Skeletons in the jukebox
“Skeletons” provides a forum for local musicians, artists, record-store owners, etc., to erase cool points by expressing their unseemly affection for an unhip album from their past.
ELO, El Dorado, by Steven Howard, music director of 103.5 WPVM.
“The Electric Light Orchestra performed a symphony called El Dorado in 1974 on Jet Records. I was already listening to ‘prog rock’ when this long-playing record came out.
“It’s a rock opera about Boy Blue, who is discovering himself on a Homer-esque journey. It appealed to me then because my mom was always giving me a hard time about guitar rock, and this had a ton of strings, which she liked — hence I didn’t have to turn it down. It was all emotional and spoke to this 14-year-old. There are musical references to L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, right down to the cover art, and to environmentalism in ‘Laredo Tornado,’ with a Native American backbeat singing about the lying establishment.
“Looking back, it was probably Jeff Lynne’s finest for his vision of what he wanted ELO to be. This was the record that made the majors look up and take notice. Everything else after this was pretty commercial. As I listen now, little goosebumps rise up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down.”
The Green Fields, Melodies for Afternoon: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Rock/pop; California soul
• You’ll like it if: The Byrds and the Beachwood Sparks are forever bopping in your brain.
• Defining song: “Late October Dream” — Pedal steel, horns and feathery voices meld fluidly into a very pleasurable listening experience.
I owe Chris Mondia an apology. When I received his Green Fields CD, I expected yet another bluegrass offering: The cover art (a mountain scene) and the name readily evoked this typecast. But by the end of the first song, “The Queen of Nine Worthies,” my thoughts had drifted to California-coast cruises and Roger McGuinn lullabies. Hailing from Horse Shoe, N.C., Mondia’s band sounds more like 2,000 miles west of here. The production is first rate, and each song pulses with tra-la-las, pedal steel landscapes, brass arrangements, and enough acoustic sounds to remind ears, that, yes, the Green Fields reside in WNC.
Hot Tuna, the Orange Peel; Thursday, July 7: Three Stars
•Genre(s): Acoustic rock
• Be glad you stayed home if: You were always more of a Jefferson Starship fan.
• Defining moment: “Hesitation Blues”: Bassist Jack Casady finally found a pulse with this Rev. Gary Davis classic, propelling the band into high gear for the rest of the show.
I strolled into Hot Tuna without my usual restless anticipation. Sure, I love Jefferson Airplane alums Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen as the psychedelic cowboys who became Hot Tuna in 1970. But my fears of over-the-hill one-hour sets and “drug free” jamming set my expectations low. I was not only surprised, I was walloped. Rich acoustic sounds filled up the room, and lo and behold, a mandolin player — Barry Mitterhoff — sat in the whole show. Classics like “Genesis” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” transformed the sit-down crowd into something akin to a tent-show revival. Jorma especially seemed to benefit from Mitterhoff’s presence, showing off his fluid picking that’s held fans spellbound for almost 40 years.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]