A few things arrived from Ebay recently (see below), but all I listened to at work today was the increasingly-magnificent-in-my-eyes Margo Guryan album.
Margo Guryan: 'Take A Picture' (CD; Oglio; 1968)
This record is truly a revelation to me. Unlike a few other 'lost classics' recently reissued on CD (e.g. Shuggie Otis), this one really lives up to the hype. All of the songs, which are beautifully timed (mostly around 2 to 3 minutes) were written by Margo herself.
- It opens with the explosively brilliant 'Sunday Morning'. I already knew this song well from the great version by Spanky and our Gang. This is very different, and also great, so great that it blows away my theory of 'I always seem to like the first version of any particular song I hear'. While the SAOG version is 6 minutes long with some intricate group vocal harmonies, this is a 2 to 3 minute jam, with funky drums and bluesy guitars. Margo's whispered vocal is exquisite, and the drum sound is super cool. Against this exquisite backdrop, the lyrics feel very resonant, simple as they are: 'come hold me in arms - I love you - everything's alright'
- The next track is the almost equally wonderful 'sun', a groovy piece with shimmering strings and some nice vocals, recorded in an interesting overlayed manner which reminds me of some 90s indie stuff (e.g. My Bloody Valentine). The use of strings is very subtle - they are mostly hidden behind the rest of the band, but come into view nicely every now and then.
- Next up is the quieter, more laid back 'love songs'. It's a truly delightful mournful pop number, ok, maybe I'm cheesy, but I think the line 'I can't tell you why/pretty love songs always make me cry...' is beautiful, especially sung by Margo. Claudine Longet covered a few of Margo's songs, and here the effect is similar to some of Claudine's stuff on A&M.
- 'Thoughts' is a quiet pop song with a bit of a Mamas and Papas feel, with an arrangement which is quite classical in style. The vocals occasionally have a great psych style echo effect. This is pleasant, but not as catchy or remarkable as some of the other tracks.
- 'Don't go away' has an unusual arrangement which reminds me of some of the more complex Beatles songs. It's rather unsettling.
- 'Take a Picture' is a really lovely little song, reminiscent of 'love songs' - sugary, simple and beautiful. It has been written that this album was heavily influenced by the Beach Boys's Pet sounds album, and you can certainly hear an influence in songs like this, both in the arrangements and the simple, innocent yet poignant lyrics.
- 'What can I give you' sounds to me exactly like some of the goofier Claudine Longet tracks (like 'hello hello'). It's a little ridiculous, but still charming.
- 'Think of Rain' is very familiar to me from Claudine Longet's 'The look of Love' album. This version is quite similar to Claudine's. Very cool.
- 'Can you tell' is another gentle, simple and catchy pop song.
- 'Someone I know' is an interesting experiment - using chords from Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring', Margo fashions a very pleasant pop song. It is saved from sounding trite by the vocals, which are typically sincere and touching. 'I know and you know that we never met before tonight/why then, should I feel so right/about being in your arms.' It's odd; I'm sure if Britney Spears or N'Sync sang these lyrics to me now, I would find them plastic and not in the least bit touching, but somehow in the context of this album they work beautifully. Does all music age well? I'll try listening to Britney and N'Sync in 30 years to find out.
- 'Love' is a highly unusual song. At over 5 minutes, it's the longest song on the album, and has a long experimental introduction, with electronic effects and some interesting guitar work. The song undergoes a couple of mutations, with some very funky drums, electric piano, and strange echoes. At one point a huge, effects laden guitar comes in, sounding exactly like 101 Strings's notorious 'Astro Sounds from beyond the year 2000'. So incredibly cool, I can hardly speak at this point. The vocals then come in, with a nice psychedelic melody. Total masterpiece!
- There are three extra tracks on the US release - 'I think a lot about you', 'it's alright now' and 'Timothy Gone'. All are pretty good; my only sadness about this record is that it's unique. If all pop music was as wonderful as this, the world would be a nicer place to live.
Paulo Achenza: 'Do it' (LP; Right Tempo; 1994)
Well, I really know nothing about this one. Interesting item though - a Nicola Conte-related release on the Right Tempo label which pre-dates all of the easy tempo stuff. Promising sounding song titles.
Piero Umiliani: 'To-Day's Sound' (LP; Right Tempo; 1971)
I hope this is good; I really just picked it up because it was super cheap, but hey, I love 'sweden heaven or hell', so let's see...
Yuxtaposition: 'The Cabildo's Three' (LP; Schema; 1970)
Possibly the most interesting of the 3 italian records crop. a 70s recording of film/ad/library/soundtrack music. I have high hopes.