80s Albums New Wave P-R-O-G spells Prog

John Wetton – Caught In the Crossfire (EGLP 107) (1980)

SAM_0744Archetypal prog journeyman and go-to bassist (Roxy, Crimson, Asia, etc.), Wetton sings in an engaging tenor croon, which he puts to good, if inconsequential, use here. As its title and treated monochromatic Hipgnosis sleeve* suggests, Crossfire trades in the taut guitar-led ‘energy’ of the late 70s/early 80s, which means it’s often fast with little conspicuous virtuosity, trots out vaguely edgy anti-romantic lyrics and features slightly menacing keyboard four-beat crochets and angry barre chord riffs muffled by the player’s right hand. It’s funny, for a musician so steeped in the British progressive rock movement, Crossfire could be the product of Donnie Iris, Sniff ‘n’ the Tears or any number of enjoyable pop bands riding the coattails of the New Wave. Indeed, this very commecial sounding record might have been a hit, but, without one absolute killer, like say ‘Heat of the Moment’, it’s merely likable proficiency, though ‘Cold Is the Night’ possesses some genuine grandeur. One pound yesterday from a Hythe charity shop. SAM_0745*So what is up with that cover? In keeping with the misogyny of the times, it looks like our forlorn hero is ‘caught in the crossfire’ of some sort of bitch-fest between his icy wife and spoilt daughter. Women, eh?

"Sixeventies" Rock Albums Compilations Soul

Chicago – Chicago IX – Chicago’s Greatest Hits (CBS 69222) (1975)

SAM_0743As refreshing as an ice-cream on a sunny day (with about as much nutritional value), Chicago’s Greatest Hits takes late-period Beatles pop innovation to a warm, post-hippy, soft rock conclusion: wistful “Getting Better” existentialism (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”); “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ponderousness (“25 or 6 to 4”); blissed-out, blue-eyed soul à la “Got To Get You Into My Life” (“Make Me Smile”); the crooked smile descending chromatics and sunshine psychedelic observations of “You Won’t See Me” and “Penny Lane” respectively (“Saturday In the Park”); “Because”-style icy harmonic lushness (“Wishing You Were Here”); etc, etc. That all of the above are lyrically banal matters little.

Despite spanning six years, as many albums and featuring three different lead singers, the often horn-driven Chicago IX compilation serves the band well and stands as a satisfying, summery listen in its own right.SAM_0742

Co-incidentally, I’d been moved to covetousness re Chicago on hearing an excerpt of “25 or 6 to 4″ on Family Guy only last week. When this popped up at a Tenterden chaz for the unholy sum of £3 Saturday just gone, I took it as a sign, threw thriftiness to the four winds and purchased it forthwith. The cover pastiches the sentimental American illustrative realism of the Saturday Evening Post‘s Norman Rockwell. Quite appropriate, really.

12 inchers Disco

Sheila & B.Devotion – ‘Spacer’ b/w ‘Don’t Go’ (CAR128T) (1979)

SAM_0741I don’t usually go for faceless 70s Eurodisco. But this particular piece of blankly sung Gallic nonsense (“He’s a spacer/he’s a star chaser”) was ‘written, arranged and conducted by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers’, so that changes everything. Coming towards the end of the pair’s purple patch and therefore not as muscular or catchy as the very best of Chic Organization productions (the Guardian, nonetheless, placed the b-side among the top 10 Edwards/Rogers chunes), this is still very recognisably Chic-y and, for one pound to the charity shop in Hythe this afternoon, represents good value for money.

NB: Check out the ’12 inches [sic] Single’ notice in the lower right hand corner.

"Sixeventies" Rock Folk P-R-O-G spells Prog

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (UAS 5504) (1970)

SAM_0737STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN!                                                   Music Fans Warned to Beware of Bad Traffic-Related Pun Headlines

(London) – Popular music aficianados were today advised to avoid all contact with cheap, ill-conceived puns in headlines relating to the “Sixeventies” rock group, Traffic. Public health officials say that articles with titles like, ‘Green Light for Traffic’ or ‘Traffic Stops In [Local Town]’ should remain unread, their authors publicly shamed. According to experts, the fact the band itself called one of its live albums Traffic On the Road is no excuse. SAM_0739Nice gatefold on this US edition, an inexpensive souvenir of the Family Asbo’s recent US jaunt. Famously beginning life as a Steve Winwod solo album, John Barleycorn sets up the template for future Traffic Lps, more folky, proggy and jazzy.

Albums Blues

John Lee Hooker – I’m John Lee Hooker (Vee-Jay LP 1007) (1959) and You’re Leavin’ Me, Baby (673005) (1961)

SAM_0736As it happens, this weekend was a good one for me to have the blues. That is to say, it was a good weekend for me to have all the VG condish, quality 1960s blues records I could find in Folkestone for a pound a piece!

SAM_0735His raggedy style was pretty well established by this point, but, as with Monk’s post-Blue Note Riverside and Prestige sides, John Lee Hooker’s post-Modern Records approach was still idiosyncratic enough, even in early maturity, to effectively be a sub-genre unto itself. His trademark fluid regard to measure counting certainly baffled his sidemen, who had great difficulty following the great man’s changes.

You’re Leavin’ Me, Baby, also available as That’s My Story – John Lee Hooker Sings the Blues, is particularly interesting as it features our hero in ‘authentic’ acoustic mode. At least, that’s how producer, and Riverside boss, Orrin Keepnews reckoned The Hook should be heard.

In fact, JLH sounds like JLH no matter the setting: you could char-broil that shizzle and it would still sound like JLH.

Albums Blues Compilations

Various Artists – The Blues – Volumes 1-5 (Pye International R&B Series) (1963-65)

SAM_0733Mercifully, my sense of order (so offended by the missing fourth volume and the change in art direction for the latter in the series [including the absent number four]) did not overwhelm my sense of pleasure at the purchase this weekend, for one pound each, of these excellent compendia of top-drawer 1950s blues. Culled from the mighty Chess Records archives, these early 60s releases were no doubt both product of and inspiration for that decade’s ‘blues boom’, particularly in the UK, where these editions were issued.SAM_0734The physical quality of all four are VG/VG+, after a good wash. Beautiful.

Albums Roots Reggae

The Royals – Israel Be Wise (UAG 30206) (1978)

SAM_0727Solid late-entry in the roots reggae stakes recorded and mixed at Channel One (‘the baddest studio’), Roy Cousins’ Royals are still not the JA outfit I would have expected to receive deluxe, textured gatefold treatment from United Artists (via their Ballistic Records imprint). While relatively slick, this is in no way a commercial move–really, how could it be given Cousins’ eccentric vocals.

Even more unlikely, I got this the day before at Pilgrim’s Hospice in Folkestone, when, overcome with virtually tropical heat, I was actually looking for some reggae.SAM_0728This is the Royals third Lp. I haven’t heard the second, but rate the first, Pick Up the Pieces, an excellent compilation of early singles, which is currently available on quality UK reggae re-issue label Pressure Sounds.

Albums Mod Soul Jazz

Ramsay Lewis – Wade In the Water (Cadet774) (1966)

SAM_0724A bonā fidē Mod classic, I bought this specimen last week at the Goodwill thrift store on N. High Street in Columbus, Ohio for $2. Sometimes Lewis can be too literal in his interpretations, but he generally hits the mark here, even on lesser material like ‘Day Tripper’. The definition of soul-jazz, the tambourine features strongly on the two and four beats.

I'd be happy to find most of the records featured on Wade's inner sleeve chazzing.
I’d be happy to find most of the records featured on Wade’s inner sleeve chazzing.