Episode 2.3: MOONDANCE

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MOONDANCE – Van Morrison – Warner Brothers – 1970

Sequestered away in Woodstock, New York, at the end of the 1960s, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison was on a quest. His previous album, Astral Weeks, was floundering commercially, and no one knew quite what to make of this Celtic troubadour who sang of mysticism and “gardens all misty wet with rain.”

Out of this artistic sabbatical came 1970’s Moondance, an album that drew influences from blues, pop, and jazz to create a through line of music that was at once inherently accessible, and, as the ensuing decades would prove, universally relatable. Within these melodies, Morrison used imagery of his trademark gypsies and mists and dreams and stories, while placing them within frames of groove-able basslines, wistful guitars, and even trendy (for the period) flutes. This amalgamation of influences proved to be just the right combination that Morrison needed to cement himself within the lexicon of great singer-songwriters, and why Moondance has since gone on to become one of the best-loved albums ever recorded.

Listen to Moondance: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

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(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We spared you a bunch of background info about Van Morrison’s pre-solo career and what happened when Astral Weeks was released, but if you want to learn more, there’s this cool thing called Google that will tell you all about it.
  • We love to call out when a certain album feels like a certain season to us, and although we often disagree, we both definitely think Moondance is a perfect fall album. Even better are albums you can identify as “rainy day albums” (fall rainy days are bonus), which this one most definitely is. (Sidenote, thank god we’re done with hotumn.)
    • Disagree? Agree? Hit us up and tell us your thoughts.
  • See our further reading notes below for more about that childhood memory that informed “And It Stoned Me.”
    • For a refresher on our feelings on saxophones in rock, revisit our Hall & Oates episode.
    • Here’s that gorgeous John Mayer cover we mentioned. You’re welcome.
  • We’ve discussed our distaste for the flute before. IT RARELY WORKS.
    • Benmont Tench agrees with us. Here’s his opinion on the “Moondance” flute.
    • So, yeah. If someone could please get us and Benmont Tench a mix of “Moondance” done without the flute, we’d love you forever.
  • Check out our master playlist on Spotify to hear the similarities between “Crazy Love,” “Waiting on the World to Change,” and “People Get Ready” side by side.
  • Shoutout to John Klingberg, who is a true MVP on this album.
    • See our further watching links below for the can’t-be-missed performance of “Caravan” from The Band’s iconic 1978 concert film The Last Waltz
    • “Caravan” clocked in at 181 on Pitchfork’s 200 Best Songs of the 1970s list. We’ve discussed our displeasure with this list countless times throughout our episodes, but add the fact that only one Van Morrison song makes an appearance on it to the list of reasons why we think it needs an overhaul.
    • Fun fact: Nick Hornby wants the version from The Last Waltz played at his funeral. Here’s some great writing on how great this version is.
  • To really see how Morrison’s use of homophones can change the meaning of “Into the Mystic,” take a peek at the Genius lyrics.
  • Also check out our further watching links for the live cover version of “Into The Mystic” by Zac Brown Band and Clare Bowen.
  • For a refresher on how we each feel about non-sequitur, surprise songs in albums, revisit our discussion on “Before They Make Me Run” from the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls.
  • Correction: Carly does, in fact, know that Northern Ireland is part of the UK. Our bad for the slip-up.
  • Shoutout to that transatlantic music trade. We dig how cool it is that so many iconic UK/Irish bands and artists have been able to take old American blues and turn it into something of their own.
    • See our further watching links for this cool documentary where Van Morrison talks about and plays with John Lee Hooker, as well as that Fillmore East show.
    • And if anyone can get us more info about John Klingberg, that would be super cool. Thanks!
  • Okay, special exception to the flute thing with “Everyone.” It works there.
  • Again, hit up our Spotify playlist to hear all the side-by-side comparisons between modern artists like John Mayer, Ryan Adams, and Father John Misty and Van Morrison.

 

Album credits:
Van Morrison — Rhythm guitar, vocals, tambourine
Jack Schrorer — Alto and soprano sax
Collin Tillton — Tenor sax and flute
Jeff Labes — Piano, organ, and clavinette
John Platania — Lead and rhythm guitars
John Klingberg — Bass guitar
Garry Malabar — Drums and vibraphone
Guy Masson — Congo drum
Emily Houston — Backing vocals
Judy Clay — Backing vocals
Jackie Verdell — Backing vocals


Favorite track(s): “Into the Mystic” (Carly) | “Caravan” and “And It Stoned Me” (Carrie)
Least favorite track: “Brand New Day” (Carly) | “Come Running” (Carrie)

Further watching:
John Mayer – “And It Stoned Me” | 2014  
Zac Brown Band ft. Clare Bowen – “Free >> Into the Mystic” | 2013
Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade | 2003
Van Morrison Cue The Music TV documentary | 1991
Van Morrison and The Band – “Caravan” | The Last Waltz (1978)
Van Morrison live at Fillmore East | 1970

Further reading:
The Words and Music of Van Morrison | 2009
Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison | 2003   

Moondance re-release review | The Au Review (October 2013) 
500 Greatest Albums of All Time – Moondance | Rolling Stone (May 2012)
Van Morrison: The Poet | Rolling Stone (November 1978)
Moondance review | Rolling Stone (March 1970)

 

Episode 3: ABANDONED LUNCHEONETTE

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ABANDONED LUNCHEONETTE – Hall and Oates – Atlantic Records – 1973

Hall & Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette was the second album that the duo released during their formative years at Atlantic Records. Containing “She’s Gone,” one of their biggest and most recognizable hits, the album does not have a genre that is easy to pinpoint. Part folk, part rock, part soul, the meshing of sounds and instrumentation techniques make this album one that is unique to its time period and resonant to modern listeners.

In this episode, we talk about the legacy of this record and why young listeners can find as much to love within its album sleeves as those who have enjoyed it for decades. We also have some side discussions on the merits of dad rock, saxophones, and instruments as characters, and we reveal the name of our favorite local record store.

Listen to Abandoned Luncheonette: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

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Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Life comes at you fast
  • Debate amongst yourselves: Is Hall and Oates dad rock or mom rock, one, and two, what is the differentiator between the two?
  • Shoutout to A-1 Records — if you’re ever in New York, be sure to hit it up.
  • If you know what the technical term for “Dad language” is (Fatherese? Dadish?), please let us know.
  • Abandoned Luncheonette was their second album, but the first album Hall and Oates made upon moving to New York from Philadelphia. After their first album failed to perform, they felt they had nothing to lose — thus, the melting pot of influences all on one album.
    • Other people who recorded at Atlantic Studios at the same time: Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin, which blew Hall and Oates’ minds.
  • “Had I Known You Better Then” had a great live version on Daryl Hall’s TV show, “Live from Daryl’s House” — see the further viewing below.
  • This is who Nick the Lounge Singer is, in case you’re not woke.
  • Somehow we made a Father John Misty reference and it works. (Here’s why.)
  • About that rando music video for “She’s Gone”…
    • MTV wasn’t created until 1981, so if you’re like “wait, they had a video,” you’re not alone.
    • Pitchfork included the video for “She’s Gone” in their 25 Best Music Videos of the 1970s, because it is a head scratcher. 
    • John Oates claims he leaked it to YouTube, which, like, okay. You should watch it below in our further watching section.
  • There is a real life abandoned luncheonette. It sat outside Pottstown, PA and, as of 2010, was still standing.
  • Given guitarist/not-quite-producer-but-influential-nonetheless Chris Bond’s Beatles-affinity, the use of horns on “Laughing Boy” isn’t surprising. They can be compared to The Beatles’ “For No One” — an instrument used almost as a way to echo the narrator’s mind. (It works better for Paul McCartney.)
  • Follow us on Spotify and we’ll hit you with that comparison between “Everytime I Look at You” and Joni Mitchell’s “Trouble Child.”
  • Speaking of legacy and influence, The Bird and the Bee recorded an entire album of Hall and Oates covers in 2010.
  • The Chocolate Watchband, the band that Carly mentioned she discovered on Spotify and thought was a new band, only to find that they were from the late ’60s, was a San Francisco band that was active in the Bay Area at the same time as Fritz, Stevie Nicks’s and Lindsey Buckingham’s pre- Buckingham Nicks band.
  • We would really love to talk to you about how millennials can all carry the torch for old music. Like, would really, really love to talk to you about it.

Favorite track: When The Morning Comes (Carly) | When The Morning Comes (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Laughing Boy (Carly) | Las Vegas Turnaround & I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man) (Carrie)

Album credits:
Daryl Hall – lead vocals, mandolin, electric piano, keyboards
John Oates – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, wah-wah guitar
Joe Farrell – oboe, tenor saxophone, alto saxophone
Hugh McCracken – electric guitar
Chris Bond – mellotron, electric guitar, synthesizer
Steve “Fontz” Gelfand – bass
Bernard Purdie – drums
Ralph MacDonald – percussion
Jerry Ricks – acoustic guitar
Rick Marotta – drums, percussion
Gordon Edwards – bass
Richard Tee – piano
Gloria Agostini – harp
John Blair – electric vi-tar
Marvin Stamm – flugelhorn
Larry Packer – fiddle
Mark Horowitz – banjo
Arif Mardin, Christian Bond, Donald Wanner, John Oates, Kathy Mae Hohl, Ronald Wanner, Walter F. Hohl – “humanity chorus”

Produced by Arif Mardin
Production Assistant: Christopher Bond
Recording & Engineering: Alan Ade, Jimmy Douglass, Lewis Hahn, Joel Kerr, Gene Paul
Recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios and Advantage Sound Studios (New York, NY)
Mixing: Christopher Bond, Jimmy Douglass
Mastered By Stephen Innocenzi at Atlantic Recording Studios
Album Design and Photography: B. Wilson
Coordinator: Tommy Mottola

Further watching
“Had I Known You Better Then” from Live from Daryl’s House (2008)
“She’s Gone” — original music video from 1973

Further reading
How Hall and Oates Found Themselves on Abandoned Luncheonette | Ultimate Classic Rock (November 2015)
Graded on a Curve: Hall & Oates, Abandoned Luncheonette | The Vinyl District (February 2014)
Hall & Oates: 40 Years of Abandoned Luncheonette | American Songwriter (February 2013)
The Story of the Abandoned Luncheonette, AKA the Rosedale Diner | Diner Hotline Weblog (August 2010)
Hall and Oates, Abandoned Luncheonette | Pop Matters (June 2007)
Hall and Oates: The Self-Righteous Brothers | Rolling Stone (January 1985)

Episode 1: BUCKINGHAM NICKS

HOSTS’ NOTE: This podcast was born from an idea that predates the 2016 election. We kept pushing the release date back, thinking, “Does anyone really want to listen to a music podcast right now?” The answer to that will probably change daily, but the conclusion we came to is this: art is not going to stop. We will not stop auditioning, playing music, writing, or following any of our other passions. We need the arts — the joy, escapism, and enlightenment they bring — now more than ever. The albums we love will play on, so we will continue to talk about them. We are sure there will be times in the future when it feels trite to do this, but as long as music heals and uplifts, we’ve got a podcast to bring to you.

“Does anyone remember laughter?” — Robert Plant

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BUCKINGHAM NICKS – Buckingham Nicks – Polydor – 1973

Two years before joining Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had no idea what lay ahead of them. They were just two kids who wanted to make great music — and they just happened to be in love.

A cult favorite of Fleetwood Mac fans, this album is curiously still only available on vinyl. While bootlegs of the album can be streamed on YouTube, it has never been (officially) released on cassette, CD, or to streaming services like Spotify. This is perhaps part of the attraction to the album — this is music that doesn’t outright present itself; it must be found.

In this episode, we discuss why we both call this album our favorite of all time, what makes it unique, and why it still takes our breath away hundreds of listens later.

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Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Lindsey was already in high school band Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band (later shortened to Fritz) when Stevie was asked to join in mid-1967 to replace the lead singer.
    • From 1968 to 1971, Fritz was Stevie Nicks on lead vocals, Lindsey Buckingham on bass and vocals, Brian Kane on lead guitar, Javier Pacheco on keyboards, and Bob Aguirre on drums.
    • Listen to live recordings of Fritz here.
  • Buckingham Nicks was recorded at the now-iconic Sound City studios in the Valley, working closely with producer Keith Olsen and friend and engineer Richard Dashut.
    • Keith Olsen’s production credits include albums with artists like Fleetwood Mac, Grateful Dead, Rick Springfield, Joe Walsh, and more.
    • Richard Dashut went on to serve as a producer and engineer with Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham from 1977 to 1995.
    • The Buckingham Nicks song “Crying in the Night” was the first song ever to be recorded on Sound City’s Neve analog console, known for its rarity, unique, warm sound, and extensive mixing capabilities. (This console now resides in Dave Grohl’s recording studio.)
  • The album cover imagery was shot by guitarist Waddy Wachtel’s brother, Jimmy, and features Stevie and Lindsey topless (but totally safe for work!). Stevie was hesitant to remove the expensive silk blouse she bought for the photoshoot with some of their last money. She was mortified that the final choice was one of the nude photos.
  • Listen to all three versions of Crystal (discussed 20 minutes in) and tell us which one is your favorite: Buckingham Nicks | Fleetwood Mac | Stevie Nicks 
  • A “simmering in the South” is definitely a way they described their cult following in Alabama — on more than one occasion.
  • About that European influence on “Long Distance Winner”… Stevie says it’s Greek, which, like, okay.
  • Buckingham Nicks went on a brief tour in the winter of 1974 before ending their live run with four shows in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Jacksonville, Alabama in January 1975.
  • Stevie and Lindsey joined Fleetwood Mac on New Year’s Eve, 1974, after Mick Fleetwood extended an offer to Lindsey and he replied, “Well, you gotta take my girlfriend, too.” Initially thinking of the gig as a temporary way to make a little money, Buckingham Nicks continued to hold onto their brand, contributing background vocals and production credits on albums like Warren Zevon’s Warren Zevon, Walter Egan’s Fundamental Roll, and John Stewart’s Bombs Away Dream Babies until the success of Fleetwood Mac and Rumours pretty much decided their well-documented fate.

Favorite track(s): Crying in the Night & Frozen Love (Carly) | Frozen Love & Stephanie (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Lola (Carly) | Django (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Lindsey Buckingham – vocals, guitars, bass guitar, percussion
  • Stevie Nicks – vocals

Additional personnel:

  • Waddy Wachtel – guitars
  • Jorge Calderón – percussion
  • Jim Keltner – drums
  • Jerry Scheff – bass guitar
  • Peggy Sandvig – keyboards
  • Richard Hallagan – string arrangement
  • Monty Stark – synthesizer
  • Mark Tulin – bass guitar
  • Ronnie Tutt – drums
  • Gary ‘Hoppy’ Hodges – drums, percussion

Production:

  • Producer and engineer: Keith Olsen
  • Executive producer: Lee Lasseff
  • Assistant engineer: Richard Dashut

Further watching:
Sound City documentary trailer
Stevie Nicks’s solo performance of “Crying in the Night” in 2016

Further reading:
How the Elusive ‘Buckingham Nicks’ Established Stevie Nicks’s Songwriting Voice | NPR Music (January 2018) ed note: this is by Carrie so we’re a lil biased
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham made a fine pop record pre-Fleetwood Mac | AV Club (Sept. 2015)
How Sound City Rocked Dave Grohl’s World | The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 2013)
Recording Studios May Die, but the False Mythology Around Them May Not[on Sound City] | The Atlantic (Dec. 2012)
Buckingham Nicks reveal future plans in interview | Birmingham After Dark (Feb. 1975)