Gentle Giant were weird even for a so-called prog rock band, determined to push every envelope available, and then some. Philip Random recalls discovering them on TV late one night. “One of those live concert shows. 1976, I’m pretty sure, because I was still in high school. They immediately reminded me of Jethro Tull, except they just took everything further in a wigged out medieval sort of way – tooting recorders, plunking harpsichords, tutting strange harmonies. And then things got to rocking and and heads were most definitely lost.”
Sometimes the true genius of Bob Dylan is revealed not via some high reaching paradox infused poetry of chaos and apocalypse (or whatever), but when he’s just casually tossing something off, like this little ditty about grooving away in exotic Mozambique, found on 1976’s Desire, his last truly necessary album of the decade, unless you had a hunger for fire and brimstone and long trains slowly coming.
Nifty jam from April Wine, one of those Canadian rock outfits that didn’t get heard much around the world, but got piles of national radio airplay through the 1970s, only some of it bureaucratically mandated. But they never played We Can Be More Than We Are. You had to actually had to own the Canadian pressing of the album for that one (or find a copy of the Gimmie Love 7-inch and flip it to the b-side). Cool groove, hot licks and then a phone call, some stoner on the line, looking for an easy break into the record biz, but all he gets is some free advice. “You can be more than you are.”
“A Thin Lizzy rocker that neither boogies nor woogies. It’s just heavy and strong and full of threat, though of what I’m not quite sure, maybe something lurking in the deep Irish night. Found on 1976’s Johnny The Fox, which is one of those albums that nails its place in time. Not punk, not metal, just rock, good and hard.” (Philip Random)
The post Brian Eno, pre valiumized Roxy Music captured in full live force, taking an okay sort of half-country experiment from their first album and pumping it full of all kinds of delirious drama. Stick with it through the violin solo, the conclusion is as big and rich and mercurial as love itself. From 1976’s Viva! which was in fact recorded on Roxy’s 1974 tour.
“If you were there at the time (1976), the first you heard of Klaatu likely came in the form of rumour. They were the Beatles secretly reunited, with the clues all there if you just did a little digging. It was all bullshit, of course, and thank God, because the album really wasn’t that good. Rather like what you would’ve gotten if Paul McCartney had rediscovered LSD and tried to do another Sergeant Pepper’s, but all alone this time, and maybe drinking copious amounts of vodka spiked Cream Soda on the side. But the last track was a keeper, something to do with split atoms, I think, and the wrath of gods thus unleashed.” (Philip Random)
Deep cut from the album that finally, irrefutably kicked the Electric Light Orchestra into the big leagues, 1976’s New World Record. A story song about an alien that comes down to earth, gets taken for a street person, files a negative report back to the home planet. It was a common theme in those days as the afterglow of the big deal moon landings faded and the various grim realities of life on earth got harder and harder to ignore. Same as it ever was.
“I’m pretty sure Toots + the Maytals were the first reggae band I ever consciously heard. It was their cover of John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads, which suddenly showed up on the local radio. I would’ve been sixteen at the time, 1976, and I hated it. The guy couldn’t sing and the rest of the band were just wrong somehow, seeming to have no idea how to play proper funk. But jump ahead to 1983 and I was naming Funky Kingston as one of my fave all time party albums. And I was right. It really is right up there. Which gets us to teenagers. When they’re wrong about something, they’re at least comprehensive about it.” (Philip Random)
John Miles‘s timing sucked. Because he really did seem to have it all on his debut album Rebel. Solid songs, kickass band, world class production c/o Alan Parsons who had his own big deal project going by then. Except it was 1976, so punk was breaking out across town. Even cutting your hair redneck short and posing with a shotgun wasn’t going to slow that storm down.