Got The Fever

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Leo Sayer

Call this pick, for lack of a better term, one of my many, many ‘guilty pleasures’. Or, call it one of my flights of fancy, diggin’ into the carotid artery of an artist that others might not venture into - the pulsing montage of what an artist truly has to offer. Heck, even call it misguided.

Whatever – I’ve always dismissed even those closest to me when it comes to skinning and placing into view the naked, exciting marrow of what an artist has to offer. Not out of an elitist view (God knows I can get precipitously off the target), but rather that I prefer to see the artist as a complete offering, and not as an AM single. You all know that I’ve written about my compulsion to go beyond the chart placing as a means to judging an artist more than a few times before.

I offer Leo Sayer. One of the rarities among artists who made it big-top for a short slice of time on both his solid songwriting abilities, his ability to clutch and launch himself onto a piece of the top charts, and even his interpretation of someone else’s material, all allowing an entry into the vaunted Casey Kasem Top 40. The two following will focus on his collaboration and variation of an original.

Endless Flight
To me, this has similarities, hard to ignore, that rivaled Elton John at his “Yellow Brick Road” peak. Gilded strings, echoing, hallowed vocals and a damn good musical fornication experience as we listen. A musical high, a breathless trajectory enveloping us within its rich, warm score. Written by Andrew Gold.

Look around you
And tell me what you see
Are you afraid or is it me?
I hope we make it
I hope we don't fall in the sea

And it's gonna be an endless flight
Until we reach the ground tonight
Yes it's gonna be an endless flight I know
Like a flyin' bird in the night
The wind is strong but I hope I'm right
An' this is the end of this endless flight

The Show Must Go On
Lifted almost note for note, Three Dog Night had a smash with this Leo Sayer (and David Alexander Courtney) composed nugget. There are times that I feel that I am not able to decide which version I like better. Though the TDN version contains much warmer, and certainly more lush backing vocals, I am drawn back to Leo’s version for the banjo and the raw one-man feel show of the composition. I picture him on stage with the banjo, baggy pants, ‘banjo’ knees, face paint and floppy shoes, calliope backing. A contradictory front hiding just how lonely and monotonous his life in a circus is.

Baby, I wish you'd help me escape
Help me get away
Leave me outside my address
Far away from this masquerade

'Cause I've been blind Oh, so blind
I wasted time Wasted, wasted, all too much time
Walkin' on the wire, high wire
But I must let the show go..
I must let the show go..
I must let the show go..
I must let the show go on

Listen to them both. Passively bask in their glow. Be joyful for the originality and diversity. Be thankful for the Leo Sayer you may not have known.

Leo Sayer: Endless Flight
Leo Sayer: The Show Must Go On
From: The Very Best of ...

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I’m not as knowledgeable or as erudite in chart placement as say The Good DJ as to how high a track placed on Billboard. I’m more of a ‘feeling it’ listener for the time and place that the track takes me to, or the purest delight a track will continue to radiate despite its age or novelty. If I relish the song, I will be hard pressed to recant my feeling for it.

Though I do certainly profess my weakness for popular tracks, I have always been one of those who must play the offering (album, tape or CD) from start to finish most every time. I have always believed that this gives me a broad sheet with which to display the breath, depth and scope of an artist. I simply have to devour everything on the offertory platter.

I believe that is why I’m so stubbornly attached to the songs that were once so freely played when FM dominated the music world and which they now proudly categorize as the so-called ‘deep cuts’ when they want to throw us a bone on one of their special promotional weekends. And even then it’s not an expression of what went to the sinews of an artist or the time of release. I’m talking of the tracks that your friends would tell you that you must listen to in order to really know or appreciate the artist.

A case in point would be Donovan and his album ‘Barabajagal’. We know the stations will always pound ‘Sunshine Superman’ and ‘Mellow Yellow’ through the airwaves, but we never do hear the creeping foreboding of ‘Season Of The Witch’ which was a monster FM track so huge that it was included on the Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Steven Stills Super Sessions album and was also covered by Vanilla Fudge and countless garage bands. We also do not ever hear the Jimmy Page fuzz laced ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, or the wistful and elegant ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’ a track that was so indelibly identified with Donovan.

The man could surround himself with vaunted musicians (I also have recordings of him and McCartney together) and producers – Mickey Most being the one who produced ‘Barabajagal’. As well as being identified as a voice of the hippy and flower children movements, he could charge with lance and guitar very well thank you.

Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)
With the Jeff Beck band backing him up and Robert Plant on backup vocals you have a majestic mounting of holy musicians biting at the bit to swell forward.

Ingest the stuttering guitar riff and the rhythm that smoothes it out. This could easily be prolonged into a heaqvy middle eight jam, and longer, but is tastefully restrained and held just on the edge of madness. What a joy to hear the maracas and drums busy and bristling, spreading the paste that binds the track with rhythmic frenzy.

This is one song that I find myself wishing I could have seen live.

She came, she came to meet a man, she found an angel
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now.

He very wise in the herbal lore's, got young cure now
She came, she came to free the pain with his wild flower.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now,

True true, true true the song he sang her while the leaves cooked
Ting ting, ting little bell he rang her, sleepily she looked.
He filled, he filled a leather cup, holding her gaze
She took, she took a little sip while this song he sang:

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.

Superlungs – My Supergirl
This always seems to remind me of The Yardbirds, especially the intro – circa 'Still I’m Sad'. Phase effect vocal, fuzz lead riff and of course Donovan’s flowing acoustic. I can easily see this covered by someone along the lines of say, REM.

At only 2:42, it is short and sweet as they say. But, it’s a track that plays continuously time and again in my head after an occasional resurrection. You may find yourself humming the chorus absentmindedly after only a few plays.

You see this kind of chick in every town
Whenever there's a scene she's always hanging around
She's so naïve and innocent, stares at you with awe
She's only fourteen but she knows how to draw

She never gets involved with blowing her cool
She's too busy painting sky with her classmates in school
Teachers they ignore, they would if they could
She ain't quite grown up yet but her breathin's real good

Supergirl She's my supergirl and I love her

Donovan: Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)
Donovan: Superlungs – My Supergirl
From: Barabajagal [1969]

Well, after such a long introductory rant I guess the central point is that among all those albums or CDs that you own, are countless gems that lie dormant, waiting alongside the one or two tracks that you may have purchased the platter for in the first place. Do your musical inclinations a favor and spin the whole shebang.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Split Enz

Well. Apparently the maelstrom does indeed come to a conclusion. Ten months that led to a new W-2 designation, a new city and a new place of employment. Ten months through a triple whammy. And guess what? All’s well that ends well. And end well it all did.

Without my abnormally large music collection with me where I’ve had to stay during these past ten months, I’ve listened to whatever I happen to have previously stored on my computer. Although, truth be told, it’s significant all on it’s own. So, I’ve perused through gigs of tracks and had the joyful opportunity to revisit many times music that’s more valuable to me than many of my other possessions. Hearing Split Enz has been one of those joys.

I remember first hearing, and constantly playing, “I Got You” when it was an import only. I worked for a record distributorship in the Boston area and once in a while had the opportunity to work in one of their retail outlets. At the time, I worked in the only ‘cool’ record store in Harvard Square. Tons of vinyl with local celebrities and nationwide acts comng in to peruse. Big thrill for me back then.

Bigger thrill was that I had total control of what would be playing in the store and always relished digging on the import section and acting like a DJ. The above mentioned single was on ‘constant rotation’ when I worked there (along with The Stranglers, The Clash, Flash And The Pan, Siouxsie, Tom Petty, Tom Robinson, Angel City, Millie Jackson and way too many more to impress you with a petty list). When Split Enz came out with their fist few albums, I was all over them, and even during these past ten months I’m still smiling with their rock and pop.

So many of their tracks had a certain snap to them that just screamed “you’ll remember me long after this time period has ended”, and how true that is. “Shark Attack”, “What’s The Matter With You”, “I Wouldn’t Dream Of It” and “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” launch from the lobes immediately. But, they also could write a searing ballad.

I Hope I Never
For my record budget money, it’s going to be hard to enter the sphere from where this resides quite comfortably. Minor chords, swooning vocals, eloquent ivory playing and melodic string section make this an automatic high bar for musical aspirations. An easily chosen selection to accompany a fine single malt scotch matched with a rare, clear, breathtaking molestation of white stars against a calm, black sky.

Carefully chosen lyrics are the solder that melt tranquilly against the musical accompaniment. The libretto transcends teary-eyed sentimentality in favor of soul inspired facts of faith.

It should be possible I know
To see you without stress
But I can see I’ll have to go
I’m changing my address

My urge to cry, I have failed to conceal
Life – it’s no fun when you’re haunted
By the things that you feel.

I hope I never, I hope I never have to sigh again
I hope I never, I hope I never have to cry again

I’m for living while you can
I’m an optimistic man
I hope I never, I hope I never have to see you again.

One Step Ahead
Oh, that awful conundrum wondering if you’re doing the right thing. The wave upon swirling wave of ‘should I stay or should I go’ that sometimes pounds against your rock of fortitude and, of course, eventually over time erodes it down into the fine grainy sands that settle at the bottom of anguish.

The Finn Brothers certainly did justice to this palate of emotions when they recorded this to vinyl. To me, and perhaps only to me, it was tracks like this that set them apart back in the heyday, and continue to defy the common logic that they should be long forgotten along with their then contemporaries.

At times fee and flowing and at others, tense with uncertainties it becomes the accurate abettor to that uncertain riddle.

One step ahead of you
Stay in motion, keep an open mind
Love is a race won by two
Your emotion, my solitude

If I stop I could lose my head
So I’m losing you instead
Either way I’m confused
You slow me down, what can I do?
There’s one particular way I have to choose.

Split Enz: I Hope I Never
Split Enz: One Step Ahead
From: History Never Repeats (Best Of)

Though these both can be found on the above album, get more than a passing acquaintance of Split Enz by digging out the albums and digesting a thorough helping of these Aussie New Zealand greats.

A large thank you to those who for some unknown reason continue to support me though emails. I'm amazed and more than humbled by those who have never met me but have lifted me higher and higher. 'Pay It Forward' comes to mind.