Recommended Albums #8

Ye Olde Space Bande Plays the Classic Rock Hits

The Moog Cookbook: Ye Olde Space Bande: Plays The Classic Rock Hits (1997)

Classic rock is awesome. So awesome I can’t stand to listen to most of it anymore.

I was raised on the rock that’s now called “Classic” but it was never the only kind of music I loved. I followed the trail of melody that snaked its way through classic rock and Pop in the 70’s, meandered across Country for part of the 80’s, hid out in the badlands of alt country in the 90’s, and sometimes stays at the youth hostel of indie pop today. I’ll always love melody and harmony, but have an undying appetite for new music, so the classic rock songs I loved in my youth, while still magical, have been faded by radio’s heavy rotation. I’m numb from their overexposure.

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I remember the visceral thrill of hearing ambitious, iconoclastic songs like “Hotel California”, “Sultans of Swing” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the first time. In some cases I actually remember where I was when I first heard them, they were that impactful and format-bending. And even today I love when any band shows a willingness to “take it to the limit” and try to write that Big One–the concert encore, their own “Stairway to Heaven”.

The flip side is, there’s a slippery boundary between the portentous and the pretentious, and I’ve found I’m capable of simultaneously feeling that a song is undeniably great and “a bit up itself”. So sometimes a “great” rock song needs somebody to take the piss out of it.

Enter The Moog Cookbook, a “band” made up Brian Kehew and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. who perform rock’s sacred canon on cheesy analog synthesizers (mostly Moogs), the musical equivalent of drawing caricatures of Jesus in the margins of a Bible.

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Having enjoyed its heyday in the Disco and New Wave eras, the synthesizer was eschewed by pop acts of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Brian and Roger, who shared a love for synth sounds, bought up unwanted keyboards at bottom dollar and got the idea to make a modern version of the type of album popular in the 60’s, when cheesy synthesizer instrumental tributes to the Beatles and others were popular. Their self-titled 1996 LP sent up contemporaries like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Weezer and Green Day. “Ye Olde Space Band: Plays The Classic Rock hits” was another brilliant combination of parody and homage, with 70’s icons from Nugent to Skynyrd as its subject (or target, depending on your point of view).

“Hotel California” is a highlight. The original version being famous for one of the longest instrumental codas of any hit single (maybe second only to “Layla”) that coda is here used to pay tribute to a couple Moog riffs from the past (Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” and Del Shannon’s “Runaway”). On “25 Or 6 To 4” they raise the ante, throwing in pieces of Led Zeppelin’s “All My Love”, the Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run”, The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and War’s “Spill the Wine”, also demonstrating the chord progression the songs all share. It’s like a music fan’s Easter egg hunt. It’s also really funny, if you’re inclined to get the musical joke. And the bonus: it pisses on Don Henley a little bit. And he kind of needed it.

About two minutes’ listen should be long enough for you to decide for yourself if it’s genius or rubbish. I know what I think.

Listen to: “Hotel California”

 

Listen to: “More Than a Feeling”

 

Listen to: “25 Or 6 To 4”

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