Top Fifty 38: NRBQ – s/t, 1969

[Originally posted July 2012]

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NRBQ – New Rhythm and Blues Quartet – formed in 1967 and brought out this debut eponymous album in 1969 on Columbia Records. It is an infectious, eclectic offering including covers of Eddie Cochran, Sun Ra and Brownie McGee/Sonny Terry.

The album starts with the brisk C’mon Everybody, essentially a straight rock’n’roll cover, but second track, the Sun Ra Rocket Number 9, immediately introduces the lively variation on this album, its jagged jazz rhythms delivered with dominant percussion, monotone vocals and Don Adams on trombone as the song launches into its discordant close. Third track Kentucky Slop Song is a rousing and comic Country pastiche, and this opening trio establishes the delightful diversity that so appealed when I first acquired the album in ’69 not knowing anything at all about the band.

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Fourth track Ida, written by band member Terry Adams and jazz composer/pianist Carla Bley, is the first ‘rock’ number in as much as this was the genre I was expecting in looking at the longhair photobooth snapshots on the album cover. The McGee/Terry track C’mon If You’re Comin’ is a wonderful and honest acoustic version, with fine harp playing by Terry Adams. Side one of the album closes on band member Steve Ferguson’s song I Don’t Know Myself, carrying its early Rolling Stones ballad echo with confidence.

Side two of the album begins with another Ferguson number Stomp, which according to the liner notes he introduces when playing for this recording as This is a tune ah wrote, itsa stompin’ song an’ ah hope it makes every one of you wanna do jes’ that, and the phonetic presentation accurately reflects the intonation and inflection of much of the singing, delivered again, for example, in next track Fergie’s Prayer where I can hear that similar modulation in the singing of Kings of Leon today. The album continues with another cover, the Cobb/Channel Hey! Baby, and it is Countrified rock of the best head-bobbing, foot-tapping kind. Side two closes with a Terry Adams’ jazz tune Stay With Me, a neat final stamp of the whole album’s eclecticism, though it must be stressed how simply and unpretentiously that has been represented.

For a band that was never that well known and who certainly didn’t produce ‘hits’, they have a substantial discography and devoted following, and though going not surprisingly through a number of personnel changes, they continue today.

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There is Always Grammar

Yesterday I posted the concrete poem Rules of Grammar – Always and Forever and this arose out of a long sequence I am currently writing of prose poems found in random themes/ideas and then crafted from further findings. I am playful, search for occasional lyricism and am beginning to run recurring threads through some.

The concrete poem was written as I considered using always and forever as grammatically ‘interesting’ in the following poem There is Always Grammar, but in the end didn’t:

always grammar

from ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth, here is a posting from my found poem sequence Novel Finds taken from Wuthering Heights:

Folly of Offending

We touched on topics
of the laconic kind –

auxiliary verbs,
relaxed pronouns –

and notwithstanding the discourse
would be a subject of interest to me,

his style of humour
was offending

since the consideration of this folly
was repetition.

Charmed

Winds
and bitter
northern
sickness;

bleak
country torture;

the terrible intimation
of the impassable
physiognomy,

and oh,
this dearth
out of doors,

till

a charming introduction
to a
human life!

Top Fifty 37: John Sebastian – The Four Of Us, 1971

[Originally posted August 2012]

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Tie-dye Thinking

The sunshine melodic folkpop of The Lovin’ Spoonful always appealed to me, and in particular the beautiful singing of John Sebastian. Songs like Do You Believe In Magic, You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Daydream, Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind, Summer In The City, Darling Be Home Soon, You’re A Big Boy Now, She’s Is Still A Mystery and Younger Generation are all classics of what the band termed ‘good-time music’.

My affinity for Sebastian was not thwarted by the tie-dye naivety of his 1969 Woodstock incarnation because I too believed in its multi-coloured imaginings of a better tomorrow, with John singing I dreamed we all were alright in his stoned and spontaneous performance, and invoking the communal spirit of peace and love in his philosophical as well as good housekeeping advice:  Just love everybody all around ya and clean up a little garbage on your way out and everything’s gonna be alright.

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The embodiment of this hippie nirvana was presented in Sebastian’s wonderful 1971 album The Four of Us and its title track suite that narrates fifteen minutes of quintessentially 60s/70s romantic love and hope. Side one rocks and rolls with Well Well Well, Black Snake Blues and Black Satin Kid, but it is the gorgeous folk of The Four Of Us on side two that caresses with its narrative of a hippie quest, a journey of self-discovery for John, then wife Catherine, and another couple Bart and Carolina Carpinelli.

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Sitting round a fireplace
We drew a smile across the States
We packed our truck with all our stuff
And four of us
Two to drive and two to sleep
Wrapped up in a rainbow sheet
And in the front my love will keep me
On the road and laughing

and thus begins the four-part central song cycle, interspersed with three various musical tangents: the Caribbean tones of Domenica with the Esso Trinidad Steel band, the Dr John assisted rock of Lashes LaRue, and the further sweet folk of Red Wing Colorado. Sebastian’s vocal is gorgeous in its earnest gentleness, and the central melody is one of his finest. I know it is twee and sentimental and, as I have already stated, naive. This is perhaps wholly embraced in the bland exclamation of Gee in the closing lines [!] but this is also the enduring charm of its wishful sincerity at a time when we all had the belief in such simple expectations and aspirations,

Yeah we finally made it home
And now the family’s on its own
Babies come and numbers grow
There’s more of us
Gee…we really miss those times
Seeing through each other’s eyes
Sure was nice

So here’s a little travelling song
Of talk that comes from dusk till dawn
So go and see and pass it on
Lest you miss it, lest it’s gone
Every lover keep your driver
On the road and laughing