The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

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Prof. Wagstaff
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:22 pm

Kyle Motor wrote:I'd always assumed that "Sweet Is The Night" was a well-known and loved song. I mean, why wouldn't it be?
Why wouldn't it be, indeed. But it ain't. It simply never comes up and I am baffled by that. Why it wasn't a single is beyond me.

Kyle Motor wrote: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.
See, to my ears, none of those are truly great songs. Most of them are good songs overburdened with goofiness and interlude passages which add nothing but running time. I can't stand the mariachi horns on "Border", I think "Jungle" is just plain awful, and "Wild West Hero" should probably have about 2½ minutes excised from it. I should definitely have given "It's Over" props, though. I can't entirely put my finger on why, but Out Of The Blue just doesn't work as well for me as a lot of their other LPs. I am well aware I am in the minority with that opinion, but I prefer Third Day and even Face The Music.

Kyle Motor wrote:Not to mention this album (and A New World Record) are both sonically incredible.
Agreed. Even the stuff I don't like in the songwriting sound great in the recording.

Kyle Motor wrote:You forgot about "The Diary Of Horace Wimp"! (I haven't heard this album in years)
Apparently, neither have I. "Wimp" isn't on my comp., so I didn't remember it. Checking it out now on YouTube isn't exactly making me feel like I missed a chance to mention a lost classic or anything. Some of it sounds like ELO does Manhattan Transfer. Oh, and shut UP, stupid vocoder!

Kyle Motor wrote: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 may be right. I really dislike the sound of this stuff so much I can't cut through the production to tell if the songs are actually OK. Sounds like the same issue I might have with the Lynne-produced Dave Edmunds records.

Kyle Motor wrote:You forgot to review the Xanadu soundtrack.
That's because I don't own it -- not even on vinyl.

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Re: Really, isn't every thread about David Crosby?

Postby dave esmond » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:37 pm

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


Me too.

But honestly it's the Fountains of Wayne version I grab when I want to hear it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV_cD2KKWfQ

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby dave esmond » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:40 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Kyle Motor wrote:I'd always assumed that "Sweet Is The Night" was a well-known and loved song. I mean, why wouldn't it be?
Why wouldn't it be, indeed. But it ain't. It simply never comes up and I am baffled by that. Why it wasn't a single is beyond me.


Count me also as not understanding this. Always liked it.

I'm gonna dig out some ELO tonight.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kyle Motor » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:42 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
Kyle Motor wrote:I'd always assumed that "Sweet Is The Night" was a well-known and loved song. I mean, why wouldn't it be?
Why wouldn't it be, indeed. But it ain't. It simply never comes up and I am baffled by that. Why it wasn't a single is beyond me.


The only reason I can think of why that song was held back (and it's not a good one) is that bassist Kelly Groucutt sings lead on the bridges. I don't know if or why that would make any difference.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby rrnate » Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:13 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:OK, time for some ELO. It's gonna be a long one...


First of all, I gotta say, the IDEA of ELO has always been a little more appealing to me than the actual thing. That being said, the actual thing is still pretty dang good.

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.[/quote]

I'm with mini on this one - this is a great song, and actually, it's probably my fav ELO song ever (though, granted I'm definitely not as familiar with the non-hits as you are). It's super deathless for me and I think it's pretty dang melodic; I'd guess the chorus is the part that really kills it for you, but to each their own. Anyway, I love it.

Prof. Wagstaff wrote: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. 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?


This is super interesting (at least to me) and I have some theories! I think it's a few different things:

a) Technology - I'm thinking that Jeff Lynne was a big tech nerd (obv.) and was using a lot of 'modern' stuff, and it just happened to be the same kinds of things (vocoders, synths, etc.) used by some of the more tech-savvy disco people (like, say Giorgio Moroder).

b) Influence - There were definitely disco-ish things going on by '72 or so - even if Lynne was first and foremost a rocker, I'd guess the contemporaneous influence helped shape some of the more disco things in their music. I think in '72/'73, it was still way more "philly soul" and there wasn't stigma with it the way there (ridiculously) is now.

Anywhoo, wow, I am glad you got to ELO - this is definitely going to lead me in to looking in to them more.

Also, can't wait for the extended ELP writeup.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:32 pm

rrnate wrote:First of all, I gotta say, the IDEA of ELO has always been a little more appealing to me than the actual thing.

This is funny to me, as I feel exactly the opposite. The idea of melding classical and rock music is a monumentally stupid and wrongheaded one, and it's amazing to me that it ever worked at all. It certainly didn't for ELP (and I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for me to do an entry about those idiots, unless you consider the following single-word review an "extended write-up": Ick.)

rrnate wrote:Technology - I'm thinking that Jeff Lynne was a big tech nerd (obv.) and was using a lot of 'modern' stuff, and it just happened to be the same kinds of things (vocoders, synths, etc.) used by some of the more tech-savvy disco people (like, say Giorgio Moroder).
I agree with all this, but I think it's ultimately the strings that give ELO most of its discoish inflection. And the particular style of orchestration employed by both Lynne and disco producers is very definitely a '70s thing. So I'm wondering who got there first and how much influence they had on each other. ELO was peaking in popularity right around the same time that disco was really revving up strong, so I'm mostly wondering if they were borrowing ideas from each other or if the similar sounds were just same strange confluence.

rrnate wrote:There were definitely disco-ish things going on by '72 or so - even if Lynne was first and foremost a rocker, I'd guess the contemporaneous influence helped shape some of the more disco things in their music. I think in '72/'73, it was still way more "philly soul" and there wasn't stigma with it the way there (ridiculously) is now.
I agree with all this, as well. The early strains of disco stretch back at least that far (and the word was around too -- discoteque even earlier). But Disco didn't become the dominant musical form until the late '70s, by which time ELO was already huge. Did they help usher in the era? Or did they benefit from the dance sound imitating/catching up with them? Or again, was it just some strange confluence of '70s sounds that really had nothing to do with each other from a creative perspective? (Final possibility: it was the string players themselves that contributed this sound. I find this immensely improbable, but hey, it could be, right?)

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby rrnate » Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:55 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
rrnate wrote:There were definitely disco-ish things going on by '72 or so - even if Lynne was first and foremost a rocker, I'd guess the contemporaneous influence helped shape some of the more disco things in their music. I think in '72/'73, it was still way more "philly soul" and there wasn't stigma with it the way there (ridiculously) is now.
I agree with all this, as well. The early strains of disco stretch back at least that far (and the word was around too -- discoteque even earlier). But Disco didn't become the dominant musical form until the late '70s, by which time ELO was already huge. Did they help usher in the era? Or did they benefit from the dance sound imitating/catching up with them? Or again, was it just some strange confluence of '70s sounds that really had nothing to do with each other from a creative perspective? (Final possibility: it was the string players themselves that contributed this sound. I find this immensely improbable, but hey, it could be, right?)


Yeah, the whole concept of trends in popular music really fascinate me, how it's a cool convergence of technology, popular players and styles influencing each other. I'd guess there IS some overlap in the string players that are on disco's worst hits and ELO's biggest string stuff - did Lynne do the arrangements for ELO? (I'd guess so.)

I mean, there are other trends too that have a similar chicken/egg thing. A comp that came out a couple years ago highlights a good, contemporaneous trend - "country funk". (http://www.avclub.com/articles/remembering-when-country-music-wasnt-white-conserv,92377/. I'd guess the big influence here is The Band, but even so, that's not the all of it.

I think there are modern kinds of things that'll be easier to see in the future, but happening right now. The big one that comes to mind is how rap/dance production has influenced modern rock sounds (more bass, more drums louder in the mix, etc.) - if we're still bothering with rock in 30 years, I'd guess that will be pretty noticeable the same way that the disco thread that's in so much rock from that era is. (Maybe a better example - shitty drum machines and super simple drum loops in rock from about 1999 to 2003.)

Anyway, in the case of ELO, I actually really dislike most of their disco stuff, though I like a fair amount of more straight-up disco. However, I really like most of the KISS-related disco.

ELP - yeah, that was just an alphabet joke. I'm not even sure if I know any of their songs, but just based on rep, figured it wasn't worth the time.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby minicat » Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:58 pm

If we're going to start blaming ELO for disco I'll have to go back to not listening to them*

Uh. I know I do not have A New World Record. Kyle has told me to pick it up, I don't think I ever have. I think all I have otherwise is the greatest hits and the mediocre first two albums, which by all rights I probably should purge.

*I know ELO can't be blamed for disco

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Marvell » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:05 pm

Somewhat off-topic, but wotthehell:

A little more than a decade ago I was recruited by my pal Spazz to be the ‘lead guitarist’ for his band (‘The Demo Suzuki Experience’) for a new band night gig at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. Those of you who have actually heard me play guitar know how hilarious this notion was.

Anyhoo – the band before us were a bunch of typical Bay Area tech nerds, with craploads of fancy gear and little boxes that had LED lights blipping away merrily. God I hated them.

They closed their set with a bouncy, cheery cover of “Sweet Talking Woman.” They were relentless in their mere competence; the idea of music being a source of political threat and personal resistance seemed to have never occurred to them. It was like punk never happened.

Then we came on, and were terrible, and had empty beer cups hurled at us.

Mission accomplished.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Marvell » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:06 pm

P.S. - "It's a Living Thing" was the high point of the Boogie Nights soundtrack.

You can only listen to "Magnet and Steel" so many times.

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Re: Really, isn't every thread about David Crosby?

Postby Kenneth Burns » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:13 pm

minicat wrote:Kenneth, do you mean Neil Young?

That was a joke based on a guy I knew in high school who thought Neil Young sang "Almost Cut My Hair." I can't believe no one got the reference.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Igor » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:56 pm

ELO was my first "favorite band". Unless you count a Carpenters album and K-tel's "Goofy Greats", the first two rock albums that I got were "A New World Record" and "Ole ELO".

One obvious thing is the fact that nobody is going to buy an ELO album for the lyrics. Even by rock standards they are pretty meaningless, and Jeff Lynne doesn't exactly enunciate. They essentially had to make it on the music only.

Looking back at the track listings now, I would have to say that my faves are probably Face the Music and Eldorado. The songs I liked were rarely the big hits, or even released as singles. "Poker" and "Down Home Town" from Face the Music, "Boy Blue" from Eldorado, the aforementioned "Sweet is the Night", the singles from On the Third Day.

I also want to speak up for Time. After the disaster that was Disco Very (and it really is very, very bad) , I had not intended to purchase Time, but hearing "Twilight" on the radio changed my mind. I think that the songs on there are as good as many of the others.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kyle Motor » Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:37 am

rrnate wrote:I'd guess there IS some overlap in the string players that are on disco's worst hits and ELO's biggest string stuff


Not likely. ELO had a stable of regular string players for recording and touring (usually 3, overdubbed multiple times on record). Unless those guys did session work on big UK disco hits.

rrnate wrote: - did Lynne do the arrangements for ELO? (I'd guess so.)


Yup, either him or keyboardist Richard Tandy. I read in an interview that Lynne would plunk out what he wanted for string parts on piano for Louis Clark (ELO's string & choir conductor) to transcribe, as Lynne didn't read music.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:40 am

Kyle Motor wrote:ELO had a stable of regular string players for recording and touring (usually 3, overdubbed multiple times on record).
This was true up to a point. By Out Of The Blue, at least, they were using a full orchestra for recordings. In the reissue liner notes, Lynne talks about squeezing 40 musicians into the tiny Musicland studio where he'd previously done what you describe. (Each member had to bring their own chair!)

Igor wrote:I would have to say that my faves are probably Face the Music and Eldorado. The songs I liked were rarely the big hits, or even released as singles. "Poker" and "Down Home Town" from Face the Music, "Boy Blue" from Eldorado, the aforementioned "Sweet is the Night", the singles from On the Third Day.
Nice choices, all.

And now, a short little update, filled with pleasant surprises...

The Electric Prunes -- I only have 1967's Underground plus a bunch of other tracks burned off a comp. I don't recall when I last jammed this and my memory was of a less-than-inspired psych act with little that stood out beyond the obviously great single, "I Had Too Much To Dream", which I hear regularly in other contexts. But jamming it this week, I was really surprised at all the little pleasures on this CD. The album proper is pretty consistently good and there were lots of great stray tracks from the comp. as well. Much more diverse than I'd remembered and a lot more fun to boot.
The lead-off track starts things admirably and the whole thing was generally fun. From the comp, I was very pleased at some of their pop turns as well as some of their stranger fare. Good stuff, and now I definitely want to explore more. So tell me what I've been missing, please.
Oh, also, there's this bit of hilarity.

The Elegants -- Everyone knows "Little Star", but again, I hadn't listened to this CD in a while and hey, it's really solid! Great white doo-wop; not a clunker in the bunch. They have a more complete compilation which is out-of-print, but it's been added to my wish list and I will definitely keep my eyes open for it down the road.
"Pay Day"
"Gettin' Dizzy"

Ellie Pop -- Their sole album is a delightful Beatles-inspired pop record (they're often described as psych, but I don't really hear that.) Slightly off-kilter songs with odd time signatures, great harmonies, this album might not hit you as much when you first hear it, but jam it a few times and I guarantee it will start to grow on you.
My fave track is the last.

All three of these CDs are perfect examples of why I undertook this project in the first place. When your collection grows as large as mine (and your memory is as bad) it's almost a guarantee that there is lots of great stuff sitting on your shelf awaiting rediscovery. The Ellie Pop I already knew I loved -- although I hadn't jammed it in a while -- but the Elegants and Prunes were very welcome surprises.

Which brings me up to Duke Ellington. And although I barely have a surface-scratching collection, I do have quite a lot (15 or so albums on CD, many of them multi-disc sets) so I'll be in jazz-land for a while. I really don't have the vocabularly or knowledge to do Duke justice, but I'll do my best, but it's probably gonna be a while before I check in again.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kyle Motor » Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:44 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Ellie Pop -- Their sole album is a delightful Beatles-inspired pop record (they're often described as psych, but I don't really hear that.) Slightly off-kilter songs with odd time signatures, great harmonies, this album might not hit you as much when you first hear it, but jam it a few times and I guarantee it will start to grow on you.
My fave track is the last.


That Ellie Pop album is great. Your fave track is actually a cover of a Hollies b-side, which itself is a cover of a Doris Troy single.


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