Thursday, October 21, 2004

I've sat on this too long. I intended to do six in this one, and I still will- but here's the first two. Consider this chapter one of a three-issue mini-series.

Yes, it's time once again for that far-too-infrequent semi-regular feature here at the Show, Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O! in which I take the time to write a line or two about some of the long-playing 33-1/3 RPM plastic platters in my collection that I've spun since the last Vinyl-O. CD's don't count- it's gotta be vinyl, or I don't write about it. This began when, after about five years without one, I got a new turntable back in 2003 and I was having fun digging out all the records that I hadn't been able to listen to in many a moon. So without any further whathaveya, here goes:

Steeleye Span was the third of the Great British Folk-Rock Trinity of the 70s, along with Fairport Convention and the Pentangle, and like those bands were determined to perform traditional folk music and blues with a rock influence and were comprised of some of folk's most talented players along with a distinctive female lead vocalist- Sandy Denny (of course) with Fairport and Jacqui McShee with Pentangle. Steeleye's was one Maddy Prior- whose inflectionless, deadpan delivery defines their sound. This LP in particular is regarded by most who care as one of the best of their 23 skadillion 70s releases, and it's certainly my favorite. Nearly every song here is lively and catchy, and except for the sprightly instrumental "Bach Goes to Limerick" probably was written sometime around three centuries ago. Particular favorites include the nearly nine minute "Long Lankin", a grim tale of a murderer which is said to be "based on a true story" as the saying goes. It's got a haunting melody, and uses Prior's voice to its best advantage. Also, the opener "Little Sir Hugh", another dire tale of harm perpretated upon an innocent, gets a rocking treatment with strong harmony vocals; "Elf Call", which bops along agreeably; "Demon Lover", with a standout chorus; and the album's finale "New York Girls", mandolin-driven and lively, which features ukelele work from actor/comedian Peter Sellers, of all people, who gets to mumble a lot of nonsense at odd times as the song goes on. It works better than you'd think. I have to admit that a lot of Span albums bore me- but I did like their sound and formula enough to pick up about five of them over a "span" of years in the late 70s - early 80s...and I wound up liking two, maybe three cuts on each. It helped that they were easily found in cutout bins. Commoner's Crown is the one album I liked significantly more than the others.

For better or for worse, and even though he's gone on to do many interesting (and some not-so interesting- Family Affair, anyone?) roles, Curry will always be best known as the pansexual Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since he sang and strutted his stuff so well on stage and screen, a side career as a recording artist was a logical extension. See, J.Lo didn't invent that sort of thing. Anyway, his first album, 1978's Read My Lips had its highlights but suffered from lackluster material and a curiously laboured performace, even of the best songs. Plus, Curry downplayed his androgynous image on the jacket and in performances, which probably didn't thrill the Transylvanian record buyers too much. So when the time came to follow it up, he at least did one thing right- he chose material which lent itself to his leering, lascivious brogue, and cast it (with the help of Bob Ezrin associate/producer Michael Kamen and many of Alice Cooper's musicians at the time) in a sort of big, brash, bombastic funk-disco-rock setting which at least got the listener's attention, where Lips settled for tapping him/her on the shoulder. Best cut here is the weird reggae-funk-metallic "I Do The Rock" which gives us verses like

"Solzhenitzin, feels exposed/Built a barbed wire prison/Nietzsche's six feet under/But his baby's still got rhythm/Einstein's celebrating ten decades/But I'm afraid philosophy is just too much Responsibility for me/I do the Rock"

It's all very droll, but Curry has a large time and by the end of the song so does the listener. Other highlights include "Paradise Garage", another funky-metal type sendup of the 1979 Disco scene; "Hide This Face", in which he sends himself up with booming guitar breaks, and a decent mid-tempo cover of an obscure Joni Mitchell opus, "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire". Unfortunately, not much else sticks, but the album's worth a listen, if nothing else for the uproarious "I Do The Rock". Curry did one more album, 1981's Simplicity, which didn't improve on its predecessors aesthetically or commercially...and Tim wisely went back to focusing on his acting career. Not long after, we got Annie, Clue, Congo, and...well...he's stayed busy anyway.

More later, I promise!

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