Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Solo albums by drummers from prog-ish bands, made in collaboration with a couple of wacky jazz chicks who married Paul Bley (though not at the same time)

I guess the title says it all.

In 1978, Bill Bruford (of Yes and King Crimson) released his first solo album Feels Good To Me. It's kind of too bad that it didn't come out about 6-8 years earlier, as the recording and synth technology that basically destroy the record probably wouldn't have existed then. As it is, the main thing that salvages the album (if you like diddly synthetic sounding jazz, you may disagree with my take on things) is a guest appearance by Annette Peacock on several tracks. My favorite is probably Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (Part One), which is also, conveniently, one of the shorter pieces. It cuts off abruptly because, on the album, it segues into a mostly instrumental Part Two. I thought about posting that, but decided that I'd end up having to make too many excuses for the production. I grit my teeth every time there's a tom fill. If you mentally edit out a lot of the synth sounds and drum production and such, Feels Good To Me is actually a reasonably interesting record, but I'm not sure I'd expect most people to go to the trouble.

Annette sings on three songs on the album (which is available on CD) and, assuming you can find it cheaply, it's probably worth picking up if you're a fan of her stuff. It's really amazing how much more interesting these recordings become the second she opens her mouth.

In 1981, Nick Mason (of Pink Floyd) released one of the most deceptively titled solo albums of all time, Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports. Sounding just about nothing like anything Pink Floyd-related, it's actually a Carla Bley album (I last mentioned her, I think, in connection with the Kew. Rhone album back when I was writing about Slapp Happy). She wrote all the songs and the lyrics, she and Michael Mantler are in the band, and most of the lead vocals are handled by Robert Wyatt. Some female vocals are sung by Karen Kraft, who seems to be imitating Carla Bley. Nick plays drums, competently.

I wouldn't say it's amazing enough to justify what you'd have to pay for a CD copy, but if you spot a vinyl copy (or an mp3) it's a fun record that's worth having. My favorite song from it is the atypical opener Can't Get My Motor To Start...I suspect kids would like this one. It's also pretty catchy, and musically onomatopoeic (in the sense that the main riff sounds like a motor that won't start). It's in a vein that Carla's twin daughter, Karen Mantler, would go on to mine some years later: the "yes, it is a double entendre -- is that not what we jazz people do -- but surely I'm so innocent and scattered sounding that I couldn't really mean it and oh, by the way, my life is going to hell" style exemplified by My Stove from Karen's first solo album My Cat Arnold.

The last track on the album is the other one that gets a lot of attention, thanks to its seriously kooky lyrics and a section of fake Philip Glass. Here's I'm A Mineralist. I'm not particularly a lyric person, but this is one case where you really do want to pay attention.

There's more jazz to come this week, though I hope to get to Hilly Michaels' second solo album by Friday. I know this is supposed to be a rock/pop blog, but I've been on a big Gary Burton kick lately, so that's where things are headed. Just keep in mind that by and large I'm not a jazz fan, so it shouldn't get too tedious.

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