Author Archives: Michael H. Little

Graded on a Curve:
Cage the Elephant,
Social Cues

Alt-rock megastars Cage the Elephant have won two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album of the year, and I think I know why: they’re boring. Toothless. Bland. Not out to make any waves. They’re the Whitney Houston of alternative rock, and proof that playing it safe is a sure-fire way to win the hearts and minds of the middle-of-the-road industry types who hand out the big prizes. Phil Collins would be proud.

It wasn’t always thus. Before they settled upon utter vapidity as cunning career strategy Cage the Elephant produced some moderately exciting blues and punk music—the Pixies get cited a lot—but time and craven ambition seem to have sandblasted what rough edges they had right off of them.

Compare their eponymous 2008 debut (and songs like “In One Ear” and “Free Love”) to 2020’s anodyne Social Cues and what you’ll hear is an elephant that decided to cage itself out of fear that running amok might impact sales or, even worse, alienate the music industry insiders who shape posterity. Just take a gander at this year’s slate of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees. Mariah Carey. The Dave Matthews Band. Sade. Lenny Kravitz. Lenny Kravitz!! When it comes to the rock industrial complex, playing it safe is playing it smart. And taking chances is chancy.

If Cage the Elephant’s grand strategy is to be out-tame Tame Impala, I congratulate them on their success. (Perfect name for supergroup: Tame the Elephant.) On the Grammy-winning Social Cues the six-piece (which was a four-piece until 2017) combine anything-but-enthralling dance rhythms (it’s telling that their real drummer does an impressive imitation of a drum machine throughout) with anything-but-enthralling pop/New Wave melodies topped by lead vox Matt Shultz’s mostly pureed vocals and depressingly generic lyrics.

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Graded on a Curve: Johnny Winter,
Still Alive and Well

Remembering Johnny Winter in advance of his birthdate tomorrow.Ed.

Famed music critic Frank Sinatra once called rock ’n’ roll the “most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.” The crooner who liked to eat scrambled eggs off the breasts of prostitutes added it’s the handiwork of “cretinous goons,” and called it a “rancid-smelling aphrodisiac… that fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” Wow! Sounds great! Where do I sign up?

Good thing The Chairman of the Board never (I’m assuming) got a gander at the Winter Brothers, Johnny and Edgar. One look at Edgar Winter on the cover of 1972’s They Only Come Out at Night would have confirmed his every prejudice, and struck him dead with a coronary thrombosis as well. That or he’d have amended his comments to say, “cretinous goons.”

But to hell, says I, with Frank Sinatra. And God bless dem low-down pink-eyed blues. The Winter Brothers have given us so much great music over the years you’d need a fleet of dump trucks to haul it all away. And it hasn’t been all blues by any means. Edgar, an inveterate dabbler, has recorded pop, blues, rock, boogie, jazz-fusion, and whatever the hell you call “Frankenstein,” while Johnny has played his fair share of straight-ahead hard rock.

In any case, I had a heckuva time deciding whether to review They Only Come Out at Night or Johnny’s 1973 classic Still Alive and Well. I finally opted for the latter because (1) Edgar’s a Scientologist, and I’m a bigot and (2) while Edgar boasts one fantastic set of mutton chops, Johnny has better hair. And a less flamboyant taste in neck bling. The choker Edgar sports on They Only Come Out at Night looks like a Versailles chandelier.

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Graded on a Curve:
Steely Dan,
Can’t Buy a Thrill

Remembering Walter Becker, born on this day in 1950.Ed.

The passing of Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker hit me hard; my fond memories of them go all the way back to their debut LP, 1972’s Can’t Buy a Thrill, which an unusually hip (for the tiny Nowhereville I grew up in, at least) high school music teacher used to make us listen to in class. She was doing her best, that intrepid educator, to help us turn on, tune in, and drop out. Or if not to drop out, at least to alert us to the fact that contemporary music didn’t begin and end with Carole King’s Tapestry.

Steely Dan has always had its detractors; I know because I’ve slagged them my own damn self. I love their early work, but rued their slow slide into the smooth jazz precincts of such LPs as 1977’s Aja and 1980’s Gaucho. Was I too hard on Becker and Donald Fagen? In hindsight, yes. “Deacon Blue” may be a bit too Vaseline-based for my tastes but it has its charms—indeed, when it comes to loser anthems, it’s one of the best.

As for those folks who hate Steely Dan altogether, well, I just don’t understand them. Nor do I understand the labels (soft rock? really?) some critics have slapped on the band over the years. (Why, Rob Sheffield went so far as to write off Can’t Buy a Thrill as—alas and alack—“mellow folk rock”!) Sure, Can’t Buy a Thrill makes for relatively mellow listening.

But it’s a smart person’s mellow listen and doesn’t include an ounce of folk. Its songs are complex and its cynical lyrics are the best a good cynicism-breeding Bard College education can buy. And unlike almost any “soft rock” band then in existence, Steely Dan could always be counted on to throw a fiery guitar-fueled spanner (“Reelin’ in the Years”) into the works. Elliott Randall, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and Danny Dias all appear on Can’t Buy a Thrill, and all three are guitar slingers straight off the top shelf.

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Graded on a Curve: Sonny and Cher,
The Beat Goes On

Remembering Sonny Bono, born on this day in 1935.Ed.

They were, during their time, America’s most beloved singing couple. The short one wasn’t much to look at, but, boy, was that Art Garfunkel hot!

No, I’m talking about Salvatore Bono and Cheerily Sarkisian, who started their career together as Caesar and Cleo but won hearts and minds as Sonny and Cher. The duo did it all; put out a lot of great songs, parlayed their musical success into a successful CBS television variety show, even popularized animal skins and knee-high caveman boots.

Many Sonny and Cher best-of compilations muddy the waters by sneaking Cher’s solo hits into the mix, but me, I’m a purist–you might as well slap a couple of Paul McCartney songs onto a John Lennon greatest hits record. Which is why I chose to review 1975’s The Beat Goes On. Except, wait–the great “Laugh at Me” was Sonny’s only solo hit, so what’s it doing here? And if they saw fit to include it, why not also toss in his legendary LSD freak-out ode “Pammie’s on a Bummer”?

The duo will forever be best remembered for “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe.” The former captured the ebullient spirit of young America every bit as well as Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)”; the latter’s shared avowal of love so moved the Dictator’s Andy Shernoff and Handsome Dick Manitoba they sang it together on 1975’s Go Girl Crazy. Anybody who hates either song is certifiably insane.

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Graded on a Curve:
Uriah Heep,
The Best of Uriah Heep

Uriah Heep played Hobbit rock. The English progressive rock band’s unholy fascination with swords and sorcery, dungeons and dragons, and castles and fair damsels was enough to make you suspect the guys in the band wore sky-blue capes emblazoned with golden stars around the house. And owned extensive codpiece collections.

Depending on your feelings about Merlin-friendly fantasy, their pair of 1972 releases Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday were either manna from Middle Earth or laugh riots. I fall into the latter camp—I was once coerced into seeing a Lords of the Rings flick at a multiplex theater and spent the totality of its inexcusably protracted running time wishing J.R.R. Tolkien was still amongst the living so I could punch him in the kisser.

But musically Uriah Heep were one of the most palatable of England’s progressive rock bands, precisely because they put the rock, which in their case ventured into the metal realm, first. They were lean and mean and cast a unique spell thanks to Ken Hensley’s hard-charging steed of an organ. Throw in guitarist with mad skills Mick Box and the 43-octave pipes of David Byron, who is admittedly an acquired taste because at any given moment he may screech like a bat out of hell or shriek like a guy who’s balls are being squeezed really hard, and what you had was totally sui generis.

Their 1970 debut was entitled …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble was very ‘eavy indeed. At their best they could melt stone. At their worst they were every bit as insufferably pompous and pretentious as any progrock unit of the time, with the possible exceptions of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Rick Wakeman.

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Graded on a Curve: Bright Eyes,
I’m Wide Awake,
It’s Morning

Celebrating Conor Oberst, born on this day in 1980.Ed.

You know you’re in trouble when the most uplifting song on an LP is about a fatal airline crash. And yet in the case of the 2005 LP I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, Bright Eyes’ front man Conor Oberst somehow makes it work. This album may not be a mood elevator, but it’s lovely from spiritually charged beginning to political end, thanks in part to Oberst’s excellent lyrics and thanks in part to the melodies, doleful as they often are.

Folk influenced, but with touches of musical discord, “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” left me cold at first, with the exception of the airplane crash classic, “At the Bottom of Everything.” But it slowly grew on me, like fuzzy green mold on the animated corpse of Rod Stewart. Oberst may truck in depression, and his idea of a happy song may involve mass death, but he’s not taking life lying down.

On “Ode to Joy” (which borrows, musically, from Beethoven), for instance, he defiantly faces down the darkness at noon, raging against the futility of war to the accompaniment of some cool guitar feedback before tossing in the great lines, “Well I could have been a famous singer/If I had someone else’s voice/But failure’s always sounded better/Let’s fuck it up boys, make some noise!” If all he’d written in his life were those last two lines, I would still love the man.

“We Are Nowhere and It’s Now” boasts a lovely melody and the vocals of Emmylou Harris, dueting with Oberst. Oberst is falling apart, what with the waitress at his favorite bar looking concerned and the drugs he’s taking giving him a “head full of pesticide.” The trumpet is great, the vocals are transcendental, and somebody else’s suffering has never sounded so good.

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Graded on a Curve:
Peter Gabriel,
Peter Gabriel

Celebrating Peter Gabriel on his 74th birthday.Ed.

When Peter Gabriel split Genesis to venture out on his own in 1975, his first solo album was 1977’s eponymous Peter Gabriel. In hindsight, he would judge it overproduced. But artists rarely prove the best judges of their own work. Come the end of his life Picasso would say, “What’s with the weird faces? Nobody looks like that.” Or maybe it was me who said that.

Gabriel featured an odd cast of characters. Gabriel brought King Crimson and art rock guitarist Robert Fripp and synthesizer innovator Larry Fast on board, while producer Bob Ezrin—best known for his work with Alice Cooper–lassoed Cooper guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, as well as bass player Tony Levin. Art rock met lowbrow shock metal on Gabriel, and it was Ezrin’s responsibility to make it work.

And he did, for the most part. One of the LP’s songs sounds like it crept in through a studio side door and bribed its way onto the record. But overproduced or not—and I fall into the camp that believes it isn’t—Gabriel is a powerful piece of work, and a move in the right direction by a guy who, come the punk revolution, would later say, “prancing around in fairyland was rapidly becoming obsolete.”

By “prancing” he might have been referring to Jethro Tull, or his band Genesis for that matter. At the close of each show of the live tour promoting 1975’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel would appear on stage in a ridiculous yellow body sock festooned with buboes that made him look like a day-glo leper. Prancing? More like dada gone horribly, horribly wrong.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Doors,
The Doors

Remembering Ray Manzarek, born on this day in 1939.Ed.

What is there left to say about Jim Morrison? Most people have long since pigeon-holed him as either the Dionysian poet/seer in tight leather pants or the poetaster who got fat and died, his perfect male beauty ruined by alcoholic bloat and a beard that would have looked right at home on the faces of any one of my old pig farmer drug buddies. In short, folks tend to be either for or agin’ him, unless, like me, you’re one of those people who think he was all of the above, and more.

Morrison is a strange case, but those were strange days, and I admire his homicidal psychodramas and weird scenes inside the gold mine because they captured what it was like to live in a sunny LA paradise in whose shadows lurked dark predators and very scary cults, one of which happened to be the Manson Family. Morrison was a flower child only in the sense that his taste in florists ran to the French poet Charles “The Flowers of Evil” Baudelaire; as he famously said, “I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos–especially activity that seems to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.” Then again, he’s the same guy who said, “Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts.”

There are those who argue that the early Morrison got by on his model good looks, but the guy was a far better poet than, say, Patti Smith, and like Smith he was a mesmerizing performer, falling into captivating trances and flinging himself about like a man possessed, at least until demon alcohol really got its claws into him. At which point he fell into booze-soaked rambling, or face first on the stage floor, and got arrested for exposing himself in Florida, where the only thing you’re allowed to expose is the fact that you were dumb enough to move to Florida in the first place. And despite his wisecracks—“Actually I don’t remember being born,” he said, “it must have happened during one of my blackouts”—things weren’t funny any more.

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Graded on a Curve:
Pablo Cruise,
Twentieth Century Masters: Millennium Collection: The Best
of Pablo Cruise

Frank Sinatra once called rock ‘n’ roll “the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear.” He was, I’m reasonably certain, referring to Pablo Cruise, the “Sex Pistols of Yacht Rock.” I actually own a Pablo Cruise t-shirt, bought it because I wanted people to think I’m vicious and depraved. And it works. Pedestrians tend to cross the street to avoid me. They’re afraid I may bite. Or scarier yet, force them to listen to “Love Will Find a Way.”

For the longest time I assumed Pablo Cruise took their name from an obscure Mexican revolutionary leader. This is not the case. Others assumed there was a guy named Pablo Cruise in the band. This is also not the case. When asked “Who’s Pablo Cruise?” the quartet said simply, “He’s the guy in the middle.” I like a band with a sense of humor and I like Pablo Cruise (in a very small measure) and I am not ashamed.

I bought the t-shirt as a joke but I wear it with pride because despite their soft rock proclivities Pablo Cruise had soul. They did not have much soul, mind you, but they did their best. They also did their best to produce an “exciting sound.” As a result they are a surprisingly interesting Yacht Rock band. They were always attempting to transcend the mellow, to rise above the smooth. It was a quixotic endeavor, to be sure, and they failed for more than they succeeded. But I credit them for trying.

Robert Christgau of Village Voice fame wrote of Pablo Cruise’s 1975 breakthrough album Lifeline, “You can take the Doobie Brothers out of the country, but you can’t turn them into Three Dog Night.” I haven’t the slightest idea what this means, but I’m pretty sure it’s an insult. Insulting Pablo Cruise is a popular pastime. Everybody I know does it because everybody I know hates Pablo Cruise with a passion. I would call Pablo Cruise “the whipping boys of the world” but every single band or artist to haunt the musical marinas of our fair land during the seventies could lay claim to the honor. God help Christopher Cross, but that bastard put out a hellish good debut LP.

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Graded on a Curve: Carole King,
Tapestry

Celebrating Carole King on her 82nd birthday.Ed.

Carole King is a paradoxical figure; having begun her career as an assembly-line songwriter with then husband Gerry Goffin at the famed Brill Building, where the couple collaborated on a number of highly successful songs for other artists, she went onto become an archetype of the sensitive singer-songwriter–that avatar of authenticity who wouldn’t be caught dead singing songs written in the musical world’s equivalent of an automotive factory.

King’s move from West Orange, NJ to Laurel Canyon in 1967 was more than just a geographical one; insofar as it symbolized her transformation from song craftsman for hire to soul-barer, it made King–along with the likes of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell–the perfect embodiment of the soul-searching Me Generation.

King’s turn toward self-expression was well in tune with the zeitgeist, as was proved by the supernatural success of her second solo album, 1971’s Tapestry. Every sensitive soul in America owned a copy, including the two spinster ladies–they were probably only in their late twenties–who ran the Catholic Youth Organization meetings I attended as a teen, that is until it finally struck me that (a) I wasn’t even Catholic, but was only there to woo my first love, and (b) could be having a much better time doing drugs.

How many nights did I listen to Tapestry while looking at the cover and thinking “Why is her hair so frizzy? Why isn’t she wearing shoes? And what is that goddamn cat’s problem?” And for a long time afterwards, having abandoned King and the school of genteel singer-songwriters in general for the electric thrills of David Bowie and Frank Zappa, I chuckled at my silly and naive thralldom to the mild comforts and gentile thrills of this snug and familiar quilt of an LP.

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Graded on a Curve: Taylor Swift,
1989

Well now that Taylor Swift is in cahoots with Joe Biden to rig this coming Sunday’s Super Bowl in favor of boyfriend Travis Kelce’s team the Kansas City Chiefs in what one conservative pundnut has called a “psyop,” and the right-wingnut lunatics who despise her for endorsing Democrats and presumably turning their innocent little girls into brainwashed pop music trollops are crawling all over one another to issue doomsday predictions should this vile and sinister plot succeed, with one shithouse-crazy rat of a commentator by the name of Rogan O’Handley even going so far as to bluntly warn that a Chiefs victory will result in, I kid you not, World War III and millions of innocent deaths, it seems as good a time as any to say that Swift is hardly Leo Rothstein (remember the 1919 Black Sox!) but rather a pop phenomenon and powerful cultural influencer possessed of immense talent and charm. I like her. I like her music. And I hope she is part of some sinister cabal to rig the Super Bowl. I love a good deep-state conspiracy. And I hate the San Francisco Giants.

Swift, as everybody who hasn’t lived under a rock since 2006 or so knows, began her career as a country artist before moving popwards and ultimately diving into the deep end of the synth-pop pool with 2014’s 1989. This led her to both immense popularity and cult status, with her fans, known as Swifties, hanging on her every last word, lyric, song, album, fashion choice, and romantic imbroglio, the last of which she often refers to in her songs.

Adulation has come with a good bit of slut-shaming and stalking—she was a real asshole magnet before she became the target of conservatives, most of whom are terrified of her because she has an enormous base and could actually entice them into voting, because the last thing the right-wingers in our fair nation want is young people voting. They tend to vote for the wrong sorts, namely politicians who aren’t members in good standing of the ever-growing lunatic wing of the Republican party.

Swift’s appeal is easy to understand. She’s bright, charismatic, has a great voice, writes catchy pop confections, and isn’t Charlie Daniels. And she’s not afraid to take musical risks, as she did with 1989. And they’ve paid off—1989 has gone nine-times platinum, which I think translates to sales of three billion copies, although I’m terribly bad at math. The country folks may not have liked it, although I’m betting many happily followed her into synth-pop territory. Her true fans, I’m guessing, would follow her anyway. If she were to collaborate with Laibach, or the ghost of Pol Pot for that matter, they’d be there to cheer her on.

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Graded on a Curve: Mötley Crüe,
Dr. Feelgood

Celebrating Vince Neil on his 63rd birthday.Ed.

When the news circulated about my sex tape with Pamela Anderson I went into a panic. What would my mother think? Then it came out that the sex tape in question featured Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not so my mom. She called me in a huff and said “Here’s your chance to make something of yourself and you blow it. How am I going to face the ladies at my bridge club? Did you even have sex with the woman?” “I don’t think so,” I admitted. “I fell asleep while watching Baywatch and one thing led to another.”

Critics have been sniping at Mötley Crüe for decades. In a review of 1984’s Shout at the Devil the Village Voice’s Robert Christgau wrote “It’s hardly news that this platinum product is utter dogshit even by heavy metal standards,” but then Christgau’s an elitist and hates Guns N’ Roses too. God knows it’s easy to mock Mötley Crüe, both for their brand of hair metal and their fashion sense; their hair spray budget come the release of 1989’s Dr. Feelgood was $98,000 per week, and they were responsible for one-quarter of the world’s spandex sales. Without Mötley Crüe, many of Peru’s spandex farmers would have starved.

The important question when it comes to Dr. Feelgood is simple: Does it have a reason to exist? I would say yes. Vince Neil (vocals), Mick Mars (lead guitars), Nikki Sixx (bass and keyboards), and the aforementioned Tommy Lee collectively have the intelligence of a Cuban water rat, and their misogyny grows tiresome very quickly, but there’s no question they’re a top notch metal band. And a few of the songs on Dr. Feelgood—their first LP after being weaned from every mind-altering substance on planet Earth, as well as several they had to have shipped in special delivery from other regions of the galaxy—are well worth owning.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Sensational
Alex Harvey Band,
Next

Remembering Alex Harvey, born on this day in 1935.Ed.

What the fuck is this? Glam hangers-on The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were a uniquely Scottish phenomenon, trainspotting and pronouncing the word “garage” the way Elton John does in his song “Levon.” Which is just another way of saying that hardly anybody in the U.S. of A. outside of Cleveland ever laid ears on ‘em, much less considered ‘em sensational.

And small wonder, because the Sensational Alex Harvey Band were simply too esoteric gonzo in the grand tradition of unapologetic English eccentrics for mass consumption. Pub rock heroes with progressive rock tendencies who weren’t afraid to shamelessly camp it up for the Glitter kids, SAHB liked to keep the punters guessing, as 1973’s Next demonstrates.

On the band’s sophomore LP you get some Mott rock, a faux-snakeskin swamp blues, an esoteric hoodoo jive number called “Vambo Marble Eye,” some straight-up Glam Rock, and a couple of numbers so completely over the top flamboyant they make David Bowie and Gary Glitter look like wallflowers. Fact is I’ve never heard anything like ‘em outside the canons of Jobriath, Meatloaf, and Morrissey.

All of which to say is that Alex Harvey and Company were some twisted people, as their madcap live shows proved. Superhero costumes, props, you name it–these anything goes eclectitions (a word I just made up!) put every bit as much outré energy into their stage act as Alice Cooper or Jethro Tull, and their fanatical UK cult following adored them for it.

The LP opens on a cheesy blues note with piano stomper “Swampsnake”–on which Harvey plays some very ornery harmonica and does some serious over-emoting–before taking a very “whatever were they thinking?” wrong turn with “Gang Bang,” which sounds like your standard Mott the Hoople pub rocker but flunks every known morality test with its chorus “Ain’t nothing like a gang bang/To blow away the blues.”

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Graded on a Curve:
The Legendary
Stardust Cowboy, Paralyzed

Where to begin the saga of The Legendary Stardust Cowboy? Well, outer space—which is where some are convinced he had his beginnings, although let the record reflect that he was born Norman Carl Odam in Lubbock Texas, where he grew up and which he so hated he never went back—is as good as place as any.

Seems back in 1973 some braniac at NASA got the bright idea to rouse the astronauts in space by playing “the Ledge’s” brilliantly awful (and awfully brilliant) “Paralyzed.” Trouble is it left them so discombobulated there was fear they’d lose their minds and set the controls for the sun, which led NASA to promptly put the kibosh on the practice. Any half-assed song can get itself banned in Boston. “Paralyzed” is the only song to ever be banned in space.

And speaking of the Great Out There, everybody’s favorite Space Oddity David Bowie was a fan, and even went so far as to slap a cover of LSD’s “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” on 2002’s Heathens. And where do you think Ziggy got that “Stardust”? That’s right. From the bugle-playing maniac with no apparent sense of rhythm and melody and a singing style that can only be described as enthusiastically deranged.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy has been called a pioneer of the “psychobilly” movement, but let the evidence show that despite his apparent derangement, the artist formerly known as Norman Carl Odam went on to become a productive member of society working as a private contractor for, you guessed it, NASA. Although he still occasionally takes his show on the road, generally with a rotating band of admiring indie notables backing him up under the name the Altamont Boys. The Lonesome Stardust Cowboy is not devoid of a twisted sense of humor.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Hollies,
The Hollies’ Greatest Hits

Celebrating Graham Nash on his 82nd birthday.Ed.

When it comes to scrumptious English pop confections, it’s hard to top the fluff produced by The Hollies on the Epic and Imperial labels during the mid-sixties. While their contemporaries were producing big psychedelic statements, these Mancunian lads were whipping up irresistible little ditties that were pure froth. “Carrie Anne” is one of the most innocent and loving slices of pure popcraft ever recorded.

And 1973’s The Hollies’ Greatest Hits offers a wonderful–if inherently limited–overview of the Hollies’ not-so-grand ambitions. These proud lightweights adhered like superglue to the format of the 3-minute pop song–“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” is a serious outlier at 4 minutes, 19 seconds–but they knew how to make those 3 minutes count. A whole hell of lot happens in “Dear Eloise,” and the deliriously dizzy-making “On a Carousel” contains gorgeous multitudes. When it comes to great songwriting teams, the names of Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, and Graham Nash should never be forgotten.

It goes without saying that this compilation will not appeal to existentialists, hard rockers, or people who recoil at the word “cute.” That said, the LP doesn’t play up the cute as much as it might have. I can certainly understand why such post-Nash compositions as 1969’s heavy-on-the-soul “He Ain’t Heavy,” 1972’s lovely but lugubrious “Long Dark Road,” and that same year’s surprisingly hard rocking “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” are included herein, but they don’t feel much at home; a comp that focused solely on the Nash-era Hollies would sound more of a piece, and would provide more pure pop pleasure to people looking for frothy pop thrills.

I also wish this greatest hits didn’t jump back and forth in time in a craven effort to put the more recognizable hits up front; side two starts with a song from 1969 followed by three songs from 1967, then fast forwards to two songs from 1972. But hey, that’s show business, and I can only presume that the folks who put the comp together–and omitted some great U.K.-only hits in the process–knew best.

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