The Abbreviated Garden’s Gate

I’ve been into this Greta Van Fleet album lately, The Battle at Garden’s Gate. I last talked about it here. I’ve been listening to the album since then, and I have uncovered a hack that I would like to share with the internet at large.

See, the thing is, Battle is a good album, but it’s not a great album. It is held back from greatness, in my opinion, by the presence of four songs.

“Tears of Rain”. I like what it’s trying to do, but it just misses the mark for me.

“Light My Love”. I don’t like what it’s trying to do. It ends up just being pukey.

“Caravel”. This song is just stupid. It annoys me every time I hear it.

“The Weight of Dreams”. This is the grand finale to the album. Unfortunately it lacks the spark of the better songs, and is just way too bombastic and overblown.

Now, keep in mind, I’m just some bloke on the internet. I’m not here to crap on your favorite Greta Van Fleet song. They’re all decent songs. I’m just speaking my truth.

So what do we have left? Eight songs, 42 minutes of music. The perfect size to fit on a single LP. Here’s the track listing.

“Heat Above”
“My Way Soon”
“Broken Bells”
“Built By Nations”
“Age of Machine”
“Stardust Chords”
“The Barbarians”
“Trip the Light Fantastic”

You might have to mess with the order to get them to fit on the sides, but I’m not sure. In any case, I’m not pressing any vinyl, so this is all on iTunes.

What you have in these eight tracks is no less than one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. It fires on twelve cylinders from start to finish. Bomb-ass track after bomb-ass track. I wish this had been Greta Van Fleet’s second studio album. As it is, I’m happy with The Battle at Garden’s Gate. But this abbreviated version will be the one I listen to most often.

I made a YouTube playlist if you wanna give it a try.

Paul Davids Plays 80 Intros

This is great if you’ve got 15 minutes. Paul Davids is a guitarist on YouTube. Here he plays what he considers to be the 80 greatest guitar intros. He plays in chronological order, from memory, in one take. He uses one guitar and a pedal board, and he’s able to approximate many different styles and sounds. It’s pretty amazing the variety of noises he wrings from his rig. I found the video surprisingly compelling. So I’ll link it, and you can check it out if you want. I hope your day’s been going well.

Top Five Favorite Beatles Albums

This is a ranked list, meaning each album I mention, I liked better than the previous album on the list. Or, in the case of the first album on the list, I liked it better than all the other Beatles albums that do not appear on the list. Speaking of the first album on the list,

#5. The Beatles (The White Album) (1968). This is a weird one. But taken as a whole, it’s a goddamn experience, and I love it. A couple non sequiturs, but mostly really good Beatles music. This came out after the excesses of 1967, and in many ways it was a counterpoint to Sgt. Pepper’s. The production was a little more subdued on the White Album, and it’s a nice contrast.

#4. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Balls to the wall psychedelia. This was the album where they really stepped out into it. Or maybe not stepped. More like a jump. The kind of jump where you land stomping on both feet. Preferably in some kind of puddle. In the case of Sgt. Pepper’s, the puddle was a puddle of cultural inevitability. So how’s come it’s only #4? Well, I’ll tell you.

#3. Revolver (1966). Revolver is a dynamite album. They were taking their first forays into psychedelia and hard-core experimentation that was the hallmark of Sgt. Pepper’s. I’m guessing (this is pure speculation on my part) that Revolver was the first album after they got turned on to LSD. I know the song “Doctor Robert” is about a guy who sold LSD, so they were definitely doing it when this album was being written and recorded. I guess the timing doesn’t really matter.

#2. Abbey Road (1969). Abbey Road is the best Beatles album. It is the crowning jewel of their catalog. So why is it only #2? Because this is a favorites list, not a qualitative list.

Honorable Mention. Rubber Soul (1965). Wanted to stick this in here before I reveal the #1. This was the first album after the Fab Four were turned on to weed. As such, it serves as a bridge between the two phases of the Beatles. The first phase was the poppy stuff (but still good), and the second phase, which commenced with Rubber Soul, was the good stuff (but still poppy).

And finally,

#1. Magical Mystery Tour (1967). But that’s not a real album, I hear you saying. Maybe not. But it has the most iconic songs in their catalog. Let’s list a few of the heavy hitters that appear on this album. “I Am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Penny Lane”, “All You Need Is Love”. Those are the Beatles songs, man. They fill it out with the likes of “Flying”, “Blue Jay Way”, “The Fool on the Hill”, “Hello, Goodbye”, “Magical Mystery Tour”. Are you fucking kidding me? This album is astonishing! I also like that they put out Sgt. Pepper’s, and then they did Magical Mystery Tour which is in every way a continuation and a culmination of that earlier project.

I love it when bands do this. U2 is another example. They came out with Joshua Tree, and everybody flipped their shit. So they came out with Rattle and Hum, which is my favorite U2 album, and which is a continuation and culmination of Joshua Tree. Along with some live tracks which are greatly appreciated. Man, I like Rattle and Hum.

But we’re not talking about U2 here. We’re talking about the Beatles, which is a different thing, though the two are not entirely dissimilar. So that’s my top five ranked list of Beatles albums. How about that.

Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet is kind of a punchline on the internet. When they started out, the singer had the ability to sound almost exactly like Robert Plant in his prime. And this is a young, early twenties kid here. Kinda like Plant was. But this kid’s voice — I should get his name, hang on — Josh Kiszka’s voice was, if anything, more powerful than Plant’s. But because his vocal sound was so derivative, and because the guitar player is no Jimmy Page, the band was written off by many as a cheap Zeppelin ripoff, an opinion I shared briefly.

That brings us to 2021’s sophomore effort, The Battle at Garden’s Gate. As far as I can see, Josh has moved on from sounding exactly like Plant and is carving out his own niche, his own style, his own voice, if you’ll forgive the expression. His singing on Battle sounds — this is gonna sound corny, but he sounds to me like an angel. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about pukey, cutesie-poo gift shop angels. I’m talking Biblical force of nature kind of angels. His voice sounds inhuman, is what I’m getting at.

Which is a pretty exciting development. The new vocal sound, the guitarist’s marked improvement — what started out as a completely Zeppelin-derivative effort has evolved and blossomed into something new and exciting. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s still totally 70s rock. But it’s fresh now. I will be paying attention to what Greta Van Fleet does in the future.

By the way, I don’t mean to disparage the guitar player, Jake Kiszka, by saying he’s no Page. He’s a good player. Page just made better riffs. Which isn’t really a disparagement; Page made better riffs than most guitarists in history. But again, these kids are real young. It’ll be truly a joy to see how they mature and develop.

I leave you with a song. This is a live recording, but not before an audience. They just played and recorded a video, I guess? This is “Heat Above”, the opening track from Battle at Garden’s Gate. Enjoy.

The Best Layne Staley

If you don’t know, Layne Staley was the original lead singer of Alice In Chains. What I’m after is, what is the best example of Layne Staley being Layne Staley? He was a distinctive vocalist. With so many incredible performances. I don’t know. I’m just gonna say which song I think is the quintessential Staley track. And if you wanna disagree you can leave a comment.

Note: While Staley was famous for harmonizing with guitarist Jerry Cantrell, I’m not focused on that for this exercise. I’m focused on what Staley could do by himself. And I can think of no better example than — drum roll please — “Love, Hate, Love” from Facelift (1990). Holy fuck! What a performance. If you’re pressed for time, the real action starts around 4:24.

Culture 18

“The Kraken” by Squirrel Nut Zippers. A musical interlude that takes you on an epic mystical journey to the land of dreams. You think I’m exaggerating? You would think that, wouldn’t you?

I had a geometry teacher who used to say that. You’d make some sort of logical blunder and answer wrongly, and he would raise his eyebrows a little bit and nod encouragingly, and say in his distinct nasal voice, “You would _think_ that, wouldn’t you?” He was a bit unsettlingly intense, but I always appreciated the sentiment. Basically he was saying, “Yes, I understand the mistake you made, and you are not stupid.” Still, I bet it was really off-putting to some people. Armenti was his name. He was quite the character. But I digress.