Aorta and Argent

For years I feel like I didn’t expand my musical tastes much other than a bit of Contemporary Christian Worship music.  I’m just shocked at how many great artists I’ve found that I like since listening to vinyl, or how many unique records I’ve come across.  Aorta is the latter, and the Argent album In Deep is in the former category.

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Aorta album cover

As soon as I picked up this album to clean, it struck me as a likely psychedelic album I’d never seen or heard of before.  The album starts off with a beating heart sound, singing about your “Main Vein”, then goes into “Heart Attack”.  Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with the earlier tracks.

I really enjoy some music that’s classified as Psychedelic, but some of the other groups I don’t care for.  I guess it was such a short lived genre in it’s peak and it attracted a lot of varied groups, so there’s not a really focused sound; it was a style of music that encouraged experimentation, and eventually led to both the progressive and hard rock genres.  Sometimes I feel like if a band sings about using drugs they get thrown in the Psych group by some sources, regardless of musical style.  But it’s always cool to find a new album and group.

As the album continued on, I started to like the later tracks on Side 1.  Then on Side 2, things really started getting better.  By track 3, Ode to Missy Mxyzosptlk, A little more fuzz was on the guitar, the beat was more driving, and it really became more of a true rock album.  Maybe not one of my all-time favorites, but I plan on holding onto it for a while.

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Argent In Deep with one of those vintage sleeves

Then there’s the Argent album In Deep, which was in the first collection I purchased in November.  From the very first song, I was hooked. “God gave Rock and Roll to you….”  It was just an amazing sound.  To my ears, their sound is so ahead of their time – even their album artwork looks more like 1990’s than 1970’s.  I had to verify when this album was released, and was shocked to discover it was almost as old as I am, being released in 1973.

The next songs are It’s Only Money Part 1 and It’s Only Money Part 2.  Part 1 has a driving beat which just rhythmically keeps says “It’s money, It’s money, It’s money” in my head.  The combination of  the guitar, drums, bass and amazing keyboards just makes me feel like it’s recreating the stress of most jobs, with the limited singing being the weekends in our lives.  Part 2 sings “It’s only money, ain’t it funny when you want it you ain’t got it.”  It carries an entirely different rhythm, but keeps the driving weekday, lighter weekend interlude feel.   There’s even a nod to the Beatles “Money” at the start of the Bridge.

Side 2 starts of with “Be Glad”, which goes a few different directions.  At times you wonder if it’s the same song as it morphs from one groove to the next, but it works very well as just a cool 8-minute jam that seems to explore various keyboard sounds, and starts hinting at Christmas-like melodies at times, including a brief run of chimes, that sort of sets the stage for the second song: Christmas for the Free.

This is the day of Jesus; This is the day of Peace.

Joy to the World at Christmas; Jesus this is Christmas for the Free

Blunt is the pain of Hunger; cold is the wind of Grief

Motherless child has a hard time; Jesus this is Christmas for the Free

It’s a strong song, having great guitar and keyboards as well as great vocals.  To me the song is a conviction of the commercialism of Christmas – from 1972.  My summary is this: Why are people fighting when this is the day of Peace?  They have everything they need, and others have nothing.  Why don’t we give more and help others?

The next track is Candles on the River which is about overpopulation according to the jacket.  I’m not sure I really understand all the words, let alone get that it’s about too many people in the world.  It is a dark sounding song, but I just think it’s awesome.  Maybe it’s the guitars and drums and an amazing organ solo that distract me.  It could just as easily be about too many people trying to tell me what to do with my life.

The final song is Rosie.  It’s a good song, but it was when i first heard it that I decided I had to figure out who was in this band, because it sounds a little like Rod Stewart.  I think it’s the weakest song on the album, but it’s still good, with decent guitar and a nice upbeat tempo.

I actually found a copy in my listening backlog as well, so now I have a copy at the office and a copy at home. I’ve listened to the album several times in a few weeks; it just really suits my music tastes.  Then I found a copy of a later album, Circus, also in my backlog since who-knows-when.  I don’t recall getting it, so I’m guessing it was the summer of 2015 when i was buying way too many albums and didn’t have a good system for quickly processing them.

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Argent Circus album cover

The Circus album has mostly circus-themed songs, but it’s more synth-driven than guitar focused.  It’s more Billy Joel and space-synth stuff than Traffic or Soup like the In Deep album.  It still has a similar feel, and if I listen to both of them for a while, I think there’s enough to say “that sounds like Argent…” on this album – especially the second track on Side 2 – Shine on Sunshine.  It does have some cool artwork on the inner sleeve too.

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Circus inner sleeve

 

It’s probably telling that the Argent Greatest Hits album has no tracks from Circus.  I didn’t love it instantly like I did the first one, but I’ll work on seeking out some of the other Argent albums for the collection, because In Deep keeps getting regular spins on the turntables both at home and office.

 

 

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Sea Level

In the last collection of vinyl I purchased, one of the intriguing artists was a group named Sea Level.  At first I paid it no mind, but when i found multiple albums, I started wondering.  There was a lot of jazz, blues, guitar rock, and some psychedelic music in there, so I wondered what kind of music this group played.

Looking them up on the internet, I found the Wiki page and discovered I had all five of the studio albums issued between 1977 and 1980.  The only albums missing were a couple ‘best of’ albums issued in the 1990’s.  They were described as a Southern Rock/fusion jam band that was originally an offshoot from the Allman Brothers Band, so i was very interested.  I decided to listen to them in chronological order.

The first album is the self titled Sea Level, and it really sounds like what i would largely call jazz fusion.  There’s piano, keyboard, brass, and solid guitar.  It would probably be good upbeat dinner music.  The track Shake a Leg really caught my attention.  The second side was mostly instrumental jams, but I found it really motivating and good music to listen to while working on cleaning vinyl.

The album was good enough it made me start rethinking some of the other bands that the previous owner had several albums for – it seems his taste in music aligned relatively well with mine.   Artists like Thin Lizzy (8 albums), Little Feat (First 8 Albums), The Marshall Tucker Band (8 albums), Blue Oyster Cult (4 albums), The Dixie Dregs (4 albums), and Traffic (9 albums – all but the 1994 reissue.)  These might form a lot of my December listening – if I like them.

Part of what makes the albums so compelling to play is their condition. These are early pressings from the 1970’s, but most of them were stored in upgraded sleeves almost from the day they were purchased.  They may not be quite as nice as modern Mo-Fi sleeves, but they’re close.  The owner said he felt he was smart to “invest” in better sleeves, as they really made a difference.  Even the albums with beat up jackets are still in near pristine condition. The very first collection of 78 albums I bought in March of 2015 had these sleeves, and i didn’t appreciate how nice it kept the albums.  Now I’m always excited when i see them, as odds are the collection was well cared for.

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My favorite vintage sleeve
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Two different Vintage upgraded sleeves

Back to Sea Level

The second album was titled Cats on the Coast, and it started out very nice as well.  It has a little bit of a Disco influence in the first few songs, and overall it feels a little softer an more jazz than Southern Rock in my opinion.  It was still good upbeat background music, but I wasn’t as impressed as the first album.

The third Sea Level album titled On the Edge starts off with a bit more of a funk feel.  It’s off to a much better start than the previous album.  But it’s still just driving, energetic music that doesn’t inspire me, but it doesn’t distract me.  It might be good office music.

The fourth album, Long Walk on a Short Pier, had some weird skipping at the beginning, and it looks like there’s a lot of defects in the album.   It sounded a lot like the third album started out, so i just decided to skip it (no pun intended).

Album five is titled Ball Room.  Honestly, I din’t finish it.  The music just didn’t speak to me enough.   By the time I got to this point, i was so uninspired that side 2 of this album sat on the counter while I played other albums.   I ultimately decided to get rid of all the Sea Level albums, and I forgot to take pictures of them before I got rid of them!

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Side 2 waited on the counter for days….

 

One of my goals for December is to have all those albums I purchased in November processed.  Either cleaned and ready for sale, donated, or on a shelf in my queue for personal listening.  I’m about half way through them (including 75 cleaned today!), so I’m on a good pace.  And while the Sea Level albums didn’t impress once I experienced the entire set of albums,  some of the other artists might become favorites.  That’s part of the joy – listening to new music, finding new stuff, and just expanding my experiences in general.