“The Temptations had the big hit with Ball of Confusion but the Undisputed Truth (also signed to Motown, and working with the song’s co-writer Norman Whitfield in the producer’s chair) took it way further, bigger, louder. Seriously, did any Motown record before or since rock harder than this? So yeah, take a bow, Mr. Whitfield, and Undisputed Truth for being up to that groove. And then there’s that band I saw at a school dance, maybe Grade ten, doing their own long and sloppy rock take, all jammed out and obviously memorable, because here I am remembering it. I had no idea it was a Motown cover at the time, just caught some of the lyrics and couldn’t help relating. Because that’s what the world was (even fifteen year old me had that much figured out) – a ball of confusion indeed. Just turn on the six o’clock news – everything pumping with paranoia, unease, threat. And the band played on.” (Philip Random)
“I never got to see most of the soul greats. No Ray Charles, Al Green, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye ticket stubs in my scrapbook. But I did catch Toots and Maytals while they were still in their prime, one of the best damned bands ever in the history of anything tearing the roof off Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, making me fall in love with all humanity. It wasn’t even reggae really, just big, soulful, fun and rockin’ music. And Funky Kingston (from the album of the same name) was the climax of the show, rude and raw and at least as hot as a hot night in Trenchtown.” (Philip Random)
“Idiot Wind has to go out to Angela, and me. We officially broke up in 1988. It just took me three years to finally get it one long, strange, lonely summer day that began with an urge to drop a little solo LSD, climb a small mountain, check out the scenery. And it was good. But then came the long descent, lots of time for deeper, darker reflection in the solitude of the forest, and meanwhile, on the walkman I had Bob Dylan‘s Blood on the Tracks playing, because I’d exhausted all the more cosmic stuff on the way up. And damn if all that earthbound grit and spite didn’t just start talking to me, particularly Idiot Wind‘s angst driven symbols and reflections, like nine hundred different stories all kaleidoscoping into one by the end, the part where the idiocy doesn’t just blow when you open your mouth, but also when I open mine. Because like some smartass said just the other day, there’s no I in team, but there’s two of them in idiot. Welcome to love, I guess, the part they don’t mention in all the fairy tales, the not happily ever after part. Which is why we need the music of Mr. Bob Dylan from pretty much any phase of his career. Post-fairy tale all the way.” (Philip Random)
Neu! being German for New! Hero being the closest Neu! ever came to a proper song with lyrics and singing and everything. Meanwhile, at pretty much the same moment in time, somewhere across town, their former band mates Kraftwerk were perfecting what would come to be known as techno-music. So maybe call Hero a proto-form of punk. Beat simple and four-to-the-floor, everything else snarling melodically along until screaming to noise at the end. And the world would hear it one way or another, the times would change. And seriously, who better than some malcontent German hippies to call bullshit on the whole notion of heroism? Or whatever it’s about.
“I’m pretty sure Ray Charles was considered to be past his prime by 1975. And indeed the rest of this album, Renaissance, tends toward ballads of an over-produced nature, but damn if he doesn’t take Stevie Wonder’s Living For The City to church here. Which isn’t to say it’s superior to the original, just so righteously pumped up that angels can still be heard wailing. But are they laughing or crying?” (Philip Random)
“And because it really is that great an album, another selection from Parliament’s 1975 gem, Mothership Connection, George Clinton and his crowd tearing the roof off reality itself … live anyway. Which is how I first really encountered Give Up The Funk. First via that aforementioned TV broadcast, then thirteen years later, in the flesh. The outfit was called the P-Funk All Stars now, which simplified things somewhat, but not the music. The music remained a complex and fabulous beast, multi-headed but working only one heartbeat, everything in service of the groove. They played for the better part of four hours and I don’t think anyone anywhere ever stopped moving. Phenomenal.” (Philip Random)
“Two in a row from Parliament’s 1975 Mothership Connection, because sometimes more is more. And if you can only own one Parliament album, Mothership‘s probably the one. But of course, what you really want to do is catch them live, which I did on TV back in 1976 one of those Friday night concert shows they used to have. It was one of the tours where they had an actual spaceship land on stage, great clouds of smoke and lights, and, of course, the music itself care of a band umpteen strong and powerful. Like an alien invasion straight to the marrow of my narrow, white bread suburban soul. And thus my universe was changed. But good luck actually finding any of the records down at the local mall. Cool funk just didn’t travel that far north and west in the mid-70s. In fact, it would take me decades to finally track down a vinyl copy of Mothership Connection, some things being well worth waiting (and searching) for.” (Philip Random)
“Maybe you had to be there like I was, fifteen years old, opening song of Yes’s 1975 Relayer tour. Stravinksy’s Firebird suite crescendos, the curtains part, and holy f***ing WOW!!! Call Sound Chaser an intervention. The gods themselves imposing on my affairs. Ecstatically so. Like the Apocalypse itself, but in a good way. Like these musicians, these sorcerers, weren’t really playing this music, they were conjuring it, shaping and turning and chasing this superlative noise that just kept bubbling over, ricocheting all around, setting even the atmosphere on fire. Or as my old muso friend Robert once put it, Sound Chaser‘s the one where Yes finally got to that edge they’d been aiming for, flirting with, singing about – not close, not over, but right the f*** on it. Maybe not their greatest achievement, but definitely their sharpest, fiercest, most dazzlingly precarious. Like a gauntlet thrown down. This is where music must go. Here are untold galaxies for us to explore. Except I guess most of us were looking the other way, or maybe just afraid. Because disco came along, and punk, and whatever else, and somehow we stopped with the progress, and that was that, mission abandoned, lost in the vastness of space.” (Philip Random)
Wherein the Eagles (yes, those Eagles) ditch the regular LA cocaine bullshit for a while, take off to the desert, drop a few peyote buttons and journey long and far and deep and high unto the nether regions of the great American soul, or perhaps some other universe entirely. Here they encounter the legendary Don Juan, who we now know wasn’t even real, but The Eagles don’t care about reality anymore anyway, they’ve got a magic banjo with them that somehow coaxes great sweeps of orchestral beauty down from the heavens and thus all is right, all is good, all sounds quite extraordinary, and unique – to the Eagles discography, to music in general. Journey of the Sorcerer really is one of a kind. Eventually, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy will cop it for its title theme, and no one will even complain.