Oh--You Mean Those Beatles
Cotton Mather: Kontiki (Deluxe Edition) (Star Apple Kingdom)
Pieced together in 1997 from impulsively conceived, doggedly recorded scraps of DAT and four-track by Austin mastermind Robert Harrison and a Memphis tape wizard who loved how Big Star the band was, Cotton Mather's second album caught the attention of some British Beatles fanatics d/b/a Oasis, who brought them over to open and even generated some U.K. sales. While allowing his vocal resemblance to "John Lennon with a Southern accent and a head cold," Harrison's extensive notes don't cite the Beatles much even though "My Before and After" resembles "Ticket to Ride" more than its supposed inspiration "(Reach Out) I'll Be There" and "Private Ruth" echoes "For No One" straight up. Harrison is no more a genius than Noel Gallagher, so though the lyrics aren't spaced-out gibberish or obvious pap, they're unequal to the music‑-which definitely beats, for instance, the last three songs on the first Big Star album, and even more remarkable, kind of makes you appreciate Oasis. (N.B.: I'm recommending the Deluxe because it's new and much cheaper, not because I expect ever to listen to its alternates and new ones for anything except the research I presume is now complete.) B PLUS
Oasis: Stop the Clocks (Sony BMG '06)
One of the many things I never got about this band was where the Beatles were. Where was the ebullience, the wit, the harmonies, God just the singing, and, uh, the songwriting? Cotton Mather made me understand that when Oasis say they love the Beatles they really mean they love the post-Help!, pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles. Since that span encompasses Rubber Soul and Revolver, many would say tally ho, but (a) not me 'cause I love the Beatles start to finish and (b) only if you're writing songs as good as, uh, "We Can Work It Out." Instead Oasis, meaning loudmouth bro Noel Gallagher, write songs that resemble "We Can Work It Out" in thickened texture and momentum but not depth or charm, then add arena size in the swagger of the drums and the bigged-up vocals themselves. This band-selected best-of‑-two discs lasting 87 minutes, like an old-fashioned double-LP except it's only 18 tracks‑-capture their sonic moment as fully as any freelance music historian needs. A 2010 package repeats 11 of these songs and adds 16 others‑-too many, I say. Also, it omits the opening "Rock 'n' Roll Star." If ever there were guys whose message to the world is summed up by an opener called "Rock 'n' Roll Star," it's these bigheads. B PLUS
As long as we're talking about record store finds, I'll mention that I read Mystery Train in the early 80s and then spent a good bit of time looking for Sly and the Family Stone's Riot. Coupla years later I was visiting my brother in San Francisco and he took me to Berkeley because he knew I'd like to go used record and book shopping there. First place we went into, staring right at me, was a clean copy of the original pressing. It was a nice grail/Greil moment for me...
I just looked at the inner sleeve, which has ads for a number of other Columbia records, including a collection of Malcolm X speeches and a Ray Stevens best-of.
Since we're talking about Radio City, it first showed up on my radar around 1982 when I got the Xgau 70's book. It was out of print by then so I searched every used record store for years.
Hi folks, seeing Oasis pop up so unexpectedly sent me to the compilation I made around the time Clocks was released. At the time I had deemed them so longer an affront and I couldn't get "Lyla" out of my head. I called the compilation "Signifying Nothing: Oasis 1994-2005" in honour of Xgau's quote for the Psychedelic Furs comp Should God Forget: A Retrospective "All it does is go around on its track and sound good--surprisingly good, considering how meaningless it is, and how inexorably it descends toward sounds-bad". Sums up Oasis pretty well too. Anyway, I dutifully hit the torrent sites and downloaded their entire discography including singles and B-sides and began wading and weeding. I came up with what I think is a pretty solid disc one and a difficult disc two that I've never been entirely happy with. Those 'Be Here Now" tracks are too fiching long...anyway, here goes:
1-Rock n Roll Star
2 - Live Forever
3 - Supersonic
4 - Cigarettes and Alcohol
5 - Slide Away
6 - Roll With It
7 - Whatever
8 - Don't Look Back In Anger
9 - Step Out
10 - Up In The Sky
11 - Hey Now
12 - She's Electric
13 - Morning Glory
14 - (It's Good) To be Free
15 - Champagne Supernova
16 - D'Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman
Disc Two - never truly completed but here are the tracks I have
The Hindu Times
My Big Mouth
Put Yer Money Where Your Mouth Is
Fade in Fade Out
Be Here Now
All Around The World
Yeah, I know, I left out Wonderwall..I've never liked that song although I once knew a girl who tried to convince me that it was about the Weeping Wall of Jerusalem...
Thanks Irene-I tried it. The message received said something about an
expired page, blah, blah, blah. I'll try again.
PS Could be I'm simply best represented by the avatar -as shown.
(knew more about the Dolls than any hair-metal outfit)
I agree with you ,Cam, that Rhino Records Chilton comp is pretty incomplete . I'm curious as to what you would program on your comp. Here is my list for 70's era solo Chilton:
1. The EMI song
2. Take me Home and make me like it
3. All the time
4. Singer Not the Song
5. Everytime I close my Eyes
6. She might Look My way(Elektra demo for Karin Berg)
7. Shakin the world (Elektra demo for Karin Berg)
8. My rival(Elektra demo for Karin Berg-prefer this to the Like Flies verson; I'm particularly fond of the farfisa sound on it.)
10. Can't seem to make you mine
11. The Summer Sun(Chris Stamey song produced and performed with Chilton)
12. Where The fun is (Chris Stamey song produced and performed with Chilton- both of these productions deploy some of pop deconstructionist methods I described earlier to beautiful effect and would probably be the last recorded evidence of Power Pop Era Chilton)
13. Holocaust live 1978 recorded with the Cossacks- kinda rockin version of the song-very different from the original
14. Past, Present and Future live 1978 recorded with the Cossacks(Shangri-las cover)
15. Baron Of Love 2
16. Rock Hard
17. Hook or Crook
Somewhere out there is a bunch of recordings made with Stamey and the Cossacks at Trod Nossel studios that were slotted for release on Ork Records that I am particularly interested in hearing but were somehow 'misplaced'. Among these recordings is a version of Handyman that was shelved due to the James Taylor version that was released around the same time. Anyone heard any of these recordings.
I hope all is well with everyone and look forward to reading your commentary!!
Radio City is my fave record of all time and, after reading all the cool comments, I'm eager to add my 2 cents into the mix. In regard to Chilton's guitar playing , I consider it to be the missing link between Reed/Morrison and Verlaine/LLoyd and later Malkmus/Kannberg style of playing/interaction . He managed to take the Velvet's angular/conversational minimalism in their more poppy/calmer moments (listen to Story of My Life or I'm Set Free) and transposed it to a single guitar and girded that with his love of British invasion music. (Speaking of which-Have you guys heard the Lesa Aldrige cover of Story of My Life- I believe Chilton is playing feedback guitar on it if I'm not mistaken)To me , the distance between Life is White or You Get What You Deserve and Venus De Milo or Elevation is indeed very short. I also think that Chilton was a deconstructionist at heart. As his career progressed, the records became more deliberately spontaneous and less planned out or composed . He honestly believed that the spirit of Rock and Roll was anarchic and untutored and records like Like Flies on Sherbert and The Singer Not the Song ep reinforce his commitment to this concept. Where the concept of deconstruction really applies is in Chilton's disregard to prevailing Arena Rock orthodoxy at the time these records were made. In this, his affinity with New Wave could not be more clearer- one can even interpret Chilton's motives as being a bit reactionary like many of his fellow punk/new wave compatriots. However, to these ears, Radio City strikes the perfect balance between respect for you elders and setting out on the new frontier with a tuning fork to the future.
Much as I love #1 Record, there is somewhat of a Crosby, Stills and Nash taint to some of the folkier songs on Side 2. Maybe, it's the arrangements-there is a version of Watch the Sunrise floating on the web from a '78 concert with Alex & The Cossacks that's much more compelling(kinda sounds like Murmur era REM IMO). Try Again sounds uncomfortably close to Isn't It a Pity for me to truly appreciate it- Bell would go on to perfect this type song on I Am The Cosmos .
Sister Lovers is where the deconstruction process takes full bloom and still bears remarkable results. Kangaroo was basically recorded on a dare with Dickinson prodding Chilton to take the full plunge into chaos. What's so interesting about this 'chaotic' record is how, in hindsight, the seemingly conflicting sounds and timbres seem orchestrated and dare I say it,fully realized . Pete Doherty would certainly learn a thing or 2 from this record.
I love it for many reasons, but perhaps most of all--the guitar!
I'll throw in my vote for Radio City as the easy best Big Star -- which bar Cam I'd've figured everybody around here thought -- because short of adequate detailed descriptors (like Wrens Pavement VU best Beatles 'tweens and the like, the sort of aural magic the Biggies conjured up defies imprisonment by English), I find it to be the most CONVINCING Big Star album. Turning up the ear focus, to me the teeny weenie boppy elements of #1 Record have always felt a little on the contrived side, whereas the arty fey baroquey aelements of thinner-than-the-rest Third have always rang a little too lightweight. Additionally, Chilton & his increasingly decreasing friends were always served best with a side of sarcasm; his straight-up sincerity only makes total sense for me when the melodies are supertriumphant, a la "El Goodo", so the meandery stuff on side two of #1 verges on the sorta-syrupy -- it's like much better Raspberries, which isn't good enough to beat rock 'n' soul paradise Radio City. And speaking of such stuff (syrup), for a record (3rd) that's supposedly all about quiet-storm/silent-sunlight subversion, "Blue Moon" epitomizes a throughline of sentimentality for which microscopic points oughta be docked. 3rd's music is hella (and often hellishly) beautiful, sure, but I know there's something to the fact that I find "I Am the Cosmos/You And Your Sister" considerably more harrowing than "Holocaust", and a far more (that word again) convincing evocation of strung-outitude than the boring (I said it!) "Big Black Car". (Now, "Dream Lover" outfreaks 'em all, but I don't count that one and neither should you! Where's your sense of discographical purity?!)
Pulp: "Disco 2000", I mean, "Underwear". Well, "Common People" of course.
Richard Thompson: "Keep Your Distance" or "I Misunderstood". But really, "Read About Love".
Pet Shop Boys: "Dreaming of the Queen", "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing", "A Different Point Of View".
Mekons: "Millionaire", "Wild and Blue", "Funeral", "Waltz", "All I Want".
Killer Shrews: "We Know Your Secrets".
Nick Lowe: "What's Shaking On The Hill", "All Men Are Liars".
Great list you got going here, lots of Beautiful South songs come to mind but I'll go with
#20. M People- "One Night in Heaven"
Although any early 90's Brit-pop mixtape should include some KLF.
Forgot Utah Saints "Something Good"
(ok I know these are 1998 and you said 90-97, so in that case put down one of these then...)
20. Radiohead- My Iron Lung or Just
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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