Monday, December 12, 2005
You Can Dance Your Rock and Roll
I love this guy.
Without hyperbole or undue overstatement, it can be safely said that Roy Wood is a mistunderstood genius. Yes. You can argue the merits of The Move or Electric Light Orchestra, the two bands Wood cofounded with Jeff Lynne--I happen to love both. Theirs was a dream of 1950s rock & roll in baroque, the ornate and leafy Corinthian column period. Decadent, yes, but never willing to fully abandon pop for prog, choosing instead to interpret progress as a kind of classical classicism--Beethoven rolling over for Chuck Berry rolling over for Beethoven rolling over for Chuck Berry, ad infinitum.
Ulysses Adrian Wood is a weirdo I can stand behind. The true joy of the man is his endlessly naive ambition, a high romantic belief that rock and roll can somehow leap the heathrows of history and touch the hem of Ludwig and Lord Byron by finding the circuitous route from Memphis to a foggy British pastoral. What's wonderful is he's like a backwoods outsider artist, a visionary willing to sauter on everything from heavy metal to banjo to Rio de Janeiro party rhythms to get where he's going. "You Can Dance Your Rock and Roll," from 1973's Wizzard Brew, is a great example of his overweening sonic pride: he plays every single instrument and overproduces the song so heavily, it nearly implodes under the weight of the multitracks that eventually bleed into one big amorphous rock and roll super-blob. I love it!
But he's tender too. Listen to "Song of Praise," the opener from his finest effort, 1973's Boulders. There's nothing quite like high gospel praise to Jesus than that which is literally sung high--in this case, with backup singers singing in the helium soprano of Alvin & the Chipmunks. Sings Wood and his chipmunks, As long as you believe (I do believe)/You must believe./Capture every word I say.
And I believe Roy believes. And therefore, I believe in Roy.
Posted by Lefty at 9:46 PM