Author Archives: Michael H. Little

Graded on a Curve:
Dixie Dregs,
Free Fall

Talk about your supposedly fun things I’ll never do again; it would take a million chimpanzees playing electrical instruments 100,000 years to make the ungodly synthesis of southern rock and progressive rock work, and I am here to tell you that Augusta, Georgia’s Dixie Dregs are not those chimpanzees.

The amazing thing? I used to OWN this band of daring genre blenders’ sophomore LP, 1977’s Free Fall. What’s more, I actually listened to the damn thing. I simply cannot come up with a more glaring example of the dangers of rampant marijuana abuse.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the Dixie Dregs play nothing but instrumentals? They don’t want the warming sound of an actual human voice to distract you from paying close attention to all of the whizz-bang playing. Or the best education in musical theory and composition a couple of degrees from Georgia State University can buy. Who needs Ronnie Van Zant when you’ve studied with Alice Shields? She’s a bona fide protege of Wendy Carlos!

But about the whole southern rock/prog fusion thing: It’s more or less a red herring. The Dixie Dregs attempt the impossible on only two tracks, and both tracks are less Dixie than dregs.

“Moe Down” works if your taste in hoedowns runs towards Aaron Copland. This isn’t the kind of thing you’ll want to square dance to. This is the kind of thing you’ll want to take notes on for your advanced course in The Cooption and Trivialization of Appalachian Culture. Talk about your aesthetic distance; the Dixie Dregs might as well be looking at southern culture from Mars.

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Graded on a Curve: Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross

A few observations on Yacht Rock anti-Christ Christopher Cross’ Grammy Award winning 1979 debut LP.

1. If Stephen King was the Master of the Macabre he claims to be, he would write a short story about a ruthless businessman with a Type A personality who is on his way to shut down an unprofitable mental hospital. He gets into his Porsche only to hear the doors lock around him. Then, and this is the important part, Christopher Cross starts playing on his car stereo and HE CAN’T TURN IT OFF. No matter how many dials he twists or pummels it just keeps playing over and over until the poor fellow goes blubbering insane and ends up as a permanent ward of the very hospital he wanted to close. If the great Mr. King can conjure up a more terrifying scenario than that one, I would love to hear it. Oh, and the scariest part? The whole process takes less than two hours.

2. CC became the face of soft rock with his eponymous debut, which remains one of the sleekest Yacht Rock vessels ever to be launched upon the Easy Seas. It spawned several hit singles (including those immortals “Sailing” and “Ride Like the Wind”), garnered him the Big Four Grammy Awards (which had never happened before and hasn’t happened since), and went platinum five times over in the process. Forget about the horror scenario outlined above. It doesn’t get any more frightening than this.

3. My good friend Dennis Warnack St. George recently told me this story:

“I was on a date with my future first wife when “Sailing” came on the radio. I reached over to change the station, and the next thing I knew I was in Georgetown Hospital. A priest was telling me I would be fine, and I was thinking that that’s what they always say to the moribund. Anyway, a van hit my girlfriend’s car head on. I was thrown through the windscreen (no belt). She was uninjured (belt). She nursed me back to health and we got married two months later.

So, I have bad associations with Christopher Cross. His music makes me think about that harpy I married.”

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Graded on a Curve: Government Issue,
Live Bootleg Series Vol. 1, Minneapolis, MN 08/03/1983

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

John Stabb is dead. Anything I add to that is likely to sound trite, so let it just be said Stabb was a hardcore punker with extraordinary gifts and a sweet side, and that on a good night, Stabb and his long-time band Government Issue could blow the doors off anybody, fellow DC stalwarts Minor Threat and Fugazi included. I only met Stabb—who succumbed to stomach cancer at the young age of 54—once, to interview him for The Vinyl District, but he was kind and charismatic and very funny, and it’s a damn shame the man and his band never achieved the acclaim they so richly deserved.

From the 1981 “Legless Bull” EP, a seminal slab of in-and-out, slash and burn harDCore if there ever was one, Government Issue proceeded to go through a mind-boggling series of personnel changes as they evolved musically from hardcore to a more complex sound, one that combined elements of metal, Goth rock (Stabb loved The Damned), new wave, and psychedelia, none of which endeared them to the dyed-in-the-wool mosh pit monkeys who wanted GI to sing “Asshole” until the day they died. And even as a harDCore band, Government Issue failed to play by the rules. Stabb went in for flamboyant stage attire and demonstrated an actual sense of humor, both of which ruffled feathers in DC’s deadly serious hardcore scene.

As Stabb, the self-proclaimed “Clown Prince of Punk” told me, “My goal was always to shake people up and also just to confuse the punk rockers.” He added, “We started out doing the hardcore thing… and people thought we were this super hardcore band that was angry and frustrated with the world, but we always had a sense of humor, compared to SOA with Henry Garfield and Ian [MacKaye of Minor Threat] and all these other people. They were really, really angry bands. And we wanted to mix the anger with humor.” Which opinion coincided with mine at the time, and was the reason I gave a lot of hardcore bands a pass.

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Graded on a Curve: Canned Heat,
The Best of Canned Heat

Blues rock avatars Canned Heat are best remembered by some for their long-windedness; the double-album-side, 41-minute version of “Refried Boogie” on 1968’s Living the Blues is a landmark in conspicuous boogie bloat. They’re best remembered by others for the so bad it’s funny jacket (looks like a Vincent Price B-movie horror movie poster!) of Living the Blues’ predecessor, 1968’s Boogie with Canned Heat.

As for me, I’ll always remember them best for Ann Magnuson’s hilarious take on the late and very hefty Bob Hite in Bongwater classic “Chicken Pussy”: “There’s a king-sized mattress in the middle of the room/Where me and the big fat lead singer from Canned Heat/Finish up an afternoon of incredibly hot sex/Boy does he have a big one.”

But you know what? Despite everything I said above about Canned Heat–which took its name from the canned heating fuel popular amongst America’s “I’m so desperate I’ll drink anything, even if it kills me” hobo set–does have a big one. They’ve got a whopper.

Unfortunately, Canned Heat tends to get overlooked amid the American blues and boogie rock throng of the late sixties and early seventies, probably because they were a homely bunch and lacked the flash and panache of such contemporaries as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Allman Brothers. That said, at their best, vocalist Bob “Bear” Hite, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Harry Vestine (guitar) and Company cooked like Sterno, and went down a hell of a lot easier.

If Canned Heat had a fault, it was in the songwriting department. The band put out a series of solid but not great Post-Summer of Love LPs, the best of them being 1970’s Future Blues. Which is where the humble The Best of Canned Heat comes in. Sure, it’s the sort of thing your serious vinyl collector turns her persnickety nose up at. The packaging is cheesy, you only get 10 songs so forget about your deep cuts, and have I mentioned the cheesy packaging? But if you’re unfamiliar with Canned Heat and you’re looking for an introduction, this boogified slice of refried vinyl is a good place to start.

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Graded on a Curve:
Hüsker Dü,
New Day Rising

Hard and fast rules so let’s dispense with the long instrumental intro and get right down to the nitty-gritty; on 1985’s New Day Rising, St. Paul, Minnesota power trio Hüsker Dü permanently set themselves apart from the hardcore pack by leavening the genre’s speed freak aesthetic with increasing dollops of real melody.

The results are still bracing, but New Day Rising is friendlier than most hardcore, and more welcoming too. Parts of it are even nice, nice in the way that the iconic album cover (two dogs, one beautiful body of water, a sunrise) is nice.

Most of the “nice” comes to us thanks to drummer/vocalist Grant Hart, who was the Jekyll to Bob Mould’s Hyde in what amounted to a schizophrenic division of band labor. Hart provided the melody, sweetness and light. Bob Mould provided the buzz saw guitar and angst; he may not have doing the fashionable by spitting bile at Reagan’s America, but his personal life sounded a hot mess. As for Greg Norton, he had a very cool mustache. And he played bass guitar.

New Day Rising is a sonic world away from Hüsker Dü’s 1982 debut Land Speed Record, a landmark in speedcore that more than lives up to its bragging title. But like their SST label mates the Minutemen and Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü soon chafed against the formal constraints of hardcore.

Unlike said bands, however, Hüsker Dü didn’t abandon hardcore altogether. Instead they set themselves to the business of expanding hardcore’s horizons by employing catchy riffs and hooks, and the results are to be heard on such sweet (and bordering on silly) Hart-penned cuts as “Books About UFOs,” which features a piano of all things. Betcha Ian MacKaye didn’t see that one coming.

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Graded on a Curve:
Asia, Asia

So what do we have here? Let’s see: world’s most unnecessary prog supergroup names itself after world’s largest continent, releases self-titled debut LP that subsumes worst prog instincts in attempt to score big hit singles, and ends up with No. 1 album in the U.S. in 1982. Oh, and world’s largest continent inexplicably fails to sue for slander.

Reality is so depressing. No wonder people love Roger Dean, whose fantasy-themed artwork decorates Asia’s cover. Better to meditate upon a sea-skating serpent playing fetch with a glowing orb than acknowledge that the American people sent this tepid, Prog Lite monstrosity to the top of the charts.

I had no problem with this quartet of castaways from the likes of Yes (guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes), King Crimson (lead vocalist/bassist John Wetton) and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (drummer Carl Palmer) selling out–I never much liked the precious fares said bands were hawking to begin with. It’s the popularity of Asia’s Pop Prog that I find so inexplicable. And Asia wasn’t alone; Phil Collins was successfully retooling grandiose Art Prog Vehicle Genesis into a hit-making hotrod at the same time.

But who can blame them? Dumbing down to meet the pop crowd halfway–by doing away with the album-side-long cuts, the classical influences, the complex time signatures, and the endless displays of technical virtuosity–turned out to be good commercial horse sense. Gone was Rick Wakeman in his golden cape, and in were these rags and bones merchants, who held on to the tattered trappings of progressive rock but reined in its worst impulses. No more themes from Mussorgsky or long-winded tales from topographic oceans–it’s back to the popular song!

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Graded on a Curve: Culture Club,
This Time–The First
Four Years

Yeah, I was that dick. You know, the dick whose unvarying response to Boy George’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” was “Yes!” But not because he wore makeup and a dress. I was fine with that. It was because, well, poor George sounded like such a defenseless wuss.

But I turned that “Yes!” into a “You go, girl!” a long time ago, and my typical response to hearing Culture Club on the radio nowadays is giddy excitement. Such frothy musical entertainment! What a beat! And those pasty-faced, Smoky Robinson Lite vocals! You would have to be a MONSTER to want to hurt crooning milksop B.G., even if he did seem dead set on hurting both himself and others during a decades-long Lost Weekend that saw him assaulting innocent Norwegians, abusing every drug under the sun, and doing a skirt-hem-dirtying stint of community service at the New York City Department of Sanitation.

But let’s not allow Boy George’s very public personal problems cloud Culture Club’s myriad contributions to Western Civilization, which are convincingly set out on 1987 best-of compilation This Time–The First Four Years. It has all the hits! And all the hits Culture Club wish had been hits! Including “The War Song,” in which everybody’s favorite cross-dressing misanthrope writes off the human race with the words “People are stupid”! How did that one not climb to the Top of the Pops?

Culture Club specialized in lightweight pop confections composed of equal parts New Wave and blue-eyed soul; they avoided the frigid constraints of synth-pop and by so doing succeeded in emanating real warmth, even if was of the D. Bowie “plastic soul” variety. Just listen to the crooning on “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” Boy George sucks you in before the band even kicks in and he never lets up. And the rest of the band has the good sense to let his vocals stand front and center throughout. Doesn’t hurt, either, that the melody is one in a million.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bob Dylan & The Band,
The Basement Tapes

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Well, here I am at last, in a deserted warehouse on Desolation Row, about to realize my lifelong dream of interviewing the legendary Bob Dylan. It’s a rather odd place to meet, I know, but I got absolutely nowhere with Dylan’s PR people, so I decided to exercise my First Amendment rights by abducting him, duct-taping him to a rickety wooden chair, and shining a very bright light in his eyes. It’s an unorthodox arrangement, to be sure, but then Dylan is a famously uncooperative interviewee.

“Okay, Schmylan,” I say, opening the interview on a light note. “You’re going to spill or I’m going to shave Vincent Price’s mustache right off your face.”

“You don’t like it?” says Bob in that unintelligible frog-with-emphysema croak that makes his present-day concerts such wonderful exercises in collective audience incomprehension.

“Not really. I think it’s creepy. And if it’s creepy I want, I can always listen to Saved.”

“Vince bequeathed it to me in his will,” says Dylan, unfazed by my criticism. “And I happen to like it. It’s so Dr. Goldfoot and The Bikini Machine. I kept it in the freezer for years, on top of a box of Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Hey, would watch the parking meter?”

“Quoting your old chestnuts will get you nowhere,” I say. And to prove it, I slip a cigarette between his lips and smack it out again.

“No, I mean literally. I only fed it enough quarters for two hours. And the last thing I need is another ticket.”

“You’ve got bigger worries than a parking ticket, Zimmerman. Like your legacy. You’re the guy who put out Bob Dylan at Budokan. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way that album blows.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Steve Miller Band,

Steve Miller took the long and winding road to superstardom, putting out eight albums before he hit paydirt with bicentennial year smash Fly Like an Eagle. And there was a reason for his prolonged stint as a journeyman; most of those first seven albums were middling at best, and even Miller conceded as much.

Here’s Steve in the liner notes to 1972 comp Anthology: “Always before, you know, people more or less needed to be fans to like the albums. Oh, I mean there’d be some good cuts and a couple of not-so-good cuts, and then some cuts I don’t even like to remember. But Anthology is what I always wanted to make–two good LPs that’ll hold up.” Hardly a killer endorsement for his earlier work.

But all middling is not created equal, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the Steve Miller Band’s second LP, 1968’s Sailor. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a psychedelic rock masterpiece–that notion goes out the window right from the get go with the Pink Floydesque opening track “Song for Our Ancestors,” which is all whale farts and organ noodle and should have come with a tab of acid to render it interesting–but it includes more than its fair share of “good cuts.”

On Sailor–the last Steve Miller Band album featuring original members Boz “Lido Shuffle” Scaggs and keyboardist Jim Peterman–the group splits their affection for white blues and psychedelic rock more or less down the middle, and tosses in a couple of Dylan/Stones/Beach Boys homages while they’re at it. All of which is to say they’re all over the damn place, but still manage to turn what might have been an impossibly diffuse LP into a charmer.

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Graded on a Curve:
Adam and the Ants,
Kings of the Wild Frontier

Who’s better qualified to talk about New Wave legends Adam and the Ants than a real, live ant? Or better yet, anthropomorphic cartoon superhero Atom Ant? I recently caught up with everybody’s favorite atomic-powered New Frontier insect at a retirement anthill outside Phoenix, Arizona, and took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the band that invented Antmusic.

Before we start, how’s Secret Squirrel?

Squirrelly. Very squirrelly. All of that International Sneaky Service stuff went to his head. I was always having to remind him it was only TV. I occasionally get coded letters from him with handwritten return addresses from places like Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But they’re all postmarked Erie, Pennsylvania.

So what do you think about Adam and the Ants’ striking visual image?

It’s a disgrace to Family Formicidae. Real ants don’t wear make-up, although we do have our fair share of Goth Kids. Don’t get me wrong; in one sense their look is a return to the campy outrages of Glam Rock, and I don’t know a single ant who doesn’t love him some Glam. Hell, even their patented two-drummer Burundi beat is a salute of sorts to Gary Glitter.

What was your response to the “Antpeople Phenom”?

I took it as a left-handed complement to our eusociality and this mythical notion that we share some kind of “hive mind.” Hell, if that were true we’d all like straightedge–if that ain’t a terrifying example of programmed hive behavior, I don’t know what is. But speaking for myself, I think Antpeople are good people. You could do worse than imitate us. Let’s face it: acting human certainly hasn’t gotten the human race very far. The shit you people do on a daily basis is appalling. Cooperation and peaceful crisis resolution just aren’t your thing. Remember the episode where arch-enemy Karate Ant and I faced off and ended up having a friendly chat? Donald Trump would have called him “Little Rocket Man” and escalated that little contretemps into WWIII.

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Graded on a Curve:
Stevie Nicks,
Bella Donna

Talk about your sweet essence of unicorn–Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks was THEE gossamer High Priestess of Pop from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s, a white-winged dove and New Age sex symbol whose smoky, country rock-tinged vocals and gauzy, fantasy-themed ensembles inspired crystal visions in a whole generation of adolescents, both male and female.

Nicks established herself as a beguiling striker of mystical poses and magnetic personality of the sort that birds of exotic stripe like to perch on for reasons even they don’t fully comprehend. Just ask the cockatoo on the cover of Nick’s 1981 solo debut Bella Donna how he got there. He won’t be able to tell you.

Stevie has always been big on magic, and on Bella Donna she pulled off a conjuring trick that proved she could alchemize vinyl into platinum without the help of her Fleetwood Mac bandmates. And the bewitching one did it while dating the odious Don Henley. Had Stevie REALLY wanted to show off her sorceress’s skills she’d have turned her one-time beau from an Eagle into a Sri Lankan Frogmouth, but I digress.

But Bella Donna isn’t really magic; Nicks put it together the old-fashioned way, by writing a bunch of rock solid songs that may have sounded middle of the road to the critics, punk rockers, and New Wavers of the time but have withstood the test of time. In short, Nicks employed good old-fashioned popcraft, and added her trademark mystical sheen to the results. Call Bella Donna aural valium if you want, but haven’t your ears ever wanted to curl up into little balls of undifferentiated tissue and just relax?

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Graded on a Curve:
The Captain & Tennille, Love Will Keep Us Together

A few remarks on Captain and Tennille’s immensely successful 1975 debut LP Love Will Keep Us Together.

1. It should have been entitled, Buy This Album or We’ll Shoot These Dogs. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I look at that cover is “My God. They’ve taken hostages.”

2. Talk about your sexism. Who appointed Daryl Dragon Captain? Tennille should have mutinied and made him walk the plank.

3. The Grammy Award-winning title track of this enormously popular slab of G-rated family entertainment was followed, oddly enough, by an X-rated paean to interspecies dating entitled “Muskrat Love.” And I’m not the only family values advocate who was shocked by this. Here’s Toni Tennille, talking about the duo’s audience before royal company: “So, we performed and then the next day, lo and behold, it hit the papers that the Captain & Tennille had performed an ‘obscene’ song for Queen Elizabeth. Now, I have performed this song many times… and I still have not figured out what’s ‘obscene’ about it!” Toni, Toni, Toni–you’re not fooling anyone.

4. As the proud owner of a copy of Mark Bego’s quickie paperback Captain & Tennille: An Unauthorized Biography (1977: Tempo Books) I can tell you that Dragon’s sun is in Virgo, Tennille’s is in Taurus, and that the late Rona “Queen of Gossip Columnists” Barrett was both a close personal friend and humongous fan. As was the late, great rock impresario Don Kirshner, who gushed, “They can’t miss because they’re a fun couple, and they’re terrific singer/musicians!” And then there’s this, from Angelo Jurkovich of Vidal Sassoon Beverly Hills, who was responsible for Toni’s “trademark look”: [Her hair] has a lot of body, and when you cut it, it has so much movement and body!” Wow! Her hair has so much body he said it twice!

5. Daryl is a retiring guy who likes to stay in the background behind his keybs, but don’t let that fool you; behind those dark glasses lurks the musical genius responsible for making Love Will Keep Us Together such a gonzo piece of gauzy musical entertainment. Just check out the positively insane “Broddy Bounce,” with its wacky synthesizer, French-influenced vocals, and series of dog commands by Toni. “Lie down! Roll over! Good boy!” Perhaps this isn’t a G-rated LP after all.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Rolling Stones,
Exile on Main Street

I’ve been down in the dumps of late; the suicide of a friend, the death of another friend I dearly loved, and a bad case of the blues have all pretty much brought me to my knees. I feel beat down, fagged out, fucked over, and broken up, and life sure does have a way of tarnishing your eyelids, doesn’t it?

Where to turn in times like these? When you’ve got a foot in the grave and your head in the oven?

Exile on Main Street, naturally. It’s as beat down an LP as ever you’ll hear; Mick, Keith and Company are torn and frayed and have shit on their shoes and the whole album sounds like it was recorded in a sub-basement of Hell.

And yet. The Rolling Stones’ 1972 bruised and battered masterpiece (and high-water mark) somehow manages to rise above the bad vibes and general miasma of death and dissolution that surrounded the band at the time. Nothing–not drug busts, the death of Brian Jones, Altamont, tax exile, or Keith Richards’ slide toward junkiedom–could stop the Stones from turning Exile on Main Street into a celebration of hope and soul survival.

And this despite the fact that the album is the aural equivalent of the La Brea tar pits. Mick Jagger has never stopped carping about Exile’s notoriously sludgy mix, but the murk doesn’t just work–it’s part and parcel of the double album’s greatness. You have to trudge through shit to get to the Promised Land, and if you scrape the shit off these songs, well, you find diamonds. “Turd on the Run” anyone?

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Graded on a Curve:
Hot Chocolate,
10 Greatest Hits

The U.K. funk/soul/disco outfit Hot Chocolate never made much of a dent statewide; they’re best remembered for their 1975 hit “You Sexy Thing,” although pop aficionados will also remember them for such curiosities as “Brother Louie”–which Stories took to Number One in the U.S.–and “Emma.”

And that’s too bad, because the racially mixed Hot Chocolate produced some damn good music, much of which found its way onto their 1974 debut Cicero Park, 1975’s eponymous Hot Chocolate, and 1976’s Man to Man. Lead singer Errol Brown and bassist/co-lead vocalist Tony Wilson were a formidable songwriting team before the latter’s departure, and Brown continued to turn out some excellent stuff, as is proved beyond a doubt on 1977’s 10 Greatest Hits.

It didn’t hurt that Brown’s soulful croon was one in a million, or that he could shriek just like Wilson Pickett. Just listen to the screams he tosses off at the end of the immortal suicide ode “Emma,” which works to a “T” thanks to the funky drumming of white guy Tony Connor and the guitar of other white guy Harvey Hinsley. And Hinsley’s guitar is a thing of wonder on the hard-charging funk rocker “You Could’ve Been a Lady,” which would have flown to the Top of the Pops in a just world. This baby remains one of my favorite songs of America’s Bicentennial Year; inexplicably, Hot Chocolate didn’t see fit to release it as a single.

“Disco Queen” shows off Brown’s funky vocals and Connor’s heavy manner on the drums; the horn section is hot, and when Brown sings “She don’t need no man to give her satisfaction/All she needs is a guitar playing high” Hinsley’s there to do just that. This baby is the Talking Head’s “Life During Wartime” for the dance set, and I love it. “Heaven Is in the Back Seat of My Cadillac” has an impossibly funky groove and brings the best out of Brown, whose vocal style on this one is impossible to describe. Suffice if to say that when he bends the words “Let me take you there” the ladies swoon, and never has the idea of cramped back seat love sounded so good.

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Graded on a Curve: Fleetwood Mac,
Kiln House

We remember Fleetwood Mac’s Danny Kirwan who passed away on Friday, June 8 with a look back from our archives. Ed.

Long before Fleetwood Mac became thee greatest soft rock band of all time—1977’s Rumours sold approximately 17 billion copies, and everybody from the Shah of Iran to the killer whale at the San Diego Zoo were humming “Go Your Own Way”—Mick Fleetwood’s flagship was a bona fide English blues band. And charting said flagship’s Mac’s Columbus-like course from trad blues wannabes to soft rock heroes makes for an edifying listening experience.

Take 1970’s Kiln House. Guitar slingers Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan were in. Former guitar hero Peter Green was out. Christine McVie provided backing vocals, but was not yet a member of the band. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were doing whatever it is rock gods do before they become rock gods. Pursuing careers in professional badminton, perhaps. Anyway, Kiln House is a far more curious bird than Rumours or its groundbreaking predecessor, 1975’s Fleetwood Mac.

If Kiln House is short on the pop gems that stud Rumours and Fleetwood Mac, it’s light years away from the band’s blues origins as well. The truth is Kiln House is all over the place. Just check out the guitar heroics on such great tunes as “Tell Me All the Things You Do” and “Station Man.” And from there Mick and Company veer crazily from old school rock’n’rollers (a kick-ass cover of Fats Waller’s “Hi Ho Silver”) to country parody (the hilarious “Blood on the Floor”) to rockabilly tributes (a wacky cover of “Buddy’s Song,” which is credited to Buddy Holly’s mom, and “This Is a Rock,” which lopes and shuffles along at a lackadaisical but irresistible pace, putting anything ever recorded by the Stray Cats to shame).

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