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Graded on a Curve: Michael Beach,
Gravity/Repulsion

The Aussie native and Oakland transplant Michael Beach’s Golden Theft came out in 2013 and was rated by this writer as a masterpiece. Achievements of that level can be hard to follow up, but along with playing in the Melbourne-based Shovels and undertaking numerous solo tours of his home country, the USA and Europe, Beach […]

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Graded on a Curve:
The Beach Boys,
The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

I nearly drowned last Christmas. I’d decided to go surfing for the first time and promptly toppled from the board into eight feet of water, where I flailed about screaming for help because I have all the swimming skills of a block of concrete. But just as I was breathing my last, Santa pulled up […]

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Graded on a Curve:
The Beach Boys,
Wild Honey

Following the disastrous Smile sessions and amidst the continuing psychic disintegration of band auteur Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys took a daring step; they dispensed with Brian’s meticulously brilliant studio wizardry—not that they had any choice, given his poor mental condition—and their choir boy image at the same time, and put out an album, 1967’s […]

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Graded on a Curve: Frankie Avalon,
“Beach Party” b/w
“Don’t Stop Now”

It’s easy to say snide things about Frankie Avalon. I myself have called the teen idol who first made his name as a trumpet player, then as a singer, and finally as the star of such immortal motion pictures as 1963’s Beach Party (with Annette Funicello, natch) and 1965’s Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine […]

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Graded on a Curve: Killdozer and Alice Donut, Michael Gerald’s Party Machine Presents!

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long. —Ed. Killdozer and Alice Donut: two bands for people with great taste that taste great together! Uniting to produce some of the greatest music ever! Talk about your coups! Why didn’t this baby win a Grammy? Because as Elvis Costello said, “Radio is in the hands of […]

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Graded on a Curve: Frankie Avalon,
“Beach Party” b/w
“Don’t Stop Now”

It’s easy to say snide things about Frankie Avalon. I myself have called the teen idol who first made his name as a trumpet player, then as a singer, and finally as the star of such immortal motion pictures as 1963’s Beach Party (with Annette Funicello, natch) and 1965’s Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine […]

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Graded on a Curve:
The Beach Boys,
Wild Honey

Following the disastrous Smile sessions and amidst the continuing psychic disintegration of band auteur Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys took a daring step; they dispensed with Brian’s meticulously brilliant studio wizardry—not that they had any choice, given his poor mental condition—and their choir boy image at the same time, and put out an album, 1967’s […]

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Graded on a Curve:
Deep Purple,
Long Beach 1971

Some bands take things too far; other bands take things to the very limits of human endurance. Such was the case with Deep Purple live. They felt they were doing their audiences a disservice if they played a song shorter than 11 minutes, and they preferred to go 20. And the English heavy metal legends […]

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Graded on a Curve:
Michael Hall,
Love Is Murder

Austin, Texas: Where you can’t fire off a six-shooter without hitting some manner of rockabilly genius, half-mad, Listerine-chugging singer-songwriter, displaced Englishman, or, if you’re really lucky, just some drummer. Austin has depths—unacknowledged musical geniuses skulk about its streets, drunk or sober, hopeless or hopeful, stubborn to the point of absurdity or about ready to throw […]

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Graded on a Curve:
The Beach Boys, “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” b/w “Never Learn Not to Love”

Existence is unutterably strange. It’s a fact. The world is filled with miracles and marvels and inexplicable occurrences that defy all rational explanation and that stand, in fact, as rebukes to the very conception of rationality itself. Take the 45 rpm record I hold metaphorically before me. Soon I will place it on my metaphorical […]

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Graded on a Curve: Killdozer and Alice Donut, Michael Gerald’s Party Machine Presents!

Killdozer and Alice Donut: two bands for people with great taste that taste great together! Uniting to produce some of the greatest music ever! Talk about your coups! Why didn’t this baby win a Grammy? Because as Elvis Costello said, “Radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools/Trying to anesthetize the way […]

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Graded on a Curve: Emerson Lake & Palmer, Love Beach

Sometimes you just have to gird your loins and confront the horror. I know, it’s daunting; some experiences are so traumatizing, brutalizing, and utterly beyond the pale that you never come back from them at all. Or not as the same person you were before you left. And such was the case when this critic […]

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Graded on a Curve:
Joe Cocker,
Live At Woodstock

Remembering Joe Cocker, born on this day in 1944. —Ed. Joe Cocker, he of the spastic stage gesticulations and mouthful of gravel, was one of rock’s greatest interpreters of other peoples’ material. He didn’t cover your song, he Cockerized it with that impossibly expressive rasp of his, and once he’d Cockerized your song you never […]

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Graded on a Curve: Robert Fripp,
Exposure

What a great album! The songs are brilliant! The entire cast of musicians, which include Daryll Hall, Tony Levin, and Terri Roche defy the laws of talent! Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins also make guest appearances! And Mary Lou Green does hair! And does a bang-up job of it I’m sure! On 1979’s Exposure—the first […]

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Graded on a Curve:
Pete Townshend,
Who Came First

Celebrating Pete Townshend, born on this day in 1945. —Ed. When it comes to grandiosity, Pete Townshend takes the cake. He’s always had huge ambitions, as his numerous concept albums—both with The Who (Tommy, Quadrophenia, the abandoned Lifehouse, and The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether–wait, that one was by The Alan Parsons Project) […]

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