A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

It's May 15th..and you know what that means, eh proggers? If you guessed that today is Brian Peter George St. John Le Baptiste De La Salle Eno's birthday, you would be absolutely correct!! I believe his birth year is 1943, but I could be wrong on that. Yep, it's Eno's B-Day..so I'd like to send a shout out to Brian and say "thanks for all the music"--from Roxy Music to Here Come The Warm Jets to Music For Airports to Remain In Light..and yes, even to The Unforgettable Fire and all stops in between..he's graced us with some records that are incredible and thought-provoking in equal parts. I'll do a "Cliff's Notes" bio of Eno, for those who don't know too much about him. Born an English "war baby", raised in Ipswich, England...a fairly good student, attended art-school and was also fascinated with the American rock and roll that would be broadcast by the local Air Force base and briefly took up clarinet in the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Found further musical raison d'etre in the psychedelic era of '67 to '69..and began to tinker with a primitve homemade synthesizer, joining a band called Maxwell's Demon. Hooked up with Bryan Ferry and joined a fledgling group that would soon become Roxy Music..stayed on for the first two records ("Roxy Music" and "For Your Pleasure") and left when he clashed too much with Ferry (the two "non-musicians" in the band)...went solo with three extraordinary psych/prog/glam/pop albums, Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy) and Another Green World..along with two albums with King Crimson founder Robert Fripp ("No Pussyfooting", "Evening Star"). Recorded his first full "ambient" album (Discreet Music) in 1975 and his last "pop" album (Before and After Science) in 1977 (until 1990, that is). Produced three albums for David Bowie ("Low", "Heroes" and "Lodger") and two for the Talking Heads ("Fear Of Music" and "Remain In Light")..and recorded his ambient masterwork in 1978..Music For Airports. Eno entered the 80s with a collaboration with David Byrne of Talking Heads called My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, which undoubtedly was a signpost for the sampling of the late-80s/90s, with it's snippets of radio programs mixed in to the tunes. Eno also produced for U2 and English band James in the 80s and 90s and made a sort-of pop record with John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, called Wrong Way Up. He weighed in on 90s electronica (which he helped inspire) with Nerve Net in 1992...and continued with his various art projects in England and Europe. He released The Drop in 1997 and Spanner, a collaboration with Jah Wobble, in 1998. Last year, he returned a bit to his ambient roots for Drawn From Life, yet another collaboration, this time with J. Peter Schwalm. What's next for Eno? No one really knows, he's promised another vocal record, hopefully for sometime this year. If you want to investigate Eno further, this web site is a good place to start..and it's even got a cool "Ask Eno" page, where you think of a question..and Eno will give an answer from his "Oblique Strategies" philosophy.
Sooo, yeah..the E-Bay discs just keep on comin'..of course, that tends to happen when you're bidding your life away...got a bunch of cool mini-LPs..Procol Harum's debut record A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Genesis' "Live" (the 1973 live album), The Strawbs "Dragonfly"..their second album from 1970, Gong's third full-length Camembert Electrique from 1972...and The Moody Blues 1972 record Seventh Sojourn..all good stuff! I received some jewel case discs, also...too many to go into with this post, but I will highlight two of the more intriguing ones. The first is by an English psychedelic band called Dantalian's Chariot. Dantalian's Chariot were formed in early 1967 by Zoot Money (no, I don't think it's his real name..he acquired it due to his fascination with jazzer Zoot Sims) after the disintegration of his Big Roll Band, a jazz/R&B/soul combo, in late 1966. Money was interested in the "new sounds" sweeping through London in '66..due to The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Donovan, among others. He gathered a quartet together..including Pat Donaldson on bass, who would go on to guest on a number of Richard Thompson's solo albums in the 70s...and most famously, a young Andy Summers (who spelled his surname 'Somers' back then..don't know why) on guitar..later on with Strontium 90 and of course with post-punk/white reggae/new-wavers The Police. They recorded what it considered one of the quintessential English psychedelic singles, Madman Running Through The Fields, and it made quite a splash in the "Summer Of Love"..at least in Merrie Englande. I have to say, it *is* an astonishing tune..with it's backward cymbal intro, clever melody and stop/start rhythm...these coupled with Money's impassioned vocal do make it highly listenable (pun...erm..intended!). I've been playing it over and over this past week..I've nearly *over-played* it for myself! The rest of the disc, 10 tracks in all, has some gems as well. Summers' sitar work-outs, This Island and Soma, are pure-1967...and some pretty fluid Eastern fret-play from Mr. Summers. It almost sounds as if he had a better command of the instrument than George Harrison, though to be fair..Summers wasn't busy being a Beatle, so he probably had more time to practice. World War Three is a "far-out" anti-war diatribe, again with Summers "pulling a Hendrix" with some crazy wah-wah'ed guitar solos and Money's near-hysterical vocal (in some parts of the tune). Recapture The Thrill is a standard late-60s R&B tune, and seems a throw-back to the Big Roll Band..it's my least favorite track on the disc. High Flying Bird is a tribute to the "beautiful people" of San Francisco and it works better than Eric Burdon's "San Franciscan Nights"..though I still like the Burdon song well enough. Dantalian's Chariot disbanded in 1968, unable to secure a long-term contract and finding that their psychedelic sound was quickly becoming out-dated..oh yeah, Zoot Money was drinking heavily, too. It's a shame, because if they had adapted, they probably could have parlayed their sound into the progressive 70s. The CD is called Chariot Rising, issued by Wooden Hill Records in 1995..I think it's out-of-print, but if you're lucky..it *does* show up on E-Bay from time to time.
The other disc is by Hapshash And The Coloured Coat..and the title of the record is Featuring The Human Host and The Heavy Metal Kids. Yes, these guys were ingesting a *lot* of LSD. Hapshash were actually a small group of artists who created the posters announcing band appearances at the English psych clubs like UFO, Middle Earth and even The Marquee. They were the British equivalent of Mouse & Kelley or Rick Griffin in San Francisco...and their original pieces go for quite a sum these days. In fact, a guy is selling a Hapshash original on E-Bay at this moment--opening bid is $110.00. Two of the guys in Hapshash, Nigel Weymouth and Michael English..decided they wanted to make a record..so with the help of Guy Stevens (future producer of The Clash's "London Calling")--they cut "Human Host..." in 1967. The playing is rather crude, but the spirit is there..and it's interesting as an experiment, anyway. The album opens with H-O-P-P-Why?, a sort-of chant with guitars cranked to 9-1/2 and the title is pretty much the lyric..it was for English counter-culture hero John "Hoppy" Hopkins, who had been jailed for marijuana possession that year. The next track, A Mind Blown Is A Mind Shown, is a shorter psych instrumental that doesn't readily jump out at you..but gets points for being an honest attempt. The same goes for The New Messiah Coming 1985 (if *only* that were true..in the midst of Reagan-Land, we could've used her)..again, not *too* memorable--but they "had a go" and there are some trippy sounds to be heard here. Aoum is precisely that...a mellow chant that *does* relax you--it happened to me while listening the other day. And finally, the last track (which I imagine took up most of the second side on the vinyl release) is Empires Of The Sun..a sprawling 15-minute jam that doesn't even *try* to conceal it's amateur sloppiness..this is no Interstellar Overdrive, folks...still, the fact that wasn't a group of committed musicians playing this stuff gives it a charm..almost a "punk" sort of appeal..though they were miles from the 70s punk ideology..Hapshash did embrace the "D.I.Y." spirit very effectively..making and selling their posters *and* making their own record the way *they* wanted to. Michael English split from the group and Weymouth would bring in some friends and studio musicians for a second album, Western Flier, in 1969..and though it's more polished musically, it lacks the freak-out exuberance of "Human Host.."..plus, it doesn't have the beautiful lysergic-dream graphics of "Human Host..'s cover art. That's all I got for now, counter-culture mavens..but I'll be back atcha in a bit...be sure to hide yr roaches....