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.

RIP Gord Downie

I remember hearing The Tragically Hip back in my senior year of college, when Fully Completely came out, just a few days before my 22nd birthday. I was the music director for our AM station, WECB, and I always tried to keep the selection eclectic and interesting. I’d heard of the band, having seen their previous three releases in the music bins (1987’s self-titled EP, 1989’s Up to Here and 1991’s Road Apples), but their third album was definitely their breakthrough, at least in Beantown. I loved that they were a mixture that defied description, other than they sounded really cool. I immediately put “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)” in rotation and “Fifty Mission Cap” as an extra play.

A year later, I’m living quite skint in the burbs of Allston and for a brief time my roommate and I have cable, and my then-girlfriend and I start watching Canada’s MuchMusic channel in earnest. It’s where I first hear great Canadian musicians like Moist, Barenaked Ladies, and Sloan in regular rotation instead of just occasionally. I stumble upon The Hip’s classic single “Grace, Too” (from 1995’s Day for Night) when I watch their video, greatly amused and fascinated by its lo-fi genius, using only video feedback, reflection, and a shirtless Gord to play off the boasting lyrics.  It becomes my favorite song of theirs.

A few years later and I’m back home in midwestern Massachusetts, trying to get my life and accounts back in order, and I’m listening to WRSI and WHMP, two Pioneer Valley stations that weren’t afraid to play the same eclectic music that I loved hearing back in my college days. I hear occasional plays of “Ahead by a Century” (from 1996’s Trouble at the Henhouse) but alas, never get around to taping it off the radio.

By 1998 I’ve got a steady job at the record store and expanding my musical tastes with every new and intriguing release that comes in. So much the better if I can get a promo copy for it! The BMG rep hands me a copy of their 1998 album Phantom Power and I immediately fall in love with it, especially the lovely “Bobcaygeon”.

By the end of 2000 I’d be leaving that job, but not before getting another dose of the Hip with that year’s Music@Work album. I find myself amused once more, this time by the fitting title song:

…as well as one if the deeper cuts, “Freak Turbulence.”

In 2002, I’m writing my trilogy down in the basement on a nightly basis, and hitting up Newbury Comics on a weekly basis, and In Violet Light comes out, another excellent Hip album. Oddly enough it’s years before I actually see the hilarious video for my favorite song off it, “The Darkest One”.

I kind of lose track of the band in the mid-2000s due to multiple moves and personal events, but eventually I catch up and pick up the rest of their catalog. I sadly admit that I don’t listen to them nearly as much as I should, and I never got to see them live.

But The Tragically Hip has never really been a band that I wanted to overindulge in. I like the fact that I’ll throw on Live Between Us or Now for Plan A or even Yer Favourites and think…damn, this is one hell of a great band. I like being pleasantly surprised by just how fucking good a band like that can be.

 

Thanks Gord. You were one hell of a great songwriter and humanitarian.

When I left your house this morning,
It was a little after nine
It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves, one star at time

Recent Purchases, September Edition, Part I

September has long been the Big Release Month for music.  I remember back in my HMV days, the stock would grow exponentially and the back room would be filled with boxes of product just waiting to be checked in, priced up and put out on the floor.  Q4 always started a month early in that respect.  There was so much that came out this past month that I had to split this up into two posts!

LCD Soundsystem, American Dream, released 1 September. Again…was never a big fan of this group. But somehow this album just clicked with me in a big way, and I love it.

Mogwai, Every Country’s Sun, released 1 September. One of my favorite post-rock bands is back with yet another excellent platter of atmospheric sounds.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Punishment of Luxury, released 1 September. I’m finding this album a lot of fun. Yet another stellar album from the band.

Nothing But Thieves, Broken Machine, released 8 September. I’m really digging this one as well. This is a band that sounds commercially alt-pop, but they write some really lovely melodies.

Sparks, Hippopotamus, released 8 September. You can always expect something wildly creative and a bit off-kilter from the Mael brothers, and this album is one of their best in the last few years.

Tori Amos, Native Invader, released 8 September. Tori’s albums can be very hit or miss…you either love them or you think she’s gone off the deep end. I certainly do love this one.

Death from Above 1979, Outrage! Is Now, released 8 September. Another band I didn’t expect to get into. On the other hand, once again I find myself really liking guitar-and-drum duos!

Mutemath, Play Dead, released 8 September. I’m still trying to get over the fact that their amazing drummer Darren King quit the band just before this album came out, but that hasn’t changed my impression of this album in the least. Paul Meany can still write a hell of a great tune.

….More soon!

Hip Priest

So I’ve been listening to a lot of The Fall lately.  They’re a band that has a VERY long history, an extremely convoluted discography, only one original member (the wonderfully irascible and outspoken Mark E Smith), and one of the weirdest rock styles in all of post-punk.  But I find I love them anyway.


(I taught myself how to play this particular track back in ’88, I love the guitar work on it!)

Recent Music Purchases, March Edition

D’OH!  Forgot to do one of these last month, so here you go.  I’ll have April’s up in a few weeks.

This year is continuing to surprise and delight me with some absolutely solid albums.  A lot of new albums by old favorites, and numerous releases by bands I hadn’t heard of previously.  I’m looking forward to more of this!

Minus the Bear, Voids (released 3 March).  I’ve been hitting this one hard lately…they kind of remind me of Shearwater, with the odd melodies that somehow fit together perfectly.  LOVE this album.

Bush, Black and White Rainbows (released 10 March).  Glad to see them having a second life with a consistent run of excellent new albums.

The Creation, Action Painting (released 17 March).  A fascinating garage band from the UK, this one packages their single 60s album (We Are Paintermen) and the singles from the same era.  They were influential to a hell of a lot of UK musicians, from Jimmy Page to Paul Weller.  [And yes, the UK record label was named after them.]

Spoon, Hot Thoughts (released 17 March).  Probably my favorite Spoon album since Kill the Moonlight back in ’02.  It’s weird, heavy, and there’s a hell of a lot of funk going on as well.

Lloyd Cole, In New York (Collected Recordings 1988-1996) (released 17 March).  A lovely counterpoint to the box set he released for his Commotions work, this contains his first five albums plus an album of demos.  An exellent and underrated songwriter.

Depeche Mode, Spirit (released 17 March).  A return to the darker and more electronic DM.  I’d say this is on par with Ultra, with its heavier, angrier sound.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Damage and Joy (released 24 March).  Wait, this is 2017, not 1987, right?  Seriously, though…it’s a welcome return.  It sounds a lot like their mid-era sound, very similar to Honey’s Dead, but that’s definitely a good thing.

Jamiroquai, Automaton (released 31 March).  Jay Kay still has the funk, and he doesn’t skimp on it here.  I often find myself listening to this in the afternoon as a lift-me-up.

Wire, Silver/Lead (released 31 March).  What can I say?  I will buy anything and everything by this band.  They’ve never let me down once.