Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Turtles-All The Singles

In a span of 5 years (1965-1970), the Turtles effortlessly straddled the styles of the times, from stellar folk-rock through timeless top 40 pop to an eclectic smatterings of styles simply because they could.  They were the recipients of vast piles of first-rate songs from the high tide of ‘60s songwriters (e.g., Dylan, P.F. Sloan, Gene Clark David Gates, Warren Zevon and Bonner & Gordon). Many of their shifts and swerves were illuminated with sunburst harmonies and requisite humor needed to stave off the chicanery of the music industry.  They were also versatile enough to be a singles machine almost ready made for AM radio and as an album group who would garner airplay on the FM stereo side with their more theatrical & experimental excursions. “All The Singles” presents both an introduction to the band –say a child hearing “Happy Together” for the first time or second time (as it frequently appears in commercials and movies) and as the current definitive overview of the band. For long-time Turtles listeners, what’s especially exciting are some the rarely heard B-sides and previously unissued recordings like the haunting and brittle “So Goes Love,” one of my favorite Gerry Goffin & Carole King compositions. It was not until seeing Flo (Mark Volman) & Eddie (Howard Kayland) live in 2011 at Wild Horse Pass Casino did I realize their enormous vast talents and what a hoot they are as a “musical comedic" duo.  Buoyed by its underlying classical elements, the night became transcendent when the entire audience sang along to “Happy Together” with unbridled joy. Like their namesake, they were not the sleekest band, but their playful and oblique ‘60s sounds have continued to convey levity, express elation and endure over the long haul.

Monday, October 03, 2016

The Banjo Story-Vol.I

While this has been reissued endlessly, repackaged under several different titles, cover variations, track configurations, this is where it all began in 1963. This Tabula rasa is comprised of some of the major five-stringers of the folk revival-era including two who would subsequently go on make huge waves on popular culture, Roger McGuinn with the Byrds and Mason Williams with “Classical Gas.” While I previously unfamiliar with some of individual names (Dick Weissmann and Art Podell), I knew of the popular folk groups they were involved with (respectively the Journeymen and the New Christy Minstrels).  I have since learned they are considered consummate players and are still active to this day.  With remarkable finesse, Dick Weissmann celebrates the Colorado Rocky Mountains on his textured “Trail Ridge Road.”  Meanwhile with “Ragaputa," Art Podell’s takes the standard ringing banjo sound on a journey of exploration when he enmeshes it with the droning latticework of raga--all in one jet age minute. Mason Williams’s “Banjo Hello” is suffused with classical flourishes that would later become his trademark sound. The ol' stirring Irish traditional “Rakes of Mallow” is prominently echoed in Eric Darling’s “Banjo Tune.” Dick Rosmini’s “Fast and Loose” is a highly-evolved breakdown that is so speedy that it blurs into drones at moments.  Lastly, Jim (Roger) McGuinn’s rustic “Ramblin’ On” might be the roots of the Byrds, but it actually sounds like Charlie Chin’s banjo work with Buffalo Springfield. The Banjo Story-Vol. I has been influential for over a half century as it encapsulates 12 distinctive approaches to the banjo, while expressing the resounding & ramblin' spirit of this transitional time.