David Bowie Live Santa Monica ’72 was originally broadcast on Los Angeles FM radio station KMET before becoming a widely circulated bootleg. The radio introduction give an air of formality before “Hang Onto Yourself” explodes out of the gates. Mick Ronson’s guitar is a highlight of the 17 track disc including the iconic riff from “Ziggy Stardust”. Trevor Bolder’s bass also standouts on several tracks including on the slower “Five Years”
One of the loudest cheers from the audience comes for “Space Oddity”. Ronson adds excellent harmonies on a track where Bowie makes the noises for a spaceship taking off. One of two cover songs, the band wring the grime out of the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man” with Ronson’s chiming guitar. The show then starts to close on a raucous note with the glam stomp of “Jean Genie” and a snarling “Suffragette City”. Bowie fans and critics love the sound from this radio broadcast and more casual fans will find a solid run through of early greatest hits with more than a few highlights.
The ongoing joke with Yo La Tengo is that bassist James McNew is still the new guy, 30 years later. It’s a funny joke. Here, he handles the recording of the new This Stupid World album and takes over the vocals while delivering an excellent bass groove on “Tonight’s Episode”. First single “Fallout” delivers an excellent YLT performance – a fuzzy pop song where Ira Kaplan sings “I want to fall out of time”. The other Kaplan highlight is on the slower “Apology Letter”. A soothing repeating guitar line lays the bed while he delivers the deadpan lyrics – “And then I got mad because you got mad/Another one of my delightful quirks”.
Possibly on the other end of that apology is wife Georgia Hubley who sings the somber acoustic track “Aselestine”. Waves of noise gather on the title track, where the vocals are buried at sea before the electronic beat of “Miles Away” where Hubley returns to vocals on the icy atmospheric closer. “Burdens rise/Avert your eyes/The pain creeps in anyhow”. On their 17th album, the trio of Yo La Tengo deliver a late period classic that keeps their distinct sound while adding rivers of other sounds.
Following up John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan continues to move in a country direction with Nashville Skyline. This is shown right away on the remake of his own song, “Girl From The North Country” with the man in black himself, Johnny Cash. The track shows Dylan’s country voice that he will use throughout the album. “One More Night” may be the most straight up country sounding song on the album, a lonesome and spiritual song taking place under the moon and stars.
50’s rockers influence the sound on “Peggy Day” and “To Be Alone With You” where Dylan sings, “they say the nighttime is the right time/to be with the one you love”. There are two standouts on Nashville Skyline, that don’t include Johnny Cash, the first is “I Threw It All Away”. A beautiful, melancholy melody carries the song, with organ tones just below the surface. Dylan sings “I must have been mad/I never knew what I had/Until I threw it all away”.
The second classic is one of his most popular, “Lay Lady Lay”. The almost mournful tune, sees Dylan use the lower register of his voice, creating a distinctly new sound. Drummer Kenny Buttrey uses both bongos and a cowbell for a unique drum pattern on the verses. The track has been covered numerous times and has a lot in common with the alt country sound of the 90s, including R.E.M’s Out of Time album. The song would be his last top ten hit.
Nashville Skyline is a unique album (thus far) in Bob Dylan’s catalogue. It sounds like he’s strumming out songs on a porch with producer Bob Johnston, guitarist Charlie McCoy, and Charlie Daniels on bass among others. Here he sounds free from being the voice of his generation which produces a lighter batch of songs, ones that sound effortless like closing track “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”. At just 27 minutes, Nashville Skyline breezes along the country roads.
The eighth solo album from former Go-Betweens front man, Robert Forster is a family affair. Faced with the news that wife Karen Baumler was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, son Louis adds guitar/bass/percussion and daughter Loretta adds additional guitar on the home recorded tracks. What stands out immediately is the stellar guitar playing on song such as “It’s Only Poison” and the warm tones of “Go Free”.
Album highlight, “Tender Years” is a beautiful tribute to his wife where Forster sings, “Images of her are vivid/Her beauty has not withered”. “The Roads” is another acoustic track about the roads we travel that eventually lead back home. First song, “She’s a Fighter” just repeats the title over and over. The driving acoustic guitar adds tension in a fight where his wife is “fighting for good”. The Candle And The Flame is another classy, mature record from the elder statesman of the indie rock community.
After an aborted session with David Crosby, Leonard Cohen turned to producer Bob Johnston for his second album, Songs From A Room. Starting with the classic, “Bird On The Wire”, the plaintive song adds strings to the background. Here Cohen opens up, for better or worse, as he sings, “If I have been unkind/I hope that you can just let it go by”. Several songs are biblical in nature and recall Bob Dylan on tracks such as “Story of Isaac” and “The Old Revolution”. With a touch of echo in the vocal, Cohen sings of an acquaintance who committed suicide at too young of an age on the haunting “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy”.
The songs on the sophomore album sound more stark and cold than than Cohen’s classic debut album from 1967. Whereas the cover of that album shows the singer in colour, here he is shown in black/white, just a shadow. The album warms up towards the end with “Lady Midnight” that adds an organ/keyboard in the background and closes with the simple folk pop sound of “Tonight Will Be Fine” that will have the listener nodding along as Leonard Cohen sings “and I know from your smile/That tonight will be fine…for awhile”.