Thursday, February 02, 2012

J F Murphy and Free-Flowing Salt - Almost Home

If I had my way
I'd take my first born child
Teach him all I knew
Just to try to keep him wild
Only if I had the things I need to keep him wild

Here's a great song for scrutiny and I'll try to explain why I think it's brilliant. There are two big riffs not just one, a descending chromatic riff and an ascending one on a scale of C7 +9 played on harmonica, but then notice how at the end of the stanza the electric piano plays some really out-there chords going back up again that chromatic scale, as if to climb back up the roller coaster. And what makes this song really special in my opinion is just that it's really really catchy. It's original, and well-written, and it's saying something we all understand -- "I need to keep him [my boy] wild." Too bad that it has those religious overtones, going on to mention he wants to teach him his own god... but again, he keeps the christianity low-key so it's very subtle. I had suspected that last illusion with the "friendship that bites" was about Judas and Jesus, but he's not in your face about it. Listening to the lyrics, it's difficult to get very much of the religion. Was this song too progressive or different to make it as an AM radio top 40 hit? Why is it too late for it to be a hit on satellite radio today?

The song structure leads me to suspect, along with the long 'Trilogy' that starts up side B, that this guy had quite a bit of musical education. There you'll hear some minor second dissonances which are actually played descending chromatically on the piano in the background to a jazz jam-- quite a surprising and bizarre thing. The patterns and melodies on part a) "lifeline" are really very progressive and it's truly a shame Murphy didn't go farther in this direction.

There is a lot of variety again on this record, with folk songs, rock songs, jazz-rock, the old bagpipes make their obligatory annoying appearance (because Murphy's origin was scottish?). On "Almost Home" he sounds very much like Joe Cocker barrelling out a very emotional soul-ride home. Very abruptly some high-sustained fuzz guitars carry the tune out on some unusual chord changes with a long sustained A major at the end-- totally unexpected ending! On Battle Hymn of the Republic we get the necessary anti-Vietnam anthem which was omnipresent in records from the 1965-1975 time period.

The last track, Where has the laughter gone, a break-up or near break-up song, features for sure Murphy playing acoustic guitar, notice what interesting chords he has selected, with some inversions on the third. In the chorus a few additional, completely unnecessary but beautiful chords transition from the (I think) D to G chords. Really nice ending to an outstanding, undeservedly-forgotten album.

On the Clowns song from "Murphy's Law" he almost presages 'send in the clowns' from Sondheim with his "where are those clowns, those marvellous clowns, on this day that I need them so much..." and today I really needed exactly this for my entertainment and endless, free-flowing joy.

First Born

Trilogy (A Lifeline - B The Example)


Tristan Stefan said...


isabelbc said...

thank you very much, Tristan!! again and again!!
it was long time in my wishlist!! <3
this guys are GREAT! ;)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately is down.... =(

Anonymous said...

Sorry - false information; works, it was just stalled for ½ an hour. Thanks for the post!

Philipp said...

Thanks a lot for lossless!

Anonymous said...

Some good photos and posters here...

Mario - Genova

Jorgic said...

new link, pleace (mp3)

Julian Ryan said...

I posted all the Murphy albums here:

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