Jun 272007

More than a few of you may be aware of my love for Roy Wood’s solo masterpiece, Boulders. This one-man band outing represents, for me, a landmark in Prock, that is the as-yet-not-fully defined subgenre of progressively self-referential rock and pop music.

Wake Up
Rock Down Low

You may have heard my spiel before, even if you’ve never heard the album. You may have heard the album before, but even if you couldn’t stand it, I encourage you to grab a copy out of a dollar bin – hell, sadly almost no one wants their old copy – and listen to it in order, preferably a few times. I believe it’s an album of obsessive, whimsical craft and strange beauty. You’ve heard me rattle on about a song’s ability to meet the True Objectives of Rock. An album like this one surely was not part of the original plan. However, in the post-Sgt. Pepper’s era, when the artifact of a rock ‘n roll recording and album could hold as much value as the record’s emotional and rhythmic content, a special place was carved out for rock ‘n roll shut-ins to enjoy in the privacy of their own room. Boulders is just such an album. Do not expect to throw this on at a party and proceed to high-five your friends. See if you can stick in there for the first three tracks, and then see if you can hang on through track 7. If you can get that far, I beg of you to hold tight for track 9, the aptly named “Rock Medley”.

Effin’ Jeff Lynne! The guy used every move in Wood’s book, dating back to his pre-Lynne work with The Move through this stuff and the worst boogie-glam of Wizzard. Wood was the real deal, so real that he often sucked in his overreaching, high-concept flights of fancy. I don’t mean to get down on Jeff Lynne too much, because a Townsman played me the new album by that 40-piece band in the brightly colored robes. My god, Jeff Lynne’s worst work with ELO outshines that crap, but Lynne never put his Prock talents to work on such an inner plane as Wood did on Boulders. This album is sorely in need of some explanation. I’ve got some questions for Wood, and don’t think I haven’t been trying to track him down.


  13 Responses to “Roy Wood, Boulders”

  1. saturnismine

    just down loaded this….lookin forward to listening later.

    thanks, mod!

  2. On a first listen, it’s eccentric, but entertaining, and funny too–but intentionally funny?

    Splits the difference between Dave Edmunds, Nick Drake, and Meat Loaf.

    Worth a second spin for sure though, in the right frame of mine.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall wrote:

    On a first listen, it’s eccentric, but entertaining, and funny too–but intentionally funny?

    That’s one of the questions I’ve been carrying around for Roy.

    You’re right about the album requiring a “right frame of mind.” I’m not sure if that frame can be reached intentionally or not.

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Mwall, you’ll be happy to hear that I’ve always wanted to cover “Rock Down Low.” I know townsman Mockcarr shares my enthusiasm. Mr. Mod knows we Reach on this LP.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    From an interview that can be found here, and tying today’s threads neatly together:

    Goldmine: Did you know that Jellyfish covers “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” in concert?

    Roy Wood: No, I didn’t know that. The best thing I ever heard was in the ’60s. I heard Jimi Hendrix play “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” after a rehearsal, and it was brilliant (laughs).

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    Wow, here are a few more choice Roy Wood/Jimi Hendrix tidbits:

    Goldmine: What are your recollections of touring with the Jimi Hendrix Experience?

    Roy Wood: I got pretty close to Jimi, actually. He was a very nice guy. I mean, apart from his drug problems and all that stuff he was a gentleman. He was a real polite sort of guy. He started having a lot of problems toward the end of the tour. He was going a bit deaf sticking his head in the speaker cabinets and all that sort of stuff. He was going a bit deaf so I volunteered to tune his guitars for him because I had to tune four of my own anyway, so it was very easy. I used to do his for him as well.

    Goldmine: Did you ever jam with Hendrix?

    Roy Wood: Yeah. I played bass with him once in a place in Switzerland. It was Hendrix on guitar. I was playing bass, Chris Wood was playing flute, Steve Winwood on organ and I can’t remember who was on drums. It might have been Jim Capaldi.

    Goldmine: How did the Move come to sing backgrounds on “You Got Me Floating” from Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love album?

    Roy Wood: That was myself and Trevor doing that. We happened to be in the studio next door and I think Noel Redding came around and said, “Do you fancy having a sing on this?” We just went and did it and it was great.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    “Rock Down Low” is a great fit for you, Hrrundi. The night we assemble to perform this album in its entirety, I claim “Rock Medley”. We do Reach, but I trust you Reach with as much confidence as I do on this album.

    I’m sure not many of you have had a chance to digest this album, and I would imagine even fewer have had a chance to compare it with the rest of Roy Wood’s post-Move output, but what strikes me on Boulders is the value of a musician trying to pull off a high-concept, “symphonic” album all by his or her lonesome. On just about ever other Wizzard and related album, Wood tried to recruit a huge band to record all the silly parts. Expecting a dozen or more musicians to get the right feel on a silly, high-concept rock album is usually unrealistic. By acting as his own huge band, Wood was able to get all the parts to link up just so. Even if you think this album sucks, listen to it next to a Wizzard album, and you’ll see how much better this one is conceived and executed.

    With that, I’m announcing my departure from my longtime band. It’s time I learn to play drums and make my own Something/Anything. Thanks for the memories, A-Dogg, Chickenfrank, Sethro, et al.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Hrrundi, I believe from that same interview., you must have noticed this confluence of RTH topics (emphases mine):

    Goldmine: You mentioned earlier that Frank Zappa was one of your favorite musicians. Did you have any contact with him?

    Roy Wood: No, I met him once. He came to Birmingham and played here with the Mothers Of Invention. I used to love them because it really appealed to me that a couple of guys used to play with Stan Kenton and all that, that jazz element appealed to me quite a lot. At least Zappa had the courage to stand up and do it, which I admired a lot. After the show I got to meet him. I was slightly disappointed because I thought he might be, from his image, a bit wild and a bit of a maniac. He was actually a shrewd business guy. He was standing there with his briefcase and his suit on. (laughs) I was a bit disappointed.

  9. BigSteve

    Something must have gone wrong when I unzipped the file. Mine came through with chipmunk backing vocals.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    Wood met the Chipmunks through Hendrix. I’ve heard Alvin was a bit of a dick to work with

  11. trolleyvox

    Funny you should post this, as I just picked it up for 50 cents from a mututal flea market associate based on the ravings of friends who’s musical opinions I usually trust. Man, I could barely make it through. These songs make me cringe on a really visceral level. I stand up for the right of Mr. Roy Wood to create his musical vision all by himself, but his obvious worship of this treacle/saccharine/corny whatever you want to call it is frightening. I don’t know how you do it, man.

  12. Does Mr. Mod have a taste for camp, as long as the campy music has rhythmic drive? I’m wondering if it’s the rhythm section that allows him to settle in and explore the weirder layers of this record. The fact that it moves with genuine energy was what made me keep playing through the initial cringe.

  13. Mr. Moderator

    I don’t think of myself as having much taste for camp, but I do like my share of truly eccentric and whimsical expressions. Among other things I can’t help but love about this album are the following:

    • The breezy sense of self-satisfaction
    • The odd use of instrumentation in driving pop songs (including the “puddle” percussion of the song “Wake Up”)
    • The fine line I sense between Wood’s sense of fun and loneliness

    In short, why pay $30 for a bootleg copy of the stinking, unfinished Smile album when you can find a copy of Boulders for 50 cents?

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