1)Disco: The Secretaries Blues by Beulah
It all began with humming...or at least, that's how I remember it. Nearly 3 months ago, a friend of mine was humming a tune thats vague familiarity tickled my curiosity. When I asked him for the name, he couldn't produce a solid answer and responded "I think it's Beulah". With that, we opened iTunes and proceeded to investigate. Opting for the 'track by track' method, we went through Handsome Western States (1997) until we found a tune that resembled his off-pitched crooning. "Riders on the right won't you help me, It's crowded and a bit too lonely", it seems, were the words he was missing.
Beulah's sound, on HWS, shifts between lo-fi pop and punk, all with a refreshing air of California dreaminess (what do I even mean?). Western States is also a remarkably accessible album, which cuts it apart from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998), one of its contemporaries from another Elephant Six group. Though at first the album gives the illusion of simplicity, it appears that this was purposively employed to highlight specific sections with brass and string accompaniments. In the end, its short length (34 minutes and change), teen-focused content, and catchiness made me realize that I should have been listening to this instead of Nimrod, in 1997.
Also check out: Lay Low For The Letdown, The Rise And Fall Of Our Hero's Reward, and Delta (sort of like a Modest Mouse version of "In My Life")
Handsome Western States (1997)
2)The Music Never Stopped by The Grateful Dead
A month ago, I probably wouldn't have considered myself a true Dead fan. Of course, like all red-blooded Americans, I sang along to Uncle John's Band, Friend Of The Devil, and Casey Jones. And yes, I enjoyed listening to the vast majority of their music. But what separates (or perhaps more correctly 'separated') me from the true fans, was my apparent nescience regarding their versatility (especially towards their more funky songs). See, I always thought of the Dead as Americana-Jam. A sort of primitive (albeit amazing) endeavor in stretching the boundaries of rock 'n' roll. And in many respects they were.
However, my understanding of the Dead completely changed when I gave Blues For Allah (1975) a listen. What I realized, was that my preferential treatment of their older music (see: Aoxomoxoa, Workingman's Dead, American Beauty) had inadvertently blinded me to their more experimental stuff.
So am I a 'true fan' now?
No, true fans are middle aged, have dancing bears sewn onto their corduroy backpacks, and love sticking it to 'the man'. That said, I definitely have a greater appreciation for their work thanks to this album.
This album is sick. Its style is never static and the jams are enthralling. Actually, if I may be so bold (sorry Mr. Garcia, Weir, Lesh, et al.), I think it needs to be said that Blues For Allah is the wrong title for this album. Instead, perhaps we should call it something like 'Tiktaalik'. It honestly sounds like the missing link between the experimental progressive-rock of Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother era) and the jam sounds Phish.
Ok, so maybe that's a bit farfatched [preposterous, retarded, etc.], but honestly listen to Blues For Allah and see whether you recognize it as the Grateful Dead you thought you knew.
Blues For Allah (1975)