Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Vanilla Fudge - "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

I only got clued into the fact that the great Vanilla Fudge has been again lurking around for the past decade-and-a-half because Little Steven's (always excellent) Underground Garage station on SiriusXM recently started playing their brilliant cover of "I'm A Believer" from 2012. So I started snooping around on this Fudge stuff and yes, they've been putting out albums (one is all Led Zep covers!) and have even maintained a pretty good ratio of band members being founders vs. ringers. The "I'm A Believer" cover is from Spirit of '67, which harkens back to the sound of the original Fudge album from (yes) 1967 - weird, heavy covers of pop songs.

This reformed Fudge's first release was The Return from 2002, which weirdly had them covering songs from their past (which makes them covers of their covers.) But it also had their takes on songs by 'N Sync and The Backstreet Boys, and if I knew any music by 'N Sync and The Backstreet Boys, I'd be a hell of a lot more excited about this. The album's ending track is a heady Fudge move: They run through "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?", which drummer Carmine Appice co-wrote with Rod Stewart back in 1978. Considering the horridness of the original*, the Fudge must be applauded by turning it into a seven-plus minute disco-metal gem. It's just as dumb as the original, but for all the right reasons.

*"And after thinking about what's in there that does appeal to so many people and why, is when you wanna make plans to leave the human race." - Lester Bangs

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Kansas - "Carry On My Wayward Son"

At a client on Friday they were playing a Spotify classic rock station. We heard most of the usual suspects and had a moment of serendipity: Creedence Clearwater Revival followed by The Hollies' Creedence ripoff/homage "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress". But I was disappointed to not hear a couple of Midwestern AOR oldies-but-goodies:

1) Head East - "Never Been Any Reason"
2) Kansas - "Carry On My Wayward Son"

I mean if "Carry On My Wayward Son" came on, I was prepared to initiate a big rap session on whether it was about Jesus or Icarus. (Don't snicker, it woulda added some life to my time spent reconciling that PayPal account!) (Oh and hey PayPal: put on your big boy pants and add genuine MONTHLY STATEMENTS to your options. C'mon, be a true pal.) Also: Would an Icacus song infringe on Led Zeppelin's trademark?

I tracked The Best of Kansas last week, and can hear the peanut gallery already: "Hey Tuomala - That anthology shoulda been an EP! Just like Badfinger's shoulda been! 'Carry On My Wayward Son', 'Point Of Know Return', 'Dust In The Wind', and 'Hold On'. That's it!" I would have agreed just ten days ago, but for some reason suddenly I have a soft spot in my heart for Kansas, who I honestly had not given much thought to over the years. While I have not delved outside of The Best of Kansas, there is just enough there to keep me intrigued. For instance, "Song For America" proves that Kansas could be just as pretentious as the UK progressive bands they emulated*. You might want that one around just to show anybody who thinks eighties product "Fight Fire With Fire" is typical Kansas and you want to show what these guys were up to before airplay became the valued prize. (Surprised the drive for airplay took so long, considering these guys were on the Kirshner label. You'd think the man behind The Archies** would have urged them to shorten the songs, punch up the sound, and go for gold and platinum records.)

And if you're looking for an excuse - and I am, as I am currently tracking The Best of Kansas again with Tullamore Dew and it's getting to be a slog - to not look into any of the Kansas catalog proper, consider the groaner plays on the English language made with a couple of album titles: Point of Know Return and Leftoverture. Makes you wish the discography instead read Kansas, Kansas II, Kansas III, Kansas IV, etc. Wikipedia "research" shows that Kansas original member/guitarist/songwriter Kerry Livgren became a Godboy born again, started the Christian rock*** band AD, and they had an album titled Art of the State. You can guess who had been in charge of the Kansas album titles during their heyday. Some things a baptism just does not fix.

So I'm still playing The Best of Kansas on shuffle and I just forced iTunes to play "Carry On My Wayward Son", which I almost typed as "Carry On My Wayward Song". (Dammit Livgren!) All I can write before I sign off and blast this tune again on headphones is: If you're gonna listen to one vaguely Christian, leans-towards-progressive Midwestern band with chops, clean production, and a staid Geographic Rock name, it's gotta be Kansas right?

* Early in the next decade, Styx would release an allegory about America, Paradise Theater, upping the pretentious ante. And you thought the Midwest was just boogie bands and power pop.

** Just came up with a mid-seventies Archie comics storyline where Reggie steals Kansas's idea for a concept album and presents it to looking-for-a-change members of The Archies band. Andy Kim, meet Rick Wakeman …

*** "She comes home from church / She takes off her pants / That's what I like about Amy Grant" - The Young Fresh Fellows