Cosmic America 14: Northern Lights, Southern Cross

Happy 2017! We ring in the new year at Cosmic America with a review of the The Band’s Northern Lights, Southern Cross, a somewhat forgotten gem from 1975. Viewed by many as the last “proper” studio release by The Band, this album doesn’t have quite the same lyrical spark as the group’s late 60’s efforts but still manages to paint an enjoyable and rootsy tapestry. Standout songs include It Makes No Difference and Acadian Driftwood, both linked in the blog post.

Cosmic America 13: The Stone Roses

New Cosmic America! We check in on rock critic touchstone The Stone Roses, one of the more fully realized one-hit wonder albums of the modern era of music. Lost in the shuffle of late-80’s hair metal and power balladry, this album ended up acting as the missing link between 70’s soundscape rock and the alternative ethos of the 90’s. Songs you should definitely listen to include Waterfall, I Wanna Be Adored, and I Am The Resurrection, all of which we have helpfully linked for you in the show text.

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Cosmic America 12: The Smile Sessions

This episode of Cosmic America takes a listen to an album that never really was — at least, not in its original form. The Smile Sessions, released a few years ago after a few decades of strife and mystery, represent the reconstruction of the original “Smile” album as conceived by Brian Wilson and performed by The Beach Boys. Recording problems, nervous breakdowns, and band politics ended up putting the kibosh on an album that might have been a watershed pop moment from the Summer of Love. We work our way through the album, talking about the flow of each section and the centerpiece songs (Heroes and Villains / Cabinessence / Surf’s Up / Good Vibrations) (linked in this post for ease of listening).

Cosmic America 11: Love is Hell

cosmicWe step forward into 2004 (or 2003, depending on how you want to approach it) for the next Cosmic America episode, and revisit Ryan Adams and his seminal gloom rock album Love is Hell. Originally refused by his record label and released as two EPs, the reconstituted album later saw the light of day, and stands as one of the highlights of Adams’ career. Heavily influenced by the Manchester sound of the 80s, the album (and its seven-song bonus EP), it went largely unnoticed outside of rock criticism circles — but that’s why we’re here, 12 years later, to talk about it in more depth.

Cosmic America 10: The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

cosmicCosmic America is back for the holiday week, as we discover an unexpected mutual love for the Black Crowes’ sophomore effort, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. The Stones-influenced Black Crowes take a measured step into Free/Humble Pie/gospel tradition here, emerging with probably their finest and most consistent collection of songs. Underappreciated at the time of its release due to the sudden onslaught of grunge, we try to bring it back to the masses.

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Cosmic America 9: Marquee Moon

cosmicA new Cosmic America drops and everyone gets excited. Here’s Galen and Alex talking about a seminal guitar album from the 70’s — Television’s Marquee Moon. Lots of talk about the sonic construction of the album, as well as where it sits in the developmental track of rock and roll (and punk..I guess…). If you like guitars, or abstract lyrics, or angular solos, this is definitely an album you should check out.

 

Cosmic America 8: Brussels Affair

cosmicEpisode 8 of Cosmic America! And we head back to 1973, and to another continent, for a stellar live set by the preeminent live act in rock at the time, The Rolling Stones. Brussels Affair from 1973 provides lots of the standard Rolling Stones live set from the era, plus some really sublime little moments that are (for once) expertly recorded and documented for the listener. Max Mick Taylor. Decent amounts of Billy Preston. Mick giving a shit about (most of) the lyrics. Keith being Keith. Bill and Charlie manning the engine room. This one’s worth your time.

Cosmic America 7: AM (Arctic Monkeys)

cosmicOn this episode of Cosmic America, we jump surprisingly far forward in the musical timeline, tackling the British band Arctic Monkeys and their most recent release, “A.M.”. Will Galen be able to get his head wrapped around all these newfangled sounds? (yes) ¬†We sit down and chat about a thoroughly enjoyable modern rock album, so enjoy and listen in.

Cosmic America 6: Katy Lied

cosmicOn this episode of Cosmic America, we tackle the midway point of Steely Dan’s primary studio phase — 1975’s Katy Lied. Once described as “an epic bardic saga” on some message board that I read in the late 90’s, this album captures the Dan as they transitioned fully from a touring outfit to a pure-studio outfit. The army of session musicians who would come to dominate later albums had started to assemble on this one, and the album ended up hosting some lesser-known but incredibly important songs in the band’s canon. Musical cleverness and lyrical obliqueness fully on display throughout this one.

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Cosmic America 5: The Gilded Palace of Sin

cosmicWe’ve gone through a full cycle of our album reviews, so now it’s back to stage one — the “One-album wonder” category. Even though the second album from this band was okay, the first album was a masterpiece, and we’re glad to get a chance to review it here. It’s The Gilded Palace of Sin by The Flying Burrito Brothers, and it’s a sadly overlooked album for a large cross-section of the music listening audience. One of the “Old Testament” albums of the country-rock hybrid that would come to dominate the Southern California sound over the next decade, this album is a slab of genius, the full flowering of a sadly neglected partnership between troubled genius Gram Parsons and the workmanlike Chris Hillman. Country rock? Soul? Balladry? Electrified folk? Nudie suits? All of that and some social commentary to boot on this album.

Be sure to subscribe to Cosmic America on iTunes, and tweet us with your musical thoughts and review ideas at @doctorgc and @akmccarthy. Thanks for listening.