Saturday, July 24, 2021

1971: Aqualung


purchase [ Aqualung ]

My parents were serious amateur musicians. My dad directed a vocal choir of 40+ and an orchestra of 25+ in twice yearly concerts of religious music (The Dutch Chapel Choir). They  took voice lessons and, of course, got their progeny started on the right path: starting the four of us off with recorder (=blockflut) lessons for all starting at about age 7. It meant I could at least rudimentarily "read" music. I moved on the the "regular" flute and made a stab at the trombone before I segued to the guitar.

With a portable reel-to-reel tape device, I recorded a few improvizational flute and clarinet pieces with a classmate back in '69. (Wish I had them to look back on! I recall they werent too bad for a 14 year od)

'69 turned to '71 - finding me now in boarding school 1000's of miles away from parental supervision - but music was still at the forefront of my mind. One of my first independant actions was to buy a "stereo". But, owning and operating a record player involves feeding the beast. As such, I was lucky to be at the end of a Reading Railroad line that landed me about 2 blocks away from the train station in Philly- I want to think it was Tower Records that was right next to the station but my memory is hazy and it doesnt really matter. It was a 60 minute train ride, the place was stocked with everything and the prices were... competitve (I recall ~$10.00 per album in 1971). My collection grew rapidly.

As I noted previously, my first LP came with the stereo I purchased: Who's Next. (also 1971) I would be hard pressed to lay out the sequence of the expansion of my collection, but Aqualung must certainly have followed soon after. More likely it would have been Benefit first. Flute and rock, after all. By this time, I had all but lost interest in furthering my flute skills. I was more into listening than performing.

In general, Jethro Tull - for me - was and is still a little too grungy. In fact, the imagery associated with Aqualung calls up a fair amount of disgust (snot running down his nose .. Ian Anderson's strandy matted hair ...) But Benefit and Aqualung  contain some of the best of 71's music. While Ian Anderson may be the better known face/name of the band, as an amateur musician who has since gravitated to the guitar, I wouldn't want to overlook Martin Barre's sizable contribution.

Aqualung, in some ways in alignment with my remarks about 1971's Yes and Genesis, is conceptual and a reaction/disillusionment with a crumbling belief in traditional religion (ah.. back to my parents again). Barre himself has commented that Anderson got credit despite their collaboration: "I've done bits and pieces on albums.Sometimes it's a riff, sometimes it's a little segment of music..." Mark Knopfler, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai credit him as an influence.


Locomotive Breath

Thursday, July 22, 2021


Right, Seuras, some positive stuff today, if you will, put a spin into a 1971 we can celebrate rather than bemoan. And, you know, that much I think I can do, having the very idea for a cracker! Less who died in '71, more who was born! Good, eh? So then, musicians born 1971, Siri, what you got for me? Oh, dear. Oh, very dear, with apologies to those who appreciate the sounds of rap, it seeming a very good year for those wrapped in that flavour, with legions of artists emerging from the wombs of their mothers that year, if seldom of the same name. Mrs Dogg? As well as, dauntingly, a fair few who haven't made it this far. Here's one I covered previously. But, there is one artist I am only too keen to showcase, 49 until today. So, happy birthday, Alison Krauss!!

The above song was the first I ever heard by this superlative performer, remembering both the Foundations original and the one by Clive Gregson's Any Trouble, that being sufficient to have me order the excellent early retrospective collection of Ms. Krauss, 'Now That I've Found You; a Collection'. From then I was well near hooked, as she pumped out solo albums and Union Station albums, the alternation being written into her contract, as well as popping up on any number of side projects and guest appearances. 'O, Brother Can You Spare a Dime'? Of course. Tributes to the Louvin Brothers, the Everly Brothers and, FFS, the Moody Blues? Check. Soundtracks? Come on down, 'Bambi II' and, perhaps a tad more memorably, 'Cold Mountain'. Couping, along the way 17 Grammy awards, the highest of any female performer, the 4th highest of any sex. All this despite a bout with dysphonia, that pervasive condition usually only affecting the partners of Fairport Convention players, perhaps brought on by her most widely known work, 2007's 'Raising Sand', that being alongside Robert Plant, known to like a bit of Richard Thompson.

OK, that was a pretty contrived way to draw the smoke toward 'Raising Sand', especially as it was the Krauss free "follow-up", with Patti Griffin,  that included a RT song, but, any which way. this was an astonishing record, bringing her to the attention of an audience unfamiliar with her voice, her name or her preferred genre. Their voices meshed in together with wonder, and the follow up remains on the cards, when the busy pair can find the time.

In this paean of praise, I think it important also to raise the flag for the rest of the band, in those band projects, as Union Station, the band,  are no shrinking violets, with premier league members, notably Dan Tyminski and dobro giant Jerry Douglas, the head honcho, along with Shetland fiddler, Aly Bain, of the yearly celebration of the Transatlantic Sessions. Indeed, given Krauss has little to no songwriting presence, it is often to members of the band, present and erstwhile, she has turned to for material, past and present members coming up trumps.

HB2U, Ms. Krauss.
Treat yourself.