Frank’s Faves on Fridays

January 28, 2011

Mountain – “Never In My Life” (1970)

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Excellent! I’ve heard about Mountain, but never actually heard any of their music until now. (They were one of those heavy rock bands from America that nobody bothered to play on Australian radio.) Now that I’m listening to it, I can say that I think this is the ultimate Hairy Rocker song. “Never In My Life” seems to be the perfect example as to why music of the early 70’s tends to be either loved or loathed, with no middle ground. I’m in the love-it camp. And I can see why someone would hate his song – it’s Big, Loud, and Dumb. But that’s exactly why I love it. There’s absolutely no pretension to it whatsoever. It just is what it is. (Big, Loud, and Dumb.) And as I was typing that last sentence, the song faded out. Nooooooooo! That finished way too soon. Time to play it again. But louder this time.

Procol Harum – “Whisky Train” (1970)

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I’ve heard very little of Procol Harum (dribs and drabs here and there), but I like very much what I heard over the years. I just never got around to buying any of their stuff. So I guess I can call myself a Procol Harum fan with no Procol Harum albums. Now to “Whisky Train”. For a prog-rock band, Procol Harum sure aren’t sounding very proggy here. They’re sounding very bluesy-rocky. That’s probably because of the band’s guitarist Robin Trower and his “I love Jimi Hendrix, and I can sound just him!” inclinations. I’m listening to “Whisky Train” at the moment, and enjoying it, but I can’t quite figure out why the keyboardist (presumably Gary Brooker) gave his piano the ol’ thumbtacks-on-the-hammers treatment. But that didn’t stop me enjoying the song. Though not as much as the Mountain song above. (Love that Mountain song. Big! Loud! Dumb!)

Uninteresting sidenote: If you had suggested Procol Harum’s “Conquistador” instead of “Whisky Train”, this part of my comments today would have been a whole lot longer. I adore “Conquistador”, totally and unconditionally, ever since I heard it on a jukebox in a pub years and years ago. It blew my mind.

Shawn Colvin – “Polaroids” (1992)

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I know next to nothing about Shawn Colvin. I haven’t played the song yet, so I don’t know what I’m letting myself in for. As far as I’m aware, he’s a sort of contemporary folk singer, isn’t he? At least I think he is. Well, there you go – I’ve just discovered that Shawn Colvin is a female. Oops. Sorry about that, Shawn. OK. Now to the song. Shawn’s voice (and the song) reminds me a lot of Deb Talan‘s in the folk-pop-folk duo The Weepies.

Another uninteresting sidenote: when I first heard The Weepies second album, Say I Am You (2006) I fell hopelessly in love with it. Here are the first three tracks from the album to give you an idea of why I fell hopelessly in love with Say I Am You:

[Non-Frank tracks]
The Weepies – Say I Am You (2006):
Track 1: “Take It From Me”

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Track 2: “Gotta Have You”

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Track 3: “World Spins Madly On”

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But back to the song (again). I think “Polaroids” is a nice enough song. But I thought Shawn overused the main melody in the verse. However, I really like how the song was produced. There are some lovely little production touches throughout the track (little pedal steel guitar asides, and some sort of ship’s-horn-in-the-distance kind of sound near the end of the song). I think that’s what I like most about this song: how it sounds. The acoustic guitars, the bass guitar, the brushes on the drums etc, the discreet use of synthesizer – it all sounds great, and it’s all used sparingly and with wonderful taste. Now, that’s something you don’t how a lot of nowadays in records: taste. Overall, I’ve liked this song the more I listened to it. Nice. (But I’d much rather listen to The Weepies.)

Van Halen – “Secrets (1982)

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I’m one of those people who has been a lifelong fan of Van Halen. No, that’s not strictly true. I’ve been a David-Lee-Roth-long fan of Van Halen. Interest in them tapered rather quickly when thingy joined. I’ve forgotten his name. That red-haired guy. Um. Ah. Hang on… Yes, that’s it: Sammy Hagar. (Thank you, Internet.) I started losing interest in Van Halen when Sammy joined the band – although I did like 5150 and, to a lesser extent, OU812. After that, though, I stopped listening to them completely. I must admit that I only ever got around to buying two Van Halen albums: Diver Down and 1984. (Diver Down is probably my favourite solely because of “Little Guitars“.) The others I borrowed and taped (hooray for cassettes!). But none of this is letting you know what I think of “Secrets”. It took me a moment to realise that “Secrets” is on Diver Down (as in: “Hmm, I think ‘Secrets’ is on Diver Down. I’ll just saunter on over to the CD collection and check… Yep, it’s on Diver Down. Good-o.”). Okey dokey. I like “Secrets”, although I’ve always been mildly puzzled by how mild it is (for a Van Halen track). Actually, I reckon if you had suggested any other song from Diver Down I would have gone “Yeah! Van Halen! Rockin’ out! Yeah!” – but you didn’t, so I won’t. I will say that although I like “Secrets”, it’s probably my least favourite track on Diver Down. Oh, and seeing as you’ve suggested a Van Halen track, I’d like to take this opportunity to vent my spleen on one aspect of Van Halen that I’ve always found absolutely horrendous: their drum sound. I think Van Halen’s drum sound is simply dreadful. Always has been – and probably always will be. (I think it’s one of those constants in the music universe.) And because I’ve just mentioned that I think Van Halen’s drum sound is dreadful, I’d also like to mention Queen‘s drum sound. I think that’s horrendous, too. But I’m pleased to say that Queen and Van Halen are the only two bands I know of that have monumentally awful drum sounds.

Bonus instrumental:

Apollo 100 – “Joy” (1972)

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Splendid. (I wanted to say “excellent” but I’ve already used that word.) For me, this is the kind of pillaging-the-classics tune that’s on the right side of cheesy. (That is, on the fun side – not the “that’s horrible!” side). It helps that the artists involved pinched a great tune (which isn’t difficult to do, because classical music is full of great tunes – which reminds me to play you some sometime). I’m extremely familiar with Apollo 100’s “Joy”, as it’s on that mammoth Have A Nice Day: Super Hits Of The ’70s 25-disc set I rabbited on about a while ago. (In case you’re wondering, “Joy” is Disc 7, Track 9). I don’t know if I need to mention the classical tune that Apollo 100 nicked for their track (Johann Sebastian Bach‘s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring“), because you probably know that anyway. Regardless, I’m glad you suggested “Joy”. I think it’s a heap of musical fun. By the way, another rock musician filched Bach’s tune, and I mentioned it in a previous post on the blog.