Sundays With Marty

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

Neil Young Comes A Time:  $4
A wholly acoustic album, very folksy and calm, in contrast to the electric angst of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere or the existential sadness of Tonight’s The Night. This is a golden example of Young as stellar country songwriter. “Human Highway,” “Motorcycle Mama” and “Field Of Opportunity” invoke Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. Young effortlessly expresses deep sentiment without coming off as corny or clichéd. The production is minimalistic with understated flourishes coming from pedal-steel guitar and the occasional female backing vocals, as on the devastatingly gorgeous “Four Strong Winds.” An album as stripped down as this evidences the strength of the material. Young’s voice, so unadorned, expressive and otherworldly, isn’t one that most aspiring musicians would imagine as ideal for a professional singer, but its singularity is one of his greatest strengths.

Christine McVie Christine Perfect: $4
Somewhat amazingly, Christine Perfect is Christine McVie’s real name. Before she joined Fleetwood Mac, she had a band called Chicken Shack. In 1969, in between the two bands, she recorded this album of blue-eyed soul, which sounds like a cross between Dusty Springfield and, well, Christine McVie. The finest cut, a cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” was actually recorded with Chicken Shack and features her then-soon-to-be husband/Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie. Much of this sounds like it was cut at Muscle Shoals with the MGs. Throughout, she sings in her familiar dusky alto, occasionally sounding a bit too blonde—or is it English?—for the material, but it also provides an interesting contrast between the raw soul grooves and the melodious vocals as on “No Road Is The Right Road.” “When You Say” tips tellingly toward the British folk rock of the ’60s, “For You” is a blues-rock stomper comparable to Dylan’s “Highway 61,” and “And That’s Saying A Lot” features a drum intro that’s as sample-friendly as the one on Al Green’s “I’m A Ram.” It’s a lazy shuffle that sets the song on its langorously soulful path.

Harry Nilsson Nilsson Schmilsson: $3
This is the kind of album that most songwriters would donate testicles to make. Not only is it a fully realized LP of first-rate songwriting and varied arrangements highlighting Harry Nilsson’s dynamic vocal range, but it also had three huge hits (“Without You,” “Coconut” and “Jump Into The Fire”), all of which were radically different in style and tone. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney proclaimed Nilsson as their favorite American songwriter in 1968, which is as high praise as one can ask for. The album doesn’t adhere to any particular rules of genre, except loosely of those of pop and, occasionally, rock. “Jump Into The Fire” is a raging party famously employed by Scorcese in GoodFellas, “Coconut” is doo-wop calypso, “Without You” is dramatically plaintive and verging on syrupy, and “The Moonbeam Song” might seam cornball if it weren’t so beautifully done.

Eric Clapton Clapton: $3
Eric Clapton’s first solo album, produced and arranged by Delaney Bramlett (who not only helped Clapton develop his singing but also apparently taught George Harrsion how to play slide guitar), features Clapton’s singing as much as his guitar playing. Instead of blazing blues and rock riffs, the album starts off on a folkish stance with “Told You For The Last Time,” co-written by Bramlett and Steve Cropper. A considerable gospel influence shines through on “Don’t Know Why,” written by Bramlett and Clapton. There are no shortage of all-stars on this record: Bobby Keys (best known for his sax work with the Stones), Leon Russell, Bonnie Bramlett and even Rita Coolidge and Stephen Stills make appearances. Here was the rock god turning his back on his past and one of his most successful chapters to embrace the role of soulful Southern troubadour, flipping yet another page in what has been an extensive tome.

Stephen Stills Stephen Stills: $1
Yeah it was the hit, and sure I used to dig it in high school, but “Love The One You’re With” just kind of grates on me these days. Still, I picked this one up because Marty pointed out it features one of Jimi Hendrix’s last performances, soloing on the track “Old Times Good Times.” Not to be left out, Clapton shows up on the next track, “Go Back Home.” But there’s plenty of other stuff to make this album stand out, too, in particular Stephen Stills’ songwriting, singing and acoustic guitar on the waltzing gospel of “Church” or the raga-like folk of “Black Queen.” Side two leads off with another bossy proclamation, this time to “Sit Yourself Down,” and is as self-righteous and pretentioius in its hippie dogma as “Love The One You’re With.” Once he dispenses with the condescention, Stills gets down to serious and beautiful music, as on the vibes, strings and French horn augmented “To A Flame,” which would fit nicely on Tim Buckley’s Starsailor or Goodbye And Hello. Electricity doesn’t serve Stills that well here. He goes raga again on “Cherokee” (um, yeah … ) and then full-on epic on “We Are Not Helpless,” with a full gospel choir chanting “amen” behind his sermon. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time and you can’t blame him for over-reaching, I guess, but it sounds pretty forced and pompous in retrospect.

Ray Charles What’d I Say:  $1
As anyone who’s seen the biopic Ray knows, Ray Charles was pretty much unstoppable by 1959, when he could improvise a song like “What’d I Say” on the bandstand to make a set last longer. He’d moved beyond trying to sound like Nat King Cole (though “Roll With My Baby” strongly proves that influence) and firmly established his own sound and identity of sexually charged gospel and soul.
While call-and-response back up singers were nothing new, there is no mistaking the Raelettes, chiming in on the title track, “Tell Me How Do You Feel,” “What Kind Of Man Are You” and “That’s Enough,” providing contrast and admonition to his vocal lines. Charles utilizes Wurlitzer electric piano on the title track, Hammond organ on “Tell Me How Do You Feel” and straight gospel piano on “What Kind Of Man Are You,” highlighting his versatility with instrument and style. The interplay between Charles’ piano and vocals, the Raelettes’ choruses and the horn section’s fills are amazing in their seamless fluidity.

The Who The Who By Numbers:  $3
After aiming high with concept albums like Quadrophenia and Tommy, the Who got back to a simple collection of individual songs linked together only by a theme of disillusionment. Given the title of the album as well as songs like “However Much I Booze,” with the lyrics, “I see myself on T.V./I’m a faker, a paper clown … But however much I booze/There ain’t no way out,” it is clear that Pete Townsend had grown weary of being a rock star at this point in his career. Now expected to smash his guitar at every performance and dulled by the mundane aspects of relentless touring and recording, he was coming to terms with the realization of a dream and the understanding that there is always a wizard behind the curtain, pushing knobs. On “How Many Friends,” Townsend asks, “How many friends have I really got?” Even John Entwistle gets in on it with “Success Story,” singing “Back in the studio to make our latest number one/Take two-hundred-and-seventy-six/You know, this used to be fun,” before launching into one of his trademark, seismic bass solos. With “Blue Red And Grey,” however, Townsend recorded the anti-Who song. Accompanying himself alone on ukulele, he presents a tender ballad of appreciation for “every minute of the day.”

Sundays With Marty: Cream, Aztec Camera, Peter Gabriel, Roxy Music, Leo Kottke And More

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

Cream Live Cream: $3
Slowhand this is not. Raw, distorted, white hot, excessive and indulgent it is. Basically from the first needle drop on, everyone’s soloing all the time. Cream was easily Eric Clapton’s finest point. Sure, he sold more records as a solo artist, and yeah, the Yardbirds were cool, but this was where he actually rocked. This is basically Cream’s version of Live At Leeds, and as with the Who, the members are equally gratuitous in displaying their abilities. And that’s just on the first track, “N.S.U.” “Sleepy Time Time” is a slower, swinging blues that Clapton brings to a boil with his paced but increasingly intense soloing. “Sweet Wine” is more free-form jamming with Jack Bruce and Clapton sounding like they’re improvising in separate rooms, occasionally fusing for peak moments of adrenaline (or cocaine)-fueled catharsis. Then Bruce takes a terrible bass solo while Clapton repeated plinks a single chord. On “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” a foot-stomping, juke-joint rave up, Bruce plays lead on harmonica and does an admirable job of it. This album pretty much perfectly captures the insanity that this band was—and why they wouldn’t last. Even though there were only three of them, everyone wanted to be the center of attention.

Aztec Camera Knife: $3
Glasgow’s Roddy Frame really should’ve been bigger. Sure he did all right in the U.K., but he never really caught on over here. It’s odd, too, because his style of pure guitar pop wasn’t much different than Split Enz, and that band sure sold some records. “Still On Fire” leads off with an almost Jackson 5-esque guitar vamp before leading into classic ’80s British pop. The drum sounds, all reverby, are a dead giveaway for the times (1984), as are the keyboard horns and pseudo-funk bass lines, which fall just short of ruining Frame’s songcraft. Fortunately, these production techniques (from Mark Knopfler, of all people) start edging toward the back as the album moves forward. “Just Like The U.S.A.” recalls the aforementioned brothers Finn. As the LP progresses, it becomes more reflective, melancholic and better, with songs like “Head Is Happy” and what by title alone should be a great gay anthem, “Back Door To Heaven.” Side two continues with the tremendous songwriting and adds some instrumental flourish as well as on “All I Need Is Everything,” with the guitar provided by Orange Juice’s Malcom Ross. “Backwards And Forwards,” a Willie Nelson-style country ballad, mixes it up a little, but then Frame returns to a glorious depression with “Birth Of The True,” with the line “It’s not you that gets me down/It’s just that sense of the impossible gratuitously handed down” And yes, he rhymes “down” with “down,” but it still sounds great. He closes with the title track, another broken-hearted beauty that’s expansive and dreamy in contrast to the previously sharply edited tracks.

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel: $3
Peter Gabriel’s sophomore effort after leaving Genesis was produced by Robert Fripp, which means there are some amazing guitar sounds and solos to be heard here. Further, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin is also in the house. Overall, the album features a more aggressive approach than one normally associates with Gabriel. “D.I.Y.” borders on punk, while “On The Air” sounds like a mix of Genesis and the Who. Fripp and Levin stretch out on “Exposure,” while “White Shadow” features some more of Fripp’s signature soloing. “Animal Magic” and “Perspective” add more aggro pop. Throughout, there is a dated heavy-compression effect on Gabriel’s voice that hasn’t aged well but is understandable based on Fripp’s love for effects. “Mother Of Violence” is the kind of heartfelt, acoustic, consciousness ballad that we’ve come to expect from Gabriel, as is “Indigo.” This album took a few tries before I warmed up to it. Ultimately, it’s a winner, primarily because of Fripp’s playing, even more than his producing. It would be pretty bad if you put Gabriel, Fripp and Levin in a studio and didn’t come out with something great. No hits, though.

Roxy Music Manifesto: $3
After taking a few years off, Roxy Music returned with this somewhat dark and proggy disco album. Maybe disco isn’t fair, but they did have a club hit with “Dance Away.” Throughout the whole album, the bass, played by Alan Spencer is mixed quite high. Phil Manzanera’s guitars are also prominent and great with their effects-drenched tininess. “Angel Eyes” is a chugging rocker with more washed-out guitars and a harmonized saxophone break on the chorus. On “Still Falls The Rain,” a gorgeous, Eno-style guitar lead (played by Manzanera) gives way to Bryan Ferry’s falsetto, with which he waxes melancholic before a perky chorus kicks things up. There are more quasi-eerie soundscapes on “Stronger Through The Years” over insistent fretless-bass tones. It gets a bit jammy toward the end but stays just this side of cool with some dubbed sax loops. “Dance Away” is practically a lounge song that could’ve fit in the closing credits of a John Hughes film. “Cry Cry Cry” reaches into classic America R&B a la Wilson Pickett. “Spin Me Round” is a contemplative and leisurely ballad. There’s a slithery synthesized sound all over this album that says “late-’70s digital effects” but in a good way.

Leo Kottke Greenhouse: $2
Like everybody else, I associate Leo Kottke with the acoustic guitar, so the bouncy electric number that opens this album comes as somewhat of a shocker. It’s a great fingerstyle boogie, but it’s so brisk and sudden that it might’ve worked more effectively either on acoustic or at least later on the album. Kottke swings in a totally different direction with “Tiny Island,” a folk ballad that he sings in his woodsy baritone. No fingerpicking here, just strumming for accompaniment. Another surprise, but mournful and beautiful all the same. On “Song Of The Swamp,” we get the fingerpicked acoustic and slide guitar that Kottke has become known for. It’s a Ry Cooder-meets-John Fahey mix. He continues, adding some acoustic 12-string into the mix. Narratives emerge from the instrumentals as Kottke is able to coax stories from the strings. Throughout, he summons and quotes Doc Watson, Fahey and the Reverend Gary Davis, and a fair number of these selections are Fahey arrangements. There are several more songs on which Kottke sings, and though they took a minute to get used to, there is a soothing, folksy quality to his voice that is comforting even when he existentially ponders the repetitions of mortality on “From The Cradle To The Grave.”

Ohio Players First Impressions: $4
This is a 1972 reissue of recordings made in 1968, prior to the Players’ first album. In contrast to the slick R&B they became known for, this is stripped-down funk and soul. There are just less than a dozen songs, every one of them a stone groove, with dirty guitar riffs, driving bass lines, sweet and slightly out-of-tune horn lines, funky shuffles and smooth vocals. “A Little Soul Party” is a list of dance moves with instructions. “A Thing Called Love” is early JB-style funk. They even cover “Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard Of Oz with soaring falsetto vocals. My favorite is “I Got To Hold On,” a shout-along anthem. The whole album plays like a vintage soul comp, which it pretty much is.

John Hiatt Two Bit Monsters: $2
Since he’s been hailed as one of the country’s greatest songwriters for at least the last 20 years, I decided I’d pick up this 1980 release of John Hiatt as a young rocker. I expected it to be gutsy barroom fare, but instead it’s along the lines of what Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe were doing at the same time. That would be herky-jerky rock leaning slightly closer to pop than punk. The songs are tight and well-crafted examples of what was solid about late-’70s pop/rock, but they all end up blurring into one nail-biting set of nervous energy. Still, it’s surprising that none of these songs broke onto the charts, as nail-biting nervous energy was all the rage back then. “Good Girl, Bad World” could’ve been a contender, and “String Pull Job” is awesome power pop fusing the best parts of Cheap Trick and the Knack.

Count Basie & His Orchestra Basie Meets Bond: $1
Picking a handful of winners and theme songs from the first four Sean Connery-cast James Bond flicks, this album puts the highball in Thunderball. Sorry, that was terrible, but it’s accurate. These swinging spy tracks range between the dramatic and the jaunty, often within the same song, as on “007” from From Russia With Love. Count Basie captures both the intrigue and the fun of the music and franchise. “Girl Trouble” is Mingus like with its brooding, minor-toned swing and menacing horn interplay. There’re a few calypso numbers, “Kingston Calypso” and Underneath The Mango Tree,” culled from Dr. No, but the real fun are Mancini-esque classics like “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball” and “From Russia With Love,” which would fit as easily on a Pink Panther soundtrack as a Bond one. They’ll also work at your next cocktail party. Corny cover art, but nothing but fun underneath.

Sundays With Marty: Rod Stewart, War, Moby Grape, Jimi Hendrix, Pearls Before Swine, JJ Cale And More

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

The Meters Look-Ka Py Py: $2
Basically all instrumental, excepting several shouts throughout, the second album from these New Orleans funk progenitors is an old-school classic that features the group in its prime, highlighting heavy organ, minimalistic scratch guitar, funky syncopation and deep grooves. Drop the needle anywhere on here and you can’t miss. My favorite is “The Mob,” with its slowly insistent and suggestive vibe. Little “Old Money Maker” is an uptempo body rocker. Founded by Art Neville, who went on to further fame with his brothers, and featuring the incredibly influential-yet-singular guitar work of Leo Nocentelli, the Meters had a style that was so unique, so understated, but simultaneously created amazing energy with their tight arrangements, counterpoint and sweet funk. Produced by the legendary Allen Toussaint with Marshall Sehorn.

Rod Stewart Never A Dull Moment: $1
In 1972, Rod Stewart was jumping between solo albums like this while continuing to record and tour with the Faces. There were other overlappers, too, including Ron Wood, Ian MacLagin, Ronnie Lane and Kenny Jones. This is as strong as anything Stewart has ever done, though going back to his debut with the Jeff Beck Group, there isn’t much to complain about on any of his early releases. This is a cover-to-cover classic of folk-inflected, post-skiffle, blues, rock and soul. Everything that one associates with Stewart’s early work—the 12-string acoustic on “Lost Paraguayos,” the soaring smoke-distorted scratch of his vocals on “Angel,” the post-coital melancholia of “True Blue”—with the overt sexuality of “You Wear It Well” and the plaintive soul of “I’d Rather Go Blind” make this an amazing representative of the early-’70s British rock scene.

Beck, Bogert & Appice Beck, Bogert & Appice: $2
Imagine a really clichéd blues-rock bar band with an amazing guitarist but a terrible singer doubling on drums and you’ve got this album. Even Jeff Beck’s guitar flash can’t save this, particularly because the flash is subdued throughout to make way for the atrocious vocals. Its not the quality of Carmine Appice’s voice that’s so bad, but the lyrical content is pure drivel. There are some moments where all three members harmonize for pop effect that brings the level up a tad, but that’s not really why anyone buys a Jeff Beck album.

Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis Kooper Session: $4
This marked the debut for 15-year-old guitarist Shuggie Otis. Al Kooper had struck gold with his Super Session album, combining a bunch of great players for in-studio jam sessions, and this continues that formula, with the historically notable introduction of Otis to the world. The songs vary between the gospel of “Bury My Body” to the blues rock of “Double Or Nothin’” to the soul of “One Room Country Shack,” the latter being the standout on side one, allowing Otis to stretch out and display both his incredible tone and tastefulness. “Shuggie’s Old Time Slide Boogie” highlights Otis on an acoustic resonator and is remarkable given his age at the time. Ultimately, this is novel due to its historical significance more than its strength as an album; still, there are standout moments.

War War: $1
The first post-Eric Burdon release by the band took it in to a decidedly more soulful and psychedelic direction, particularly on the rather nutty “Fidel’s Fantasy,” a spoken-word-over-’60s-groove that lectures Castro on the error of his ways. Better are lushly arranged, sun-drenched soul jams like “Sun Oh Son” and “Lonely Feeling.” There weren’t any hits on this album, but it’s still great for barbeques and bliss.

Moby Grape Wow: $2
The second album from a band considered one of the better from the San Francisco psychedelic scene that failed to reach its potential. It’s generally agreed that Moby Grape’s excessive drug use and inability to see eye to eye ultimately undermined its early promise. With a three-guitar lineup and harmonies to rival the Byrds, they’re comparable to Buffalo Springfield. The guitar prowess of Jerry Miller, Skip Spence and Peter Lewis is evidenced on “Murder In My Heart For The Judge” and “Bitter Wind,” which fit easily into the bluesy acid rock of the time. “Just Like Gene Autry” is a throwback to be played on 78, which my turntable can’t. Trippy acoustic ballad “He” is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd, and “Three Four” is a beautiful waltzing bit of country soul. “Rose Colored Eyes” is 12-string folk rock with CSN-style harmonies, but the standout is “Miller’s Blues,” a red-hot piece of blues complemented by a driving horn section.

Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys: $1
After breaking up the Experience, Jimi Hendrix formed the Band Of Gypsys with army buddy Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. This live album is a compilation of songs played over two days at the Winterland Theater in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve 1969-70. Side one features two songs, “Who Knows” and “Machine Gun.” While these days we’re plenty accustomed to extended feedback jams, they were still relatively novel in the late-’60s. One of Hendrix’s greatest innovations was his creative use of controlled noise and manipulating the overdriven overtones emanating from is amps. “Machine Gun” is a perfect example of this as his guitar becomes another instrument altogether, practically a Theremin, which he conducts with both awesome power and stunning grace. On “Who Knows,” another stretched-out jam, Hendrix uses the Otavio effect, creating a phase-shifted sound on his tone. Side two leans toward Miles’ heavy soul influence with “Them Changes and “We Gotta Live Together” sandwiching a few more riff-heavy Hendrix songs “Power Of Soul” and “Message To Love.”

Pearls Before Swine One Nation Underground: $3
Psychadelic ’60s folk from Florida. Very experimental, falling somewhere between Donovan, Dylan and Bert Jansch. Frontman Tom Rapp claimed to be only under the influence of Winston cigarettes while recording thus album, but the hallucinatory sounds and cover image by Hieronymus Bosch say otherwise. Marty told me that the ESP label was famous for recording everything in one take and pressing the records as fast as possible. Even so, this all sounds pretty tight (I use that term relatively), but Rapp’s voice is high, wistful and plaintive, not unlike Roy Harper’s (except when he imitates Dylan as on “Playmate” and “Uncle John”), while his acoustic guitar recalls Jansch and Nick Drake—or even Paul Simon.  The songs are augmented by organ, sarangi, celeste, something called a Swinehorn, finger cymbals, harpsichords and an audio oscillator. It’s pretty groovy, man.

JJ Cale Really: $1
Most people know JJ Cale as the guy who wrote such ’70s classics as “Cocaine,” “After Midnight” and “They Call Me The Breeze,” which is a pretty impressive triptych in rock history. His hallmark is an understated delivery of laid-back and smoky rock often labeled “The Tulsa Sound.” Really helped establish the formula, combining his mesquite vocals with his tweedy guitar sound. It’s perfect music for a long drive across the country. It moves, but not too fast. “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma,” is a perfect example that also features legendary fiddler Vassar Clements. The guitar sounds and solos sound like they influenced Mark Knopfler as much as Clapton or any of the countless others. The cover of Lonnie Smith’s “Going Down,” with its pedal-tone bass and Fender Rhodes keys, replaces the gritty crunch of the original with a pillow minimalism that’s effective in a slightly hazier but still totally effective manner.

Sundays With Marty: Bob Dylan, Bobbie Gentry, Merle Haggard, The Dave Clark Five, The Band And More

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

Sonny Stitt Bud’s Blues: $4
It’s not everyday that you name your album after one of the players on it that isn’t you, but when that player is Bud Powell, the greatest pianist in the world at the time, you make exceptions. While this remains Stitt’s album, Powell’s presence is constant, at least on the a-side. Stitt and Powell go at each other on several cuts, eager to display their virtuosity, in particular on “Bud’s Blues” and “Sonny Side.” Side two features future Modern Jazz Quartet founder John Lewis on piano and trombonist J.J. Johnson, who as a leader and sideman played with just about every jazz musician of note from the big-band era on, sharing the soloing duties. His mellow and rich tone provides excellent contrast to Stitt’s more brash and reedy sound. It also offers two takes of each of the four tracks. Stitt, who was originally an alto player often compared to Charlie Parker, switched to tenor in order to further establish his own identity. By this time he had, and his solos are extremely fluid and confident but still retain obvious characteristics in common with Parker: the upper-register bebop speed trials and the nearly effortless reharmonization of the changes. Max Roach, widely considered the greatest and most influential drummer of all time, plays on both sides. Lewis, Roach and Johnson were all integral members of the “Cool” sound that was emerging, but Stitt and certainly Powell found it too straight for their tastes, both preferring the fiery elements of bebop improvisation on display here.

Bob Dylan Blood On The Tracks: $1
If you’re ever going through a tough break up and need the perfect soundtrack, this is it. Dylan incorporates all the heartbreak and bitterness he was feeling during the demise of his relationship with his wife Sarah (mother of Jakob) and puts it all on the album. As a work of art, culling words and music from emotion, it stands as one of his greatest achievements. The jaunty narrative of “Tangled Up In Blue” marks the beginning of the relationship, but things quickly go south. By the second song, “Simple Twist Of Fate,” his enthusiasm has been replaced by an acceptance of the end. Acoustic guitar, electric bass, harmonica and vocals are instruments aplenty to accompany the weight of his words. And it doesn’t stop. “You’re A Big Girl Now” captures the changes in persona and power that take place so often in love. “Idiot Wind” is Dylan at his most vindictive, applying one of the more direct verbal slap-downs put on wax. But his vitriol, like most, burns off quickly, replaced by leaden sorrow and sentiment. “If You See Her Say Hello” captures the bittersweet reminiscence over one now gone, though the alternate version available on volume one of his Bootleg Series is superior in its arrangement. Dylan’s lyrical nimbleness sometimes led him to be a bit too cute for his own good, not unlike John Lennon, but here he throws his irony out of the door and writes from his heart from start to finish. So when he says, “I’m going out of my mind/With a pain that stops and starts/Like a corkscrew to my heart/Ever since we’ve been apart,” he’s not kidding at all. There’s some hope to be found throughout, but even tracks like “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” are tinged with fatalism. Dylan leaves us on an up note though with “Shelter From The Storm.” He’s moving on, the only way he and just about everyone else who has ever been there knows is the only way.

Bobbie Gentry Ode To Billy Joe: $1
This record is awesome, although the track listing on the back cover is in a different order than the album. Regardless, it’s got this country grind to it, starting right out with nearly garage-y “Mississippi Delta,” which is down and dirty swampy funk. This was supposed to be the single from the album, and it kind of recalls Kenny Rogers’ “I Just Checked In To See What Condition My Condition Was In,” but after hearing the title track, Capitol Records realized “Ode To Bilie Joe” was the hit, though not until they edited it to nearly half its original length, thus adding to the ambiguity of the lyrics. There’s a specific rhythm that finds its way onto many of these songs, a syncopated swing that lands hard on the one, then adds extra emphasis to the second beat of each measure. There are slightly dissonant string arrangements by Jimmie Haskell, such as on the title track, “Papa Won’t You Let me Go To Town” and “Bugs,” that add an impressionistic, dark undercurrent to the music.

Merle Haggard The Best Of Merle Haggard: $3
Haggard portrays the human condition with a layman’s poeticism. “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” and “Sing Me Back Home” are songs about prison and death row—as a frequent inmate at San Quentin, these were places that Haggard had firsthand experience with. But ultimately this is folk music. These are songs of love, work crime and death, but not necessarily in that order. His songs, usually accompanied by expressive pedal-steel guitar, were as influential on the folk scene of the ’60s as the Smithsonian Folkways albums of the Deep South. Even Joan Baez covered dead-man-walking ballad “Sing Me Back Home” and sounded great doing it.

Alun Davies Daydo: $4
I recognized Davies as the guitarist on most of Cat Stevens’ albums. Stevens produced this album and plays on several tracks. It’s an uneven LP, but the first two songs, “Market Place” and “Old Bourbon” are beautiful and original folk. There’s a gently, dreamy quality to them, like precursors to Mojave 3 or even Sigur Rós (if it was an acoustic band). On the latter, Davies sings in a high tenor voice, and it’s a plaintive and peaceful ode to New Orleans. After this auspicious start, I’d begun to think I’d stumbled upon something great, but he doesn’t maintain the mood. It gets a tad corny and then unremarkable with only Stevens-esque acoustic ballad “Vale Of Tears” (from side two) standing out. Apparently, Davies is playing with Stevens again.

The Dave Clark Five Having A Wild Weekend: $2
The DC5 were, at least at one point in the ’60s, bigger than the Beatles, knocking “I Want To Hold Your Hand” from the top of the charts with “Glad All Over.” It didn’t last of course, but they had a claim to fame as the second biggest British Invasion band at the time, appearing on Ed Sullivan 18 times or so and garnering a string of hits, only a few of which people could readily place. But they had something. This is the soundtrack for a film they made (on the heels of the success of A Hard Day’s Night) called Catch Us If You Can, which was directed by John Boorman. But for some reason they changed the name for the U.S. audience. I suspect that the film is derivative crap, but the album is totally cool. Not Beatles cool, mind you; it’s not like they were visionaries, but they were a still a great band. This is “Jailhouse Rock”-style rock ‘n’ roll mixed with a John Barry-esque guitar twang. Their sound is rougher than the mop tops, who were playing bubblegum pop during this period. There are a handful of instrumentals, like “Dum Dee Dee Dum” and “On The Move,” that include King Curtis-like boss tenor matching the distorted surf-guitar leads. These are pulp-fiction-style scorchers. “No Stopping” is another crime-scene soundtrack with a Peter Gunn-style guitar lead and a sweet overdriven organ solo that conjures images of car chases and go-go dancers. The production and arrangements are totally pro, and there’s only a couple clunkers, like maudlin harmonica instrumental “Sweet Memories,” but songs like “New Kind Of Love” and “I Said I Was Sorry” are just great ’60s British Invasion rock.

The Band Stage Fright: $2
Despite the fact that most of these guys are Canucks, the Band are one of the seminal Americana rock bands of all time. This is primarily the result of Levon Helm’s influence. As the sole statesider, he introduced the band to the music, roadhouses and hookers that the South had to offer. The others inhaled it like the speed that kept them on the road back when they were called the Hawks. Stage Fright was their third album and continued their progress in writing prideful anthems in the rootsy rock vein that they helped establish. Along with the hits “The Shape I’m In” and “Stage Fright” are mournful serenades like “Sleeping,” “All La Glory” and “Time To Kill,” which capture the delicate sensitivity of these hard-living road warriors. Engineered by a young Todd Rundgren and mixed by Glyn Johns, it’s a classic.

Johnny Winter Johnny Winter: $2
Winter is a total badass. This was his first official solo album, released in 1969, though he’d previously released an LP under the rather clunky name the Progessive Blues Experiment. This is generally considered Winter’s introduction to the world as a white-hot (literally, as he’s an albino) blues-rock guitarist. Despite his rather awesome technique and flashy speed, Winter is no wanker. His tone, note selection and phrasing are just dirty and mean. That’s probably why blues legend Willie Dixon had no problem sitting in on the track “Mean Mistreater” and likely explains why Muddy Waters tapped him for his albums Hard Again and I’m Ready. With songs like “I’m Yours And I’m Hers,” “Leland Mississippi Blues” and “Back Door Friend,” Winter exhibits his dark shredding with a litany of riffs that display both originality as well as a deep knowledge of the genre. His version of Ray Charles’ “I’ll Drown In My Own Tears” highlights his soulful signing as well.

Sundays With Marty: Donovan, ZZ Top, Mott The Hoople, Man, Rufus, R.E.M. And More

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

Ahmad Jamal Tranquility: $3
Miles Davis often credited Jamal’s influence as major, pointing him in the direction of the Cool sound. I’ve generally found Jamal to be a bit too laid back, but this 1968 album is an exception. It starts off with two pretty cheesy covers, “I Say A Little Prayer” and “The Look Of Love,” but suddenly, on the third track—a rhythm-heavy modal piece called “When I Look In Your Eyes”—it starts getting hot. With Jamil Sulieman on bass and Frank Gant on drums, Jamal’s playing is assertive and even forceful. “Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You” features African polyrhythms under Jamal’s chord melodies. Side two presents several originals. “Tranquility” lays down a strong groove complimented by a descending, harmonized melody offset with a syncopated time shift in the b-section that gives way to a solo in which Jamal really digs in with prolonged runs over the length of the keyboard. “Free Again” is a gorgeous ballad, and “Manhattan Reflections” is a sharp, dark and brisk piece of modern jazz.

Donovan Barabajagal: $2
This 1969 effort is the official blueprint for Devendra Banhart’s entire oeuvre. Donovan was the original freak-folk mystic. The folk/funk title track of features the Jeff Beck Group as the backing band. “Superlungs My Super Girl” is straight-up garage-rock psychadelia. These stunners are followed by several hazy acoustic ballads that get progressively cornier, bottoming out with “I Love My Shirt.” Side two offers another song with the Beck Group (“Trudi”), but mythical ode “Atlantis” is the anthem of the album.

El Chicano Revolución: $3
This is this week’s pick of the litter. Following up on their Viva Tirado debut, 1971’s Revolución is the sophomore album from this Los Angeles-based ensemble of Chicano psychedelic/rock/soul musicians. It’s a great collection of Santana-style fuzzed-out guitar and organ jams over salsa and boogaloo beats. These guys were heavy hitters in their time, and singer Ersi Arvizu has shown up on several albums by Ry Cooder. He produced her recent solo album that came out on Anti- a few years back. “Sabor A Mi” highlights both Robbie Espinoza’s organ skills as well as Mickey Lespron’s guitar playing, and “I’m A Good Woman” is another standout. They throw a few fun covers in, like Willie Bobo’s “Spanish Grease” and bubblegum classic “Sugar Sugar,” that are incorporated into their style. “Chicano Chant” features absolutely incendiary guitar work.

Leon Russell & The Shelter People Leon Russell & The Shelter People: $1
This is Russell’s second official solo album (though he’d previously made records with the Midnight String Quartet and Marc Benno) after an enviable career as a session player in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Russell played with everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John to Joe Cocker and George Harrison to even Frank Sinatra. 1971’s The Shelter People features a batch of originals mixed in with several Dylan covers (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”) and a standout version of George Harrison’s “Beware Of Darkness,” which is the album’s highlight. Russell’s compositions land in a New Orleans-style gumbo of soul, boogie and gospel. Harry Nilsson comes to mind, as does Elton John’s “Tumbleweed Connection.”

ZZ Top Tres Hombres: $2
Say what you want about “Sleeping Bag” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” Back in the day, these guys put out great records. 1973’s Tres Hombres was their third album and first commercial breakthrough. The Texas blues of “Waitin’ For The Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” are blue-collar, beer-laden and heavy lidded. Billy Gibbons’ guitar tone sounds absolutely resin encrusted. It’s matched by his voice and Dusty Hill’s, which are as fuzzy as their beards. Hit single “La Grange” is still a staple on classic-rock radio and has a guitar solo that’s a masterpiece of pick-muted harmonics. “Hot, Blue And Righteous” is slowed-down gospel soul somewhat reminiscent of “You Don’t Know The Life” by Gibbons’ first band, the Moving Sidewalks.

Mott The Hoople The Hoople: $1
Hmmmn. This 1974 LP comes pretty late in the discography for this also-ran ensemble in the Bowie-affiliated world of glam rock. Several years past their “All The Young Dudes” peak and following the departure of guitarist Mick Ralphs, who left to form Bad Company, this sounds like the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though clearly the influence went the other direction. The rock-opera vibe has never been a particularly winning formula. Ian Hunter remains an (almost) singular vocalist (he does sound an awful lot like Bowie), and Ariel Bender’s guitar playing matches his name and often recalls Mick Ronson, who’d also worked with the band. A few acoustic tracks on side two—“Trudi’s Song” (who is this Trudi showing up on Donovan and Mott The Hoople records?) and “Through The Looking Glass”—break the monotony, but you’d be better served just listening to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.

Man Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics: $2
This 1974 album is an odd piece of proggy psych rock from Wales. The first couple tracks are pretty crappy ‘70s hippie rock, but then it gets more interesting with “California Silks And Satins.” Despite its atrocious name, it’s a trippy ballad with lush harmonies. After that they step it up a bit with an assortment of extended improvisations in a fusion of styles including prog, country and psych rock. The vocals are slightly nasally, occasionally recalling Grace Slick or Jon Anderson. At times they sound like Yes, but sloppier and less grandiose. “Kerosene” is a standout with stellar fuzz-wah guitar and Moog keyboards trading riffs.

Rufus From Rags To Rufus: $2
This is the album that made Chaka Khan a star and gave us the hit “Tell Me Something Good,” an astounding bit of loping clavinet funk, which it should be noted, was written by Stevie Wonder. The rest of the 1974 album is nothing to go nuts over. “Sideways” is a downtempo instrumental with more great clavinet work by Kevin Murphy. Beyond that it’s pretty run of the mill pop funk and R&B. Of note, legendary arranger Clare Fischer wrote the orchestrations.

R.E.M. Fables Of The Reconstruction: $4
While it may be heresy to some, I’ve always found this group from Athens, Ga., to be a bit too jangly for my taste, and this 1985 LP is as jangly as it comes: all high-end and brittle. I’m a bigger fan of Life’s Rich Pageant, Reckoning or Murmur. Still, when they hit it, it’s right, as on “Wendell Gee” and “Good Advices” where Stipe’s vocals manage to convey a melancholic pathos, despite his obtuse lyricism. Mike Mills’ backing vocals, as always, provide a plaintive, emotional subtext. Hits “Driver 8” and “Can’t Get There From Here” are solid examples of what college kids went for in the ’80s when they weren’t listening to the Cure or the Smiths. It still blows my mind that this band was as influential as it was, but no matter: R.E.M. changed the face of popular music, and damned if that isn’t something.

Sundays With Marty: Buddy Miles, Billy Preston, David Essex, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon And More

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

Buddy Miles Expressway To Your Skull: $4
Miles, who went on to fame as a member of Jimi Hendrix’s Band Of Gypsys, had his solo debut in 1968 with this awesomely titled psychedelic/soul album, complete with liner notes by Hendrix). Leading off with scorching guitar courtesy of Jim McCarty on “Train” atop dirty, Southern-soul horns, the album sets its tone and captures a moment in the ’60s when races and genres (like rock, funk and soul) merged, at least in pop music. “Let Your Lovelight Shine” is a straight-up sex jam, and “Funky Mule” is a hard and heavy dance party. The slow soul blues of “You’re The One” and the groovy version of Otis Redding’s “Wrap It Up” that ends with a sweet guitar freakout make this worthy of anyone’s collection.

Gil Evans Orchestra Out Of The Cool: $4
Evans was the George Martin of jazz, his arrangements having elevated Miles Davis’ work to the realm of the sublime on Sketches Of Spain, Quiet Nights and Porgy And Bess, among others. On Out Of The Cool, expanding upon the template and several of the players from Davis’ Birth Of The Cool, Evans moved into a decidedly more modal realm. He maintained a relatively large ensemble (14 players) to combine both extended modal improvisations and intricate arrangements. Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady or Ah Um are close comparisons, though Evans retains the laid-back aspects of the Cool sound, maintaining a steady, slow burn. Fans of the Cinematic Orchestra should take note of the genesis of that band’s entire oeuvre. It is all here on opening track “La Nevada,” with its slinky, stealthy groove established by Evans on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Ray Crawford’s guitar work. The horns enter with a slightly dissonant motif reminiscent of Evan’s work on Porgy And Bess. Mingus veteran/trombonist Jimmy Knepper opens second track “Where Flamingos Fly” with smoky solo lines over a beautiful and dreamlike Gershwin-style blues. Side two highlights Carter’s astounding fretwork. This is my new favorite record.

Billy Preston The Kids And Me: $3
Preston (a.k.a. the sixth Beatle) was a master of keyboard-based funk and soul, and this is probably his best, but I have trouble sitting through an entire album of his feel-good ’70s gospel soul. “Somethin’ For Nothin’” was the single, and it still gets a little airplay to this day.

Merryweather Word Of Mouth: $2
An out-of-print rarity featuring Dave Mason, Steve Miller, Howard Roberts, Charlie Musselwhite, Neil Merryweather and others. This supergroup’s collection of “jams” lands somewhere between a ’60s jazz/dance classics album and a Bay Area Pebbles comp. Much of this is dueling guitar leads between Mason, Miller or Howard Roberts, who steals the show with his fuzz-out solos on “Mrs. Roberts’ Son,” a track further distinguished by Mason’s jazzier riffage and the hard-groove organ by Ed Roth. The vocals show up about half the time and are standard ’70s rock/blues fare—or worse when Miller sings—but occasional gems like “Teach You How To Fly” and “Hooker Blues” are true diamonds. I had heard one of these tracks on a specialty radio show recently and looked it up online. Amazon had links to back-ordered CDs for $26, but Marty had the gatefold double-album vinyl for two bucks.

Buddy Miles Them Changes: $2
Another gorgeous album of funk and soul from this drummer extraordinaire. The title track was Miles’ signature song and was featured beyond this in sessions with Hendrix and Santana. The Isaac Hayes-style rendition of Neil Young’s “Down By the River” is another standout. Miles’ cover of Rufus Thomas’ “Memphis Train” was produced by Steve Cropper, and he even covers the Duane Allman song “Dreams.” The entire album is varied but maintains an overall vibe of laid-back soul.

David Essex Rock On: $2
Like most people, I’ve always thought the title track was a great single, so it seemed to make sense that there might be a few other songs worth listening to on the full-length. Not so. This weird combination of Randy Newman meets Grease makes it all too clear as to why Essex was a one-hit wonder. I guess I could be more specific, but then I’d have to listen to it again.

Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin: $3
These guys had a minor role in the history of rock music. Perhaps your parents have heard of them. “Good Times, Bad Times” introduced a new era of gods among us. It still sounds perfect on every level, each player’s mastery exhibited immediately. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” switches gears and inaugurates the power ballad, combining Page’s acoustic with the potency of the band. None too shabby. The plodding white-boy blues of “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quite You” are relatively weak. But “Dazed And Confused” highlights Page’s versatility of sound and ushers in dark psych rock a year before Sabbath’s debut. “Black Mountain Side,” it should be noted, is a blatant rip off of Bert Jansch’s “Black Waterside, but is still cool in that it provides such stark contrast to the adrenalized rock of “Communication Breakdown” with its furious pace and attitude. Anyway, no secret here.

John Lennon Mind Games: $1
I first heard the title track as played by the Flaming Lips about 20 years ago and have loved it ever since. I think that this is easily the most Flaming Lips of post-Beatle Lennon songs. Discuss. The rest of the album, well, it kind of sucks. “Aisumasen” is pretty cool in that it’s a slow soul tune that highlights Lennon’s affinity and affection for the style, but the rest is maudlin, trite and practically unbelievable coming from he who was the roughest-edged Beatle. Domesticity did not serve Lennon’s artistry well. $1

Paul McCartney McCartney II: a bottle of ginger ale
Macca’s enigmatic post-Wings album isn’t nearly as cool as his first post-Beatle album, which makes sense I supposed. But that’s not really a fair assessment. “Coming Up” is a great McCartney pop single that’s still a rock song. The rest is a very dated and strange exploration of bad electro pop from 1980. I’ll applaud Sir Paul for doing something totally different, kind of like Stevie Wonder’s Secret Life Of Plants album, but despite its recent rise in cred and reference, this is not really happenin’, man.