Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 10. 23rd May 1973
"Holland" — The Beach Boys
"Holland" is the album the Beach Boys have been threatening us with ever since "Pet Sounds". The vocal and instrumental complexity that marked that album, and which reappeared briefly on "Sunflower and "Surf's Up" has returned, justifying a long-held belief, bolstered by the fact that rock pundits paid undue attention even to the group's blunders, that the Beach Boys were capable of producing a superb album. Through 10 years of recordings the group has struck with their own sound, which, while remaining distinctive, has shown a remarkable capacity for growth and "Holland" is the full blooming of that style's potential.
In deference to the influence that Brian Wilson has had on the group, "Holland" opens and closes with two songs that he co-authored: 'Sail On, Sailor' and 'Funky Pretty' — both incline towards a type of baroque chamber rock and are prime examples of his art.
Besides that, each member of the group has contributed at least one song, outstanding among which is the single, 'California', penned by Alan Jardine, which comprises the third section of the California Trilogy, the album's centrepiece. It incorporated everything good the Beach Boys have ever done: from the shattering introductory harmonies (Get out of the way Crosby, Stilles et all: let real professionals show you how it's done!) to the tasty banjo-pedal steel- banjo meshings right down to the solid rhythm patterns.
Fine as "Holland" is, however, I do have reservations, not the least of which is about the heavy-handed quasi-poetic recitation that fleshes out 'Bears of Eagles'. The other is that some of the lyrics don't quite slot in with the music comfortably, a trait continued from "Surf's Up", but these are really only minor consideration within the album's conceptual framework.
Also included with the package is a seven inch tripper's fairy tale, written by Brian and narrated by Jack Rieley, the group's manager. It's o.k. if you like that sort of thing, but a bore if you don't. Brian's incidental music is interesting though.
War: "World, is a Ghetto" — V.A.
Eric Burdon declared War several years ago. Now he has left them and the Band comprising seven members have released 'The World is a Ghetto' as their first record sans Eric.
Burdon, while undoubtedly one of the finest British singers, never seemed to have much commercial success with War. Burdon himself rambled through it all — his voice never seemed to suit this medium and I still think 'Gin House Blues' was his forte.
When War appeared their music was a fusion of African rhythms, American Jazz and English rhythm and blues. The sheer frenetic energy of Burdon's voice was sometimes enough but the most exciting feature of War itself was the percussion — otherwise colour music could always be brightened by congas and timbales. Eric led the group and they will miss his vocals but they seem to be doing all right without him.
'City, Country, City' is the best thing on the first side and probably on the record. It is a long instrumental piece that begins with the same 42nd Street harmonica that wailed through 'Midnight Cowboy'. The tune builds up through exciting clarinet and saxaphone with glorious percussion and finishes with dreamy exchanges between organ and guitar. It is good music and made better by the absence of any of the vocals which spoil so much of the rest of the record.
The second side opens with 'Four Cornered Room'. The singing reminds me of the Yardbird's somber 'Still I'm Sad' and Eric Burdon's own nightmarish 'Black Plague' — it sounds like a dirge for a pigmy funeral. What makes the song worse is he triteness of the lyrics. I thought of that Buddy Miles' record 'Message to the People' with the fatman's face painted onto a mountain, with trees and rocks in his hair; undoubtedly some sort of Mt Rushmore crawl back obsession. On that 'waxing' that philosopher's message was "Ups and downs are in you mind, if you really don't have no conception of time".
War give us assorted revelations of a similar nature on this side. Examples are "I can understand where you're coming from" and later how "Paradise is love to be sure". These people have no sense of the banal.
World is a Ghetto' has some more good clarinet and saxophone work but this is the only thing that saves this side. "Beetles in the Bog" sounds like the rain dance from Woodstock.
Still, there is hope that War will find it's feet. The music is good: the horns are strong and the percussion saves the record. It will be interesting to hear their next record.
Wild Turkey: 'Turkey"
In an age where pretension is the rule rather than the exception, these two albums, though flawed, come as welcome relief admist the turgid heaviness being doled out so plentifully by the majority of 'progressive' groups.
Wild Turkey is the band formed by ex-Jethro Tull bassist, Glenn Cornick. Where his former group lost itself in Ian Anderson's obscure ramblings concerning his personal visions of God and bricks, Wild Turkey has developed vertically from Tull's peak, Benefit.
Wild Turkey's sound, commendably more lightly textured than most outfits which feature two lead guitarists, is firmly entrenched in a series of catchy riffs built up by Cornick and the drummer, Jeff Jones. The guitarists, Mick Dyche and 'Tweke' Lewis, use these as a springboard for dazzling duets in the finest Wishbone Ash tradition, the best example being 'Universal Man'.
Lyrics are the group's worst stumbling block, too often being trite re-runs of banal acid metzphysics ("there is no future, there is no past/there is nothing but today/for yesterday's tomorrow is tomorrow's yesterday) but even so they are delivered with enough force and conviction by Gary Pickfor-Hopkins to distract your attention from what he's saying to how he's saying it.
Paul Williams also has a very distinctive voice. It's nasal and whining and the first tune it assaults your eardrums, you are forced to think that nobody could get away with that. Eventually, you realise he can, along different lines, but in the same way Dylan or Loudon Wain wright do. His voice has its limitations and sometimes he flounders around, caught out of his depth, as he tries for the high notes. That's irrelevent really. This time it's the message, not the medium.
Williams first drew attention to himself by writing hits for Three Dog Night, among them "Just an old-fashioned love son" — which was included on his first, vastly underrated album, and "Out in the country", which crops up again, in a far superior version on "Life Goes On". Don't let the association of his name with Three Dog Night fool you, the man is a good songwriter, and, with Jackson Browne, can be rated as one of the most inventive lyricists to emerge in recent years.
The overall impression that "Life Goes On" leaves you with is, unfortunately, detracted from by the horn and string arrangements, which clog rather than complement the flow of the songs and by comparison with the uncluttered simplicity of his first effort come off very poorly indeed. For this reason, "That lucky old man", with only a piano and bass backing, come across as one of the strongest cuts, but "Rose" and "Little Girl" are also exemplary instances of Williams' ability to transform the subtler nuances of personal relationships into good music. I kinda dig the title cut too, probably because of the lyric: "Don't waste time talking if you don't have anything to say/ keep your eyes on the open road/ you're a fool if you live in the past/don't waste time fighting if you know that fighting's wrong... don't you get crazy, life goes on".
The best of the Steve Miller Band (Capitol ST 23014), eh? Well, whatever happened to "My Friend" and "Dime a dance romance" from Sailor, or "Kow Kow" from Brave New World? At its real best, the Steve Miller Band created some of the most exciting and listenable music from the 1967—69 era. At its worst it degenerated into psychedelic schlock, most of which has found its way on to this album.
Peter Kaukonen's "Black Kangaroo" (Grunt FTR 1006) has struck a nice balance between Hendrix-influenced ravers and gentle lilting numbers. Resisting the temptation to call for assistance from members of big brother's group (apart from the use of Joey Covington on four tracks), and their coterie, who would have probably turned the session into yet another musical gang bang, he's turned up trumps even though his vocals are frequently buried in the final mix.
"Billion Dollar Babies" — Alice
I mean, what standards can you apply to this? So its crude and tasteless and moronic, but flagellation is what Alice is about. They reach for that same streak of masochism that the Mothers have mined so successfully, ("plastic people, you think we're singing about someone else," no Frank, about yourself). So what's the point of warning you? People buy Alice Cooper because they dig being ripped off.
Generally the group is the reincarnation of the Troggs in drag. You hear on every track that same punk sexuality that was so great on "Wild Thing". And on the last track you can even hear "Wild Thing" subtly disguised as "Sick Things". Elsewhere there are bits from the James Bond themes, "Here Comes My Baby" "Brown Sugar" and many more, in fact half the fun of listening to this was in tracking down what had been ripped off from where. But enough of generalities. Are those boys any good? Well, the big single from the album is "Hello Hooray" but even as a rock song it doesn't come off even half as well as the version by that well known heavy rocker, Judy Collins. And when you start getting cut by Judy Collins.....
I wish I could say that the up front tastelessness of this album was refreshing, charming, disarming etc. (you know, songs about necrophilia, what a gas) but its really not The definitive piece of slimy punk-rock is still "The Slider".
Cheech and Chong
A most unlikely combination of a Chinese in Tommy Chong and a Chicano (Mexican—American) in Richard Cheech is today providing American youth with a legitimate break from the hassles of everyday life with a series of situation and satirical skits.
Chong was born in Edmonton, Alberta 30 years ago. He began playing the guitar and writing for a rock group called Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, on the Motown Label. During those "jitter bugging" days the group would come out and he would do comedy riffs prior to the group's performance. This was what got him to thinking about the possibilities of just doing comedy without the group. At this point he formed an improvisation group called the City Works, in Vancouver. They were doing such things as Committee and Second City routines in a striptease club. "The average person in the audience was a drunk or a pervert", says Chong. This posed quite a challenge for the improvisation group. They were successful in their attempts, but the audience began the expected switch from drunks to intellectual "heads". The owners were less than thrilled at the change so they let the group perform somewhere else, in other words they were canned.
Richard Cheech found his way into the act purely by chance. He was born in Watts 25 years ago and being raised in L.A. afforded him a multitude of experiences to recapture on stage, in the form of standup comedy. He received a degree in English in L.A. and then proceeded to Canada, because of the draft. His urges led home to Alberta, where he became an apprentice potter. One day a touring dine and dance combo asked him to sing with them. He had done a lot of singing with groups out of L.A. like Rompin' Richie and the Rockin' Rubins and Mother Fletcher's Blues Bros. Becoming a singer in the group was then quite appealing to him. They split to Bamf where they did some gigs and then headed for Hawaii. But because of Richard's draft status he couldn't go. Having acquired many friends up north he went back to Vancouver where a friend ran an underground newspaper. He began writing reviews for "Poppin". One day he met Tommy and both of them got together and formed the review company. (Rick had done some acting with the Instant Theatre, in L.A.)
Tommy was directing the group but later began performing the parts that the others couldn't do effectively.
When the review company split up the two put together a comedy act and went before an audience of 5,000 at the Gardens Auditorium in Vancouver. They then moved to L.A.
Here they found little acceptance for two heads doing a standup comedy act. The act began to change from straight situation comedy to a satirization of the current dope scene. The people loved it. Cheech and Chong could use their ethnic backgrounds to full advantage. Most of the audiences had no real knowledge of these ethnic groups, so the combination of ethnic and dope-orientated comedy situations proved to be their area of recognition.
I guess Cheech and Chong could not have survived even five years ago. Audience and liberalism and transient topicality have meant that dope orientated comedy how has a rightful place in our listening repetoire — even if it is only to cool it for a while.