Terry Reid-River

November 23, 2011

Terry Reid

River(Atlantic Records 1973)


Yes, it has been a long while since last these digits tapped upon this long neglected space. My husbandly duties and newfound role as father have understandably detracted from the importance of rambling aimlessly about albums that tickle my fancy. However, the little dude is sleeping through the night and leisure time has become a vocabulary word in my lexicon once again. I ain’t gonna sell you the Brooklyn Bridge and say this is going to become a daily ritual again, but these lips can promise that I will pop out of the groundhog hole now and again to share what puts a spring in my step these days.

If I were ever to be locked in a basement full of a paunchy fellows playing word association games involving 70s rock albums, I imagine I would immediately belt out a sprightly “Swagger!” when Terry Reid’s River came into earshot. By no means do I invoke this term as means of conjuring an image of a Robert Plant-esque figure slithering and wailing against a throbbing backdrop of bass, guitar and drums. I associate swagger with Reid’s River in a different manner because he tackles each of its songs with such overwhelming confidence and mastery. He knows he is the shit and that his ballads are awash in seduction and languorous moments while the bluesy stoner anthems possess that waggle of the hips and sweaty aura Mick Jagger perfected before sinking into parody. Plus, there is a southern-rock via 60s English folk vibe that does not really exist anywhere else but here and my most fantastical dreams. River’s got a special kind of strut that catches your ear right off the bat and makes you wonder why this dude is a footnote and Rod Stewart is still jiggling his mole onstage for cash money.

What separates Terry Reid from the cadre of Doug Henning look-a-likes with sleazy intentions and a full-throated warble is his grounding in the blues. Yes, Reid’s bread and butter is 70s rock and roll replete with all of its stadium-sized ambitions and grand gestures, but there is something world-weary and bruised about even the most rambunctious tunes here. It’s a warts and all melange of 70s country-rock, bluesy come hither, Stax soul and hoary 70s rock cliche all at once. Since all of these individual parts comprise most of my daily listening, River is an unadulterated synthesis of all that plasters a shit-eating grin on my face when music just coalesces into something larger than the moment and my universe becomes copacetic via a simple song.

Listening to River, it is kind of surprising that Reid never left a bigger imprint upon the musical landscape. Considering his pedigree as a near-frontman for both Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and songwriter for hits by the Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, you would think the payola machine would’ve thrown a few bucks in his general direction. It’s a shame that some of the most brilliant musicians fall into the dustbin of lovable losers, also-rans, outcasts and should’ve been something specials that populate my daily soundtrack. I get why Tim Buckley, Moondog and Hawkwind never quite set the world on fire, but River’s obscurity endlessly puzzles this tattered mind of mine. Hell, any album that opens with a tune that invokes a sleazy nexus of boogie-rock, r&b and a backwoods honkytonk, then finishes with its polar opposite, a slow-motion folk meditation on mortality and lost love is more than okay in my book.

The Breeders

Pod Demos


At the time, The Pixies were my favorite band in the universe. The Smiths and Cocteau Twins were runners-up. My teenage mind latched onto Frank Black’s primal screams on Surfer Rosa and loved the eclectic smorgasbord of Doolittle. This teenage mind liked Bossanova and told Trompe Le Monde to talk to the hand. I saw them with the Ciure and Love and Rockets and my heart swooned at the possibilities of music. Now I am much older and calloused and I look back and wonder why I thought their first two albums were a door to all that was new. I still view Loveless, Queen is Dead, Heaven or Las Vegas and Viva Hate as impeccable gems, but the Pixies just haven’t aged well with me.

The Breeders’ debut, Pod, is a horse of a different color. It still gets played regularly and it grows more loved with each listen. I like First Splash a lot and find something to love on the other two, but the overall legacy is weak except for Pod. I used the term “supergroup” already today, but here we go on our hackneyed path again. In my mind, the Breeders were much more than Kim Deal. The band included Tanya Donnely of Throwing Muses, Josephine Wiggins of The Perfect Disaster and Britt Walford of Slint, who recorded under the alias of Shannon Doughton to preserve the all-girl flair. When you listen to the demos for Pod, it becomes apparent that they had a lot more to do with its success than you may think.

Pod was produced and engineered by Steve Albini. Known for his work with  Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac as well as production credits on albums by Nirvana, Superchunk Page and Plant and Pj Harvey. It was always obvious that he beefed up the sound of Pod, but one listen to the demos and it points to how Albini and Britt Walford made this album a great one instead of a good one. The demos include all of the Kim Deal tracks and excludes the Beatles cover as well as a few others. The demos are a great insight into the creation of the album and stand on their own as an album, but it lacks the forboding, metallic guitars and creepy atmosphere of the finished product. Yes, this is the case with most demos, but the contrast is schocking.

In the finished product, Walford’s drumming is pushed to the forefront and is recorded higher in the mix than than Deal’s vocals at times. In addition, Deal and Donnely’s guitars sounds more abrasive and harsh while Wiggs’ bass is prominent and drives each track with an air of aggression. The finished product is genius while the demos sounds almost twee. There is no Pod as wel know it without the pounding drums of Walford and Albini’s raw reconstruction of these songs. You may say this is unfair since these are demos. However, the band’s direction after Pod shows that they were always a catchy pop band with rough edges instead of the infinitely more interesting band which recorded Pod.