Sunday, July 31, 2011


YEAR: 1972

LABEL: Evolution/On the Air

TRACK LISTING: The Mad Russian - Eddie Cantor & Bert Gordon, Fibber McGee & Molly - Jim & Marian Jordan, Who's On First - Abbott & Costello, Feud - Fred Allen & Jack Benny, The Jukebox - Jackie Gleason, Saturday Night Couple - Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca, Gracie's Relatives - George Burns & Gracie Allen, You Bet Your Life - Groucho Marx, The Question Man - Ernie Kovacs, The Library Card - Milton Berle, Junior the Mean Widdle Kid - Red Skelton, Oscar Levant with Fred Allen, Baron Munchausen - Jack Pearl, Matinee With - Bob & Ray, Mr. & Mrs. Morning Radio - Fred Allen & Talullah Bankhead, Hello Mama - George Jessel, The Perfect Fool - Ed Wynn, The Holdup - Jack Benny, Dr. Kronkheit & His Only Living Patient - Smith & Dale, Laurel & Hardy

IMPRESSIONS: Around 1979, I was first introduced to the world of old time radio by my friend Ed Jacoby. At that time, the local public radio station WUHY-FM (now WHYY) played episodes of old time radio shows every weekday. The very first one I ever heard was an episode of FIBBER MCGEE & MOLLY and I was hooked for life. I began taping them offa the radio and, at the same time, discovered that my middle school library had several old radio show records which I could take out and tape as well. One of them was this collection of classic comedy routines from some of the greatest radio comedians and I played this so many times that I still have every word memorized. My favourite track of all is the classic hilarious parody of saccharine morning radio programmes by Fred Allen & Talullah Bankhead which, despite millions of listens, still breaks me into hysterics. Just hearing the first few moments of track one on the album (The Mad Russian's trademark line "How do you dooooooo!") immediately rockets me back to those times when a library card and a stereo needle touching down on a disc of vinyl could transport me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: The Mad Russian - Eddie Cantor & Bert Gordon, Who's On First? - Abbott & Costello, Feud - Fred Allen & Jack Benny, Saturday Night Couple - Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca, Gracie's Relatives - George Burns & Gracie Allen, The Library Card - Milton Berle, Junior the Mean Widdle Kid - Red Skelton, Baron Munchausen - Jack Pearl, Mr. & Mrs. Morning Radio - Fred Allen & Talullah Bankhead, Laurel & Hardy

FACT SHEET: This was originally a two record set composed of comedy routines culled from old time radio recordings. There was a renewed interest in old time radio during the early 1970s and these years featured a blossoming of these recordings first made available on vinyl. In 1994, the "On The Air" label re-released this album on cd with a slightly altered title "A GOLDEN HOUR OF COMEDY" and a new (and inferior) cover art.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

2112 - Rush

YEAR: 1976

LABEL: Mercury

TRACK LISTING: Overture, The Temples of Syrinx, Discovery, Presentation, Oracle: The Dream, Soliloquy, Grand Finale, A Passage to Bangkok, The Twilight Zone, Lessons, Tears, Something for Nothing

IMPRESSIONS: Something of a manifesto showing the world (and their record label) exactly how Rush was going to carry on: on the own terms.

GUEST ARTISTS: Hugh Syme (mellotron on "Tears"). Syme is the first guest musician to appear on a Rush album

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: The Temples of Syrinx, Discovery, A Passage to Bangkok, The Twilight Zone

FACT SHEET: 2112 is Rush's fourth album. After the immense failure of their previous album CARESS OF STEEL, Rush's record label insisted that they make a commercial album with no more "concept" songs. Being the contrary Marys they are, Rush said the hell with that and made a concept album the way they wanted to make it. Of course, the album became the band's biggest commercial success up to that time and ensured their continued tenure on their label. Side one features a 7-part song cycle featuring a future dystopia controlled by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx. Drummer/lyricist Neal Peart acknowledges the influence of Ayn Rand's book "Anthem" on the plot. Side Two, however, is not part of the concept and features unrelated songs. Rush has 14 platinum and 24 gold records which puts them in fourth place behind the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Kiss as having the most gold and platinum albums by any band in history. And yes, they still aren't in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Friday, July 29, 2011


YEAR: 1982
LABEL: Corwood Industries
TRACK LISTING: Down in a Mirror, European Jewel, Unconditional Authority, Poor Boy, You Think You Know How To Score, Nancy Sings, No Break, Mostly All From You, Blue Blister, The Times, Love Love, The First End
IMPRESSIONS: I don't know if it's possible to choose a "favourite Jandek album" and, if it is, I don't think this would be mine. However, it's presence here is of course due almost entirely to the earth-shaking appearance of "Nancy Sings" which, for Jandek fans (and there actually was such a thing even back in 1982) it was the first nuclear explosion in the Jandek catalogue. Up until now, listeners had gotten pretty much nothing but single guitar strumming with Jandek's droning vocal underneath. Therefore it was a huge impact when the last song on side one suddenly and without warning featured a female voice! Wow! Jandek actually knows another human being and is not barricaded in some cabin in the woods alone and spooky. It was the first inkling that the performer was a social animal . . . at least to some small extent. The placing of "Nancy Sings" at the end of side one was perfect sequencing in the days of vinyl. The stunned listener could have time to recover from the shock before flipping the record over and listening to side two. The album opener "Down in a Mirror" is also a favourite Jandek track but how can one focus on anything besides "Nancy Sings"; everyone's favourite Jandek song!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Down in a Mirror, You Think You Know How To Score, Nancy Sings
GUEST ARTISTS: Nancy, of course. . . whomever she may be.
FACT SHEET: Corwood Industries release No. 0742 CHAIR BESIDE A WINDOW is Jandek's 4th album. The mysterious and reclusive performer (whose name is NOT Jandek) was just embarking on an incredibly prolific career releasing sometimes multiple albums a year; he is, in fact, one of the most prolific recording artists in history and is still going strong. Since 1981, he's released at least one album per year and usually there have been several. The enigmatic album covers which feature oddly artistic "non-photos" of a person we presume is the artist himself or else seemingly random objects or locations are bona fide pieces of artwork in themselves. For the full skinny on Jandek's work and career, see the acclaimed documentary JANDEK ON CORWOOD as well as the link to the Jandek website in the righthand column of links on our sister blog "The Land of Cerpts and Honey".

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BACK IN TOWN - The Kingston Trio

YEAR: 1964

LABEL: Capitol

TRACK LISTING: Georgia Stockade, Ann, Ah Woe Ah Me, Walkin' This Road To My Town, World I Used To Know, Salty Dog, Let's Get Together, Isle In the Water, Farewell Captain, Tom Dooley, Them Poems: a) Lunch Toters b) Stamp Lickers c) Them Hors D'oeuvres, So Hi

BONUS TRACKS: C'mon Betty Home. The Collectors' Choice cd release combines the live BACK IN TOWN album with the SOMETHING SPECIAL album as well.

IMPRESSIONS: This is the first live album I've posted and in fact the first Kingston Trio album I heard therefore it holds a sweet spot in my heart. I have been listening to BACK IN TOWN since I was a wee little kid. Back in the 1950's, my mother had been a huge Kingston Trio fan (she's in good company because so was Bob Dylan) and collected every single one of their original LPs; she even saw them live in concert several times. As I grew up, I would listen to them all and become just as big a fan. Often dismissed because of their huge commercial success, The Kingston Trio were in fact hugely influential in the "folk boom" begun in the late 1950's which would culminate in the folk revival spearheaded by Bob Dylan in the 60s. Dylan counts himself a fan as does Lindsey Buckingham (who appeared on stage with the Trio during their 1980s "reunion concert") and, in fact, the matching striped shirts worn by the Beach Boys early in their career was a direct homage to the Kingston Trio (who always wore matching striped shirts as their "trademark"). The "classic" lineup of the Kingston Trio was the original group featuring Dave Guard, Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds but this second incarnation featuring John Stewart has some good moments as well. Many of them can be heard on this album which captures a relaxed and energetic live performance by the trio who steer from beautiful ballads like "Ann" and "World I Used To Know" to wacky tracks such as the "dirty Calypso number" "Ah Woe Ah Me", the raucous "Salty Dog" and the hilarious "Them Poems" only to finish the concert with a rousing gospel number "So Hi". Listening to this album takes me right back to my bright yellow bedroom on Linwood Avenue in Maple Shade as I'd sit on the floor listening to my portable record player. Priceless memories.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Ann, Ah Woe Ah Me, World I Used To Know, Salty Dog, Farewell Captain, Them Poems, So Hi

GUEST ARTISTS: Glen Campbell (guitar)

FACT SHEET: BACK IN TOWN is the Kingston Trio's 18th album (not including "greatest hits") and was the group's last album on the Capitol Record label. It is a live album recorded at San Francisco's "Hungry i" night club; a frequent venue for the trio. As with all the Capitol Kingston Trio albums, BACK IN TOWN was produced by Voyle Gilmour. Despite their lucrative partnership, Capitol Records and the Kingston Trio were unable to negotiate a new contract resulting in the Trio moving to Decca Records. This is not the original line-up of the Kingston Trio but the second incarnation of the group consisting of Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and John Stewart replacing founding member Dave Guard.
LADY SOUL - Aretha Franklin

YEAR: 1968

LABEL: Atlantic

TRACK LISTING: Chain of Fools, Money Won't Change You, People Get Ready, Niki Hoeky, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone, Good To Me As I Am To You, Come Back Baby, Groovin', Ain't No Way

BONUS TRACKS: Chain of Fools (Unedited Version), (You Make Me Feel Like)A Natural Woman (Mono Single Version), (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone (Mono Single Version), Ain't No Way (Mono Single Version)

IMPRESSIONS: A sublime album packed with hits and great performances. This is one of the string of Atlantic Records albums which made Aretha the "Queen of Soul" in the eyes of the world; finally a record company knew what to do with her!

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Chain of Fools, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone, Ain't No Way

GUEST ARTISTS: Bobby Womack (guitar), King Curtis (tenor saxophone), Ellie Greenwich (background vocals on "Chain of Fools"), Carolyn Franklin (background vocals), Erma Franklin (background vocals), The Sweet Inspirations (background vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar on "Good To Me As I Am To You")

FACT SHEET: The album LADY SOUL peaked at #2 on the pop album charts and #1 on the R&B charts. It contains some of Aretha's biggest hits including "Chain of Fools" (peaked at #2), "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (#8) and "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" (#5). The album was produced by Atlantic Records' legendary Jerry Wexler and was recorded by the equally legendary Tom Dowd. LADY SOUL features the songwriting talents of such heavyweights as Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Don Covay, James Brown and Felix (The Rascals) Cavaliere.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

KID A - Radiohead

YEAR: 2000

LABEL: Capitol

TRACK LISTING: Everything In It's Right Place, Kid A, The National Anthem, How To Disappear Completely, Treefingers, Optimistic, In Limbo, Idioteque, Morning Bell, Motion Picture Soundtrack

IMPRESSIONS: You guessed it . . . this is my favourite Radiohead album. In fact, it won the 2000 Penguin Award for Album of the Year, folks. This is also one I can't really say that much about other than you've got to hear it to experience it. I'm at a loss to explain it but I know I love it.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Everything In It's Right Place, How To Disappear Completely, Optimistic, Idioteque, Motion Picture Soundtrack

FACT SHEET: KID A is Radiohead's fourth album. It was the first Radiohead album to debut at number one and went platinum in its first week of release despite the fact there was no single or music video released for the album. After the monster success of their previous album OK COMPUTER, many Radiohead fans were bewildered and angered by the radical new sound of KID A which virtually eliminated guitars and drums from the album. After the praise of OK COMPUTER, lead singer/songwriter Thom Yorke grew depressed and openly hostile to the media feeling that his music had been turned into nothing but "fridge buzz". His response was to create KID A. Many influences are apparent: Aphex Twin, Can, Charles Mingus, Talking Heads, Blackalicious, Scott Walker, Krzyysztof Penderecki, and Olivier Messiaen to name a few. The song "How To Disappear Completely" was inspired by Scott Walker and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" was an attempt to emulate 1950's Disney movie soundtracks. In interviews, Thom Yorke has eluded to the fact that Kid A could be the first human clone but has since denied that there is a specific concept or story behind the album; Yorke also stated in a different interview that Kid A was a nickname for a sequencer. According to Yorke: "If you call it something specific, it drives the record in a certain way. I like the non-meaning." KID A has been called the most challenging pop record to also have commercial success. It won the Grammy Award for "Best Alternative Album" and enjoyed almost universal acclaim.
RASTAMAN VIBRATION - Bob Marley & the Wailers

YEAR: 1976

LABEL: Tuff Gong/Island

TRACK LISTING: Positive Vibration, Roots Rock Reggae, Johnny Was, Cry To Me, Want More, Crazy Baldhead, Who the Cap Fit, Night Shift, War, Rat Race

BONUS TRACKS: Jah Live, Concrete, Roots Rock Reggae (Unreleased Single Mix), Roots Rock Dub, Want More (Alternate Mix), Crazy Baldhead (Alternate Mix), War (Alternate Mix), Johnny Was (Alternate Mix). The "Deluxe Edition" also has a second disc which features a concert "Live at the Roxy 1976" featuring the following live tracks: Trenchtown Rock (Live), Burnin' & Lootin' (Live), Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) (Live), Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock) (Live), I Shot the Sheriff (Live), Want More (Live), No Woman No Cry (Live), Lively Up Yourself (Live), Roots Rock Reggae (Live), Rat Race (Live). The 2nd disc also features the single: Smile Jamaica Part One and Smile Jamaica Part Two.

IMPRESSIONS: This is probably my favourite Bob Marley album and I don't know exactly why. I really got into it in a big way about 10 years ago during the summer and the album will forevermore have a summertime association with me. Despite its success in America at the time, it seems to be one of Marley's lesser known albums but I think it hangs together as a cohesive statement and a musical work. My favourite song on the album is "Johnny Was" which tells the heartbreaking story of a woman whose son was shot down in the street by a stray bullet; the song encapsulates the struggle just staying alive in Jamaica was at the time. Marley himself grimly stated "Jamaica too vex, mon". This was, after all, the time when gunmen broke into a rehearsal studio and attempted to assassinate Bob Marley (while rehearsing for the "Smile Jamaica" concert). This album, I think, really codifies the political stance Marley would take for the rest of his life.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Roots Rock Reggae, Johnny Was, Want More, Crazy Baldhead, Who the Cap Fit, Night Shift, War

GUEST ARTISTS: I-Three (Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths & Judy Mowatt) on background vocals

FACT SHEET: While it is difficult to judge these things, RASTAMAN VIBRATION is Bob Marley's 8th studio album. It is the first and only Bob Marley album to reach the Billboard charts peaking at number 8. "Roots, Rock, Reggae" is the only Bob Marley single to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart peaking at number 51. The original album cover was textured like burlap; a liner note indicates "this album jacket is great for cleaning herb". Marley biographer Vivien Goldman identifies RASTAMAN VIBRATION as "...a Dread mission statement, (where) Marley effectively branded the concept of the dreadlocked revolutionary Rasta" and the album is "a highly effective calling card for the Rastafarian identity". The songs are not programmed in the usual way for "musical flow" but instead "...introduces key aspects of Rasta in a very specific, clearly structured way". The song "War" is actually a verbatim speech given by Hailie Selassie in 1968 which Marley set to music.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


YEAR: 1982

LABEL: Mushroom

TRACK LISTING: Dirty Creature, Giant Heartbeat, Hello Sandy Allen, Never Ceases To Amaze Me, Lost For Words, Small World, Take A Walk, Pioneer, Six Months In A Leaky Boat, Haul Away, Log Cabin Fever, Make Sense of It

IMPRESSIONS: This is surely my favourite Split Enz album and one of my favourite albums full stop. While not a concept album, there is a cohesiveness throughout which makes the songs work together and I think the song sequencing is damn near perfect. (Evidence of this is the fact that, in 2006 when several Enz albums were remastered some were re-sequenced with songs in a different order -- not TIME AND TIDE however). There is a heavy nautical tone to the album (the album title provided by Noel Crombie, the "big black lake" in "Dirty Creature", the obvious sea shanty-like character of "Pioneer", "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" and "Haul Away") but the majority of songs do not have anything really to do with the sea. Songs featuring lyrics about "the back of beyond", "deep within the forest", "out my back door" and an isolated winter cabin abound. Perhaps one can say it's the most heavily New Zealand-influenced of all their albums in some way I can't quite put my finger on. The album also focuses on mental difficulties arising from Tim Finn's recent nervous breakdown as well as an incident involving Eddie Rayner's "panic attack"which found him running from a restaurant and cowering in his motel room corner for 12 hours in stark terror. Despite all this sometimes troubling imagery (see "Log Cabin Fever" for the most stark and disturbing), the album ends on an up note with the hopeful "Make Sense of It" demonstrating how its possible to come out of the dark eventually into some form of mental calm. Incidentally, TIME AND TIDE was awarded the honorary retroactive Penguin Award for Album of the Year.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Dirty Creature, Giant Heartbeat, Never Ceases To Amaze Me, Small World, Take A Walk, Pioneer/Six Months in a Leaky Boat, Haul Away, Log Cabin Fever, Make Sense of It

FACT SHEET: TIME AND TIDE is Split Enz's 7th album recorded in Sydney, Australia and produced by Hugh Padham and Split Enz. "Dirty Creature" was the first single released followed by "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" and "Hello Sandy Allen". A song called "Fire Drill" was recorded for the album but left off and became a b-side; the band usually opened with the song in concerts at the time. "Dirty Creature" refers to a nervous breakdown Tim Finn had at the time. "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" was becoming a big hit in England until it was banned from airplay by the BBC for being "inappropriate" during the Falklands War. "Hello Sandy Allen" is written for the world's tallest woman whom Neil Finn had met in New York on a chat show. "Haul Away", despite its "sea shanty" tone is actually an autobiographical lyric about Tim Finn which references his birth, his parents and his recent nervous breakdown. Split Enz consider the making of TIME AND TIDE to be one of the happiest times for the band and they, like many others, consider it to be their finest album. The band was Tim Finn (vocals, piano), Neil Finn (vocals, guitar), Noel Crombie (drums), Nigel Griggs (bass) and Eddie Rayner (keyboards).

Monday, July 25, 2011


YEAR: 1969

LABEL: Reprise

TRACK LISTING: Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Round & Round (It Won't Be Long), Down By the River, The Losing End (When You're On), Running Dry (Requiem For the Rockets), Cowgirl in the Sand

IMPRESSIONS: Here is another album that's been around as long as I've had a memory. Album opener "Cinnamon Girl" has the greatest one note electric guitar solo ever made! Also appearing are the epics "Down By the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand". However, this album will always be beloved by me because it contains the daffy "The Losing End (When You're On) which is, in fact, the only song my mother is allowed to sing by federal law! No, really. My mother is legally bound not to sing publicly . . . except this one song. She and I have been singing it since I was a tot of 4. I also think the "pointillist" album cover is pretty keen.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Cinnamon Girl, Down By the River, The Losing End (When You're On), Cowgirl in the Sand

FACT SHEET: EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE is Neil Young's second album and the first he recorded with backing band Crazy Horse. The three most famous songs on the album -- Cinnamon Girl, Down By the River and Cowgirl in the Sand -- were all written when Young had a 103 fever.

YEAR: 1963

LABEL: Impulse

TRACK LISTING: They Say It's Wonderful, Dedicated To You, My One and Only Love, Lush Life, You Are Too Beautiful, Autumn Serenade

IMPRESSIONS: When John Coltrane teamed up with Johnny Hartman to make an album, it because an instant jazz classic. The results were nothing short of sublime. The album arguable contains the definitive version of Billy Strayhorn's "LUSH LIFE" as well as "THEY SAY IT'S WONDERFUL".

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: They Say It's Wonderful, My One and Only Love, Lush Life, Autumn Serenade

FACT SHEET: Coltrane and Hartman knew each other from their days playing in Dizzy Gillespie's band in the late 1940s. Johnny Hartman is the only vocalist with which John Coltrane would ever record as band leader. Producer Bob Thiele approached Hartman with Coltrane's request to record an album together and originally Hartman turned him down not thinking he was a real jazz singer and they would not compliment each other musically. After seeing Coltrane perform at New York's Birdland, Hartman, Coltrane and pianist McCoy Tyner went over a few songs together and chose 10 to record. On the way to the studio, they heard Nat King Cole's version of "LUSH LIFE" and Hartman insisted that song should be included as well. The immediate jazz classic that would become the album JOHN COLTRANE AND JOHNNY HARTMAN was recorded the same day at the legendary Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. All the songs were recorded in only one take with the exception of "YOU ARE TOO BEAUTIFUL"; it required two takes because drummer Elvin Jones dropped his drumstick during take one. Besides John Coltrane on tenor sax and Johnny Hartman on vocals, the band features McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

BACK TO BLACK - Amy Winehouse

YEAR: 2006

LABEL: Universal Island Music

TRACK LISTING: Rehab, You Know I'm No Good, Me & Mr. Jones, Just Friends, Back To Black, Love Is A Losing Game, Tears Dry On Their Own, Wake Up Alone, Some Unholy War, He Can Only Hold Her, You Know I'm No Good (feat. Ghostface Killah), Rehab (Hot Chip Remix)

BONUS TRACKS: Valerie, Cupid (Deluxe Edition Version), Monkey Man, Some Unholy War (Down Tempo), Hey Little Rich Girl, You're Wondering Now, To Know Him Is To Love Him (Live), Love Is A Losing Game (Demo Version)

IMPRESSIONS: The death yesterday of Amy Winehouse led me to re-listen to the album which took the world by storm 5 years ago and earned her multiple Grammy and Penguin Awards. Her phenomenal success paved the way for an explosion of successful female (mainly British) singers such as Duffy, Adele, Lilly Allen, Kate Nash and countless others. Listening to the album once again, I realized that BACK TO BLACK has lost none of its originality and freshness after 5 years. The 60's soul-influenced songs manage to evoke that style of music without copying any song (other than the deliberate sampling of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with cheeky abandon). Her pipes sound remarkable, her songwriting has bite, wit and balls; listening to the album now one can hear it all before the rot set in. And the fact that she managed to waste all her talent in a steady slide towards disillusion is disrespectful not only to her own talent but to the family who loved her (and whom she put through hell) and the fans who connected to her music. A disgraceful, thoughtless waste of a formidable talent thrown away without a backward glance.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: You Know I'm No Good, Me & Mr. Jones, Back To Black, Love Is A Losing Game, Valerie, To Know Him Is To Love Him (Live)

FACT SHEET: BACK TO BLACK is Amy Winehouse's second album (after the jazz-infused FRANK in 2003. Producers Salaam Remi & Mark Ronson presided over an album which featured a heavy influence from classic 1960s soul records combined with modern R&B beats. However, the album was no mere pastiche owing to Amy Winehouse's superb songwriting and vocal talents. The album became a blockbuster winning 5 Grammy Awards (tying the all-time record) as well as Penguin Awards for Album of the Year and Song of the Year (for "Back To Black"). The song "Tears Dry On Their Own" sampled the music track from Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".

YEAR: 1993


TRACK LISTING: Te Deum, Silouans Song, Magnificat, Berliner Messe

IMPRESSIONS: The "Magnificat" from this album is one of my favourite classical pieces bar none. The sheer transcendent feeling I get when listening to the "Magnificat" (as well as all other compositions by Arvo Part) is really indescribable. This is music of the spirit.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Te Deum, Magnificat

FACT SHEET: TE DEUM is a setting of the latin "Te Deum" text attributed to St. Ambrose, St. Hilary and St. Augustine. The piece was commissioned in 1984 to be set to music by composer Arvo Part. This recording features the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Part's music bears a closer resemblance to early Christian music and Renaissance polyphonic masses than anything done in music for the last 300 years. Part uses "tintinnabuli" which is an harmonic system which differs from Western music: a chosen musical triad circles a melody line in a predetermined fashion so that it relates to the melody line in a way determined by the composer. Part's music has often been called "minimalist" and has a particular circling quality which can almost be hypnotic. The works on the TE DEUM album are for orchestra and combined voices. Arvo Part only composes religious music expressly dedicated to God. Part commented that his composition sought to express a mood that "...could be infinite in time -- out of the flow of infinity. I had to draw this music gently out of silence and emptiness."

YEAR: 1970
TRACK LISTING: Where Do the Children Play?, Hard Headed Woman, Wild World, Sad Lisa, Miles From Nowhere, But I Might Die Tonight, Longer Boats, Into White, On the Road To Find Out, Father and Son, Tea For the Tillerman
IMPRESSIONS: Another of my favourite all-time albums which I've been listening to since I was knee high to a zygote. Truthfully every single song is my favourite. Strangely enough, despite the fact it's one of my favourite albums of all time I don't have anything to say about it other than it's a superb listen and shouldn't be missed.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hard Headed Woman, Sad List, Miles From Nowhere, Longer Boats, Into White, Tea For the Tillerman
FACT SHEET: TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN is Cat Stevens' fourth album and his second album in the year 1970. It was the LP which blew him up in the US where he previously got very little play. As usual, Cat Stevens did the cover painting. "But I Might Die Tonight" was featured in the 1970 Jerzy Skolimowsky film "DEEP END" and four songs ("Where Do the Children Play?", "On the Road to Find Out", "Miles From Nowhere" and "Tea For the Tillerman") were featured in Hal Ashby's 1971 film "HAROLD AND MAUDE" along with many other songs from Steven's then catalogue.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A MEMORIAL 1944 - 1969 - Glenn Miller

YEAR: 1969


TRACK LISTING: Moonlight Serenade, Sunrise Serenade, Little Brown Jug, To You, Stairway To the Stars, In the Mood, My Prayer, Johnson Rag, Indian Summer, Stardust, Tuxedo Junction, Danny Boy, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Anvil Chorus, Song of the Volga Boatman, Perfidia, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Adios, Elmer's Tune, A String of Pearls, Moonlight Cocktail, Skylark, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, American Patrol, At Last, (I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo, Serenade In Blue, Juke Box Saturday Night, That Old Black Magic, St. Louis Blues March

IMPRESSIONS: Glenn Miller and His Orchestra is my favourite "big band" or "swing band". This album -- oddly subtitled 1944-1969 (the year's spanning Miller's disappearance to the release of this collection) -- was given to me as a birthday present by my grandmother in 1980 because of my then-current interest in the music of the big band era. The double album quickly became a favourite. The album contains all of Miller's biggest hits and is the perfect introduction to the man's music. Glenn Miller was highly praised by many prominent musicians including Louis Armstrong (he always traveled with reel-t0-reel tapes of Glenn Miller's records), Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra and many others. While this album was released on cd, I'm pretty sure it's out of print now. There are many Glenn Miller collections on the market but this one will always be my favourite.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Moonlight Serenade, Sunrise Serenade, Stairway To the Stars, In the Mood, Indian Summer, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Anvil Chorus, Song of the Volga Boatmen, Perfidia, A String of Pearls, At Last, (I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo, Serenade In Blue, Juke Box Saturday Night

FACT SHEET: Glenn Miller was one of the most popular band leaders of the late 30s-early 40s. He gave up his civilian career to join the war effort during World War II; too old at 38 to be drafted, Miller convinced the US government to allow him to serve in a non-combat function by starting a U.S. military band to entertain the troops. While flying from England to France, Miller's plane disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel.
TEN - Pearl Jam

YEAR: 1991


TRACK LISTING: Once, Even Flow, Alive, Why Go, Black, Jeremy, Oceans, Porch, Garden, Deep, Release

BONUS TRACKS: Master/Slave (hidden track)

IMPRESSIONS: With all due respect to Kurt Cobain, it was TEN which meant the most to me as far as grunge albums go. The music and lyrics on TEN connected with me on a personal level with Nirvana's NEVERMIND couldn't reach. I love both albums but Pearl Jam's was the greater of the two for me. The album contains my favourite song of all time: "Black"; not surprisingly the song won a Penguin Award for Song of the Year. For a work this good, Pearl Jam has never EVER managed to approach an album of such accomplished power.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Alive, Black, Jeremy, Porch, Garden
FACT SHEET: Pearl Jam was formed from the remnants of the group Mother Love Bone. Ten is Pearl Jam's first album. In 2009, a "deluxe" edition was released containing two cds and 1 dvd: cd 1 contains the original remastered album, cd 2 contains a new remixed version and the dvd features the legendary MTV Unplugged performance.

Friday, July 22, 2011

OMMADAWN - Mike Oldfield

YEAR: 1975

LABEL: Virgin

TRACK LISTING: Ommadawn (Part One), Ommadawn (Part Two)

BONUS TRACKS: Technically there is a hidden track called "On Horseback" by Mike Oldfield and William Murray which does not appear on the label or album cover

IMPRESSIONS: After the phenomenal worldwide success of his first album TUBULAR BELLS, Mike Oldfield was naturally pressured into producing a follow-up. This sequel was HERGEST RIDGE and it was quite different from the first album causing a sense of disappointment with his record label. However, I much prefer HERGEST RIDGE and OMMADAWN to TUBULAR BELLS as albums; TUBULAR BELLS is really only half a classic album (side one) while the latter two albums are both complete classics. We had TUBULAR BELLS since I was a tot but I first heard OMMADAWN when visiting my father's friend Ronnie's house. Looking back, I seem to have picked up a lot of my "eclectic tastes" from Ronnie and this was no exception. I happened to be reading "The Gormenghast Trilogy" by Mervyn Peake at the time and while I was stashed away in a corner armchair reading Ronnie put on the OMMADAWN record. I will forevermore associate OMMADAWN as the "soundtrack" to the Gormenghast books. As I say, OMMADAWN (and HERGEST RIDGE before it) are much more satisfying as complete albums than TUBULAR BELLS and both are among my favourite albums of all time. The added treat to OMMADAWN is the hidden track "On Horseback" otherwise known as "The Horse Song" which is one of my favourite songs. The sheer joyful abandon of the song never fails to lift me out of a funk.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Um......Ommadawn (Part One), Ommadawn (Part Two), On Horseback

FACT SHEET: OMMADAWN is Mike Oldfield's third album. It is a work in two movements with a "hidden track" song at the end entitled "On Horseback". Oldfield used a Celtic musical influence and utilized traditional instruments like the uillean pipes. This is the only album Oldfield recorded at his home at Hergest Ridge (although his previous album was entitled "HERGEST RIDGE"). Oldfield did not want "sensible lyrics" but just "sounds" so he asked Clodagh Simonds to write down the first words that came into her head. The lyrics she came up with were: "Daddy's in bed. The cat's drinking milk. I'm an idiot, and I'm laughing". The words were then translated into Irish and the word "idiot" translated into "amadan" which Oldfield "anglicized" to "ommadawn". The hidden track "On Horseback" was written and performed by Mike Oldfield and William Murray and commemorates their time riding horses around Hergest Ridge. As usual, Oldfield played many of the instruments himself and engaged other musicians known for their work in folk music i.e. Clodagh Simonds and Paddy Moloney; he also combined this celtic style with African influences by utilizing the drummers of Jabula. This would make OMMADAWN technically the first successful "world music" album.
DRIVING HOME - Cheryl Wheeler

YEAR: 1993

LABEL: Philo/Rounder

TRACK LISTING: Driving Home, Silver Lining, Music In My Room, Frequently Wrong But Never In Doubt, Don't Forget the Guns, Act of Nature, 75 Septembers, Spring, Bad Connection, When Fall Comes To New England, Orbiting Jupiter, Almost

IMPRESSIONS: DRIVING HOME is the first Cheryl Wheeler album I heard and it remains one of my all-time favourite albums. I first heard the song "Orbiting Jupiter" on Gene Shay's local PBS radio folk music show and rushed right out to buy the cd. The first song on the album, the title track, is the perfect beginning to a classic album; a relaxed-tempo conjuring a leisurely drive home. The album is filled with songs of universal experience ("Spring", "When Fall Comes To New England"), personal autobiographical-sounding lyrics ("Music In My Room", "75 Septembers") and comedy ("Don't Forget the Guns") which figure in every Cheryl Wheeler album. I love the album so much I awarded it the Penguin Award for Album of the Year in 1993. This would not be the last time Cheryl Wheeler would receive this great honour.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Driving Home, 75 Septembers, When Fall Comes To New England, Orbiting Jupiter, Almost

GUEST ARTISTS: Allison Krauss (vocals), Jonathan Edwards (vocals, percussion, harmonica, tapered horn, producer), Patty Larkin (vocals, slide guitar)

FACT SHEET: This is Cheryl's first album on Philo/Rounder Records after leaving Capitol. After being virtually ignored at Capitol, Cheryl's album DRIVING HOME was heavily promoted by Philo/Rounder and three singles were released: "Almost" for Adult Contemporary Radio, "Silver Lining" for country radio and "75 Septembers" for general radio release. Jonathan Edwards produced the album. Cheryl co-wrote the song "Orbiting Jupiter" with Janis Ian.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


YEAR: 1996

LABEL: Capitol

TRACK LISTING: Swamp Fire - Martin Denny, Moon Mist - The Out-Islanders, Caravan - 80 Drums Around the World, Hypnotique - Martin Denny, Atlantis - Les Baxter, Alika - Webley Edwards, Misirlou - Martin Denny, Lust - Bas Sheva & Les Baxter, Hana Maui - Chick Floyd & His Orchestra, Voodoo Dreams/Voodoo - Les Baxter, Jungle Madness - Martin Denny, Babalu - Yma Sumac, Simba - Les Baxter, The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish - Martin Denny, Bali Ha'i - Tak Shindo, Pyramid of the Sun - Les Baxter, Quiet Village - Martin Denny, Wimoweh - Yma Sumac

IMPRESSIONS: Something happened in the mid-90's. A huge interest in so-called "Lounge" music or "Mondo Exotica" or "Space Age Bachelor Pad" music swept the nation. Suddenly that long dismissed and discarded music from the 50's and early 60's became vastly popular. Old LPs went for top dollar and forgotten albums suddenly appeared on compact disc. One of the strongest sparks for this renewed interest was probably the two volumes of books entitled "Re/Search: Incredibly Strange Music"; two of my musical bibles. Capitol Records scanned its vaults to come up with a new series of cds entitled "Ultra-Lounge" which featured various artists per cd featuring a different theme. The first cd in the series was "Mondo Exotica" featuring one of my favourite "genres" of lounge music: the tiki tropical exotica sound. This is one of the best "samplers" I can think of to introduce anyone to this particular style of music and one of my all-time favourite albums. The vibraphones, the screeching parrots, the bongos, and all the other "exotic" instruments bring the smell of tiki torches and the taste of tropical cocktails vividly to life via this delightful naive music. Sure, the cd is a little heavy on Les Baxter and Martin Denny but two more proficient practitioners of the genre cannot be found. This is only an introductory sampler, after all, which hopefully will open up the vast exotica landscape for a curious listener. Mix yourself a cocktail with plenty of fruit and umbrellas, recline in the bath and listen to this ultimate brain soother.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hypnotique - Martin Denny, Alika - Webley Edwards, Babalu - Yma Sumac, Simba - Les Baxter, Bali Ha'i - Tak Shindo, Pyramid of the Sun - Les Baxter, Quiet Village - Martin Denny, Wimoweh - Yma Sumac

FACT SHEET: The "exotica" phenomenon originated mainly from returning G.I.'s in World War II who had gained a taste for all things South Pacific. The statehood of Hawaii also spurred a huge interest in everything tropical and exotic; backyard luaus with wooden tiki idols and tiki torches were all the rage. A mania for exotic cocktails spread across the nation's bars sparked by the innovative creativity of Don the Beachcomber. Also the new technology of "high fidelity" and "stereophonic sound" found a perfect medium with the multi-instrumental tiki lounge music testing ones speakers like nobody's business. The Grammy-winning Ultra-Lounge cd series is still going albeit only in online download format. All the tracks naturally are culled from Capitol Records' library of master tapes. "Swamp Fire" is from Martin Denny's c. 1958 LP "Afro-Desia". "Moon Mist" is from the Out-Islanders' 1961 LP "Polynesian Fantasy"; the song (written by Johnny Mercer and Duke Ellington) features vocalisations by Loulie Jean Norman (Vampira on the 1959 "Spike Jones In Stereo" LP) and Charlie Barnet on saxophone. Duke Ellington's perennial "Caravan" is a previously unreleased track from 1961 by 80 Drums Around the World. Martin Denny's superb "Hypnotique" is from his c. 1967 album "A Taste of India". "Atlantis" is from Les Baxter's 1953 LP "Kaleidoscope". "Alika" is from Webley Edwards' 1960 LP "Hawaii Calls: Exotic Instrumentals". "Misirlou" and "Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish" are from Martin Denny's c. 1960 LP "Exotic Percussion". "Lust" is from the Les Baxter/Bas Sheva LP "The Passions" from 1953. "Hana Maui" is from Chick Floyd's 1959 "Little Grass Shack" album. "Voodoo Dreams/Voodoo" is actually a medley of two Les Baxter tracks edited together: the former from Les Baxter's 1959 "Jungle Jazz" album and the latter song an unreleased track from 1958. "Jungle Madness" is from Martin Denny's 1959 "Hypnotique" album. "Babalu" is an Yma Sumac single from 1952. "Simba" is from Les Baxter's 1955 LP "Tamboo!". "Bali Ha'i" is from Tak Shindo's superb 1959 "Brass and Bamboo" album and is my favourite version of the song. The exquisite "Pyramid of the Sun" is from Les Baxter's 1959 "The Sacred Idol" album. The exotica classic "Quiet Village" was originally written and recorded by Les Baxter but it's Martin Denny's 1958 version from his "Exotica" album which was the smash hit and remains the classic version. Yma Sumac's "Wimoweh" is another Capitol single from 1952. The Ultra-Lounge cds also featured recipes for two tropical cocktails in each cd booklet; the Mondo Exotica cd thoughtfully includes recipes for a "Blue Hawaii" and a "Zombie". Yum!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


YEAR: 1975

LABEL: Rocket

TRACK LISTING: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Tower of Babel, Bitter Fingers, Tell Me When the Whistle Blows, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, (Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket, Better Off Dead, Writing, We All Fall In Love Sometimes, Curtains

BONUS TRACKS: (Deluxe Edition) Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, One Day at a Time, Philadelphia Freedom, (and Disc 2 which features the "Midsummer Music" concert at Wembley Stadium June 21, 1975) Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Live), Tower of Babel (Live), Bitter Fingers (Live), Tell Me When the Whistle Blows (Live), Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Live), (Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket (Live), Better Off Dead (Live), Writing (Live), We All Fall In Love Sometimes (Live), Curtains (Live), Pinball Wizard (Live), Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting (Live)

IMPRESSIONS: While not my favourite Elton album (I only like about half of it -- only the first and last song on side 1 are worthwhile), the album does contain some of my all-time favourite Elton songs (all listed below). This is the first Elton John album I ever bought -- when it was brand new in 1975. However I didn't own it until the 1980s. How??? Because I actually bought it for my grade school teacher's Christmas present in a Pollyanna because she was hot and she liked Elton John. The title track, of course, is the theme song for my friend Cheeks and I; he's the Captain and I'm the Kid. Despite controversy, this is the way it is; Cheeks is the Captain (i.e. Elton) because he's very outgoing, friendly and sparkly while I am the Brown Dirt Cowboy (i.e. Bernie) because I'm shy, introverted and quiet.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Writing, We All Fall In Love Sometimes, Curtains

FACT SHEET: CAPTAIN FANTASTIC is Elton's 9th album. It was his first album to debut at number one on the charts and has been certified triple platinum. This was the first Elton John album which is autobiographical. Elton requested lyricist Bernie Taupin write a song cycle which told the story of both men: Captain Fantastic stands for Elton while the Brown Dirt Cowboy represents Bernie. Elton himself considers CAPTAIN FANTASTIC to be his finest album. He famously played the entire album live from start to finish at the Midsummer Music festival shortly after the album was released. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was the only single released from the album; it is usually described as depicting Elton's failed suicide attempt but that is incorrect. It's actually referring to his close friends (including Bernie) who advised him not to go through with his planned wedding -- thus "saving his life". The well-known album cover was painted by artist Alan Aldridge whose "Illustrated Beatles" book I do possess. The image was so famous that a Captain Fantastic pinball machine was produced. CAPTAIN FANTASTIC was the final album with Elton's "classic" band all playing together until TOO LOW FOR ZERO: Davey Johnstone (guitar), Dee Murray (bass), Nigel Olsson (drums) and Ray Cooper (percussion). In 2006, Elton released a "sequel" to the album called "THE CAPTAIN AND THE KID".
WAITING - Fun Boy Three

YEAR: 1983

LABEL: Chrysalis

TRACK LISTING: Our Lips Are Sealed, The Tunnel of Love, The Pressure of Life (Takes the Weight Off the Body), Things We Do, The Farmyard Connection, Murder She Said, The More I See (The Less I Believe), Going Home, We're Having All the Fun, Well Fancy That!

IMPRESSIONS: I was always a fan of The Specials and the late 70's ska craze so I loved Fun Boy Three. The music on WAITING still has that moody atmospheric sound from The Specials but is also quite danceable. On top of that, they hide biting lyrics which comment on the social foibles of the day. Back in the day, my mother and I played this album often. The moaning, groaning sound of their cover of the Go-Go's hit "Our Lips Are Sealed" was a revelation (co-written by secret lovers Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall) while "The Farmyard Connection" was hilarious fun. Tracks like "Things We Do" and "The Tunnel of Love" were little snapshots of sometimes bleak early-80's England which somehow managed to have a sense of bemusement; things never got too depressing. Terry Hall's impassive and immobile face probably had something to do with eliminating any sense of "woe is me" wallowing. Whenever I hear this album I am immediately rocketed back to the early 80's and high school. WAITING was awarded the retroactive honourary Penguin Award for Album of the Year.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Our Lips Are Sealed, The Tunnel of Love, Things We Do, The Farmyard Connection, Murder She Said, The More I See (The Less I Believe), We're Having All the Fun

GUEST ARTISTS: David Byrne plays guitar as well as producing and mixing

FACT SHEET: Fun Boy Three emerged from the wreckage of The Specials. Formed by Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding, the band still only lasted a mere two albums (sadly); WAITING was their second and final album. The songwriting and production is less "doom and gloom" and more light and poppy without losing any of the lyrical sharpness. "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Tunnel of Love" were both Top 20 UK hits while only "Our Lips Are Sealed" became a single in America with heavy rotation on MTV. The instrumental "Murder She Said" is a cover of the theme music for the Agatha Christie/Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. After the release of WAITING, the group toured the US and promptly disbanded afterwards. The album is produced and mixed by the Talking Heads' David Byrne with arrangements that feature interesting rhythms and instruments such as the cello and trombone (brought over from the ska days). Fun Boy Three were also instrumental in jumpstarting the career of Bananarama by dueting with them on "T'ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)" on their first album and then dueting with Bananarama on their own album with their Motown cover "Really Saying Something"; both in 1982.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


YEAR: 1955

LABEL: Capitol

TRACK LISTING: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Mood Indigo, Glad To Be Unhappy, I Get Along Without You Very Well, Deep In A Dream, I See Your Face Before Me, Can't We Be Friends?, When Your Lover Has Gone, What Is This Thing Called Love, Last Night When We Were Young, I'll Be Around, Ill Wind, It Never Entered My Mind, Dancing On the Ceiling, I'll Never Be the Same, This Love of Mine

IMPRESSIONS: The only Sinatra I really like is the "suicidal" Sinatra still smarting after his horrendous breakup with Ava Gardner. Here we have one of the most perfect example of song sequencing ever captured on tape. The perfect album title and the perfect sombre cover painting to evoke the perfect mood of late night melancholy. But its thankfully not mawkish but almost wistfully sad without resorting to hysterics. The tone of the album is quiet and subdued: a resigned assignation of a broken heart. The very sound of the album brings to mind the open window with billowing curtains looking out into the black night air as a tumbler of whiskey sits on the night table next to a smoldering cigarette in the ashtray. The perfect late night album. It contains the best version ever recorded of both "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" as well as the sublime "Dancing On the Ceiling"; a particular favourite of my late friend Peg. I will never hear "Dancing On the Ceiling" again without thinking of her.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Mood Indigo, Dancing On the Ceiling

FACT SHEET: When the long-playing record came into being in 1948, it took a while for it to catch on with consumers. At first, the LP was thought to be merely a way to collect individual 78s onto one record and LPs were initially groupings of unrelated songs. However, Frank Sinatra and his producers determined that the new format could be a wonderful way to combine songs of a certain theme or mood so that an entire LP would present illustrate a certain emotional or thematic concept. With IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS, Sinatra basically created the "concept album" by collecting a series of emotionally consistent songs programmed in such a way as to evoke a particular mood of "elegiac melancholy". The mood is aided by tasteful arrangements of conductor Nelson Riddle.

YEAR: 1925 - 1928

LABEL: Okeh/reissued on Columbia

TRACK LISTING: My Heart, Yes! I'm In the Barrel, Gut Bucket Blues, Come Back Sweet Papa, Georgia Grind, Heebie Jeebies, Cornet Chop Suey, Oriental Strut, You're Next, Muskrat Ramble, Don't Forget To Mess Around, I'm Gonna Gitcha, Droppin' Shucks, Who'sit, King of the Zulus, Big Fat Ma and Skinny Pa, Lonesome Blues, Sweet Little Papa, Jazz Lips, Skid-Dat-De-Dat, Big Butter and Egg Man, Sunset Cafe Stomp, You Made Me Love You, Irish Black Bottom, Willie the Weeper, Wild Man Blues, Chicago Breakdown, Alligator Crawl, Potato Head Blues, Melancholy, Weary Blues, Twelfth Street Rag, Keyhole Blues, S.O.L. Blues, Gully Low Blues, That's When I'll Come Back To You, Put 'Em Down Blues, Ory's Creole Trombone, The Last Time, Struttin' With Some Barbecue, Got No Blues, Once In A While, I'm Not Rough, Hotter Than That, Savoy Blues, Fireworks, Skip the Gutter, A Monday Date, Don't Jive Me, West End Blues, Sugar Foot Strut, Two Deuces, Squeeze Me, Knee Drops, No (Papa No), Basin Street Blues, No One Else But You, Beau Koo Jack, Save It Pretty Mama, Weather Bird, Muggles, Hear Me Talkin' To Ya, St. James Infirmary, Tight Like This

IMPRESSIONS: Not an exaggeration to call these recordings "the Rosetta Stone of Jazz. There are probably no more important recordings in the music's history. Louis Armstrong has always been a particular favourite of mine as the mere sound of one of his recordings lifts me up with a sense of musical elation very rare in the vast catalogue of music. Only a few artists have that ability and Pops is one of the biggest. No matter how many times I hear "West End Blues" I remain astonished and thrilled by the inevitable goosebumps. Every vocalist (with the exception of opera singers) who came after him owes Louis Armstrong for the way they sing; no matter what genre or style of music from jazz vocalists to rock singers, from country crooners to heavy metal monsters -- everyone sings the way they do because of Pops. And that's not to mention the monumental influence he's had on the music. That silly tendency 10 years ago to proclaim the "artist of the decade" focused on Elvis or Sinatra when it is Louis Armstrong alone who can claim that title.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: West End Blues, West End Blues and. . .oh yeah. . .West End Blues. Oh yeah and then there's always Heebie Jeebies, Cornet Chop Suey, Oriental Strut, King of the Zulus, Wild Man Blues, Alligator Crawl, Potato Head Blues, Melancholy, S.O.L. Blues, Struttin' With Some Barbecue, I'm Not Rough, Hotter Than That, Fireworks, West End Blues, Weather Bird, Muggles, St. James Infirmary, Tight Like This

GUEST ARTISTS: Lonnie Johnson plays guitar on "I'm Not Rough", "Hotter Than That" and "Savoy Blues"

FACT SHEET: The Hot Five was the first band led by Louis Armstrong in the recording studio. The recordings he made with the Hot Five and subsequent Hot Seven literally changed the face of Jazz by transforming it into a soloist's art, by introducing individual solo improvisation to records, by inventing scat singing (on "Heebie Jeebies") and by leaving behind the New Orleans tradition of Jazz in favour of a new "swing" tempo. All this and much more originated with these records. Louis and his band recorded multiple sessions at the Okeh Recording Studios beginning in 1925 through 1928. The members of the original Hot Five were Kid Ory (trombone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), "Mrs. Armstrong" Lil Hardin (piano) and Johnny St. Cyr (banjo). In 1927, Louis replaced some members with musicians from the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra (with whom Louis had recently been playing): Pete Briggs (tuba), Baby Dodds (drums), John Thomas (trombone), Lil Hardin (piano) and Johnny Dodds (clarinet). A revamped 1928 Hot Five would change the entire membership culled from the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra (with whom Louis had been recently performing): Earl Hines (piano), Fred Robinson (trombone), Jimmy Strong (clarinet & tenor saxophone), Mancy Cara (banjo) and Zutty Singleton (drums). In May 1927 Louis Armstrong also instituted his Hot Seven lineup which featured Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Lil Hardin (piano), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), Baby Dodds (drums), Pete Briggs (tuba) and John Thomas (trombone).

YEAR: 1979


TRACK LISTING: London Calling, Brand New Cadillac, Jimmy Jazz, Hateful, Rudie Can't Fail, Spanish Bombs, The Right Profile, Lost in the Supermarket, Clampdown, The Guns of Brixton, Wrong 'Em Boyo, Death or Glory, Koka Kola, The Card Cheat, Lover's Rock, Four Horsemen, I'm Not Down, Revolution Rock, Train In Vain

BONUS TRACKS: "Train In Vain" was originally a hidden track and not listed on the label or the cover. The song was originally going to be a free giveaway from the NME but somehow it never happened and the song was added to the album.

IMPRESSIONS: What can one say about the monumental megalith that is the Clash's LONDON CALLING double album? It's got something for everyone from the clarion call of the title track (partially inspired by the Three Mile Island meltdown) to the classic punk of "Clampdown" -- from the smoldering reggae beat of Paul Simonon's "The Guns of Brixton" to the driving rockabilly of the cover song "Brand New Cadillac" (later to be covered again by Stray Cats' Brian Setzer) -- from the manic energetic silliness of "Wrong 'Em Boyo" to the poppy "Train in Vain" which pointed the way to Big Audio Dynamite even at this early stage. It's the album which cemented the world's opinion that the Clash were the only band that mattered in 1979.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: London Calling, Spanish Bombs, Clampdown, The Guns of Brixton, Wrong 'Em Boyo, I'm Not Down, Train In Vain

FACT SHEET: LONDON CALLING was the Clash's third album. After being in the vanguard of punk, The Clash experimented with many different styles of music here including ska, funk, rockabilly, jazz and reggae. The double album contains a few covers including Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac" and a magnificent version of the ska group the Rulers' 1967 classic "Wrong 'Em Boyo". LONDON CALLING was famously proclaimed "the greatest album of the 80s" by Rolling Stone magazine despite the fact that it was released in 1979; perhaps the January 1980 U.S. release led them to rationalize that it was an 80s album but its not. The justly famous album cover photo by Pennie Smith shows Paul Simonon smashing his bass in a fit of anger; the photo is slightly out of focus because the frightened photographer was literally snapping the picture as she was backpedalling on her heels. The cover design of course is an homage to Elvis Presley's eponymous first album. The cover is so iconic that it was issued as a stamp by the Royal Mail in 2010 as one of their 10 "Classic Album Cover" sets.
ABBEY ROAD - The Beatles

YEAR: 1969

LABEL: Apple

TRACK LISTING: Come Together, Something, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Oh! Darling, Octopus's Garden, I Want You (She's So Heavy), Here Comes the Sun, Because, You Never Give Me Your Money, Sun King, Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End, Her Majesty

BONUS TRACKS: None unless you consider the fact that "Her Majesty" was originally a "hidden track" i.e. it was not listed on the album cover. The reason for this was that originally it was part of the side 2 medley between "Mean Mr. Mustard" & "Polythene Pam" but Paul McCartney didn't like it there so it was cut. Engineers had been trained NEVER to throw anything away so it was spliced onto the end of the master tape with 14 seconds of red leader and mistakenly recorded onto the final master. The Beatles, however, liked it there and left it.

IMPRESSIONS: ABBEY ROAD is the Beatles' 11th album and the last one they recorded (although LET IT BE would be released after it). This is my 2nd favourite Beatles album after "THE WHITE ALBUM". ABBEY ROAD is also the very first non-kiddie "grown-up music" album I ever bought with money I got for my 7th or 8th birthday. Not a bad way to start, right? As you will probably begin to notice, I'm a sucker for albums which run songs together into "song suites" and it probably originates with this album; side 2 of course runs songs together into a "song cycle".

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Something, Oh! Darling, I Want You (She's So Heavy), Because, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End

GUEST ARTISTS: Billy Preston plays organ on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"

FACT SHEET: After the acrimonious debacle of the "Let It Be" sessions, Paul McCartney suggested to producer George Martin that they try making another album; Martin agreed only if he would be allowed to produce it like they used to do in the old days. The Beatles, probably sensing this was their last hurrah, agreed to put their differences aside and came up with their most cohesive, harmonious album in years. Side 1 or "the John Lennon side" contains separate songs independent of each other with several "rockers" while Side 2 or "The Paul McCartney side" features songs integrated into a connected song cycle (obviously an influence on Kate Bush's HOUNDS OF LOVE album and scores of others). "Something" would become the first Beatles #1 single NOT written by Lennon/McCartney and subsequently everybody's favourite George Harrison Beatles song. "Octopus's Garden" would be the final Ringo Starr-penned Beatles song and "The End" would feature the one and only drum solo by Ringo in the entire Beatles catalogue. The last time the Beatles would ever record together in the studio was on the song "I Want You (She's So Heavy). The (for want of a better term) chorus of "Golden Slumbers" is actually adapted from the Elizabethan lyric poem by Thomas Dekker from "PATIENT GRISEL":  "Golden slumbers kiss your eyes/Smiles awake you when you rise/Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry/And I will sing a lullaby./Rock them, rock them, lullaby./Care is heavy, therefore sleep you,/You are care, and care must keep you./Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,/And I will sing a lullaby./Rock them, rock them, lullaby."One of the assistant engineers on ABBEY ROAD was an unknown Alan Parsons who would go on to a major producing career (including the perennial seller Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON) as well as helming his own group The Alan Parsons Project. The iconic (and much imitated) cover photos were taken by Iain Macmillan on the zebra crossing in front of Abbey Road Studios.
MONSTER MASH - Zacherley

YEAR: 1962

LABEL: Cameo-Parkway

TRACK LISTING: Monster Mash, Hurry Bury Baby, Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here), I'm the Ghoul from Wolverton Mountain, Gravy (With Cyanide), Popeye (The Gravedigger), Limb From Limbo Rock, Weird Watusi, Pistol Stomp, Dinner With Drac Part 1, The Ha-Ha-Ha, The Bat

BONUS TRACKS: There are no "bonus tracks" as such on such an old album HOWEVER the 2010 Collectors' Choice Music reissue combines this album with the Cool Ghoul's 1963 LP SCARY TALES which will be posted separately.

IMPRESSIONS: OK so this is the OTHER best album of all time. When I was a kid, my mother had regaled me with tales of having seen Zacherley (or Roland as he was called then) on Philadelphia TV back in the late 1950's. He was a legendary figure in my mind so you can imagine my delight when visiting my father I discovered the MONSTER MASH album among the albums down in his bar. I "liberated" it then and there and have had it ever since. Oddly the copy of the album I grew up with was missing two tracks (I'M THE GHOUL FROM WOLVERTON MOUNTAIN and LIMB FROM LIMBO ROCK). I assume it was a later reissue which (for some reason) removed two songs from the record probably for playing time. Who knows why. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that I found a complete earlier pressing at one of those used record collector "conventions" they used to have periodically at local malls. It's almost impossible to relate the feeling I get when I hear this album: intense childhood nostalgia combined with the warmest, coziest feelings of Halloween. Truly one of my favourite albums of all time and truly each and every song is my favourite. But if pressed...

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Monster Mash, Hurry Bury Baby, Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here), Gravy (With Cyanide), Popeye (The Gravedigger), Weird Watusi

GUEST ARTISTS: The Dreamlovers, The Orlons and The Cameos all perform backup vocals since the songs used the actual music tracks (sans vocals) of current Cameo-Parkway hit singles (see below).

FACT SHEET: MONSTER MASH was Zacherley's first album. John Zacherle began his horror host career on Philadelphia's WCAU-TV as Roland (pronounced Ro-LAND thank you very much). After gaining nationwide attention, the Cool Ghoul moved to the larger New York market and changed his name to Zacherley. His first Cameo release was the hit single 45 "Dinner With Drac" in 1958 which rocketed to #6 on the Billboard charts. His huge success as a TV horror host led to a series of albums. All the songs on MONSTER MASH (with the exception of the title track) were actual the music-only tracks of Cameo-Parkway hit singles which Zacherley sang overtop of (bad sentence structure...bad me!). The backing tracks for the Dovell's "Hully Gully Baby" and "The Bristol Stomp" fitted HURRY BURY BABY and THE PISTOL STOMP. Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again", "Popeye the Hitchhiker", "Limbo Rock" and "The Twist" served to provide the music track for LET'S TWIST AGAIN (MUMMY TIME IS HERE), POPEYE (THE GRAVEDIGGER), LIMB FROM LIMBO ROCK and THE BAT. Jo Ann Campbell's "(I'm the Girl On) Wolverton Mountain morphed in Zacherley's THE GHOUL, Dee Dee Sharp's follow-up "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" turned into GRAVY (With Cyanide), "The Wah Watusi" by the Orlons became WEIRD WATUSI, and Bobby Rydell's "The Cha Cha Cha" became the backing track for THE HA-HA-HA. Now in his 90s, Zacherley still performs the song "Monster Mash" live on stage with the Dead Elvi at every Chiller Theater Convention.

Monday, July 18, 2011


YEAR: 1985


TRACK LISTING: Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), Hounds of Love, The Big Sky, Mother Stands For Comfort, Cloudbusting, And Dream of Sheep, Under Ice, Waking the Witch, Watching You Without Me, Jig of Life, Hello Earth, The Morning Fog

BONUS TRACKS: The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix), Running Up That Hill (12" Mix), Be Kind To My Mistakes, Under the Ivy, Burning Bridge, My Lagan Love

IMPRESSIONS: This is my favourite album of all time, just so you know. HOUNDS OF LOVE is Kate Bush's fifth album. It won the honorary retroactive Penguin Award for Album of the Year 1985 (because Penguin Awards were not established until 1990). Side One (from the LP days) consists of separate songs (most of which were hit singles). Side Two contains the song cycle entitled "The Ninth Wave" which tells the impressionistic tale of a survivor of some disaster floating in the ocean hoping for rescue. Delirium sets in accounting for the wild hallucinatory images conjured by Kate and her fairlight.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Literally every single one of them!

GUEST ARTISTS: John Williams plays acoustic guitar on "The Morning Fog"

FACT SHEET: This is Kate Bush's 5th album. HOUNDS OF LOVE entered the UK album chart at #1 (her 2nd album to reach #1) knocking Madonna's LIKE A VIRGIN off the top of the charts. The song "Cloudbusting" is based on Peter Reich's "Book of Dreams" concerning his relationship with his father Wilhelm Reich who claimed to be a rainmaker. The famous video starred Donald Sutherland as the father with Kate in drag as the son. The helicopter heard in "The Ninth Wave" song cycle is taken from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album. The spoken words "It's in the trees! It's coming!" at the beginning of "Hounds of Love" is a clip from the 1957 classic British horror film NIGHT OF THE DEMON spoken by actor Maurice Denham. The choral music heard during "Hello Earth" is by the Richard Hickox Singers performing a Georgian traditional song entitled "Tsintskaro". The bonus track "Be Kind To My Mistakes" is from the 1986 film CASTAWAY directed by Nicholas Roeg.