Albums

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Buck Owens – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1971, Capitol Records)

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Liner notes. They were all the rage back in the day. Sometimes they were a little weird and sometimes a little too enthusiastic about their subject. Sometimes though, they were pretty straightforward, like the notes for Bridge Over Troubled Water, a 1971 collection of songs from Bakersfield country legend Buck Owens. Buck’s just giving you the straight goods on what his album is all about, while also using some creative apostrophe placement in his spelling of “kinda.” While the title track is the main attraction, the real gem is his cover of Donovan’s “Catch The Wind,” seen here in the form of a performance on Owens’ old TV series. Keep an eye on the keyboard/harmonica guy poorly miming his way through the song. And now, Buck would like a minute of your time:

I want to take just a minute of your time to tell you why we’re presenting the songs you’ll hear on this album. Most of them are familiar as what you’d call pop/folk/rock songs. Three were written by Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel), there’s one by Donovan and one by Bob Dylan. And although The Buckaroos and I have been known as Country entertainers, we’ve always liked these particular songs and taken a whole lot of comfort and meaning from them. recently I discovered just why they appealed to me so much – they’re all really Country songs in disguise!

Take Bridge Over Troubled Water. It’s got real nice, simple, meaningful words. And like the other songs here, it’s got a certain longing to it. The same kind of longing that makes a good Country song great. if you take some time to really listen to them, you’ll find a lot of songs in the pop/rock class have that longing, but you really got to sit down and listen to them before you discover that Country heart. As far as that goes, any music, any song that has the right ingredients of simple everydayness can be a Country song – even classical things.

I sure do hope you’re going to like what me and The Buckaroos have done here. The five of us sat down in our studio and gave real, honest Country arrangements to the music. When you hear it presented this way, I think you’re going to agree that these area whole lot of actual Country songs that have been kind’a neglected for too long – just because of their disguises.

Your friend,

Buck Owens

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Narvel Felts – Narvel The Marvel (1976, ABC Records)

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We continue our examination of the long forgotten art of ridiculously hyped up liner notes with a look at the back cover of Narvel the Marvel, the 1976 album by fabulously named country singer Narvel Felts with liner notes written by the legend herself, Dolly Parton.

Parton’s notes sing the praises of Mr Felts, or perhaps she yells his praises, seeing as how whoever designed the layout for this decided to print the text in all caps. Before I realised it was Dolly writing this, I was hearing it in my head in the voice of David Lynch’s FBI director character Gordon Cole from Twin Peaks (“LAST NIGHT I HAD ANOTHER MONICA BELLUCCI DREAM. MONICA CALLED AND ASKED ME TO WRITE A FEW WORDS ON THE MUSIC OF ONE NARVEL FELTS.”)

Here they are, in all their capitalized glory:

TO LOOK AT HIM YOU WOULD THINK, I’LL BET HE COULD WIN ANY FIGHT HE EVER GOT INTO.

TO KNOW HIM YOU WOULD THINK THE LAST THING HE WOULD WANT TO DO IS FIGHT.

HIS EYES ARE KIND, HIS SMILE QUICK AND GENUINE, HIS VOICE FRIENDLY, AND HIS WORDS, HUMBLE AND SINCERE.

YOU FEEL THE FIRST TIME YOU MEET HIM THAT YOU’VE ALWAYS KNOWN HIM AND THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS WANT TO KNOW HIM.

HE REMINDS YOU OF A BROTHER OR A FAVORITE UNCLE THAT YOU ENJOY BEING WITH BECAUSE YOU LOVE THE WAY THEY ARE. AN ORDINARY MAN WITH ORDINARY WAYS AND AN EXTRAORDINARY TALENT.

HIS NAME IS CALLED, HE HITS THE STAGE TAKING HIS TIME AND TAKING LONG, LANKY STEPS UNTIL HE STANDS BEFORE THE MICROPHONE. HIS HUMBLE ATTITUDE ON STAGE SEEMS TO SAY “WELL, HERE I AM. I SURE HOPE YOU LIKE ME.” AND YOU DO. HIS VOICE IS UNBELIEVABLE, FULL OF EXCITEMENT AND EMOTION, SINCERITY AND SURPRISES.

HE IS UNIQUE. HE IS A STYLIST. HE IS GREAT AND HE IS UNDERRATED.

THE GREATNESS OF HIS STYLE IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED, BUT ONCE YOU EVER LISTEN CLOSE ENOUGH TO ANALYZE IT, YOU THINK THAT IT’S THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE SOUND YOU EVER HEARD. AND YOU EITHER COME TO LOVE IT OR YOU NEVER LEARN TO APPRECIATE IT, BUT WHETHER YOU EVER LEARN TO APPRECIATE IT OR NOT DOESN’T MEAN IT IS ANY LESS GREAT. SOME THINGS ARE JUST TOO DIFFERENT TO BE UNDERSTOOD.

I GUESS YOU KNOW BY NOW THAT I LOVE NARVEL FELTS THE PERSON, AND NARVEL FELTS THE ARTIST. I SAY ARTIST BECAUSE HE TRULY IS. HE HAS MASTERED THE ART OF SINGING AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED.

NOW, ABOUT THIS ALBUM. I ASKED IF I COULD WRITE A FEW WORDS ON THE BACK OF IT WHEN I HEARD THE SONGS THAT WERE TO GO INTO THIS ALBUM. AND EVEN THOUGH MY WORDS HAVE AMOUNTED TO MORE THAN A FEW, I COULD NEVER SAY ALL I WOULD LIKE TO ABOUT NARVEL FELTS, THE CHOICE OF SONGS, AND HIS PERFORMANCE ON THIS ALBUM.

NARVEL IS A MARVEL. SOME BELIEVE IN PETER PAN, BUT I BELIEVE IN NARVEL FELTS.

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Billy “Crash” Craddock – Mr. Country Rock (1973, ABC Records)

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One of the things that we’ve lost since downloading and streaming took over as our main sources of music is the effort put into the packaging and presentation of music, specifically the effort put into liner notes. A recent crate digging exposition led to the acquisition of some “new” used records and got me to thinking that they just don’t make liner notes like they used to back in the day. Many of the older records of the ’50s,’60s, and ’70s would feature someone (some sort of notable music industry figure, maybe the artist themselves, or perhaps just some random writer looking to make a quick buck) waxing poetic about the contents of the record. Sure, albums today can still feature pretty extensive notes, but they’re of a different nature and as time moves on, these kinds of glowing testimonials have definitely fallen from favour. Too bad – just imagine what could have been if famous “punk” Ivanka Trump had been given the chance to give us her thoughts in the packaging for Nirvana’s In Utero.

With this in mind, we celebrate the glory of the liner note by having a look at the back cover of Mr. Country Rock by Billy “Crash” Craddock. Yes, it’s true – aside from having the nickname “Crash,” Billy Craddock also has the audacity to refer to himself as “Mr. Country Rock,” which is weird. Ain’t it? Gram Parsons should have kicked this guy’s ass for making such a claim.

Behold, the liner notes. I’m not sure who wrote this and I’m not really sure what they’re on about (“Electric sunglasses?” “Hard throbbing dance rhythms?” Psychedelic bumper stickers?), but go ahead and behold:

Ain’t it weird? I mean the way it happens sometimes.

A guy starts out to be a rock ‘n roll star, and they promote him with ads and bumper stickers and electric sunglasses and what not, and then they sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

But the magazines with yesterday’s news start piling up on the table by the visitor’s couch – their yellowing advertisements constant reminders of mistakes the geniuses would rather forget. And the crumbling bumper stickers giving way to shiny psychedelic messages such as “See Ruby Falls” or “America, Love It Or Leave It.” And another promising star-to-be becomes one more might have been.

Then somebody remembers, and somebody believes – and together they work in new directions toward new goals:

Country music – slashing twin fiddles and wailing steel guitars, mixed with the infectious beat of rock – the hard throbbing dance rhythms that exploded rock almost overnight as the pop music of the young and young at heart.

Country rock. A hybrid compound, a style, a formula for success for a might-have-been who made it to the top – and who intends to stay there:

Mr Country-Rock, Billy “Crash” Craddock.

Ain’t it weird?

Album Review: Prism – Prism (1977, GRT Records)

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When I found out that Ricky would be doing a full track by track review of Prism, I got a little excited – finally, Panic Manual is writing about some real music and giving 70s/80s Canadian rockers Prism their due.  Way to go, you spaceship superstars!

Then I realized that the Prism album that the internet’s been all aflutter about was in fact the new Katy Perry album.  WTF?  People are still talking about Katy Perry?  I mean, I liked “Hot And Cold” just fine, but let’s move on people.  And of course by move on, I mean take an in depth look at a 36 year old album.  Let’s break it down:

Spaceship Superstar 

The album opens with the synth bleeps and bloops of what would come to be the band’s signature track. It’s a pretty groovin’ little number, a synth enhanced rocker with great lyrical gems such as “Every night is a different flight to a different galaxy/Do a sold-out show, then I hit the road in my starship limousine” and lines about “a solar-powered laser beam guitar.” Come to think of it, those lyrics wouldn’t necesarily be out of place in a Katy Perry song. If you don’t just want to take my word for it about this song though, take the word of those who know: the Youtube commenters. Yes, Youtube comments, where the truest music criticism lives:

“There’s just something that seperates Canadian rock from American rock… IMO old Canadian bands are much more relaxing to listen to, sitting outside on a hot day smoking some herb listening to April Wine, the Guess Who, etc, etc.. is the best” – spidersilva420

“im 13 and i love this song and older artists” – GoBro or GoHome

“Nobody gives a fuck” – Nathan Hines (in reply to GoBro or GoHome)

Open Soul Surgery

This song sounds like Axl Rose fronting Foghat.  Which is awesome, obviously.

It’s Over

A soaring soft rock power ballad. You can never get enough of those. I’m sure this one must have killed at those ’70s high school dances.

Freewill
And Prism’s past life as a jazz rock band rears it’s head as the horns come in here.  Though if I had to choose between songs called “Freewill” written by Canadian bands, I’m sorry, Prism, but Rush takes it.

Take Me To The Kaptin
Every rock band worth it’s salt has to have at least one song with a purposely misspelled word in the title if not an album title or the bands name itself.  Like “Cum On Feel The Noize” or Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Again).”  Or The Beatles.  We will not speak of Korn though.  We will never speak of Korn, no.

Vladivostok
The band gets all deep and poetic and historical with a song about Russia.

Amelia
More lyrical brilliance as they rhyme “Amelia” with “I can feel ya.”  You may think I’m joking here but I’m not.  Well, not entirely anyways.

Julie
You’d think the band might want to separate the songs with girl’s names as titles so they’re not all lumped together, but whatever.

I Ain’t Lookin’ Anymore
The opening riff of this is dangerously close to the opening of BTO’s “Let It Ride.”  More sweet horn parts in this one.  I ain’t writin’ anymore.

Overall, this is a pretty sweet, perhaps underappreciated gem in the Canrock cannon.  Worth a listen if you can find it in a dollar bin somewhere.  Or, y’know, if you have the internet.  Stay tuned for the inevitable reviews of Ian Thomas, Chilliwack, and Michel Pagliaro.