Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Magical Mystery Listening Tour: Day 34

Loads of albums from the week heading into the Thanksgiving holiday!

Blur - Charmless Man
Big Brother and the Holding Company - Cheap Thrills
Blur - Chemical World
Spacehog - The Chinese Album
The Dukes of Stratosphear - Chips From the Chocolate Fireball
Paul McCartney - Choba B CCCP
R.E.M. - Chronic Town
Frank Zappa - Chunga's Revenge
The Who - Civic Arena, Long Beach, CA 12/10/71
The Rolling Stones - Civic Center, Pittsburgh, PA 7/22/72
Cream -  Civic Auditorium, San Jose, CA 5/25/68

Two Blur singles kick things off, and while Charmless Man has decent B-sides, Chemical World has some B-sides that are excellent and arguably as strong as album tracks of the era (most notably Young & Lovely, My Ark, and Es Schmect). The first great Janis Joplin album, with Big Brother and the Holding Company, is a (mostly) live album mixed to sound almost like a studio record, and is a perfect slice of 1967/68 San Francisco hard rock, and includes the classic "Piece of My Heart" and "Ball and Chain" among other gems. Spacehog's second album is a much more experimental and subdued affair than their debut but is an overlooked album that has some excellent cuts, especially "Carry On," "2nd Avenue," and "Mungo City." The Dukes were XTC's alter-ego and their homage to 1960s psychedelia, and is so good that sometimes you have to remind yourself that you're listening to music made in the mid-1980s and not the mid-1960s! Paul's first album of covers was initially a USSR-only release (hence the title, which translates to "Back in the USSR," of course) and a way to revitalize his flagging spirits in the wake of two lackluster albums in the 1980s ("Give My Regards to Broad Street" and "Press to Play"). It's quite good and would pave the way for his comeback with 1989's "Flowers In the Dirt." R.E.M.'s debut EP is pure power-pop perfection and still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did in 1982. Zappa's 1970 album is the first in his string of classic albums where he perfectly blended his experimental, social comment, and hard rock threads into more accessible music. It's worth the price of admission alone for the guitar solo on Transylvania Boogie and the beauty of the closing Sharleena. This batch of albums closes with a trio of shows from Civic-named arenas: a legendary Who gig from their incredible 1971 US tour (this is one of the best gigs on the whole tour), a great Stones gig from their legendary and over-the-top 1972 US tour, and a great show from Cream's penultimate tour of the US in 1968.

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