“John Martyn generally gets defined as a folkie or a singer-songwriter in the history books, but something must’ve got slipped into his tea here (and a few other places), and the universe has forever expanded because of it. Seriously, Outside In (from 1973’s Inside Out) is the kind of zone I could inhabit forever. Endlessly spaced out, yet soulful as well, like nature itself, always in flux, forever mutable, yet working an infinite groove.” (Philip Random)
“I actually turned down a free ticket to see Tower of Power at a small club. It would’ve been about 1978. They probably would’ve played this song. And yeah, it would’ve blown me the f*** away. The towering power of it, and the tightness. What a band! But I was an idiot. I said no. Because I didn’t get funk in those days, or jazz, and how the two could brilliantly fuse. I had it all confused with disco. And I had all kinds of issues with disco. What can I say? I was young and foolish, not remotely hip.” (Philip Random)
“I cannot tell a lie. I was coerced into this selection by my good friend and neighbour, Motron. ‘What do you mean there’s nothing from Brain Salad Surgery on your list? It’s only Emerson Lake + Palmer’s greatest work. What are you, a critic or something?’ Like there was no worse word he could hang on me. And he was right, sort of. Brain Salad Surgery is worthy of inclusion for its title alone, and its cover, an HR Giger original. And the music wasn’t so bad either, just a little (and a lot) overdone at times. So we get Tocatta (Keith Emerson‘s impression of Alberto Evaristo Ginastera‘s original). It’s fast, it’s fierce, it’s as nightmarish an assault as any chart-topping band of the early 1970s was capable of delivering. Or as Motron puts it, soundtrack for the inevitable attack of the meat eating robots. It is going to happen.” (Philip Random)
“David Bowie at his rawest, glammest, most rockingest. The time I him do Cracked Actor live, he sang it to a skull, a cracked actor indeed. Or was he an alien? Aladdin Sane being the last of Ziggy albums that wasn’t all cover tunes. Either way, it was a harder rock than pretty much anyone was delivering at the time, except maybe Iggy and Stooges at the … and almost nobody knew they even existed.” (Philip Random)
“File Neil Diamond’s double live Hot August Night in the Everything You Know Is Wrong category, certainly if you considered yourself even halfway cool in 1972. Because here was a guy that moms liked unleashing one of the greatest live albums the world had ever heard, particularly the climactic side four, the climax of which was a medley of Soolaimon (originally found on Taproot Manuscript) and Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show (originally found on the album of the same name) but neither of those originals came remotely close to the drama-power-glory of what happened that hot august night, August 1972, LA’s Greek Theatre. I’d go deeper into it all but I know my words would quickly fail. The temptation is to say, you had to be there, except I wasn’t. I was in some suburban rec-room a year later, bored with Cat Stevens and Three Dog Night, fourteen years old and ready to be saved. For a few minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from Gentle Giant’s prolific and dense and rather brilliant early 1970s phase. Inmate’s Lullaby being one of those songs that absolutely succeeds insofar as, even if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics, you know what it’s about. It’s about madness, insanity, but in a nice way, like a nice day at the asylum. The inmate looks out his window and smells the flowers and hears the birds and comes to believe he’s in paradise, heaven even. Does heaven have inmates? If it does, you know they have a band, and it likely sounds a lot like Gentle Giant do here, working all manner of archaic and weird (for any kind of rock outfit) instrumentation to evocative effect.
Pin-Ups, the last of the Ziggy-era Bowie albums, was an all covers affair, in which the thin, strange alien paid tribute to the musical heroes of his youth. As a whole, the album’s not his greatest, feeling pretty tossed off overall. But the take on Here Comes The Night is superb. Loud and brash, a full-on show-stopper that at least matches the original. Which is pretty amazing when you consider Van Morrison sang that. How often has he been equaled?
“Tight, hard, fast, and looking very good – nobody else sounded or looked or felt remotely like Roxy Music in 1973. That would have to wait five or so years. Then all kinds of people were sounding, looking, feeling like Roxy Music (in 1973). Unfortunately, Roxy weren’t anymore. They were getting all smooth and white-boy soulful, turning into a creature I was fast finding it hard to love. But that was okay. I was really just discovering 1973 anyway, and it was all for my pleasure.” (Philip Random)
“I probably heard Roy Harper at the time, Highway Blues jangling away on one of the cool FM radio stations that I was just starting to really explore in 1973. So much of that sort of long haired cosmic truth telling at the time. But it would be the 1980s before I really discovered Lifemask, going through my mid-decade retro-phase (that’s never really ended, it’s true). It was Mr. Harper’s voice that hooked me, the loose, confident freedom of it. Whatever he was on about, you were glad he was getting it out, making sense at least to himself out on that lonely highway.” (Philip Random)