Sonic Bloom

When Sir John rang me up he was in bad shape. Obviously drunk.

“I’m fucked, mate,” was all he could say at first, then, “I can’t finish me bloody album for fuck’s sake!” He always sounds Irish when he’s drinking.
“It’s the Irish talking”, he’ll say, pointing at the word on the bottle above “Whiskey”

He was working on a solo album after giving most of his adult musical life to the band. They’d all quit and now the bass player hates him, apparently.
After the second blown deadline, his label insisted on an outside producer, and he’d rejected everyone they’d suggested.

I got the next flight to London and by tea time the next day I was in beautiful downtown Swindon, dodging hipsters. I had a schwarma at Mamoun’s, a Tiger brew or two at the Splash and Spasm, and thusly fortified, hired a car and rode out to his country estate. I never count on being fed out there. The cook is still mad at me for making a rude joke concerning “bangers and mash”.

I felt a fair amount of trepidation as we turned off the A419, halfway to Cirencester, onto the long drive into the property, and rode past the empty zoo cages, now somewhat overgrown, and signalling disrepair. A family of hedgehogs it’s sole captives.
The maid indicated he was out by the pool, where I found him shut in the cabana. With much cajoling he appeared, dressed in a rumpled terry cloth robe, a V-neck T-shirt, lightly dusted with bisquit crumbs, pink sunglasses, and matching plastic flipflops. He looked terrible. Worse for wear than the topiary animals out by the zoo.

“I need you to be my producer, mate,” he said, sheepishly.

With that, he handed me a thumb drive with over 160 songs on it.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.

“I’m sure you’ll make it right as rain,” he said managing a smile, as I wondered about the metaphor. How could rain be “Right”?

“I get to play GOD, er Todd,” I thought, and pondered that troubled history. A masterpiece and a thirty year grudge.

We locked ourselves in the former garden shed, now studio, lit a phatty, and got to work.
I was dumbstruck by the overall quality of the material.
Although there were plenty of throwaway tunes, and self-indulgent experiments, it was obvious there was a great album in there (A double as it turned out).
The first thing I did was get rid of everything that hearing once was enough.
I avoided the overly familiar material made famous by the band.

“WWTD” (What Would Todd Do?), I wondered. He’d roll up the sleeves and do some heavy lifting, while not being too concerned about stepping on any toes. Who has time for that? In other words, beat the thing into shape.

I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. Once the basic tracks were selected, I got fairly intrusive (Sir John’s words, paraphrased without expletives), giving about half the songs tighter intros. Many were too long. “Little Lighthouse” was marred by almost a minute of noise it didn’t need at the end. I gave it a proper one. Through brutality, I made room for more music.

“My Land Is Burning” required no such attention. A perfectly rendered closer if I ever heard one.

Sir John Johns is a great songwriter, fine vocalist, and nifty guitarist. I like his version of “Shake You Donkey Up” about 100 times more than what ended up on that, to my ears, unlistenable album, by the band. I hate the drum programming, but somehow his use of canned drums here doesn’t bother me.
Perhaps because Sir John otherwise sounds so fresh. Nothing like first takes without band politics as a backdrop.
After spending so much time with this material, the band’s versions can sound somewhat overworked.

I’m not sure how he feels about “our” record, as he hasn’t returned my calls. I will someday get even for the “gift” he left in my suitcase.
The uniformed guys with guns weren’t amused.

I think it’s a terrific personal statement, and after this experience,
probably the only solo album we’ll ever get out of him.

Put it on again, indeed!

Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom Too

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Prognosis

I was busy with another project (building a guitar) and didn’t have any ideas until last night when I went through the library and started pulling tunes. Even then, it doesn’t always work, and I admit I’ve spent days tinkering with the sequence. Not this time.

I grew up with Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, and the rest.
None of them are featured here.
This is music I’m less familiar with than usual.
Most of it is from years of trolling blog sites for things I’d only read about in the past.

For example, Mogul Thrash is the band John Wetton left to join Family, before leaving them for King Crimson. I never expected to find it, but thanks to the internet, I have FLAC files.

I hope you like mellotron.

I tended towards shorter songs when possible. My favorite Genesis song, for instance, “Supper’s Ready” is a whole album side and clocks in over 20 minutes. Add “Close To The Edge”, and “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic Pt 1″, and there’s an entirely epic cd length mix.

The Italians really “got” Prog and some of the best bands were from there. “Impressioni Di Settembre”, an old favorite, was somewhat blandly re-recorded by PFM in english as “The World Became The World”, the title track to their second american release, but I’ve always preferred the original Italian version.

Also here is Il Volo, another of the best, represented by “Il Canto Della Preistoria (Molecule)”, which also transcends it’s lack of english with some truly extraordinary guitar sounds.

Amon Düül II is from Germany, and technically krautrock.

Aphrodite’s Child is from Greece, and features Vangelis, long before “Chariots Of Fire”.

Brian Davison was the drummer in the Nice. This 1970 solo album is nothing like his former band.

Tempest was a power trio freaturing Ollie Halsall, sadly best known for playing “Paul” on The Rutles recordings. He briefly joined this band, wrote all the songs, and sang lead on the album they recorded and left, to play with Kevin Ayers.

Bram Stoker is a band who left behind an album with nary a trace of other info. This is one of those that collectors go nuts for. Same goes for Pete Fine’s.

I only downloaded Aubrey Small a few days ago, and barely know “Smoker Will Blow”. This description caught my eye:
“The recording experience at Trident became intoxicating and at times even became somewhat surreal. For one number “Smoker Will Blow”(producer)John Anthony had the idea of putting orchestration on the track as it was too simple. Within a matter of days arranger Richard Hewson appeared together with a huge assembly of the finest jazz and orchestral musicians available. Here was another highly respected musician who had a list of high profile credits to his name including the Beatles, Bee Gees, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Chris Rea among others – another who’s who! The band watched from the control room with amazement as an extraordinary and complex soundscape unfolded on their song”.

Kaleidoscope was an English band whose roots were in ’60′s psychedelia, and released some really exceptional music, but for some reason ended up with less than nothing. This song is the closer to an album they finished in 1971, but didn’t see release until 1992.

Prognosis

Prognosis Too

Enjoy!
-BBJ

I liked the new neck so much I regretted not doing a better job painting it, so I repainted with 20 coats of lacquer, and upgraded the pickguard. Now it’s finally finished. 1987 Fender Japan 50′s reissue body with Fender licensed USA made late ’60′s style neck. Tuners, and except for the ’90′s Les Paul humbucker, original hardware.

Now I Know High

“The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
-Jeff Tamarkin

Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Skip Spence – rhythm guitars, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals

Their first album, “Moby Grape” (1967) is widely recognized as a classic.
While recording their second in New York City, Skip Spence’s schizophrenia began to take over. Famously chopping down a band member’s hotel room door with a fire axe. He was committed to Bellevue for six months while Moby Grape soldiered on, finishing “Wow” (1968). Skip never returned to the band full-time. While incarcerated, he wrote enough songs to record “OAR” (1968), in Nashville, playing all the instruments. It’s an un-hinged masterpiece, in many ways similar to Syd Barrett’s post Pink Floyd albums.

Then came “Moby Grape ’69″, “Truly Fine Citizen” (1969) also recorded in Nashville, and finally,
“20 Granite Creek”(1971). Although Spence was no longer in the band they included him when possible, depending on his health.

This compilation covers their initial run.

They have disbanded and reformed many times, and often having to use a fake name as their manager, Matthew Katz, hung on their contract like a drowning man to a log, or worse, a sociopath. They signed their contract under duress, with a large dollop of naivete, resulting in not even owning the name Moby Grape.

From wikipedia:
“Matthew Katz insisted that an additional provision be added to his management contract, giving him ownership of the group name. At the time, various group members were indebted to Katz, who had been paying for apartments and various living costs prior to the group releasing its first album. Despite objecting, group members signed, based in part on an impression that there would be no further financial support from Katz unless they did so. Neil Young, then of Buffalo Springfield, was in the room at the time, and kept his head down, playing his guitar, and saying nothing. According to Peter Lewis, “I think Neil knew, even then, that was the end. We had bought into this process that we should have known better than to buy into.”

Due to continued legal battle between the band and Katz over ownership of their name, pseudonyms were used during several decades for performance or recording purposes; including Mosley Grape, Legendary Grape, Maby Grope, Fine Wine, and The Melvilles.

Moby Grape today:
Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
with
Joseph Miller – drums (son of Jerry)
Omar Spence – vocals (son of Skip)
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals (guest appearances)

They were all incredibly talented, and Jerry Miller deserves to be included in any conversation about guitar heroes.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Now I Know High

(Before) Before And After

The cover art is a silk screen print I made in 1978.

I vaguely knew Eno as the guy Eddie Jobson replaced in Roxy Music. At the time I was only familiar their third and Eno-less album, “Stranded” (1973).
I picked “Here Come The Warm Jets”, Eno’s first, because it looked slightly glam, and the title Zappa/Beefheart/Alice Cooper loony. The song titles were just as nuts.
Then I saw that Robert Fripp and John Wetton, two of my favorite musicians from my favorite band, King Crimson were involved.
Buying it was a no-brainer.
It’s Proto-punk Glam rock is nothing like the ambient works he’s largely known for today.
“Baby’s On Fire” features a Robert Fripp solo over 3 minutes long, which stands as some of his most fiery work.
From “Here Come The Warm Jets” to “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More”,
“Taking Tiger Mountain(By Strategy)”, from 1974 is much less ramshackle, but fortunately just as quirky.
When “Another Green World” came out in 1975, things were changing. About half of it is instrumental, pointing the way to his groundbreaking ambient work, “Music For Airports”(1978).
Unlike his previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, “Before and After Science” (1977) was two years in the making. I never got into that one. I thought it was a little slick and bland.
My original plan for this mix was to be career spanning. I began by listening to Disc 3 of the irritatingly packaged and annotated Eno Vocal Box.
It consists of “R.A.F.” b-side of “King’s Lead Hat”, cuts from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” an impressive yet ultimately dull album, 90′s collaborations with John Cale, “Nerve Net”, and the withdrawn “My Squelchy Life”.
While it wasn’t entirely without charm, it bored me to death. So much so that I nearly gave up.
Fortunately I decided instead to start from the beginning.
There is something in his first 3 albums, that has been missing for decades.
It was before he knew what he was doing. Before success, acclaim, and high profile productions for other artists.
I’m a fan, and he’s been a huge influence on my work as a musician, and a painter. While I like and respect his recent work, these early attempts at rock stardom continue to scratch my itch for art damaged excellence.

Two songs are technically by Phil Manzanera. “Miss Shapiro” is from “Diamond Head” (1975). Eno co-writes and sings. “Third Uncle” is from “801 Live” (1976). He is the vocalist and writer. Backing musicians are the usual suspects.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

(Before) Before And After

Or

Before Too

A fun fact I ran across:

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Chinese: 智取威虎山; pinyin: zhì qǔ wēihǔ shān) is a Chinese film from 1970, during the height of the Cultural Revolution. The film was directed by Xie Tieli and was based on a contemporary Beijing opera, one of the eight model plays allowed during the Cultural Revolution. The story is based on the novel Lin hai xue yuan (林海雪原) and tells the story of an incident in 1946, during the Chinese Civil War.
Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy has been identified as one of the most watched films of all time. Official Chinese government statistics claimed a total audience of 7.3 billion through the end of 1974. The large audience can be attributed to the fact that few films were produced during the Cultural Revolution, and almost all earlier films were banned; nevertheless, the average village held ten film showings per year, and failure to attend could have been seen as a sign of political deviation. Hence, Chinese citizens would have been expected to see the film multiple times during the Cultural Revolution era.