Posts Tagged ‘The Zombies’

Astounding songs on atrocious albums, part 1
The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle (1967)

Britpop Invaders The Zombies have reunited! They’ve recorded a new album. They went on tour. They came to Portland! I considered going until I read that they had hired extra musicians so they could play their final album of the ’60s, Odessey and Oracle, from start to finish.

Rock critics routinely refer to Odessey and Oracle as a neglected masterwork. It is not. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not that. Odessey and Oracle is like psychedelia and bubblegum trapped in an abusive relationship. The first 11 tracks lack depth, bite, and interest. Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” Strawberry Alarm Clock’s cover of “You Keep Me Hanging On,” and even The Lemonpipers’ “Green Tambourine” are better. I’d rather listen to the drum solo in Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (baby).

However! Odessey and Oracle has 12 tracks. That’s one louder than 11. The 12th track is “Time of the Season.” In any library of the best songs of the ’60s, “Time of the Season” is part of the core collection.

If The Zombies had promised to play “Time of the Season” 12 times, I might’ve gone to their stupid show.

Astounding songs on atrocious albums, part 2
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Nancy & Lee (1968)

Nancy Sinatra will always be revered for recording “These Boots Are Made for Walking” and for posing in Playboy at the age of 55.

(Taking her clothes off was the only way she could get people to pay attention to her first album in 25 years. That says much more about the music business than it does about her.)

Lee Hazlewood produced “These Boots” and other hits for Nancy. He produced many artists, wrote hit records, recorded obscure records mostly to satisfy himself, and was by all accounts a man who went his own way.

In 1968, Sinatra and Hazlewood capitalized on their success together and recorded Nancy & Lee…one of the worst records I have ever heard. It sold a million copies in its day, which only demonstrates that people in 1968 were nuts.

The album begins with a cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Based on the evidence presented here, I don’t believe Nancy and Lee ever had a loving feeling to lose. I don’t believe they’ve even met before.

The album proceeds from this point in a countrified direction, which Lee is suited for but Nancy is not. When she sings “Alabam” for “Alabama,” she doesn’t sound like a country girl, she sounds like a carpetbagger.

“Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman” doesn’t notice the Vietnam War and riots in the streets, “Lady Bird” is not about the First Lady, it’s about a bird, and Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, they trample Johnny and June Cash’s signature duet, “Jackson.” You got married in a fever? You did not!

The sole reason to listen to Nancy & Lee is “Some Velvet Morning,” a psychedelic journey starring Phaedra, an ancient Greek god who is really into nature. It was written by Hazlewood (in 2007, he recorded a duet of this song with his granddaughter…Phaedra) and sung memorably by both of them.

What’s it about? I hope it about made them a lot of money. Is it good? Applying words such as “good” or “bad” to “Some Velvet Morning” is as futile as resisting the Borg or waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series. “Some Velvet Morning” stands alone. There’s nothing like it in the popular music of the 1960s. Should we celebrate or mourn that fact? No one can say.

Every year in this country, this hemisphere, this planet, there is a 20-year-old DJ at a college radio station who slaps this record onto a turntable and says, “You gotta hear this!” That’s how I heard “Some Velvet Morning” the other day, and for three minutes and 39 seconds I was right there with her. Yeah. You gotta hear this.

Astounding songs on atrocious albums, part 3
The American Breed, Bend Me, Shape Me (1967)

This series could go on forever, like the line for the bathroom at a rave. I’ll stop with “Bend Me, Shape Me.” Aside from this song, the only reason to pay any attention to this band is that two of the Breeders went on to play in Rufus. Which means they knew Chaka Khan. I’m not worthy!


Yanking the page

I’ve written about typewriters before, particularly how you had to cut your manuscript with scissors and tape it back together if you had a big idea in the late innings and wanted to rearrange your plot.

These days, of course, rearranging your writing is so simple and quick that you can do it at the merest flick of an idea and then change it again and save your file and then doubt what you did and get lost in your changes until the Undo command is no longer helpful. What technology gives us with one hand it subverts with the other.

So it was today with Chapter 5, in which a group of my characters (and you, the reader) take a ride on my railroad. This is my setting and I want to make sure readers can follow the action as my book lurches forward. But Chapter 5 was beginning to extend itself as if Ken Burns was making an award-winning series about trains, minus the awards.

Using the power vested in me by cut and paste, I broke the chapter up and suddenly found myself in the middle of Chapter 6. Then I broke it again and found myself in the middle of Chapter 6 with the beginning of Chapter 7. I then asked myself, well, how did I get here?

I don’t know, but I decided, for the purpose of this Write-a-thon, to give up on my desire to get everything right the first time and just write the damn story. I can go back six weeks from now and create cliff-hanging chapter endings involving snakes at the bottom of a pit or the wrong people in the same bunk. My guess is that I have 25 chapters to write and I’d dearly love to break into double digits soon.

That’s today’s report on the Clarion West Write-a-thon. (Here’s the link if you’re interested in who’s teaching at Clarion this year. The Class of 2013 is in the middle of their first week.)

Random Pick of the Day
Get the Blessing, Oc Dc (2011)
This jazz album is so-so, to my ears, although lots of it sounds like old-school soul or early-’70s funk. Know who would be right at home on this disc? Classic Rock instrumental dude Dennis Coffey (“Scorpio,” “Taurus”).

I’m recommending this album solely for the title track. I’ve played “Oc Dc” every day for a week! I love hand-clapping. If you don’t love dissonance, you’ll exit at 1:39.

Random Pan of the Day
Orpheus, Orpheus (1968)
The two male singers in Orpheus weren’t The Righteous Brothers, Jan and Dean, or even Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. This never stopped non-singers like Sonny and Cher, and sure enough, Orpheus produced one chart success, “I Can’t Find the Time to Tell You,” a barely passable mix of psychedelia and bubblegum.

The rest of Orpheus ain’t much. Their assault on The Left Banke’s “Walk Away, Renee” cannot be forgiven. But I liked how they almost turned The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” into a lounge act, particularly the drumming and the bass solo underneath the nonsense syllables. I rated Oc Dc as a Pick based on one song, but Orpheus, based on one song, didn’t charm me.