Friday, November 22, 2002

Been thinking, always a dangerous proposition, and it occurred to me that while I probably won't be able to do a "ten best albums of 2002" list, I could do a "ten favorite albums not available on CD" list. Strangely enough, most of these are from 1972-1975, probably my favorite period in music history. One disclaimer-I take no responsibility for some of these appearing on bootlegged form or through some Japanese/German/whatever release back in 1988 or some such. So without further ado:

1. The Great Lost Kinks Album. This was your basic contractual obligation album, released in 1973 after the Kinks had moved on to RCA Records from Warner/Reprise. It's a collection of B-sides and unreleased songs, some from an aborted Dave Davies project, and many from the Arthur/Village Green Preservation Society period. It's also one of the strongest, song for song, albums ever released in my humble opinion. Most of these songs are available on the various VelVel reissues of the last few years, making it even more unlikely that this particular set of songs will ever come out in this particular configuration. Also notorious for the liner notes, written by noted Kinks kronikler John Mendelssohn, which were downright kritikal (OK, I'll stop) of the band and its then-current releases.

2. The Pentangle-Solomon's Seal. The final release from this great British folk-rock group, at least until a couple of underwhelming reunions in the late 80's, the master tapes for this magnificent album are lost, which means they couldn't put it out on CD if they wanted to! Copies pop up on eBay from time to time, so keep an eye out. I've listened to many of their other releases, but to me none of them were as tuneful and enjoyable as this one.

3. Neil Young-On The Beach. Apparently Young himself doesn't want to see this, along with the its excellent predecessor Time Fades Away, released on CD. Nobody really knows why; except that Young associates this music with a bad period in his life and doesn't want it out there, and claims to hate CD sound. A shame, because this is arguably his best. If you read his recent bio, "Shakey", then it was indeed written and recorded under some of the most lunatic circumstances imaginable, but I don't care about all that-this is magnificient, haunting, unconventional music and it deserves to be heard by modern audiences. Click on the link above and sign the petition!

4. Lon and Derek Van Eaton-Brother. So obscure that I could only find one or two links, this great folk/rock/pop record was released on Apple back in 1972 and boasts production and session work by George Harrison and Ringo Starr, as well as Fifth Beatle Klaus Voormann. If you run across this in a used record store someday, buy it immediately. Paid 1 buck for mine! The album came with a do-it-yourself kinetiscope that you could assemble, place on your turntable, and watch the brothers beat on a drum and move around. They just don't do that sort of thing anymore...

5. Maria Muldaur-Sweet Harmony. All anybody remembers from her is Midnight At The Oasis, but the first three solo albums she did on Warners were all equally great, and this one was my favorite. So guess which one is inexplicably unavailable on CD! This is a wonderful, mixed-stylistic collection, jazz, folk, blues and country among others, and I like it better than the AMG reviewer did, obviously.

6. Donovan-Cosmic Wheels. (1973) Even though many lesser Donovan efforts are available on disc, inexplicably this one isn't. Many dismissed Mr. Leitch long ago, and his '98 comeback CD was a bore, but I will always have a strong attachment to this excellent album. The lyrics are pretty much the sort of thing that Donovan detractors always loved to harp on, but I find clever and charming. Musically, this sounds like nothing he did before or since. While mostly acoustic-based, there's some strong, stylized electric guitar work by Chris Spedding, and the orchestral arrangements are first-rate, often written in a minor key that sounds somewhat creepy sometimes, a la the strings John Lennon used in Imagine. I also love the distinctive, cleverly creative cover package-to see it, click on the link. I also know the link also lists a CD release, but it seems to be an import and isn't available through normal outlets like Amazon or Tower, hence its inclusion on my list.

7. Andrew Mackay-In Search of Eddie Riff. (1974) After Brians Eno and Ferry split up, fellow Roxy Music musicians Phil Manzanera and Mackay did solo projects, and this was sax player Mackay's debut. Assisted by Eno and Manzanera, it's a tuneful, fun instrumental album. Bought this in the import section at Headquarters in Bowling Green when I was 16, and listened to it constantly, causing all my Skynyrd and Journey-loving friends to regard me as a bigger freak than they already did.

8. Sly Stone-High On You. (1975)The first and only album that he released under his own name alone, this is regarded as a flop, but to my ears it sounded as good as anything he and the Family Stone had previously done...OK, well, almost anything. I liked it better than the absurdly overrated "There's A Riot Goin' On".

9. Tony Ashton and Jon Lord-First of the Big Bands. (1974)The growly-voiced R&B singer Ashton teamed up with flashy Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord for this 1974 one-shot that went straight to the cut-out bins. Great folk/R&B/blues/funk album with a very odd, muted production sound. Got my copy for a buck. The relative failure of this album didn't stop 'em from releasing a too-slick follow-up with Purple drummer Ian Paice in 1977. According to the Purple Records website, this is due to be released on CD soon.

10. David Cousins-Two Weeks Last Summer. (1972) I have always had a soft spot for the Strawbs, an acoustic/folk/rock/prog outfit that had some success (mostly in the UK) back in the mid-70s. Cousins was their frontman, and in between personnel changes and Strawbs releases he put this solo album out, which was never released in vinyl in the US, either. This didn't deviate much from the Strawbs sound at the time, but it's a strong collection of songs.

And that's it! More lists when I think of them. You've been warned.

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