Sunday, September 8, 2019

So, yeah, that's why...

AM prides itself in its celebration of music. In these caustic times, we have a myriad of differences and plenty to argue about, but come on, Led Zeppelin IV… I think we can agree.
Remember Mike Damone's 5 Point Plan from Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
1. Never let on how much you like a girl.
2. Always call the shots.
3. Act like wherever you are - that's the place to be.
4. When ordering food, find out what she wants then order for both of you. It’s a classy move.
5. When it comes to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.

Still funny.
And while T. Swift gets on my nerves, I understand why she's the biggest star in the world. I'm not a huge rap fan, but Chance the Rapper and Death Cab For Cutie – together – I'm so there. Childish Gambino/Lando Calrissian, yep. New Neil Young, Bruce, Lana Del Rey...
People ask then, why isn't there more focus on today's music or, say, the music of the 90s on the AM network? Why focus on 50 years ago?
While I would maintain that Radiohead's OK Computer is one of the top ten LPs of all time (putting it alongside Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt. Pepper), and Weezer's Blue Album is one of my personal faves, there was no glut of great music in the 90s - quality, yes; quality and quantity, nah. The grunge renaissance that included Nirvana and Pearl Jam was short-lived and Cobain's demise sounded the death knell to a more promising decade.
Ah, but 1969 and the Woodstock Era: Zeppelin's first American tour, the recording of Abbie Road and the Door's L.A. Woman, the Rolling Stones' Let it Bleed, Trout Mask Replica, Tommy, Miles Davis' In a Silent Way, Zappa, Grateful Dead, Bowie, the birth of progressive rock, Genesis - endless.
The Allman Brothers, The Carpenters, Crazy Horse, Faces with Rod Stewart, Yes, Jethro Tull, Judas Priest, Hall and Oates, Kraftwerk, Humble Pie and Renaissance all formed around the Woodstock era, simultaneously! And that was only the beginning.
So yeah, that's why.

And yet...
Bands like Lord Huron and Fleet Foxes harken back to the roots of American music; indeed, Americana can be traced back to Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie as a truly American art form. In rock music, Americana’s roots begin with Neil Young.

Unlike popular country music today, Americana artists maintain that old country feel; banjo and mandolin, steel guitar and twang, all play into the mystique. This is not your father's country. And the godfather of grunge amazingly provides a taste of what's to come on his new album Colorado with the preview track "Milky Way," a song with a percussive track smooth as aged whiskey and a laid-back quality that would be at home on Zuma or Harvest. Neil breathes new life into a career that began with his eponymous debut LP in 1969, that opening instrumental track sounding like something from the Country Bear Jamboree (a huge compliment from a Liver Lips McGraw fan - Jamboree fans know what I'm talking about).
While we have to wait until late October for the LP's release, in the meantime, Americana fans can rejoice in this summer's Western Stars from Bruce Springsteen, the title track a melancholy and beautiful tune that summons up Tom Joad and Nebraska. (I'd even go so far as to say that Western Stars is as good as Nebraska.)
You've got to love that nearly 50 years on, Bruce can still write songs that celebrate America without masking its flaws. You remember, an America without the lies.

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