The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kenneth Burns » Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:43 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Dave Edmunds

What do you think of "Slipping Away," one of Edmunds' few hit singles? Takes me back to sixth grade and reminds me that there's not an act in the world Jeff Lynne can't turn into ELO.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:58 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:What do you think of "Slipping Away," one of Edmunds' few hit singles?
I too have fond childhood memories of that song (and seeing the video on MTV). There's no denying it's catchy and hooky, but the production leaves a lot to be desired to my 40-yr.-old ears. Apart from being drenched in cheesy synths, there's also the shitty '80s "drums", and the ridiculous vocal echoes. I'd love to hear a rock band cover it, 'cuz there's nothing inherently wrong with the actual song -- after all, Jeff Lynne was a heckuva songwriter (and I will be singing his praises in my ELO entry soon enough.) It's definitely better than the rest of the Lynne-produced Edmunds stuff (seriously, those albums are wastelands.) But it's not very representative of what made Dave Edmunds such a treasure. If you absolutely must listen to a badly-produced '80s Edmunds "hit" single (it went all the way to #91!), I'd recommend this one, from the Porky's Revenge soundtrack.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Igor » Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:58 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:reminds me that there's not an act in the world Jeff Lynne can't turn into ELO.


Yeah, Edmunds (and the Wilburys) were the most obvious, but not only, examples of that.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kenneth Burns » Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:10 am

Also an up-and-coming little combo known as the Beatles.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kyle Motor » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:38 am

I think you're being a bit harsh on the Lynne-produced Edmunds. A few months ago I got a copy of Information and quite liked it. It gets a bit synthy here and there, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Some of his self-produced albums have production quirks that are just as dated as anything Lynne did, it's just that Lynne producing has such a distinct sound. Honestly, I think most of his LPs are patchy, but the high points are uniformly excellent.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby dave esmond » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:58 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Duane Eddy -- I'm guessing some of my guitar-player friends will jump in to tell me how brilliant this stuff is, but beyond the obvious fact that Eddy is technically great, he didn't make very interesting records, IMHO.


Nope. Usually pretty dull. Much like Chet Atkins. Great players but often dull recordings.

Agree about Eckstine.

Only thing I'd add to Edmunds is this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCZAeGTa8Wk

Featuring the great Albert Lee on guitar. Another great player whose own records are often not very good. On this track he cooks.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:46 am

Kenneth Burns wrote:Also an up-and-coming little combo known as the Beatles.
Oh dear lord, I had kinda forgotten Lynne was partly responsible for the "reunion". I'm not a fan of his work with Harrison, and while the Wilburys made pleasant-enough music, I do find the production on those records pretty disagreeable. That said, not all of Lynne's productions are uniformly obnoxious. I think he did some great work with Tom Petty. "Free Fallin'" (which Lynne also co-wrote) is one of the most perfectly produced singles I've ever heard, although some of the other Full Moon Fever tracks he co-wrote are among my least favorite Petty singles: "Runnin' Down A Dream" and "I Won't Back Down" sound great, but they're pretty boring songs (there's other great stuff on the album, though, perhaps most notably the shimmery cover of "Feel A Whole Lot Better".) And Into The Great Wide Open, also produced and largely co-written by Lynne (and again containing a pair of boring Lynne-penned singles in "Learning To Fly" and the title track) is one of my least favorite Petty albums (probably second only to Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)).

Kyle Motor wrote:I think you're being a bit harsh on the Lynne-produced Edmunds. A few months ago I got a copy of Information and quite liked it. It gets a bit synthy here and there, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting.
I admit I haven't bothered listening to it in a dozen years or more but my memories of that and the 2nd Lynne-produced LP are of something truly wretched. Perhaps if a copy comes in stock in my store I'll give it another spin.

Kyle Motor wrote:Some of his self-produced albums have production quirks that are just as dated as anything Lynne did
My problem with Lynne's production isn't "datedness", it's (as a good friend used to say) "all the damn spaceships everywhere". It's not really a question of sounding "dated" when you were the only one to ever really do something in the first place. Yes, Edmunds albums have quirks, but they're his quirks, and I (mostly) find them endearing. Either way, the real difference between the self-produced albums and the Lynne-produced albums is the quality of material, which is far, far better on the former.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:36 am

OK, time for some ELO. It's gonna be a long one...

Before we get started, though, everyone should get in the mood by listening to this amazing, fantastic deep cut. And I mean DEEP. Buried as the kick-off track on Side 3 of their generally most-beloved album, I've never heard anyone else give this incredible confection any props whatsoever (unless I brought it up first.) The 2007 remaster liner notes namecheck every other song on the album but mention this one not at all. This is a travesty.

OK, now that I've got that out of the way, let's begin:
I love ELO. I have loved ELO for as long as I can remember (and I mean that quite literally.) But I am by no means unaware of their cheesiness and flaws. You really have to claw through the goofy to get to the gold with these guys. I have their complete discography from their first LP through Out Of The Blue (I swear I owned Discovery on CD at some point, but if I did, it's MIA.) It is by no means solid, but the joys are many and great. That said, things sure get off to a sloooooow start.

The initial Electric Light Orchestra album from 1971 (mistakenly titled No Answer in the U.S., because nobody answered the phone in England when the American record company called to find out what the album was called) is pretty dire. Which is weird. It's the only LP with major input from Roy Wood, one of my pop music heroes, the man most responsible for The Move and the man who, after his brief flirtation with ELO went on to form the also-magnificient Wizzard. And while the album is successful in its goal of reproducing and expanding upon the sounds of Abbey Road-era Beatles, what few decent songs are here are bogged down in lots of unnecessary padding and pomp. This would remain an issue throughout ELO's run. This album also marks the beginning of great ideas ripped off better by others. Just listen to the beginning of "10538 Overture" (which is mostly not-so-great) and then check out Cheap Trick's "Downed" (which is totally fucking awesome.)

After Wood became disenchanted with the project and left it to Jeff Lynne exclusively, things did not immediately improve. ELO 2 is even worse than its predecessor. Songs going on way too long, orchestral passages which have no bearing on and do nothing to illuminate the pop song at the core, and just a general lack of good ideas mar the record irrevocably. ELO's worst tendencies have never been on better display than in their truly execrable version of "Roll Over Beethoven" which is an insult to Chuck Berry, Beethoven, and the listening public in about equal measures. Deplorable.
I have the first two albums on this overstuffed set and it really is pretty useless. Alternate takes which don't differ much add nothing of interest, nor does an alternate mix of the first album. The only music on here I truly enjoy is "Showdown", which will show up again in better company on On The Third Day.

Third Day is a vast improvement, but still suffers from Lynne's insistence on preceding virtually every song with an unnecessary orchestral opening and peppering songs with interludes that make no sense and are just excuses to show off that yes, he has an orchestra. The aforementioned "Showdown" is an example of when he gets it right -- the strings really add to the song and they're used tastefully (or at least as tastefully as anything related to ELO could be described) and don't seem like they're just a pointless gimmick. Elsewhere, they channel Paul McCartney superbly and really rock it up on "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle". But take a song like "Oh No Not Susan" which is another beautiful, Beatles homage (this time, more Lennony.) Yet, what purpose is served by the intro, particularly the idiotic orchestral runs starting at 0:20? This kind of nonsense will plague ELO for their entire run. Also of note, Third Day has one of the only worthwhile bonus tracks of any of the remastered CDs, the fantastically Dylanesque "Everyone's Born To Die".

Eldorado is probably as all-out proggy as ELO ever got. Ostensibly a concept record, but does anyone ever really care about such concepts? Not this listener. I prefer Third, but this one's fairly solid, with a few standout deep cuts: The Kinksish "Poor Boy (The Greenwood)" and the rollicking "Illusions In G Major". Jeff Lynne would continue mining early rock and roll for inspiration, and it is most welcome (and is the only post-Discovery stuff I still enjoy.) The worst track here: "Can't Get It Out Of My Head". What a dreary, unpleasant slog, and easily my least favorite ELO single from their classic period.

Face The Music is another improvement. The hit "Evil Woman" (and yes, the big hits are often the best things on ELO records) really hits the stride of effectively grafting the orchestra onto a pop record and while the standouts aren't as great as the previous two records, the LP holds together better as a whole.

Which brings us to A New World Record, the one unimpeachable triumph in the ELO catalog. Fantastic stuff. "Telephone Line" is one of their best singles (and one of the only times that Lynne employs a cheesy vocal effect that makes sense and totally works), "Do Ya", a reworking of The Move song, is more pleasing to my ears than the original (which is still awesome), and even a lesser single like "Livin' Thing" still shines. "Rockaria!, the disco-ish "So Fine" and "Tightrope" are further highlights, but really, this whole album is pretty amazing.

And then there's Out Of The Blue, widely hailed as the band's best, but to my ears, a decided step down. Like most double LPs, it's padded with filler (none more obviously so than the ridiculous "The Whale") and, apart from the string of great singles -- "Turn To Stone", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Mr. Blue Sky" (but oh, that damn vocoder! Seriously, why has anyone, anywhere, ever thought that sounded good?) -- mostly uninteresting to me. But man, "Sweet Is The Night" is great enough to warrant its inclusion in any complete record collection and "Birmingham Blues" is a pretty pleasurable romp, only marred by those nonsensical string additions I've already railed about at length.

Since I can't find my Discovery album, I can't give it a proper review here, but needless to say, "Don't Bring Me Down" is one helluva great single. "Shine A Little Love" embraces disco whole hog like they'd never done before. "Confusion" slathers on the keyboards and spaceships to drown what might have been an OK song. "Last Train To London" is just bad.

I'm pretty sure I've never listened to Time in my life and after that, what remaining ELO records exist are purely contractual obligation affairs. I have a CD of leftover tracks which includes all the above-mentioned Discovery tracks plus some later stuff, of which, only a handful are of any interest to me. "Hold On Tight" is pretty great, if you can get past the horrible '80s drums. Ditto "Rock 'N' Roll Is King". Don't get me started on "Calling America" though...

Final thought for Foronic contemplation: I have always wondered to what extent disco and ELO influenced each other? And in which direction? There's no denying the discoiness of many ELO tracks, going back as early as '74, when disco was barely a blip on the dancefloor. Yet ELO certainly didn't make dance records -- Lynne forever remained a rock'n'roller and a pop composer in the Beatles vein. So did disco producers have their ear to ELO? Or was Lynne pandering to the disco market? Or was it just a sound that was born of the very decade itself, and would have flourished whether ELO and Gamble-Huff had never existed?

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kenneth Burns » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:11 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:"Hold On Tight" is pretty great, if you can get past the horrible '80s drums.


"Hold on Tight" made me a coffee achiever. Me and Kurt Vonnegut. Me and Kurt Vonnegut and Cicely Tyson.

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And Ted and Alice...

Postby Marvell » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:21 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:Me and Kurt Vonnegut and Cicely Tyson.


And Marlon Brando and Pocahontas.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Marvell » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:25 pm

...I love their "Mr. Blue Skies"
Almost my favorite is "Turn to Stone"
And how 'bout "Telephone Line"?
I love that E.L.O.


- Randy Newman, "The Story of a Rock and Roll Band"

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Re: And Ted and Alice...

Postby Kenneth Burns » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:38 pm

Marvell wrote:And Marlon Brando and Pocahontas.

Dude, this isn't a thread about David Crosby.

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Really, isn't every thread about David Crosby?

Postby minicat » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:43 pm

Kenneth, do you mean Neil Young?

As for ELO: I've had several copies of Out of the Blue over the years, including a deluxe one with all the inserts that Kyle gave me. But I keep dumping it, since it's a regular dollar bin denizen. I think I may finally be coming around on it after the latest pickup, though.

also: I like "Can't Get it Out of My Head." Not sure why that one sets you off so much, Wags.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:56 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:"Hold on Tight" made me a coffee achiever.
This is fucking hilarious. Thanks so much for posting it.

minicat wrote:I like "Can't Get it Out of My Head." Not sure why that one sets you off so much, Wags.
Because it's a gloomy, unmelodic slog (sorry to repeat myself, but "slog" is the word that best describes it. And it's the only classic-era hit that didn't make the cut on the ELO mix I made during this week's wig-out.) I'm certainly glad you enjoy it, though -- anything that's a gateway to greater ELO appreciation is ultimately a good thing. What else do you know/have? In particular, do you know A New World Record? 'Cuz it's much, much better than Out Of The Blue (or anything else they recorded), IMO.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kyle Motor » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:02 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Before we get started, though, everyone should get in the mood by listening to this amazing, fantastic deep cut. And I mean DEEP. Buried as the kick-off track on Side 3 of their generally most-beloved album, I've never heard anyone else give this incredible confection any props whatsoever (unless I brought it up first.)

I've been in love with Out Of The Blue since I pilfered my sister's copy when I was about 5. I'd always assumed that "Sweet Is The Night" was a well-known and loved song. I mean, why wouldn't it be?

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:But man, "Sweet Is The Night" is great enough to warrant its inclusion in any complete record collection and "Birmingham Blues" is a pretty pleasurable romp, only marred by those nonsensical string additions I've already railed about at length.


I like the strings on "Birmingham Blues", but as I said I've been listening to this for so long that stuff is engrained. So many great songs on here; "It's Over", "Across The Border" (mariachi trumpet solo!), "Night In The City", "Jungle", "Summer and Lightning", "Wild West Hero".....not a perfect double-LP (is there one?) but damn that's a lot of high points. Not to mention this album (and A New World Record) are both sonically incredible. I never get tire of listening to these.

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Since I can't find my Discovery album, I can't give it a proper review here, but needless to say, "Don't Bring Me Down" is one helluva great single. "Shine A Little Love" embraces disco whole hog like they'd never done before. "Confusion" slathers on the keyboards and spaceships to drown what might have been an OK song. "Last Train To London" is just bad.


You forgot about "The Diary Of Horace Wimp"! (I haven't heard this album in years)

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:I'm pretty sure I've never listened to Time in my life and after that, what remaining ELO records exist are purely contractual obligation affairs. I have a CD of leftover tracks which includes all the above-mentioned Discovery tracks plus some later stuff, of which, only a handful are of any interest to me. "Hold On Tight" is pretty great, if you can get past the horrible '80s drums. Ditto "Rock 'N' Roll Is King". Don't get me started on "Calling America" though...


Time isn't too bad, but it's where the synths go from being tastefully balanced to overbearing. "Twilight" is a great song. I don't think I've listened to Secret Messages since I was a kid, I remember liking it then, who knows now. And hell, I like a few songs on Balance Of Power, despite the 1986 production style I don't care for. "So Serious", "Send It", and damn it "Calling America" are all good songs.

You forgot to review the Xanadu soundtrack.


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