Monday, November 25, 2019

Weekly Listenings - 11/18 - 11/24/2019

So plowed through a bunch of 2019 and 1969 titles this week, with a few other random things.

Here's what we've got...

1st Listens:

Elbow - Giants Of All Sizes (2019): Front half of album has been getting most of the buzz I really found myself getting pulled in on the back third starting with ballad My Troubles. Feels like there will be a lot to unpack in future listens, liked it on first pass, but doesn't sound like it will quite reach Seldom Seen Kid/Build A Rocket Boys territory.

Scott Walker - Scott 3 (1969): Already pushed through six listens on Scott 4 this year as well, some nice moments here but on first impression, not nearly as good as 4 or 1967's 1.

Soft Machine - Volume 2 (1969): Not the jazz-rock, Canterbury Scene masterpiece that would  follow (Third), but the template for Third is their in much abbreviated, punchier form. Looking forward to future listens on this one.

Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (1969): Like Spirit's 12 Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, a heavy psychedlia/early prog guilty pleasure classic.  Revisiting this one three times for '69 collection after having heard it many times in 20s.  Side one closer Evil Woman remains one of the best forgotten songs of the 1960s.

Girl Band - The Talkies (2019): Had same reaction to this one as I did on first pass through their last effort - utterly unlistenable.  But I grew to really enjoy that last effort on multiple listens after growing accustomed to the brutal lo-fi mix.  Hoping same happens here.

The Byrds - The Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969): First of two 1969 Byrd's efforts I'll be checking out for 1969 retrospective - decent country rock fare in the vein of the day, nothing spectacular, though a nice early cover of Jesus Is Just Alright that set the sonic/vocal template for the Doobie Brothers hit version a few years later.

Floating Points - Crush (2019): First impression, solid, but no where near the standout awesomeness of Elaenia.

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Illumination (1969): One of my favorite first listens of week, really trippy late 60's folk from the indigenous Canadian that feels way ahead of its time in it's incorporation of electronic elements. Can't wait to loop back around to this one.

Leo Kottke - 6 & 12 String Guitar (1969): Kottke's all instrumental debut.  Nice stuff, easy to listen to, supposedly in many's mind, his best.  No one track that knocked me out on first listen though.

Kevin Ayers - Joy Of Toy (1969): Solo debut of ex-Soft Machine Ayers.  Odd and relaxed, didn't care for first third at all on first pass, but back two-thirds of album started catching my ear.

The Jackson 5 - Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969): Their Motown debut, typical mix-bag full-length Motown release, R&B/Pop masterpieces like I Want You Back nestled up against crassly commercial covers.

Janis Joplin - I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues (1969): One of the lowest rated of Joplin's original releases during her lifetime, but on first listen to this one, I really liked it, especially opener Try and late album cut Little Girl Blue.

Caetano Veloso (1969): Veloso self-titled third album, much of which was written/recorded will a political prisoner of Brazil's dictatorial regime of the time. Uneven, but some Tropicalia classics on this one like opener Irene.

2nd Listens:

Skip Spence - Oar (1969): Still not grasping the cult appeal of this wacked-out psychedelic country-rock effort from Jefferson Airplane / Moby Grape ex Spence recorded after his mental state had seriously started to decline.  Kind reminds of Big Stars Sister Lovers, another album vastly overrated because of the legend of the artists fragile mental state at the time of its creation.  Still feels Mild Recommend at best to me.

Joe Cocker (1969): Joe's self-titled sophomore outing.  Like this one even better than With A Little Help From My Friends, his '69 debut. All covers, but the versions of Delta Lady and Hitchcock Railway are to die for, and a vastly more listenable version of Cohen's Bird On A Wire than Cohen himself record that year.

Tool - Fear Innoculum (2019): Tool is one of those ultimate Euraka bands where things can take a long time to sink in.  On a surface level, I'm enjoying it and the mellower overall vibe, but so far I'm not hearing any song that simply "pops" like the best efforts on their greatest albums - sense is this will ultimately emerge as a very solid but never spectacular effort.

The National - I Am Easy To Find (2019): Surprised how little is hitting me on this outing from one of my favorite acts of last fifteen years.  Still early, another Eureka band, but verdict to this point is their weakest effort since before 2005's Alligator.

3rd Listens:

Leonard Cohen - Songs From A Room (1969): Decent, but instrumentally spare at times to the point to tedium, a fan favorite, but so far not one of mine.

Big Thief - U.F.O.F.: Glad I've still got a few listens to go on this one. Not sure I like this one that's sure to land high in the year end polls as much as previous effort Capacity, but it's a definite grower.

4th Listens:

The Kinks - Arthur (1969): With one follow-up listen to go after hearing this one plenty in my teens, always been one of my least favorite Kinks albums of the 60s and that opinion remains unchanged, although not a bad album by any stretch - any album that boasts the likes of Victoria, Australia, and Shangri-La is already entering Solid Rec territory no matter what else surrounds it. And it is a clear stylistic direction changer for the early 70s albums that would follow.

Little Simz - Grey Area (2019): This JAY-Z supported grime artist's sophomore outing is easily one of the best hip-hop albums I've heard this year. With it's swaggering one-two punch of Offence and Boss leading into the killer smooth Selfish, Grey Area delivers one of the best opening 10 minutes stretches of any 2019 album in any genre.

Final Listens:

Sly & The Family Stone - Stand! (1969): An unassailable classic, arguably the most influential soul/R&B album of the entire decade, defined the direction of much funk and soul for the next half decade to come. In so many years, this would be the easy choice for best album of the year; unfortunately, coming out as it did in 1969, it's questionable whether it belongs in the top ten.

Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers (1969): Love this one as well.  Surrealistic Pillow has the hits, but front to back, I've always felt this is the Airplane's most consistent and interesting album.

Aldous Harding - Designer (2019): Another winner to close this week's wrap-up out.  One of five fantastic 2019 female singer-songwriter albums - along with the aforementioned U.F.O.F, Julia Jacklin's Crushing, Sharon Van Eten's Remind Me Tomorrow, and Weyes Blood's Titanic that will dominate the year end polls (at least outside the states). This one, along with Crushing, is my personal fav of the bunch, really quirky, but a great first half, and a couple songs that enter into exalted Nick Drake territory.

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