Kooper Session (1970) by Al Kooper, Shuggie Otis

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Al Kooper tries to capture lightning in a bottle again, replicating the old Super Session format this time with Shuggie Otis and a complementary change in sound. Both halves have their hits and misses but, for me, there is enough here to enjoy, even if this isn’t anything revelatory. The two halves definitely appeal to different tastes too, so that’s something that might put some people off, though I find the gospel and R&B stuff a refreshing change of pace for Kooper. 7/10 Read More

Easy Does it (1970) by Al Kooper

Categories: 1970 and Music.

By the time Kooper released this double album in 1970 he had put out 6 albums (including this one) in something like 2 years. Yes, two of those were partially improvised, but Kooper was the prime creative force of all of them. So it should come as no surprise that this record feels like it doesn’t have enough content for its length. Some of the covers are good (and sometimes they are quite idiosyncratic) but Kooper’s songs themselves are not great. He’s pulled back on his artsiness on this record but he doesn’t have enough good songs and just seems Read More

The Grass is Greener (1970) by Colosseum

Categories: 1970 and Music.

I didn’t realize this was a weird, US-only hybrid album when I bought it. I somehow convinced myself it was their most recommended album (I guess I was listening to some US critics…). Anyway… The influence of Cream is particularly heavy here, on the opening track and the Bruce cover (even though it wasn’t a cream song). It’s kind of shocking but it also acts as the missing link between Cream and so much jazz and prog rock. The album is a hybrid of things not usually found together: jazz rock and prog rock. At their most jazzy, they don’t Read More

Der amerikanische Soldat (1970, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

Categories: 1970 and Movies.

This is an early Fassbinder film – I think maybe it’s his 5th – that has many hallmarks of his style but failed to move me in the way that his later work does. It’s a film noir – at least in style if not in pacing – and Fassbinder goes all out with his lighting; there are a lot of cool shots and the lightning is frankly amazing. Everything is very artificial – not just the lighting but the sound, the stilted acting, the monologues, the lack of camera movement, etc. That is an important part of Fassbinder’s mature Read More

Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part 1 (1970) by The Kinks

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Ostensibly Davies’ fourth (???) song-cycle, this album is really just a collection of vignettes about the music industry and related themes. I’m not sure there’s a story here and the theme is rather looser than the previous song-cycles, so to my ears it’s not quite the classic as some of their previous albums. That being said, this is a pretty great collection of songs. “Lola” is the obvious standout, but there are plenty of other great Davies songs here. And so, though it is not among their very best work, it’s still a pretty good Kinks record. 8/10 Read More

The Jimi Hendrix Experience (2000)

Categories: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 2000, and Music.

This is an exhaustive collection of Experience alternate takes, outtakes, alternate mixes and live performances. For the Hendrix completist, it’s probably more essential than any of the other studio rarities collections that have come out, just because it shows off more facets of his playing and his experimentation – unlike those studio rarities collections, which are mostly demos, or those live sets which show him in an altogether different light – than any other set. This is as complete a picture you’ll get of the Experience (and Hendrix himself) outside of the original studio albums plus Band of Gypsies. But Read More

The Confession (1970, Costa-Gavras)

Categories: 1970 and Movies.

This is a harrowing and difficult movie about authoritarianism and Stalinism, and why people participate in show trials, when it strikes as as cowardly and/or irrational. It’s based on a true story, too. It tells the story of one man as he experiences arrest, interrogation and indoctrination on his way to a show trial in Czechoslovakia. Costa-Gavras begins bravely, ambitiously, giving us very few details to go on and us extreme jump cutting (for the era), unusual sound techniques, and some archival footage, to create what is probably the first film to (at least attempt to) portray actual, real-world torture Read More

Weasels Ripped my Flesh (1970) by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Zappa takes his musique concrete collage obsession and applies it to a live album. It’s nowhere near as radical as the Mothers’ records at their apex – as this is mostly a collage of songs, rather than song fragments, jokes and the like – but it’s still hard to recall another live album of this (or any) era that is this deliberately constructed, and where the construction is visible on its sleeve. Though I have yet to fully familiarize myself with Zappa’s post Mothers discography (beyond his biggest “hits”), this has to be one of the last times Zappa was Read More

Workingman’s Dead (1970) by the Grateful Dead

Categories: 1970 and Music.

If you had been aware of the Dead in Spring 1970 but you didn’t live in San Francisco, you would have no way of knowing the band was birthed by a folk band in the mid ’60s. If you caught them live, you would have been familiar with how they were the first ever jam band (though the name may not have existed yet) or if you listened to their albums, you would think they were by far the weirdest psychedelic band to emerge from San Francisco (unless you only heard their debut). You certainly wouldn’t have guess they had Read More

Valleys of Neptune (2010) by Jimi Hendrix

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This is yet another collection of Hendrix demos and alternate takes. As usual everything sounds great (though in one case the sound quality is weak compared to the other tracks) and professional. The tracks are from all over the place, as usual, and it’s a record that’s for Hendrix fans rather than for casual listeners. There are a few new songs, but many have other takes other places. One notable thing is that this version of “Sunshine of Your Love” contains a hilarious bass solo from Redding, much like some live versions of this song. So if you want to Read More

South Saturn Delta (1997) by Jimi Hendrix

Categories: 1997 and Music.

So this is sort of the companion piece to First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the album that tried to replicate what would have been Hendrix’s last album. But whereas First Rays was a coherent piece, this is more an abritrary collection of rarities. Like most of Hendrix’s demos and alternates that have been released, everything is very professional. And it’s of interest to any Hendrix fan (though it’s hard to hear what’s different about this version of “All Along the Watchtower”). But it’s not any kind of definitive rarities collection or anything like that. It’s fine. 6/10 Read More

People, Hell and Angels (2013) by Jimi Hendrix

Categories: 2013 and Music.

This is apparently the “final” official rarities collection we will get from the Hendrix vaults. These are the last previously unreleased studio tracks. It only took 40 years.This collection shows off the direction Hendrix was contemplating post-Electric Ladyland, the funkier, rootsier one displayed on First Rays of the New Rising Sun, his unfinished final album. But these performances are looser than that record, and they have fewer overdubs. It’s fairly obvious that most of them are just (complete) early demos. But the music is fantastic – Hendrix is on fire, even if he’s playing more lead (and more conventional rhythm) Read More

Live at Leeds (1970) by the Who

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Is this the greatest live album of all time? I never used to care about live albums. I never used to care about live music. Music used to live in my bedroom and I had no idea that there was some other side to it. Frankly I didn’t understand why people went to concerts. The idea that a band could be better on stage than in the studio seemed totally insane to me. Totally unfathomable. I was forced to confront that idea when I went away to university and seeing (not very famous) bands became a standard thing: a couple Read More

In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) by King Crimson

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Full disclosure: King crimsion is one of the bands that “changed my life” on a musical level and they remain among my favourites. I have trouble being objective about them. I’m trying, but it’s probably not possible.We should remember that this album was made by a band that wasn’t really a band at all: Michael Giles and Lake were essentially getting pay checks, as was Peter Giles, Collins and Tippett were only seemy involved; almost all of this is Fripp (and Sinfield), and Fripp before he abandonned his tendency for shitty ballads.The decision to split up the ballads from the Read More

Mudslide (1971, 1991 Bootleg) by Led Zeppelin

Categories: 1971 and Music.

This is a pretty strong show – notable for particularly great performances of material from the second album, especially “Thank You”, which can be wussy – but, as someone who has listened to relatively few Zep shows, it’s clear to me that the band improved with time, like a fine wine really. And I find myself generally preferring later, crazier, shows. This is all very professional, and the performance of “Thank You” might be the definitive version, but there are better versions of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and other material out there. Still well worth listening to, though. 7/10 Read More

Liberation Music Orchestra (1969) by Charlie Haden, Carla Bley et al.

Categories: 1969 and Music.

This is like Mingus meets Shepp (in spirit, anyway) meets other free of the era (with a Latin tinge). It’s at times radical and at times thoroughly traditional and, if it could maintain that balance, it could be incredible. However, as others have noted, it’s kind of schizophrenic, and sometimes it feels like various solo records and sometimes there’s this orchestra (a very compelling orchestra). Unfortunately, it feels that the politics of the record may have been more important to Haden and Bley than the music. (That’s probably not fair, but that’s what it sounds like at times.) I am Read More

Music with Changing Parts (1970, 1971) by Philip Glass

Categories: 1971 and Music.

This is, I think, perhaps the most ‘love it or leave it’ piece Glass has done (that I’ve heard). Though it’s significantly shorter, I feel like it’s even more impenetrable than Einstein on the Beach or Music in 12 Parts. But that is something I think we just have to get over. This is just a mind-boggling composition that requires patience and attention. It seems to me the perfect distillation of Glass’ (early) aesthetic. (The perfect distillation of his later aesthetic would probably be one of his soundtracks.) From now on, when I think of Glass and minimalism, I will Read More

Listening to You: The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (1970, 2004, directed by Murray Lerner)

Categories: 1970, Movies, and Music.

You should watch this if you like Live at Leeds.This is a pretty great performance by the Who at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Some of the songs are the same from Live at Leeds, but there is enough of a variance in the set list that this is worth watching. And, you know, you can actually watch the band here. Really you should see it even if you aren’t a Who fan, as it’s pretty great for any fan of live rock music.The one issue is the camera work, some of which seems to be intending to Read More

The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other (1970) by Van Der Graaf Generator

Categories: 1970 and Music.

The first proper VDGG album (2nd official) is about as loud as prog rock got in 1970, which is a good thing, but likely doesn’t give us a good hint of what they actually sounded on stage. The songs aren’t quite there yet – though they are considerably better than some other prog bands’ – and the whole thing feels a little unfinished (both a blessing and a curse). Hammill is captivating as usual, but sometimes the arrangements around him are not quite there. On the whole it’s pretty strong, and a good indication of where they were heading. 8/10 Read More

In Rock (1970) by Deep Purple

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Deep Purple always seem to be the third wheel in the “(un)Holy Trinity of British [first wave] Heavy Metal”. Certainly if we are to judge by influence on the genre today, there’s no touching Sabbath, but if we go back in time to pre-BNWHM Zeppelin was the band. I think that undersells Purple’s role somewhat, as we can trace most metal genres to one of the three: black, doom, sludge, etc and the fascination with death to Sabbath; folk, world, funk, thrash etc and the fascination with fantasy novels to Zep; and hair, prog and “neo-classical” etc and the careless Read More

The Goodies (1970)

Categories: 1970 and TV.

This is mildly amusing now. I can imagine that it was significantly funnier at the time, but I still can’t shake how much better (funnier, cleverer) comedy Monty Python was making at pretty much the exact same time. There’s certainly some satire here, but it’s fairly tame, and the physical (and tape-manipulated) nature of much of the comedy undermines much of whatever satirical edge there might be. 6/10 Read More

Domicile conjugal (1970, Francois Truffaut)

Categories: 1970 and Movies.

This is a sporadically entertaining film that is very well-shot though a bit clumsily edited and paced. It’s not quite as funny as it probably was originally, but it hasn’t held up that well. The bigger problem is that it really does feel like a defense of the immaturity of the protagonist, who is going through some kind of early-mid life crisis. Apparently women really shouldn’t worry about philandering husbands because they still really love them. 7/10 Read More

My Favourite Music Scene

Categories: Music.

Throughout the years, New York has been a hot bed of the avant garde, the new, and the different. And London has also been a real centre of forward thinking music. (Though with London – even more so than NY – many of the bands that were doing the forward thinking originated in other communities before moving to London.) But for me, the one scene that consistently excites me – when I go back to it, when I encounter new bands from it, and when I think about the overall creativity of a given time and place – actually was Read More

Vintage Violence by John Cale (1970 Columbia)

Categories: 1970 and Music.

I like Cale. I think he is often a great lyricist (except on Slow Dazzle, where he is lazy) and I think he was certainly the most musically interesting member of the Velvets. But he is not a great songwriter. He lacks a bit of an ear for melody. The only record of his that I really notice any strong melodies is 1919 (which has become my favourite of his) and even then it took me forever to get into that. I have this problem on everything I hear by him, he just doesn’t write compelling songs to back up Read More

The 50th Anniversary Collection by James Brown (Polydor 2003)

Categories: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1988, 2003, and Music.

James Brown’s importance can not be understated. He is on The List of the most important musical figures of the twentieth century (along with Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Dylan, Duke Ellington, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Frank Zappa and maybe a few others). This compilation of his hit singles gives a very good idea of his progression and how he turned gritty soul and R and B into funk and thus got sampled more than any other band leader ever. The one downside is that this compilation of his hit singles is missing one of his biggest hits. Hard to understand that Read More