Thursday, September 22, 2005

Main Street (recorded 1976 - released 2000)

You can ooh and ahh about Boulders, wax rhapsodic about Mustard, but this album is far and above the best album ever recorded by Roy Wood. Yes, on this album, Roy really did want to get away from teenage rock and roll and start playing for grownups. The album is actually credited to Roy Wood and Wizzard and was originally titled Wizzo. A mature and timeless recording, Roy and his cohorts had abandoned the silly elements, fifties pop kitsch and over the top sonic embellishments in favor of a more adult approach to pop that combined elements of the more introspective arrangements of Sunflower/Surf's Up era of the Beach Boys, progressive jazz fusion and cool laid back R&B exemplified by Steely Dan. When the single from the yet to be released album, Indiana Rainbow, tanked, the powers that be decided to withhold the release of the album on the grounds it wasn't commercial enough, i.e. they couldn't figure out how to sell this album to fourteen year olds or young housewives. Twenty-five years later, this album finally snuck out on the Edsel label, with new cover art by Roy Wood and the album renamed for the opening track, Main Street.
It's really tough finding a fresh copy of Main Street, since Edsel pressed only a few thousand copies then deleted this title. It's just as well. Perhaps someday in the future this album may find a broader audience via digital downloads via the internet. Until then, best to find a copy on ebay or's zshops .
The title cut is certainly the most haunting cut, especially if you're hung up on Carl Wilson and the Beach Boys. This isn't a surfing or car song dudes, we're talking mature era Beach Boys in the ilk of such cuts as 'Til I Die, Add Some Music To Your Day, Sail On Sailor, Surf's Up and Cabinessence. My own humble opinion is that this track should have been released as the single instead of Indiana Rainbow. While the latter did have the makings for an ambitious chart single with its driving guitar rhythms, autumnal brass polish, brief jazzy flute flourishes and cool Steely Dan sax attacks, the whole thing begging to be admired and ooed and ahhed, Main Street has that sleeper quality that sneaks up on you and stays with you for days, it paints a picture in your mind, makes you stop and take notice and go from this world to somewhere more gorgeous, strange, exotic, flying high above it all, lost in an infinite daydream reverie. This would not have even a been a Top Five from Wood's golden days, more of a lower reaches of Top Twenty because of its own adult ambitions, but no more ambitious than fellow Brum colleague Jeff Lynne's ELO productions of the day, just aimed at a different audience. Saxmaniacs starts out with some fine jazz slide guitar and becomes a mad loopy sax solo behind this charging rhythmic rockin' dance floor epic. Too bad the discos never picked up on this in the day ( it eventually snuck out as a B-side to Roy's solo single (We're) On The Road Again in 1979) but then again it wasn't a disco beat. Nice fade out to horns and slide guitar. Woody really opens on his guitar and wails away with a real dramatic vocals, too, on The Fire In His Guitar. The different guitar jam styles run the gamut from the roaring exploratory leanings his Move days from Shazam to the finer jazz pickins' from the early Wizzard B-sides. It's a pity he doesn't exhibit this side of his many talents more often. There's a Django Rheinhardt homage or novelty with French Perfume that could have been a possible single if cooler heads prevailed and this album wasn't initially shelved. Something closer to what eventually came to be the Wizzo style is Don't You Feel Better, a funky horn number with long time percussionist Charlie Grima on lead vocals. It's kinda sweaty and smelly and rough and ready and makes your butt move. The album closes with another Wizzo-type number, I Should Have Known, check out the sitar on this track. Another funky prog jazz workout that doesn't wear out its welcome.