Album Reviews

Durutti Column “LC” (1981)

DC’s second, and best, in my humble opinion, LP was generously handed to us by Factory in 1981. Musically spare, and almost obscenely mature, this record is one of those VERY FEW that I honestly think can ‘suit any of my moods.’ Allow me to (reluctantly..) explain my use of the classic ‘suit any mood’ cliche…The playing is both relaxed and tense, the atmosphere playful yet extremely serious, the artwork is controlled yet with splashes of orange and greenish blacks jumping outside of the frame. Each song stands completely on its own, mostly hovering around the 3-5 minute mark, but when being taken in as a whole, seem to blend into one large piece. Timelessness is something most artists strive for, and Mr. Reilly and Co. approach the achievement and struggle to attain it in such a graceful and beautiful way I can listen to them grapple with it all day without tiring. The title is an abbreviation for “La Lotta Continua”, which is an Italian anarchist slogan for ‘the struggle continues’ and the fact that I hear the action and drama of that struggle everytime I listen to the record, makes me revisit on a near daily basis. Pure, thought provoking, European art. -Richard

Bobby Hutcherson “Dialogue” (1965)

This is quite an allstar lineup: Bobby Hutcherson(vibes), Andrew Hill (piano), Sam Rivers (sax), Joe Chambers (drums), Richard Davis (bass), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet). Bobby Hutcherson made Dialogue after spending time recording with Eric Dolphy. That’s probably why this album feels a bit quirky and out of joint, but it’s also why it’s so good. For the most part this is great post-bop with an avant-garde flavor. The third and fourth tracks are avant-garde with a post-bop flavor. Richard Davis’ bass work has impressed me quite often and Dialogue is no exception. Frankly, Andrew Hill’s playing on the title track scares me. [It’s that good.] There’s no other way to describe it. –Rob

Gentle Giant “Octopus” (1972)

Octopus manages to be one of the most beautiful, creative and insane albums from the 70’s simultaneously. Gentle Giant’s strange progressive mix of classical music and hard rock, along with the medieval feeling vocals is very refreshing. Especially among other “prog” groups like Pink Floyd that grow stale. Octopus branches in as many directions as an octopus has legs. Very few other prog-rock groups have ever come close to equaling this level of achievement. –Rob

Chameleons “Strange Times” (1986)

How can you not think The Chameleons are the most underrated band of all time, once you get this far into their catalogue? The guitars single handedly inspired U2 and Interpol, the lyrics were approaching topics unconventional and honest, and the albums were just so complete and original. From the sorrow of losing a close friend to the excitement/desperation of losing your virginity, Strange Times carried a weird variety of topics and themes that carried feelings of joy and sadness. With no mention in Rolling Stones top 500 albums list, no mention in Pitchfork’s 80s list, a recent reunion that went unnoticed, there is no second chance for the mainstream to get a glimpse into the genius of The Chameleons. It will forever be remained as that band with the awesome sleeves that your uncle has in his collection. Probably some derivative post-punk shit, nothing important. –Allistair

Jeff Beck Group “Truth” (1968)

Blow by Blow is the only other Jeff Beck album I’ve heard and it’s completely different from this one. It’s groovy, instrumental fusion that matched the musical trends of the 1970s. Truth on the other hand is heavy Blues-Rock that a lot of people cite as the birth of Heavy Metal. Blues slide guitarists like Robert Nighthawk and Hound Dog Taylor that would crank their amps way the hell up and play with a mean streak deserve just as much credit though. You can’t pin the creation of any genre on a single person. In general the music has a vibe that really reminds me of The Who for some reason. The guitar playing of Jeff Beck is potent and the vocals are a surprise. Rod Stewart used to know how to rock? I wonder what happened to the guy. –Rob

Minnie Riperton “Come to My Garden” (1970)

You’ll rarely hear music this magical. Borrowing from soul, orchestral pop and psychedelia in equal measures and seemingly unscathed by commercial considerations, on “Come To My Garden” Minnie follows a more organic, pastoral and ultimately more genre-busting path than during her later, more commercially successful period with Capitol Records. Also, her voice seems more in tune with the arrangements and is generally less affected, putting her often multi-tracked whistle register to chilling use as what sounds like a human woodwind instrument, which is best exemplified on “Completeness”. On the evidence of this utterly delicious recording, Riperton clearly has been a major influence on vocalists such as Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp. I’m spellbound and speechless. Listen here. —Michael

Jefferson Airplane “Crown of Creation” (1968)

By the time “Crown of Creation” came out the Airplane were fully loaded with incredible musicians and an album’s worth of uniquely creative songs. Ranging from their exotic take on alternative lifestyles to the acid crazed end of the world. The instruments, voices and sound experiments expand in an effortless collage of psychedelic consciousness. A collision of modern art and contemporary music that helped to define the hypnotic sixties. –Scott

The Beach Boys “Wild Honey” (1967)

Short, sweet, and playful, this modest collection of effortless pop might not deliver on the promise of Pet Sounds or “Good Vibrations,” but its take on white soul has a sunny, domestic charm to it that’s irresistible, and the unadorned production—sketchy underproduction, in fact—is a great antidote to hermetic studio indulgence and the psychedelic trappings of the day, which makes this, in its own way, a rather bold release for its time. I’m in agreement with the reviewers who put this in the upper ranks of the group’s albums; there are days when I prefer this to Pet Sounds. –Will

Miles Davis “Nefertiti” (1968)

Recorded only a few weeks after Sorcerer, Miles Davis cuts the music even furthur back so often the polished white bone behind the sound is revealed: this gives the music a gleaming purity but also a sense of loss, a lot of that which gives music its emotional meaning has been jetisoned. Herbie Hancock is perhaps the most Milesian of Davis’s piano/keyboard players (perhaps the most Milesian of all Davis’s collaborators): although tempermentally different, lacking Davis’s moody intensity, but having a lightness of touch that Davis lacked, Hancock is the musician who seems most at ease in parring everything back, only playing one note where other musicians would have played five. On this album there are only a couple of tracks where he takes the traditional role in the rhythm section, instead only coming forward, like the horn players, to state the theme at the beginning and end of the number and for his featured section. His playing, as in all the mid-1960s Quintet recordings, shines with an astonishing precision, the sense that each note is fully determined by his conception of the piece, that it is the only possible choice, the only note that could have been played. Tony Williams plays with an astonishing agression (listen to Nefertiti, Hand Jive, Madness): as with Hancock, a good argument could be made that the recordings with the Miles Davis Quintet in the mid-1960s contain his greatest performances. Ron Carter, although impecable, plays with a greater simplicity compared to the Sorcerer sessions (but then his bass on Sorcerer is perhaps the high point of his career) – it could be argued that this is a good thing, but for me it is part of the release of the internal tension that made the previous Quintet studio recordings so remarkable. The opening title track is a fascinating experiment where the two horn players, rather than the rhythm section, provide the basic structure of the piece, repeating the basic melody time after time: while this gives the other three musicians great freedom to operate it also means a complete loss in the playing of Davis and Shorter (who throughout the rest of the album are superb) – and with repeated listenings I personally find it annoying. Compared to the previous studio albums Nefertiti shows a certain loss in its texture, but in hindsight can see it as a fascinating part of Davis’s continual evolution, one that is already pointing to In a Silent Way. –Nick

13th Floor Elevators “Easter Everywhere” (1967)

If all psychedelic records where this good I’d listen to nothing else. As we all know there not. Side one is flawless with even the Dylan cover (“Baby Blue”) being mind expandingly good. Side two’s almost as good and that alone is an incredible feat. One of my favorite 60’s albums of all time and my favorite psych album period. –Brian

Soft Machine “Third” (1970)

A dark, soupy jazz-fusion concoction, Third sheds away Soft Machine’s psychedelic skin in favor of four side-long monstrosities that stumble across the landscape like a disoriented and angry mammoth, spitting forth an archaic language and swinging drunken fists. Opener “Facelift” features the sounds of this electronic beast slowly awakening to the sounds of some prehistoric ritual, while side two offers the floating jazz-rock haze of “Slightly All the Time.” The only vocal track, “The Moon in June,” flows in a stream of consciousness both lyrically and musically, alternating confusion with moments of clarity, and it’s the best track here. “Out-Bloody-Rageous” closes with cues to Terry Reilly in a cascade of synths set up against more medieval jazz noodlery. While Third gets the job done, it takes too long to do it, and can be recommended only to those with the time and patience to decode its puzzling utterances. –Ben

Alice Cooper “Love It to Death” (1971)

Love it to Death is the perfect brew of the Alice Cooper band’s mixture of hard rock, juvenile delinquency and shock rock theatrics. A lot of its strength relies in its diversity and the band always manages to sound convincing and original. Just look at the final three songs: the dark “Second Coming” plays out with a grand, stirring piano section into the unnerving lunacy of “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” before ending with the folky sing-a-long “Sun Arise”. “Caught in a Dream” and “Long Way To Go” are effective, short garage rockers that contrast with the extended, intense psychedelic trip of “Black Juju”. “I’m Eighteen” has simple lyrics that perfectly capture the confusion and disarray of adolescence and “Is It My Body” is a short, lusty rocker with a great guitar tone. “Hallowed be thy Name” is the weaker of the bunch, but it doesn’t really detract from the album as a whole and “Love it to Death” is a first rate seventies hard rock album. –Ben