Favorite Albums: The Osmonds, ‘Crazy Horses’

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Yeah, yeah, I can hear y’all from here: oh god, he’s finally run out of things to blog about.  But hear me out:  I’ve been obsessed over this wonderful 1972 gem since I was a little kid when I used to listen to my sisters’ old beat up copy.

Why the Osmonds, you say?  Well, for starters, this is most definitely not your Jackson 5 wannabe album with sugary confections like “One Bad Apple” or feel-good grooves like “Down by the Lazy River”.  This is the five brothers taking an unexpected and amazingly competent turn into rock territory.

We’re talking about taking a page from freakin’ LED ZEPPELIN, fer pete’s sake:

It doesn’t hold a candle to “The Immigrant Song”, sure, but you gotta admit it’s got a hell of a punch. Their longtime fans didn’t know what the heck to think of it, but radio stations loved it and got it major airplay.

A few tracks later we get a goofy Beatlesque riff that I’m surprised more ukulele-playing hipsters haven’t covered, with “Girl”.

There’s also the groovy MOR sound of “What Could It Be”, which could easily be a song by Badfinger or The Raspberries:

…and the fantastic “Crazy Horses”, which is just as bananas as it is badass.

And my favorite track from this LP, “Hey Mr Taxi”, which sounds like they were trying to record their own version of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”, complete with all the noise, distortion and wailing guitars slowly going out of tune.

It’s does have their signature sugary pop as well, such as the swinging “Julie” and the ballad “That’s My Girl”.  There’s even a jamming groove dedicated to their home state, “Utah”.  There’s a nice comedic Looney Tunes touch at the end of the record with a twenty-one-second track called “Big Finish” that gives a teasing nod to their previous sound.

It’s definitely a trip to listen to.  While their previous album (Phase III, which had come out only nine months earlier) toyed a bit with rock, for the most part it stayed firmly in the pop category.  Their follow up after this one, their semi-religious concept album The Plan (released nine months after Crazy Horses) is even more of a head trip, with woozy blues, psychedelic joyrides and even the occasional horn-laden showstopper.  After that they’d return back to their safe haven of lite rock and MOR, and Donny and sister Marie would become a 70s television staple.

So yeah — I admit it.  Crazy Horses is a ridiculously fun album, and I still love it after all these years.

FM

fm movie poster
Back when I was a kid, one of my favorite records that I used to love taking out of the library — aside from The Beatles 1962-1966, which I did not yet own — was the soundtrack to a 1978 movie called FM.

It was an amazing double-album filled with huge rock hits of the last few years: Bob Seger’s “Night Moves”, Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle”, The Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane”, Boz Scaggs’ “Lido Shuffle”, Boston’s “More than a Feeling”, and more…and of course Steely Dan’s classic theme song.  Pretty much a perfect cross-section of what would become the classic rock genre in future radio programming.  [It’s still available on CD at this time, by the way, and highly recommended.]

I don’t remember the movie ever playing anywhere close at the time of its release (April 1978), but then again, I was only seven at the time.  The soundtrack was good enough for me.  Still, it would be another few years before I finally saw it when it was shown on one of the local independent TV channels a few years later.  I enjoyed it, even if some of the more mature issues (like Eric Swan’s sexual encounters or Mother’s consistently-baked persona) went right over my head.  The short version of the plot is that Q-Sky, an LA-based rock station with committed fans but not much profit, is being threatened by upper management to play more commercials and less music to make more money.  The stalwart deejays (your classic tropes here: the smooth-talking overnight guy, the ex-hippie still living in the previous decade, the young and spunky morning host, the cute and friendly girl everyone loves, the popular prima donna, and so on) decide to go against upper management to keep the station alive and rockin’ at whatever cost…even if it means going on strike.

[There are definitely shades of WKRP in Cincinnati here, but please note that the show was actually in pre-production talks when this movie came out; they’re not connected to each other in any way.]

It wasn’t until I read Richard Neer’s 2001 book FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio (also highly recommended) that I renewed my interest in the film.  It took me another number of years to finally find a dvd copy.  Years older and more knowledgeable about the way radio works, I’d discovered that the movie, for all it’s worth, was actually quite accurate in its portrayal of a radio station’s ups and downs during that time.

FM rock radio was in fact becoming the preferred choice for younger listeners by 1978, bypassing AM radio’s previous popularity — thus the riff ‘no static at all’ in the theme song.  It was also the zenith of rock radio to that point, with numerous bands releasing platinum and gold selling albums that are still highly regarded to this day.  At the same time, however, the financial woes of running a popular radio station had started taking its toll on the programming.  It was becoming harder and harder to be a free-form station where the deejay could play anything they wanted, when the business itself needed to make a profit to stay alive.  FM was in fact a spot-on commentary of this, even when it veered into the occasional Hollywood movie silliness.

Running a radio station nowadays is still just as hard as it’s ever been.  The issue is that it’s not built to be a moneymaker; it’s built to be a community service.  It provides free entertainment and information to its listeners; its money is made from its advertising or donations and fundraising events.  Most owners and station managers try to keep the moneymaking part of the business as unobtrusive as they can.

But that’s another post altogether.  I’m just here to talk about one of my favorite movies and soundtracks!

We are GROOT

Okay, so my posts are a little off the start of this week due to our visit down to Anahiem to go to Disneyland for the long weekend. It was fun, the weather was much warmer and brighter, and I may have even gotten a bit of a tan out of it! That said, It is kind of strange to be walking around the area known for its cheery, poppy, family-friendly atmosphere and hearing the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at the same time. A bit of a mental disconnect, but a pleasant one!

So while I get myself back up to speed, here’s some more tunage from that very weird and absolutely hilarious movie.

PS. We did in fact see Groot at California Adventure! 🙂

PSS. Yes, I actually remember these songs when they were new. I am that old. Turning 47 next Monday!

Meanwhile, 40 years ago…

Yesterday afternoon, A and I headed to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the 40th Anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I barely remember going to see it the first time out, considering I was six years old (I either saw it at the drive-in or in Gardner, the same place I saw Star Wars), though I do remember bits of it when watching it on TV in later years.

Of course, this made me think of all the music that I’d heard about that time, mostly on the little crackly radio that was in the kitchen for years. I remember the above ‘disco version’ of the Close Encounters theme, as we owned the album and the single.

So let’s see…what other songs do I remember from that era? [This obviously doesn’t include the classic punk from that era, which was way off my radar for quite a few more years.] A lot of these were singles my sisters bought, or tunes that we’d hear on the radio. This of course was back when AM was still the preferred listening band, so most of these I associate with either listening on my cheapo record player or on the car radio whenever we went for a ride. [Or in some cases, the jukebox at Bellinger’s!]

…hey, what can I say? I was six years old. I loved this stuff. :p

Get off your ass and jam

So apparently I did have a slice or two of P-Funk in my collection….just not the originals.


(samples “(Not Just) Knee Deep”)


(samples “Pumpin’ It Up”)


(samples “Let’s Play House”)


(samples “Man’s Best Friend”)


(samples “Mothership Connection”)


(samples “Come in Out of the Rain”)


(samples “Atomic Dog”)


(samples “Get Off Your Ass and Jam”)

Giving some of those early Funkadelic albums a listen and OH MAN are they tight. I have no idea why I didn’t get to them sooner.

Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow

I’m finally getting around to reading George Clinton’s autobiography Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? [BEST. TITLE. EVER.] and it occurs to me that I don’t own any Funkadelic (or Parliament, for that matter).

This really needs to be rectified.

I’ve known about them for years, of course.  I probably first heard of them in a few of those rock history books I used to take out from the library back when I was a preteen and already obsessing over music trivia.  I’m pretty sure I’d heard some of their jams in the background of some 70s movie or something.  I knew George Clinton had an extremely out-there stage persona.  They weren’t a band you’d find in the music bins at K-Mart or one of those mall stores, though, so they weren’t always on my radar.  It wasn’t until my freshman year roommate in college played me part of their 7th album Let’s Take It to the Stage that I got what they were about.  One listen to “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” and I knew what I was in for…  I liked it, but it didn’t quite gel with me at the time.

Reading his book, though, I finally figured out what they were about.  They weren’t merely a weird funk band from the 70s…they were much more than that.  Part soul, part psychedelic rock (I can definitely hear that now — the above track is reminiscent of those long-ass psych rock jams that early FM radio loved so much), part political, and part party.  There’s a lot going in this band’s music, and now I’m intrigued.

That said…given that their early work is available on eMusic, I’m going to download me some of this cosmic slop and do a bit of immersion.  Wish me luck!

Listening to the Seventies

You know, for all the classic rock I’ve listened to over the years, I haven’t really focused too closely on the 70s other than the hits.  I’ve got a decent mp3 collection that covers a lot of discographies, but I’ve always tended to limit my ‘classic’ listening to the 80s (my teen years) or the 90s (my college/post-college/HMV years).

Granted, my age was in the single digits in the seventies, so my familiarity with the music from that era comes from the listening habits of my older sisters, the records I took out of the town library, and the usual culprits you hear on classic rock stations like Springsteen, Elton John, Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin.  The rest of it tends to be filled with easy listening pop that we escaped like Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, and variety specials filled with corny humor and the same central casting guest stars.

It is kind of fascinating, though, when you realize that this song..

…and this song…

…came out in the same month, November 1977.

I’m thinking it’s time for me to do another decade overview, this time of the decade where I was the bratty little kid brother.  I mean, going past hearing “The Piano Man” for the 1,485,035,436th time.  Expanding the genres between punk and sunshine pop, prog rock and early metal.  If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely when listening to music, it’s listening to it within the context of its history.  I’m curious to hear how they all intertwined.