Tag: Joni Mitchell

What’s so great about David Crosby’s ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’?

By Daniel Margrain

In ‘Revolution Blues’ from his 1974 album, ‘On The Beach’, Neil Young famously spews vitriol on the fake tinsel town celebrity life-styles of the wealthy residents of Laurel Canyon many of whom lionized the killer, Charles Manson:

 “Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars, but I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars,” sang Young.

Forming part of his ‘Ditch trilogy’ this was Young at his most angriest and bitter. It’s probably the Canadian artists greatest song from one of his best albums that reflected his disillusionment with the idealism of the hippies as the realism of the 1970s began to take hold.

Three years earlier, one of Young’s contemporaries, former Byrds member and long-time collaborator, David Crosby, released a far more cerebral, but no less brilliant take on the pessimism of the age. Indeed, with ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’, Crosby manages to evoke the resigned naturalist idyll of the Bay Area as a catharsis.

Among the seminal musician’s of the period who worked alongside Crosby on the album included Kaukonen, Slick, Casady and Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Garcia, Leisha, Kreutzmann and Hart of Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash.

The creative influence of these brilliant musician’s is tangible, but the sound created is nevertheless ‘neutral’ and not comparable to any other kind in the bay area during the period when it was recorded.

Deeply philosophical and existential, the music and vocals exude a sadness and poignancy. Crosby appears to be lamenting a world lost in the mists of time while simultaneously yearning for spiritual redemption as if attempting to communicate with mirages or ghosts while in a trance.

This is arguably best expressed by the slow progression in the opening ‘Music Is Love’, which consists of a single verse (‘everyone says that music is love’) which is endlessly repeated by Crosby and choir in a mantra like way.

‘Laughing’ is one long note as if suspended between earth and heaven before returning to a resonating echo before it gradually fades into the silence of ‘What Are Their Names’. Possibly the weakest track on the album, the whispered tinkling guitar and harp strings of ‘Traction In The Rain’, evokes crystalline waterfalls.

‘Song With No Words’ is like an intense opera evocative of a subdued and poignant prayer in which the singing soars in a sublime flight. With the closing hallucinatory ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’, a cry of joy and despair is exuded which is a kind of corrective to the ambiguous dream and mystical states that preceded it.

The album which has influenced greatly contemporary musicians of the likes of Julia Holter and Julianna Barwick, is a tonal, harmonic and semi-baroque masterpiece akin to an impressionist painting. In the canon of rock music, it remains, nearly half a century since its release, one of the most absorbing and moving experiences in the history of the genre.

Please make a small donation

If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. I don’t make any money from my work, and I’m not funded. You can help continue my research and write independently.… Thanks!


Donate Button with Credit Cards

50 classic albums to listen to before you die (4/5)

By Daniel Margrain

Neu 2 (1973) Neu
Neu’s intuitive and innovative ‘motorik’ beat of surging rhythmic impulses, obsessive repetition and cosmic futuristic soundscapes, predicted the neurosis of the post-industrial era as exemplified in the work of artists like Pere Ubu, Joy Division and Public Image Limited. The repetitive tribal beats, particularly the melodic element of the music, also anticipated the post-rock of the early 1990s most notably in the work of Stereolab.

 

Naturally (1971) J.J Cale
J.J Cale’s melancholy ‘laid-back’ blues-rock style has become the template for this kind of musical genre.Highly influential and respected among a dedicated following of fans and fellow musicians alike, the independent Cale seemed to be more comfortable writing for other musicians than performing. Dire Straits were to become Cale’s biggest imitators.

 

Disappeared (2000) Spring Heel Jack
The first track on this thrilling ride of a recording, Rachel Point, sets the scene for what is to come. Pounding drums, Miles Davis-style trumpet licks and looping keyboard wails are only the starting point for the mind-blowing Galina, a piece characterized by tribal pow-pow beats, heavy bass lines, organ drones and minimalist piano patterns set against a symphonic backdrop. This is contrasted with the epic trumpet crescendo of Trouble And Luck and the Bacharach-tinged orchestral aria of the dub tinged To Die A Little..

 

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977) Joni Mitchell
Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter is an album that works on every emotional and intellectual level. The synergy between music and poetry is virtually unsurpassed. The strident symphonic overtones that embellish Paprika Plains is a work of eloquence and restraint – a majestic piece that evokes a place lost in the mists of time. Dream-like abstractions and mysticism is a running theme throughout the album. The Tenth World and Dreamland predicted the ‘world music’ coined by Paul Simon’s Graceland by a decade.

 


The Days of Wine And Roses (1982) The Dream Syndicate
This album is an exceptionally played slice of neurotic postmodern psychedelic rock – a kind of bridge between Television and The Gun Club. The Dream Syndicate were among the most accomplished of the Paisley Underground bands of the early 1980s.

 

Da Capo (1966)  Love
I last saw Love play live at the Benicassim Festival in Spain shortly before the creative force of the band, Arthur Lee, died. It’s now 10 years to the week that the music world suffered one of its greatest losses. The music of Love embraced psychedelic pop melody with baroque arrangements. Da Capo was the album that best showcased one of the most eccentric styles of music from the mid-to-late 1960s which alternated between manic epileptic assaults of garage-rock and soft and melodic songs with flutes and harpsichord. The epic Revelation showcased Arthur Lee’s powerful vocals and brilliant guitar playing that is similar in style to early Neil Young.

 

Carrion Crawler/The Dream (2011)  Thee Oh Sees
This album is a refreshing and vibrant contemporary take on the psyche-garage traditions of the 1960s. The band effortlessly merge a multitude of reference points from the past without sounding derivative. Songs reminiscent of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd combine with 70s new wave, jazz, soul rockabilly and punk. In the age of cynicism, austerity and conformity, this recording sounds like a breath of fresh air.

 

Gris-Gris (1968) Dr. John
What defines the work of Dr John, is the eclecticism of his Jazz and rhythm and blues-based music. Heir to the New Orleans tradition, Dr John’s unique interpretation of the exuberance of Creole folklore that characterizes his work, was formally embraced by the hippie counter-cultural and freak movement of the 1960s. The combination of funky tribal Middle Eastern and African jams, swamp voodoo blues and Mardi Gras-style fanfares, gave a new expression to the soul-funk-rock of the period.

 

Miss America (1988) Mary Margaret O’Hara
Mary Margaret O’Hara is one of the most original and creative artists of all-time. Her quirky voice is an instrument in itself, a super-human fusion of avant garde techniques and gospel/soul styling. Coupled with her sophisticated blues and jazz arrangements, the atmosphere of Miss America is memorably intense. As a performer, O’Hara is like a force of nature.

 


Double Time (1977) Leon Rathbone
Leon Redbone’s eclectic and original take on the ragtime traditions of the past have a kind of postmodern resonance. The trick to Redbone’s art is the brilliant way he injects a satirical freshness into the blues, jazz, folk and vaudeville traditions by the use of a baritone yodeling croon and his use of nostalgic orchestral arrangements. Redbone’s skill is his knack of revealing the precious underbelly of a lost old-style genre and then updating it to a contemporary audience.