Monthly Archives: April 2017

Rocks In The Attic #584: Nilsson – ‘The Point!’ (1971)

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Charity shop finds can be a wonderful thing. To see an album from somebody’s name you recognise alongside a heap of junk records is more than enough motivation to get your wallet out. In a record store, even priced at $4 or $5, I would probably leave this in the racks. Sat alongside a James Last LP though, it suddenly becomes very attractive.

I’m so glad I took the punt and handed over my dollar. My knowledge of Harry Nilsson is very limited outside of Everybody’s Talkin’ and his drunken shenanigans as a key player in John Lennon’s Lost Weekend. I’m aware of Nilsson Schmilsson – a great album title for sure – but haven’t heard much of it save for the ubiquitous Coconut and the much covered Without You (or is that one called Ken Lee?).

So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from The Point! Was this to be more introspective material, like his early hits, or just some average singer-songwriter fluff? Neither, I tell you. It’s a bonkers record through and through.

The album starts off with a poppy number, in the vein of post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, entitled Everything’s Got ‘Em. It’s lovely – something you might hear on Holland – but then Nilsson’s spoken-word narration takes over and takes the record somewhere expected. A concept album, the narration and songs tell the fable of Oblio, the only round-headed boy in a village full of pointed-headed people. An animated film accompanies the album, and early pressings of the record were packaged with an illustrated booklet of the story inside (which my dollar copy still had). Although I’d never heard of it before, it was received well enough to be turned into a 1977 stage play featuring Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones from the Monkees.

Nilsson excuses the story as being conceived while on acid – and this isn’t hard to imagine given how fully engaged with the subject material the songs are. Nilsson isn’t dipping his toe in the water here; he’s fully immersed in this world he’s made up. This sort of thing would usually be a turn-off for me, but the songs are so great, and his narration is really nice to listen to.

Hit: Me And My Arrow

Hidden Gem: Everything’s Got ‘Em

Rocks In The Attic #538: Robert Palmer – ‘Double Fun’ (1978)

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Now this fella had a good voice. I remember shopping in Kingbee Records in Manchester on the morning that I heard he had died, and toying with the idea of buying one of his records. I didn’t buy it in the end. I hadn’t heard anything by him other than the ubiquitous late ‘80s singles Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible, and surely I wouldn’t appreciate a full album of his yuppy rock songs.

I don’t think I ever saw any of his records in the wild again until I picked this up – studio album number four. It’s a damn good record, and Palmer’s blue-eyed soul voice is really a wonderful thing. Genre-wise, it reminds me of early Hot Chocolate – a poppy mixture of groove-based rock and grown up soul and R&B. Anybody with the confidence to work up a decent funk version of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me is worth more than five minutes of my time.

By this stage, Palmer wasn’t pulling in the likes of the Meters or Little Feat to back him in the studio, as on his first two records. I don’t immediately recognise any of the musicians who contributed to the sessions, but there are definitely a lot of them – twenty nine players in total – suggesting that the sessions were a casual, unstructured affair.

Hit: Every Kinda People

Hidden Gem: Come Over

Rocks In The Attic #582: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – ‘The Distance’ (1982)

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I know almost nothing about Bob Seger, aside from Phil Lynott’s namecheck on Thin Lizzy’s Live & Dangerous record. He definitely belongs in the same bucket as Bruce Springsteen, especially on the big opening number Even Now. In fact, it would be hard for a mid-paced rock song from the late ‘70s / early ‘80s with piano and saxophone to not sound like Springsteen.

This is album number twelve for Seger and his band, and while I’m sure it’s not his best, it serves as a decent introduction for me. I’ll definitely be checking out his earlier records as soon as I can.

There’s an amusing entry in the Wikipedia page for this record which serves as a great indicator of the type of person who likes Seger:

‘Capitol Records had stopped manufacturing albums in the 8 track tape cartridge format by the time this album was released. However, Seger asked the label to include that format for this album, knowing that many of his fans still used 8 track players.’

Hit: Shame On The Moon

Hidden Gem: Even Now

Rocks In The Attic #581: Marty Robbins – ‘Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs’ (1959)

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I’d never heard this record before last week when I found it for the princely sum of one New Zealand dollar in a local charity shop. I must have seen the cover a million times though – it’s one of those country records like Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood’s Nancy & Lee, or the Louvin Brothers’ Satan Is Real, that belongs to another era but has more than enjoyed a 21st century revival and reissue.

In any other world, these might be forgotten albums, and it makes you wonder about all the hundreds (and thousands) of forgotten albums that will remain truly forgotten. Light In The Attic records were responsible for the Lee & Nancy and Satan Is Real reissues, but they’re just one company and, to the best of my knowledge, seem to be alone in that kind of pursuit.

Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs’ revival comes from its appearance in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die books, and while I’m not a country nut I still find it a very nice listen. It’s real music before music was spoiled by all those teenagers and hippies in the 1960s. My copy is a New Zealand first press from 1959, which makes it almost sixty years old. Something must have been lost in translation over the Pacific when they sent the artwork though, as my cover is a garish pink instead of the usual red.

Hit: El Paso

Hidden Gem: Big Iron

Rocks In The Attic #580: Burt Bacharach – ‘Casino Royale (O.S.T.)’ (1967)

RITA#580The stain on the James Bond film series for almost forty years before it was remade, Casino Royale began life as Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel. When EON producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli optioned the film series of the books, Casino Royale was the only existing novel that slipped through their fingers. After the owner of the rights to the novel, Charles K. Feldman, failed in his attempt to persuade Saltzman and Broccoli to film Casino Royale, he took it upon himself to produce the adaptation.

In 1967, two months prior to the release of You Only Live Twice, cinema goers around the world were confused by this alternative James Bond film, a spoof on spy thrillers with little or no relation to Saltzman and Broccoli’s films. It’s a huge compliment to refer to it as a James Bond film, when it is in fact one of the worst films ever produced within the parameters of a larger film franchise. It makes The Phantom Menace look like the work of Christopher Nolan.

Five (plus one uncredited) directors worked on the film, and given that this isn’t an anthology film, that just shows what a mess of a production it was. A 1967 film starring Peter Sellers and Woody Allen at the height of their comedic powers should be great; instead it’s a disappointing headache of a film.

The only saving grace of the film is the soundtrack – a score by Burt Bacharach, featuring one of his all-time best collaborations with Dusty Springfield on The Look Of Love. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass kick things off with some nice trumpet jazz on the film’s main title, but the remainder of the soundtrack is composed by Bacharach. As a whole, the soundtrack is very much of its time – something Mike Myers and Jay Roach spoofed so well in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery. One gets the idea that just twelve months following the release of Casino Royale, the soundtrack would have sounded old-hat already. Looking back, it’s a nice piece of swinging London brought to life through the speakers.

Hit: The Look Of Love Dusty Springfield

Hidden Gem: Casino Royale Theme – Herb Alpert & The Tijuan Brass

Rocks In The Attic #579: Bob James & Earl Klugh – ‘One On One’ (1979)

RITA#579Whenever I see a Bob James record, I buy it. It’s one of my record store rules. Of course, I’m always chasing a better Bob James record than Touchdown, and I think I’ll always be chasing it as I’m not sure such a thing exists.

This record, which arrived in stores between James’ sixth (Touchdown) and seventh solo record (Lucky Seven), finds him collaborating with jazz guitarist Earl Klugh. It makes for a great combination as the two players compliment each other well. As with most of Bob James’ work, every song sounds like the theme-song for a late-‘70s / early-‘80s television show which you’ve never heard. Obviously that analogy doesn’t work for Touchdown’s Angela, the theme-song from Taxi, as that one you would have heard, but you get the point.

One of my favourite things about this record is the cover. I really wish designers would get a little more experimental in these sorts of things. Usually record covers are a photo of the band, or a pretty picture, but I really dig it when they’re designed to look like other things. The allure of the everyday. This matchbook design is great, and spoiled really only by the lettering of the artist and title (and on my copy, a big logo stating that it’s a half-speed mastered, audiophile pressing).

Hit: Kari

Hidden Gem: The Afterglow

Rocks In The Attic #578: Peter And Gordon – ‘Peter And Gordon’ (1964)

RITA#578Having Paul McCartney as your ­almost­ brother-in-law can’t be anything other than a good thing, especially if you’re trying to break into the music business.

In 1963, the Beatles left Liverpool for the Big Smoke of London town. John Lennon rented an apartment with wife Cynthia, while George and Ringo shared a flat together. Paul however moved into the house owned by the parents of his then-girlfriend (and later, fiancé) Jane Asher. Understandably, Paul was not allowed to sleep in Jane’s room, and so shared a room with her brother, Peter Asher.

In 1963, Paul offered the song A World Without Love to Peter and his song-writing partner Gordon Waller, after the duo were signed up by Columbia Records. The song had been written by Paul when he was a teenager, but had been deemed unsuitable for the Beatles. It would appear it was John who held the veto, as he could never get past Paul’s opening lyric. “The funny first line always used to please John,” Paul told Barry Miles in 1997. “’Please lock me away…’ ‘Yes, okay.’ End of song.”

You’d be wrong in thinking that Peter And Gordon were a one-hit wonder. McCartney’s kindness did help them establish their name – it was a number one on both sides of the Atlantic – but they didn’t stop there. They released a number of singles that charted in the Top Twenty, and their approach as a sort of English answer to Simon & Garfunkel would have been quite a refreshing change given that the charts would have been filled with pop, and rock and roll.

This debut album is really strong, and while it’s clear to see that Lennon and McCartney’s A World Without Love is the centrepiece of the record, there’s plenty of highlights along the way, whether it’s their own material, or covers like Little Richard’s Lucille or Ray Charles’ Leave My Woman Alone.

Hit: World Without Love

Hidden Gem: If I Were You