Monday, February 16, 2009

Popcorn Blizzard - Explode (1968)

From the little information I've been able to find about the Popcorn Blizzard, I have determined they have no connection to Meat Loaf's first band of the same name. Possibly from New Jersey, Popcorn Blizzard's album Explode is just over a half hour's worth of catchy, light psychedelic pop. Apparently it's quite the rarity, as I've seen the LP going on eBay for $94. Sometimes upbeat and cheery, sometimes somber and reflective, and often treading between the two, Explode deals almost exclusively with typical love song subject matter. Although it is excessively sappy at times, there's an earnestness that comes through. Plus, the arrangements, instrumentation, and catchy harmonies do more than enough to make up for the sometimes overly-syrupy songwriting. Unfortunately, this copy isn't the best of quality, sometimes starting up in the midst of the introduction or cutting off before a song's end. If I come across a better version, I'll be sure to replace this one.

"Missing You"

Download Explode

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Rolling Stones - We Love You/Dandelion (1967)

"We Love You" / "Dandelion" was a typically glib response to The Rolling Stones ongoing legal struggles following Mick and Keith's drug bust in February 1967. The authorities threatened the future Glimmer Twins with huge fines and harsh prison sentences following the discovery of small amounts of marijuana and a few amphetamine tablets during a suspiciously well-timed raid on Keith's Sussex home. Despite the Stones' habitual anti-authoritarianism, the most staid and conservative of British newspapers, The London Times, came to their aid, sensing the whole situation a setup, and eventually, through its influence on public opinion, the charges against Mick & Keith were dropped.

"We Love You" manages to be both a sincere "thank you" to the Stones' fans and supporters and a mocking attack on the establishment. The song opens with the sound of footsteps and a jail door slamming shut before Nicky Hopkins' begins to weave a tight piano web over more ominous concreté gaol sounds. Brian Jones incredible musical versatility is evidenced once again with his deft mellotron backing that gives the song a woozy psychedelic wash. Notice how the Stones' harmonies here are a little higher and sweeter here than in any other song, and with good reason too, as Paul McCartney and John Lennon added their talented throats to "We Love You" in a show of solidarity with their friendly rivals. The song eventually collapses down to Charlie Watts' strangely distant drums and the stumbling mellotron riff, and Lennon is just barely able to toast to "your health!" before the tape runs out...

The instrumental foundation of "Dandelion", was originally written by Keith during the sessions for Between the Buttons, but as evidenced by the available bootleg of the song-in-progress, lyrically, he couldn't get past the proposed title line, "Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Blue", instead singing non-sense syllables in place of the as yet unwritten words. The song would remain unfinished until after Between the Buttons was released and the Stones' were in need of a compatible B-side to "We Love You". As released, "Dandelion" is mostly based on nursery rhymes, with bits of 1960s "mind games" philosophizing tossed in. Though a seemingly light-hearted psychedelic trifle, "Dandelion" held a special significance to Keith, who would name his daughter, born during the accursed sessions that would eventually culminate in Exile on Main St, Dandelion, after this song.

As an added bonus, I've included an early backing track for "We Love You" without vocals and Keith's demo for "Dandelion", "Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Blue". The single is sourced from the pristine 2002 ABKCO remaster, but the backing track and demo come from the bootleg netherworld...

1. We Love You
2. Dandelion
3. We Love You (backing track)
4. Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Blue

Listen to We Love You

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Van Dyke Parks- Song Cycle (1968)

Van Dyke Parks, known to the kids as the that other guy from SMiLE, makes his own musical statement with Song Cycle. This album is undeniably American. It explores every corner of American music from Appalachian folk and blues to vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. At the same time, Park's swirling orchestration and distinct vocals throughout take these styles out of context and presents them as something wholly unique and personal. The album opens with "Vine Street," penned by Randy Newman, flowing into "Palm Desert" and on through the rest of the album, practically smashing one track into another. However, that's partly what makes this album great. It's a progressive musical experience.

Song Cycle is at times a bit overwhelming. Being a classically-minded work, there are no shortages of dramatic changes in time and mood. However, there is a cohesiveness, it's a song cycle, doy. Certainly too complex for someone with such limited musicality like me to effectively critique, I nonetheless find this album really interesting. Get at it.

1. Vine Street
2. Palm Desert
3. Widow's Walk
4. Laurel Canyon Blvd.
5. The All Golden
6. Van Dyke Parks
7. Public Domain
8. Donovan's Colours
9. The Attic
10. Laurel Canyon Blvd.
11. By the People
12. Pot Pourri

Listen to "The Attic"

Download Song Cycle

Bobak, Jons, Malone- Motherlight (1970)

The one and only album by Bobak, Jons, Malone. The group itself was composed of Mike Bobak and Andy Johns (Jons), both recording engineers/producers, and Wil Malone, former figurehead in Orange Bicycle and principal songwriter in this endeavor. The album itself was recorded in 1970 in England for the Morgan Blue Town label.

Motherlight is full of elastic basslines and heavy riffs coupled with seemingly incongruous piano leads ranging in influence from ragtime and blues to classical. The songs themselves don't really follow any pattern stylistically or thematically. The title track draws more from late sixties/early seventies American rock than from late period British psychedelia. Standout "On a Meadow-Lea" employs a pulsing organ throughout the song, tying together a song that progresses from folky and pastoral to pretty hard rocking, with Malone showing off his chops on guitar at the song's end. "House of Many Windows" has hints of prog with its subtle time shifts and classical leanings. A little tape manipulation on "Chant" and a little country-rock (however silly the execution) on "Burning the Weed" round out the album. A pretty decent venture for an album whose final pressing was under 100.
1. Motherlight
2. On a Meadow-Lea
3. Mona Lose
4. Wanna Make a Star Sam
5. House of Many Windows
6. Chant
7. Burning the Weed
8. The Lens

Listen to "On a Meadow-Lea"