Poco – Head Over Heels (1975)

Here’s a strange one… Poco were a band I only heard of thanks to Blabber ‘n’ Smoke’s Paul Kerr.  He’d mentioned them once or twice and said he liberated a copy of Head Over Heels during a visit to a charity shop.  It was mine if I wanted it.  Of course, being into records, Buffalo Springfield and being partial to a bit of ‘country rock’ in general, I said I would give it a good home (there were a few other records thrown my way that evening – including Santana’s Zebop!)

Now, I’ve listened to this once or twice since then and I thought it was, at times, very lovely and all, but nothing jumped out at me.  It kinda reminded me of yon Eagles lot and, to quote The Dude, I hate the fucking Eagles, man (hate is maybe too strong, but they bore me to tears. I need more than well crafted empty songs).  However, while it reminded me of their country rock contemporaries, I was fairly taken by their vocal shenanigans.

So, I decided to file this under ‘get to know better’ and I finally got around to making time in my schedule to sit down with it… and yeah, it’s rocking my boat.  Gently.  Ever so gently.  Those vocal shenanigans really do lift some already impressive songwriting and, unlike yon Eagles lot, the tracks are filled to overflowing with some heart and (gushing) sentiment.  The opening salvo alone is worth the admission price.  Keep On Tryin’ is an outstanding opener complete with some outrageous harmonies (so outrageous it sounds like the Bee Gees fronting, eh, the Eagles) and Lovin’ Arms is equally gorgeous.

There are a couple of stand-out tracks spread across the album’s short run-time, but just now the tracks that grab me (other than the two I already mentioned) are Let Me Turn Back To YouGeorgia, Bind My Ties and Dallas (which I learned is a Steely Dan number).

I should probably acknowledge that the first three songs or so on each side keep me engaged. Not that I drift away, cause the album benefits from that short run-time, as it means it never really feels like spending time with it is much of a chore.

And y’know, that guy Schmit (wrote that opening number) later had a stint in the (fucking) Eagles.  How do you fancy them apples!?

Album rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

Bottom line, I’m not blown away or left thinking this is peerless, or even a high point in country rock shenanigans, but if this is one of their ‘lesser efforts’, I’m looking forward to discovering one of their earlier LPs with Richie Furay.

Cover rating: ⭐️⭐️

A bit of a strange one, this.  I dare say it’s at odds with the content and finds Poco entering the 80s way before some of their peers.  Some pastel colours and it’s a bit hazy (the dude with the long hair and light denim shirt and jeans is just incredible) despite the black background.

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Heavy Meet-up Overload

When I started this whole blogging thing a few years back, the purpose was really just to write about what I was listening to.  I didn’t really give much thought to whether or not folks would be interested enough to enter into discussions and I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d meet a whole bunch of great folks.  Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know a few folk a bit better and I genuinely would call them friends (we even call ourselves friends on facebook and suchlike).

I guess these connections are a positive example of social media actually working.  There’s no bullying and we’re not in the business of radiating genuine negativity.  We’re supportive and, y’know, it’s okay if we don’t agree on some things (I have decided that I don’t much rate AC/DC and I’m of the opinion that the Foo Fighters are no better than Nickelback).

During these last few years I’ve been introduced to a whole bunch of different sounds.  I fell in love with Van Halen, have become a fan of Sloan, rediscovered Iron Maiden, and have explored The Tragically Hip discography (among many others).  The friends I’ve made here have also been generous; sending music my way that they reckon I might dig (Left Lane Cruiser, Sloan’s A-Sides or Gallon Drunk) or know I’d dig (Scott Weiland’s 12-Bar Blues promo, Neurotic Outsiders or The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly).

Anyhoo, last week I met up with Mr HMO at one of Glasgow’s finest public houses.  He was there before me (again) and I found him propping up the bar.  It was another great night filled with laughs and good chat about music, writing, budgie training, oxymorons, and all the good stuff that life throws at us.  He also came with a bagload of records for me.

As I flicked through them I thought “oooft!” (that’s the positive use of the word).  I’m still somewhat overwhelmed by his generosity (I’m not so sure if I traded my soul for these, right enough).

What was in the bag? Well, this lot.

​Honestly, this gift is beyond awesome. So far I’ve enjoyed a hit of Humble Pie, The Allman Brothers Band and Scorpions’ Tokyo Tapes.  As you can see, there’s so much more to delve into! (I’m looking forward to checking out Dokken and Hanoi Rocks and rocking that Maiden live set).

Anyhoo, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m genuinely stoked to have met so many great people here. Folks who not only dig music, but are genuinely engaged with what’s going on with those around them. So thank you to you all.

As our pal Aaron says, Community!

Best track I’ve heard this year.

So, I’ve been listening to the new Queens of the Stone Age track, The Way You Used To Do, a helluva lot since it appeared on YouTube the other week.  It’s a belter.  A real groover. I’ve been declaring it the best track I’ve heard this year.  Nothing to do with Homme & Co. being one of my favourite bands.  No, sir… not at all.

As you can imagine, I’m fairly excited about the news of their new album, Villains (which apparenty doesn’t include a single guest appearance).  In fact, you could say I’m about as excited as my pal over at Heavy Metal Overload (Ha!).

See, as well as the warped Rolling Stones-esque rock n’ roll riffage that keeps the whole thing going, Homme’s vocal is all slinky and sinister and the bass and those hard swinging drums kill.  This is Elvis fronting ZZ Zeppelin.  There’s some excellent verses in there, too – specifically the second – “Is love mental disease or lucky fever dream? Fine with either. Gave birth to monsters who will terrorise normalcy – yeah” and “My heart, a ding-a-ling. A puppet on a string”.

“The title Villains isn’t a political statement. It has nothing to do with Trump or any of that shit. It’s simply 1) a word that looks fantastic and 2) a comment on the three versions of every scenario: yours, mine and what actually happened… Everyone needs someone or something to rail against — their villain — same as it ever was. You can’t control that. The only thing you can really control is when you let go”

Homme has handed the production reigns to Mark Ronson this time around and, if The Way You Used To Do is anything to go by, it sounds like he’s done a stellar job.  According to Homme he was recruited cause he liked the sound of Uptown Funk. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that track.  I know.  But I bet it doesn’t sound as good as this.

2013’s …Like Clockwork is my go to Queens of the Stone Age album and I reckon this sounds like it might be a continuation of the organic grooves Homme & Co. had going on there (with a wee bit of that Era Vulgaris voodoo lingering in the air).

Anyhoo, all I’m saying is I’m mad about it.

The album is due August 25th and I’ve got that thing pre-ordered.  Opted for the ‘deluxe’ version with the prints (Boneface being in charge of the artwork again), though that’s always subject to change (what am I gonna do with 14 art prints, right?).

Anyhoo, it’s only July.  Bah.  I guess I’ll just have to boogie until August 25th.

 

 

Love

Man.  Wednesday was a strange ol’ day.  The boy and I done some Adventuring in the morning.  That involves going for a walk wherever he wants to go.  Like his daddy, he’s taken to trains.  So we tend to go to the station that’s just a couple of minutes from our home and wait for the trains to roll in.  Some days we hop on board.  No major journeying, just a few stops.  We get off.  Walk a bit and look at the scenery and then hop aboard the next train and we’re homeward bound.

The last couple of weeks he’s been pointing towards this little cafe that’s on the corner.  Y’see, my wife took him there for a wee treat a month or so ago and he’s been keen for me to go.  What he didn’t know was that my wife and I decided that this Wednesday was the day.  So, we headed home (after a stop to pick up some oranges) for a brief stop and back out we went with Mummy (telling him what was planned).  He practically raced around.  Looking at him sitting at the table he was chuffed to show me this place he’d found.  He pointed at the menu – gesturing at me to pick it up.

And he wasn’t wrong.  It was a neat place.  Crucially, the coffee was damn fine.


Anyhoo, as he was napping I checked into the world of the internet and learned via My Jerusalem’s Facebook that Dave Rosser had died.  He was 50.  I was in shock.  Gutted.

Y’see, Dave Rosser, for those who don’t know, has been an integral part of Greg Dulli’s musical shenanigans over the last ten years or so (Dulli refers to him as family).  As such, he’s been heavily involved in some of my favourite music in that time – The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, The Afghan Whigs 2.0 and My Jerusalem.

It was announced late last year that he was battling inoperable colon cancer, but it didn’t feel like it was the end of the road.  Even though he wasn’t out on tour with the band, he was telling Guitar World just last month that he was feeling pretty good.

“I just finished the first six months of chemo and am taking a break. I’m feeling pretty good and my spirits are good. I record a lot at the house and have been making a lot of music with friends. I’m staying busy and have purpose. I’ll try to get out and meet the band on a few stops in Europe where they’ll be for a few days.”

I really became aware of him via Dulli’s Twilight Singers and his contribution to The Gutter Twins’ Saturnalia.  He also accompanied Dulli and Lanegan for a round of ‘An Evening With’ gigs and during a Lanegan solo tour.  As well as that, he played on albums by The Gutter Twins, My Jerusalem, Mark Lanegan, Jeff Klien and Joseph Arthur.  I caught him live a few times with each of those projects and I met him very briefly after The Gutter Twins played Glasgow’s Oran Mor and he seemed like a nice guy.  By all accounts, those who had been in his company for any amount of time confirmed that he was humble, funny and a gentleman.  The fans had a lot of love for him.

My wife held me when I relayed the news cause she knew I was a bit upset about it.  Later, when the kiddo was asleep I had a chance to think about it some more.


Anyway, although I didn’t know him, his passing hurt.  It might be timing, I dunno.  It was enough for me to need a hug.  Enough for me to send love to a group of Whigs / Dulli fans who I knew would be reeling.  Enough to remind me that life – or death – can be a fucker and has no mercy or sentiment.  Enough to remind me to cherish those around me and to tell them as often as I can that I love them (even at the risk of sounding like a broken record).

What am I rambling about?  Well, it was a great Wednesday despite it being tinged with sadness.  It brought up a whole lot of thinking.  About a whole lot of things.  I love this family of mine and I appreciated the Wednesday Adventuring with my boy.  I hold him and I tell him I love him and that I’m proud of him.  Of the little man he is. In a few months I’m gonna hold my daughter and I’ll tell her that I love her too.

Anyhoo, the positives are that I’m aware of my mortality and the often unforgiving nature of life (death).  I’m gonna continue Adventuring with my family (even if it’s raining) and holding them tight.

I’m gonna do my best to tell the folks around me that they’re important to me.  That includes the folks who drop by here and chat about the music, records or whatever.  Thank you.

Also, let’s not forget that Dave Rosser rocked and he will continue to rock.  The Universe will take good care of him.

 

“New records are good, right?”: New Additions

I got some new records last week.  New records are good, right?  They are indeed.

I popped into the Record Fayre on Thursday afternoon determined to snag a copy of The Power Station LP that I’d seen in there during all my visits over the last few years.  Did I find it, though?  No I did not!

“… ah, the Duran boy? Went a while ago” said the chap as he stood up, “strange, cause I had about 10 of them downstairs… couldn’t give them away for so long”.  By this point he’s flicking through the 80s and 90s LPs.  I told him about how I’ve recently discovered its awesomeness.  He nodded, “I think a few others discovered that too”.  He did look through the Palmer records just to see if a copy was in there.  But there wasn’t.

Attention turned to a copy of the Burning Tree album he had priced at £2.  “Never heard of them” he explained ” …came in with a bunch of other stuff”.  Given my enthusiasm for the album, I suggested he change the price.  Told him all about it (stopping short of pointing him towards my piece of blah blah blah a while back).  He nodded approvingly “Is that right?”.  Sure is.

Although there was no Power Station goodness the dig wasn’t a disaster.  I spent £10 on two albums I’ve been after a while – Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Happy Trails (£8) and Guy Clark’s Old No. 1 (£2).  They’re 80s reissues, but they were in great condition (the Guy Clark LP looks like it’s never been played and came with the lyric inner).

Truth be told, I didn’t much enjoy Happy Trails as much as I remembered.  Maybe I just wan’t in the right frame of mind?  Great cover, though.  Plus, J. Jnr. was certainly enamoured by it.  Old No. 1 is brilliant, though (and a record I would have paid over £10 for on Discogs anyway if I hadn’t found it).  So it was a good record buying day.

I also met up with my ol’ pal (and right grumpy bastard™) Craig later on. It was the first time I’d seen him since his band, Dog Moon Howl, launched their new EP and the first chance we’ve had a chance to chat properly for quite some time.  Anyhoo, we discussed all sorts (with a focus on music, vinyl and Steven Seagal) and Craig had explained that he found another Jerry Reed album for me.

Now, there’s a fair chance that an album cover and title combo like this wouldn’t exist nowadays, but the music on here is really pretty wonderful.  Now, I dont know whether I mentioned this before, and I may not have, but Craig had gifted me Reed’s Ko-ko Joe a few years back and it’s established itself as a real favourite in the collection.  It also boasts one of my favourite album covers.  So yeah, I was really pretty delighted about this one (cheers, Craig!)

I got home late, listening to Soundgarden’s Superunknown on the train and thinking “fuck”.  But, y’know, I had records.  Records are good.

Say Hello to Heaven

I was late jumping aboard the Soundgarden bus, but I spent a whole lot of listening hours with Cornell since I first heard that band in the mid-90s.  Nothing struck me or stayed with me quite like Superunknown, right enough.

… well, that and his contribution to Singles.  Man, Seasons was one of my favourites for such a long time and it’s still one that I tend to pick out for a listen.  When Soundgarden split I hoped Euphoria Morning would be like that one.  It wasn’t, but I learned that was no bad thing cause that’s a helluva great album.

I dropped off after the buzz of that first Audioslave album wore off.  In all honestly, I only paid a little bit of attention to stuff over the last 15 years, but I jumped back on the Cornell Express when King Animal landed.  I’m awfy fond of that album, y’see.

Anyway, I guess today’s been an odd one. Processing Cornell’s passing and reflecting.  The Moments he soundtracked coming into focus. 

While I didn’t love everything he put out, nor did I keep up with it, 38-year-old Jim obsesses over Superunknown, just as17-year-old James did.

He was a helluva talent.  A great songwriter, musician and one of the finest vocalists I’ve ever heard.  I still felt there was a lot more to come from him… another defining moment.  Not this, though.

But, y’know, it doesn’t matter how he left.  It matters that he was here.

Caught in the spell of stormy weather

Did I mention that the new Afghan Whigs album came out last Friday?  I pre-ordered it and, aside from hearing the three tracks shared by the Whigs prior to its release, I managed to avoid the album stream until I got my hands on the LP.  It arrived Monday, so I had a bit of catching up to do.

I’ve listened to this thing a few times (I’ve taken advantage of the digital download post-haste and it’s been the sole soundtrack to my commute the last few days) and it’s a darker record than 2014’s Do To The Beast.  I’m still wrapping my head around it, but it’s a pretty incredible piece of work.  Hearing the three tracks within the context of the album really brought something quite powerful to the tracks that I didn’t appreciate.  I can’t quite explain it, but I know you know what I mean.

The whole thing is wonderful, though.  From the artwork right to the sequencing (spot on and brings out the best in each track).  It’s short too; weighing in at 10 tracks and 36 minutes.  The shortest Afghan Whigs album to date.

Dulli & Co. have made something special.

I dare say I’ll write about this properly, but this is an album of the year contender for sure.

 

“Check on Amazon cause it’d be roughly that much”

 

So, Mark Lanegan Band‘s Gargoyle was released on Friday.  I actually pre-ordered it a while back via that Amazon, but I cancelled the order on Friday as it hadn’t been dispatched and I needed my Lanegan fix.  So, I figured I would nab it while I was in town (I work in the city centre, y’see).  Seeing an opportunity, I heading to the local independent retailer at break (just a 5-minute walk from the office).

Now, I won’t go into it in too much detail, but despite having bought many things from that place over the years, I’ve had reason to avoid it for the last, well, a good few years.  Mostly cause they’re a bit rude and not even in the Jack Black from High Fidelity type of way.  Anyhoo, a few folks I know like the place and I figured I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.  Plus, I was gonna be the winner, cause I’d have Lanegan (plus I would have supported the indie brick and mortar place – go me!).

Anyhoo, I browsed the racks and didn’t see it.  Actually bumped into a chap I know who was also looking for it.  He was buying something else, so I ventured to the till with him and we enquired about it.  Hadn’t come in yet.   I could have visited another one of the record stores, but I thought I’d get it there if he was expecting it, so I asked the likely price (as you do).  Incredibly, he didn’t know!  What?  Don’t be absurd, I thought.  He actually suggested I “check on Amazon cause it’d be roughly that much”.  Clearly inconvenienced by the question (despite there being only two of us in the store).  I really shoulda said I would do that and I’d order it there while I’m at it, but I looked at my fellow Lanegan hunter and wished him well.

Fortunately, my fellow Lanegan hunter dropped me a line to say it was in Fopp for £20.  Pretty much the exact price it was on Amazon.  So, I got it.  Go me.

So much for supporting your local independent record store.

As for the album, well, initial thoughts are that The Guardian / The Observer are easily impressed.  It’s good, but, well, I keep hoping for one of Lanegan’s dusty records.  Don’t get me wrong, while there’s nothing as great as Phantom Radio’s I Am The Wolf or Torn Red Heart, it might just be more consistent overall.  There are some nifty vibes and a few outstanding songs… but I suspect it’ll really start revealing itself over a few listens.

“If there’s any doubt there is no doubt”: Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (2016)

Hard to believe it’s been 3 years since Sturgill Simpson released Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.  His second album found him dragging outlaw country right into these troubled modern times (and drawing comparisons to Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard and the likes).  It was a far better album than the hype would suggest (yeah, I know, it was a highly acclaimed album, but it was awesome) and it wasn’t just witty, funny and dark, it was deep and philosophical.  It included all sorts of good vibes, an outstanding cover choice and reptile aliens made of light.  That, my friends, is what I want from my country music.

It was inevitable that Sturgill would find himself in the crosshairs of a major label and it was pretty huge when it was announced that he’d signed with Atlantic Records.  Now he’d get that Grammy, we thought.  Now he’s gonna make something that’ll blow our minds.  And, well, he did.  A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is quite a shift.  He left his first two records behind and drew from his experiences in the Navy, a letter that his grandfather wrote to his grandmother, and wrote his own letter to his wife and newborn son.  As a result, it’s his most personal album to date.  As you can imagine, there are strings.  There are also horns.  A lot of horns.  The whole thing is just a funky piece of sentimental country music.  The influences are wide… I hear Glen Campbell, Lowell George and (Aloha from Hawaii) Elvis.


Unfortunately, my opinion of it shifted over the last 12 months.  The punch in the gut I got when I hear the opening lines of Welcome to Earth (Pollywog) is still there despite my tiring of the horns and the fact there’s no answer to why he now knows the reason why his grandfather always said God’s a fisherman.  My love for that track (despite the horns) is down to timing – given that I was fairly new to the parenthood game myself.  “Hello, my son welcome to Earth.  You may not be my last but you’ll always be my first.  Wish I’d done this ten years ago”.  I can relate to it, y’know?

Anyhoo, as you’ll have guessed, the mood is very different to that of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and the Dap-Kings ensure that it’s a bit more, eh, brash and, perhaps a bit too loud.  Point taken, Sturgill.  There’s joy and then there’s shouting from the rooftops with a brass band when you don’t really need them.

It’ll come as no surprise, then, that I consider the best moments to be the quieter tracks like Breakers Roar, his take of Nirvana’s In Bloom and Oh Sarah.  Two of which appear on Side A.  Also, as good as In Bloom is (it could be the best thing here?), it does throw the song cycle a bit.

There’s some of that wit and humour in there, though.  There are also things that I can relate to and things that will speak to an audience that may not normally buy into this whole thing (lines like “maybe get high, play a little GoldenEye on that old ‘64” from Sea Stories) as well as the token protest song (Call To Arms), but perhaps the references to the Navy and sea living has me feeling a bit alienated.  That and the horns.  A lot of horns.

So, aye, while my initial impressions were positive, I’ve found that it doesn’t deliver much else on repeated listens and, well, it’s not one I’ll revisit all that often, I’m afraid.  It’s not a bad album – the songs are well crafted and it’s clear that he and his co-conspirators have put a lot of care into making it – it’s just not all that engaging after a while.  I appreciate the sonic expansiveness of this new Sturgill Simpson Revue, I really do.  But there’s just nothing that holds my attention and makes me think the way Metamodern Sounds in Country Music does.

And yeah, he did get that Grammy.  If only the weight of Atlantic Records was behind Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

I hope he comes back to shore for his next release.

** This is the standard vinyl edition.  There’s a ‘limited edition’ version on blue vinyl, which comes in the same gatefold sleeve.  As well as the printed inner sleeve, it includes a poster.

music makes the people come together. yeah.