Marianne Faithfull’s take on Sister Morphine is probably the best Rolling Stones record ever that most people haven’t heard, even if it’s not Mick singing and it’s not technically the Stones. Because Mick is apparently playing some guitar (along with Ry Cooder) and that’s Charlie on drums. Who knows where Keith is? Probably on the nod. Which drives home the point. Marianne Faithfull gets the credit and she deserves it all the way, but Sister Morphine is very much a 1969 Stone-truth being imparted. It’s not the Summer of Love anymore. The drugs have gotten too heavy. Souls are being crushed. None of this is going to end well.
“Speaking of Hawkwind, I realize it’s difficult for those who haven’t been there to grasp, but the difference between their sci-fi epics and everybody else’s, is that theirs are real (note the present tense). They aren’t fantasies. They’re honest tellings of events from the edge of time itself, where even now mystical warriors stand at the very brink of the vortex, the void, the abyss … and they hold true, they redeem us all. By which I mean Space Ritual may have been recorded live in 1972, decades from where I’m currently sitting, but I’m here to tell you that distance is all illusory, a side effect of the weirder than weird mechanics that make so-called reality at least begin to make sense to our puny mortal minds. Which I realize must be confusing as hell to try to comprehend. So don’t. Just listen to the album, and if you’ve only got time for one track, make that Master Of The Universe, because it’s solid sonic proof of everything I’ve just stated. It’s truth itself. And it rocks like a mother****er!” (Philip Random)
“I’m thirteen, lying in bed and unable to sleep for reasons of existential magnitude, so I’ve got the radio on to keep me company, tuned to FM, of course, because I’m at least that cool. Anyway, this song comes on, heavy and wild, the singer howling about how he wants to reach out and touch the sky. But I didn’t catch who it was. Next day at school, I I’m quizzing everybody, but nobody knows what I’m talking about, and anyway, they’re mostly into Elton John or Three Dog Night. Long story short. It took fifteen years to get my answer, care of Jared, a marijuana dealer I knew at the time who played bass in various hard rock outfits, knew his heavy history. I mentioned the ‘I want to reach out’ part and he instantly said, ‘Black Sabbath Supernaut,’ like I’d just become magnitudes less cool in his eyes. How the hell could I not know Supernaut!? But I was just glad to have the answer, life suddenly feeling a little more purposeful, complete. Supernaut, found on side one of Vol. 4, which Jared had, so on it went, heavy and cool as I remembered. Life before the interwebs. You just had to keep digging.” (Philip Random)
“I guess Melanie was always at least a little suspect, too maudlin, skin deep – even for the 1960s. But man, if she didn’t find something in Dylan’s Tambourine Man that nobody else has. Particularly when she gets to dancingbeneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free – silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands – with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves. Yeah, it’s chewing some sonic scenery, but it’s also freedom itself, captured in sorrow, like an old snapshot, taken at sunset somewhere, all is calm and everybody’s beautiful, but there’s a great storm brewing in the distance.” (Philip Random)
Tonight’s the Night is oft thought of as Neil Young‘s death album, and the deepest, darkest depths of the so-called Ditch Trilogy. Stark cover, mostly black. Stark songs pulling no punches about various dead friends, and in the case of Tired Eyes, a friend who left death in his wake, got caught up in an ugly drug deal, ended up in prison for a long time. The damage done.
“Speaking of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, call this one punk rock, Ecstatically inspired. In other words, blame it on the drugs. Or whatever it was that got the Stone Roses mixing up mystical insight and balls out provocation in such a way as to declare themselves both the resurrection and the son (singer Ian Brown anyway). I Am The Resurrection being the epic final track of their 1989 debut album that really did blow the roof off of things. The whole album, that is, every song essential. Call it a masterpiece, messianic even. These Roses really were perfect, they had all the answers, they were showing the way. But then, I guess, they started doing different drugs.” (Philip Random)
“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)
The melody’s nice here but it’s more the overall smooth, mournful mood that sets Albatross free. But, of course, the early Fleetwood Mac being a blues band, it’s not really that kind of Albatross, is it? It’s the kind that you carry as a curse, hung around your neck, weighing you down, reminding you and all the world that you blew it, you killed a beautiful thing for no damned reason. Which is sort of what happened to Peter Green, the man who wrote it, his career pretty much over within the year, psychedelic drugs and mental illness finding each other in yet another implosion of tortured genius.
“This first showed up in my life on a homemade cassette somebody gave me subtitled International Never Never Zen, because to write down all the twelve tracks jammed into side one of Todd Rundgren‘s A Wizard, A True Star would be to induce writer’s cramp, I guess. And it all flows together as one anyway, or certainly tries to. Because this stuff is nothing if not mad (as opposed to insane), overblown and over-reaching in the best possible way, jamming tape experiments up against instrumental freakouts, recurring themes, a cover of a Peter Pan song (from the Broadway play) and at least one proper standalone epic (concerning a Zen Archer) … and overall, just wow. Not perfect at all, but what do you expect from a guy who had recently given up on his straight edge lifestyle to more or less embrace everything from cannabis to DMT, magic mushrooms, peyote, even Ritalin … all toward abstracting his creative process in such a way that the music ultimately flowed out of him like a painting, spilling directly from his brain and/or soul onto the metaphorical canvas of our ears. Or something like that.” (PR)