current listening 03/20/10

+ The Finn Brothers: Everyone is Here (2004) – As if Crowded House and Split Enz, along with a healthy string of solo albums, weren’t enough to convince the world of the pop intellects of Tim and Neil Finn, we had this delight. The mood is mistier and the sound more wintry, partly due to the fact that the album eulogizes the Finns’ mom. But as the record winds its way through Gentle Hum, the pop sentiments quietly soar.

+ Genesis: Genesis Live (1973) – The veteran prog-popsters made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday but left performance duties to Phish. Admittedly, the latter did a fine job with Watcher of the Skies. But its version just made me long for this ancient concert album where Watcher, with Peter Gabriel at his wildest, sounded majestic and primitive. The Dickensian melodrama Get ‘Em Out By Friday was way cool, too.

+ The Climax Chicago Blues Band: The Climax Chicago Blues Band (1968) – Well, there were elements of Chicago blues in workmanlike covers of Don’t Start Me Talkin’ and Mean Old World. But the twist in the debut by this very British roots and boogie brigade was that it brought a loose, psychedelic groove to the blues. Witness the eight minute finale And Lonely, which matches youthful British rock zeal with Otis Rush-style soul.

+ The Rascals: Peaceful World (1971) – A forgotton sleeper, Peaceful World was the next  to last album Felix Cavaliere and Dino Danelli cut as The Rascals with the gospel soul turns of their Atlantic albums yielding to contemplative passages accented by jazz and tropical grooves. The title tune, a mostly instrumental 21 minute work, was as enticing as anything The Rascals ever recorded. It also destroyed the band’s commercial fanbase.

+ Mahavishnu Orchestra: Apocalypse (1974) – No sooner did guitarist John McLaughlin split the original, ear-bleeding Mahavishnu band than he returned with a second, larger ensemble. But Apocalypse stacked the deck. It enlisted violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, famed producer George Martin, the entire London Symphony Orchestra and a young Michael Tilson Thomas as conductor. It remains a work of pastoral, spring-like grace and heavy fusion cunning.

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