“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the original 1971 studio recording of Yes’s Perpetual Change. It just doesn’t go as far as strong as gobsmackingly wow!!! as the 1972 live recording that showed up on the triple live set Yessongs. Because they really do set the atmosphere on fire here, one of the last tracks ever recorded with drummer Bill Bruford, so yeah, the classic Yes lineup (my version of it anyway), which does need to be raved about if only for that point maybe halfway through Perpetual Change where the band are effectively playing two completely different songs at the same insane time, and it works, finally blowing off into a feedback overload that quickly segues into a Jon Anderson vocal harmony, and then BAM!!! into an extended outro, the tightest band on the planet at the time (seriously, even Led Zeppelin had to be looking over their shoulders in 1972) bouncing back and forth from improvised bits to insanely abrupt changes, on and on, higher and deeper until the only real flaw, which is the overextended drum solo (not bad, just not necessary like pretty much every other 1970s drum solo). As a musician friend once put it, Perpetual Change is the secret to everything that was great about Yes, because they were perpetual change (up until around 1975 anyway), not just evolving from album to album, but within the songs themselves. Everything was possible and they had the smarts (and the chops) to make it so.”
Some have called 1971’s Endless Boogie a failed experiment, but they’re wrong. Even if main man John Lee Hooker was just hanging around for much of it, letting the mostly white boys do the work (Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Steve Miller, Gino Scaggs among others), it matters big time that he was there, bearing witness, leaning in every now and then to mumble something perhaps relevant to the temperature of the groove in question. Or maybe he really was just looking at the stove, pots full of weird potions bubbling over, setting the atmosphere itself alight.
“Mr. Brown is definitely the most garage sounding track I’ve heard from Bob Marley, which is not a surprise given Lee Scratch Perry‘s presence at the mixing board, conjuring his unique and multihued magic. Found by me on Rasta Revolution, a 1974 compilation of various pre-fame Marley and the Wailers odds and ends, which means it probably got recorded prior to 1972. Not that Marley saw much fame anywhere beyond Jamaica until after 1974 anyway. And then I didn’t stumble onto it until at least 1994. But it still felt fresh, if a little ripe.” (Philip Random)
“I believe I’ve covered this ground already. Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles stuff has only ever really mattered to me when he’s, to some degree, working off or in response to his old band mate John Lennon. In the case of Too Many People, that means lobbing a pissed off open letter at Beatle-John’s perhaps dubious Power-to-the-People sympathies of the moment. Because, ummm, well there’s too many of them — people that is, happy to grab a handout (Paul never was much for nailing it lyrically). But what matters most is the track has serious bite, Paul the nice Beatle having not yet lost all of his carnivore tendencies, in spite of the vegetarianism.” (Philip Random)
“I suppose I was born just early enough to remember a time when Elton John was not a big deal pop supernova, but rather a cool underground item, more for the older kids. Like Russ (boyfriend of a friend’s big sister) who insisted that Madman Across the Water was about Richard Nixon and Watergate, the crazy mess he’d made of things. He was the madman destroying everything he touched. Which kind of made sense in 1973. Except I later realized it was a 1971 record, and the Watergate break-ins didn’t even happen until 1972, and didn’t get much media coverage until after Mr. Nixon got himself massively re-elected with pretty much the biggest majority in American political history. Mad and confusing times, no question. Lots of scary shadows forming across the water, maybe throwing time itself out of joint. Who knew the what of anything? Except the music. The music was amazing.” (Philip Random)
“I think I prefer the Band’s take on When I Paint My Masterpiece to Dylan‘s. It feels a little more road weary, earned, a lonely night amid the rubble in Rome by way of deepest darkest Arkansas (or perhaps Ontario), somewhere vast and godless, and all those million miles in between playing rock and roll. Great song either way.” (Philip Random)
“I never much bought into all the death cult stuff, the young artists who were just too pure for the world, or whatever. I guess I feel it’s the living we should focus on, the ones still dealing with it (whatever it even is) rolling with it, not ending it, intentionally or otherwise. Or as a stoned friend once put it of Jimi Hendrix, I prefer the stuff he did before he died. Which gets us to the only Nick Drake selection on this list, the only one I heard before I had any idea of why he was so damned important. True he was already long dead when I first stumbled upon Northern Sky via the Great Antilles Sampler (the 1980s sometime), but I didn’t know that. I just liked the song and it how it served the album’s overall eclectic flow – from folk to pop to free jazz to full-on experimental avant-everything. Music worth living for, goddamit.” (Philip Random)
Two in a row from Nektar‘s 1971 conceptual spectacular Journey To The Centre Of The Eye, one of those albums that absolutely walks the line between so-called prog rock and so-called psychedelic rock, managing to be both mindblowing and reasonably precise. Frank Zappa was certainly impressed, so much so that he had plans to sign Nektar to his Discreet label, a plan that crumbled along with Zappa’s partnership with his manager (one of those long stories). Which perhaps explains why we never heard that much of Nektar over here in the Americas. Or maybe their first album was simply their best – an astonishing and ultimately harrowing voyage to the deep and high beyond within. In other words – an acid trip, the heroic kind, right through the centre of the eye to the dream nebula and beyond, all in the mind anyway.
“See Emily Play is one of those tracks that was a big hit in the UK, but missed pretty much completely in the Americas, the upside being, I never got overexposed. In fact, I never even heard it until at least 1980 when I stumbled across a cassette copy of Relics (a 1971 compilation). And fine it was. Because what better time and place than a bleak Canadian midwinter, almost thirteen years after the fact, to finally catch the peak of London’s psychedelic spring via Emily and the free games she dared playe? It still feels like sunshine, every time I hear it. Shine on, Mr. Barrett.” (Philip Random)