sells it way short. Look no further than the soundtrack and the inclusion of a song like Wake Up N*****s by the Last Poets. It has no particular reason to be in the movie. Other than to be that cool, that on the mark of what was really going down in 1970, with the pulse of revolution very much in the air.