Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SWEET EXORCIST - Curtis Mayfield

YEAR: 1974

LABEL: Curtom

TRACK LISTING: Ain't Got Time, Sweet Exorcist, To Be Invisible, Power To the People, Kung Fu, Suffer, Make Me Believe In You

IMPRESSIONS: Again, not to go with the obvious -- SUPERFLY -- but instead with a much lesser known but still worthy album. This is nowhere near a masterpiece, of course, but I've always enjoyed the very laid-back grooves contained herein; in fact, the more relaxed funk is in stark contrast to the quite chaotic cover art and SWEET EXORCIST is more a "late-night" album than a funkified SUPERFLY. Unlike Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield's "romantic" music was always more cerebral and emerged from the brain rather than the groin. However, this is a cool, smooth soulful album which provides a nice break from Curtis' perhaps overly familiar music in favour of more overlooked work. Having said this, the more funky, more Superflyesque "Kung Fu" was a hit single than oldies like myself are likely to remember.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Ain't Got Time, Sweet Exorcist, To Be Invisible, Kung Fu, Suffer

FACT SHEET: SWEET EXORCIST is Curtis Mayfield's sixth album as a solo artist. The album was recorded in the Chicago Curtom studios of Mayfield's own record label (a subsidiary of RCA). "To Be Invisible" is from the "CLAUDINE" soundtrack which Mayfield had recently written and produced for Gladys Knight and the Pips. The album finds Mayfield using songs stockpiled from earlier; four of the seven songs on the album were written before 1971. The Dirtbombs covered "Kung Fu" (along with other soul/funk classics) on their wonderfully raunchy 2001 album "ULTRAGLIDE IN BLACK".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LET'S GET IT ON - Marvin Gaye

YEAR: 1973

LABEL: Tamla-Motown

TRACK LISTING: Let's Get It On, Please Stay (Once You Go Away), If I Should Die Tonight, Keep Gettin' It On, Come Get To This, Distant Lover, You Sure Love To Ball, Just To Keep You Satisfied

BONUS TRACKS: (On Deluxe Edition): Song #3 (Instrumental), My Love Is Growing, Cakes (Instrumental), Symphony (Undubbed Version), I'd Give My Life For You (Alternate Mix), I Love You Secretly (Miracles Version), You're the Man (Alternate Version 1), You're the Man (Alternate Version 2), Symphony (Demo Vocal), Let's Get It On (Demo), Let's Get It On Part II (aka Keep Gettin' It On - Complete), Please Stay (Once You Go Away) (Alternate Mix), If I Should Die Tonight (Demo), Come Get To This (Alternate Mix), Distant Lover (Alternate Mix), You Sure Love To Ball (Alternate Mix w/ Alternate Vocal), Just To Keep You Satisfied (A Cappella w/ Alternate Vocal), Just To Keep You Satisfied (Originals Version 1970), Just To Keep You Satisfied (Monitors Version 1968), Where Are We Going? (Alternate Mix), The World Is Rated X (Alternate Mix), I'm Gonna Give You Respect, Try It You'll Like It, You Are That Special One, We Can Make It Baby, Running From Love (Instrumental Version 1), Mandota (Instrumental), Running From Love (Instrumental Version 2), Come Get To This (Live From Oakland)

IMPRESSIONS: A lot of people would've probably chosen "WHAT'S GOING ON" as the first Marvin Gaye album to talk about but I've always preferred this one; and so did the general public apparently because this was the best-selling album of Marvin's Motown career. Usually this album is wrongly considered just a "sexed-up jam" but Marvin was never going to give us just that; instead this albums theme derives deep inside Marvin's damaged psyche stemming from his extremely brutal upbringing and fundamentalist strict views about sex which Marvin was struggling with all his adult life. In David Ritz's biography "DIVIDED SOUL: THE LIFE OF MARVIN GAYE", the author describes the album in this way: "If the most profound soul songs are prayers in secular dress, Marvin's prayer is to reconcile the ecstasy of his early religious epiphany with a sexual epiphany. The hope for such a reconciliation, the search for sexual healing, is what drives his art ... The paradox is this: The sexiest of Marvin Gaye's work is also his most spiritual. That's the paradox of Marvin himself. In his struggle to wed body and soul, in his exploration of sexual passion, he expresses the most human of hungers—the hunger for God. In those songs of loss and lament—the sense of separation is heartbreaking. On one level, the separation is between man and woman. On a deeper level, the separation is between man and God." There's a lot more going on here lyrically and even musically; the stark break-up song "Just To Keep You Satisfied" (which had been reworked after being recorded by both the Monitors and the Originals before Marvin included it on his own album) isn't quite the party expected from an album entitled "LET'S GET IT ON". Marvin Gaye was nothing if not complex and this album (more than the more critically celebrated "WHAT'S GOING ON") demonstrates that face most vividly.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Let's Get It On, Please Stay (Once You Go Away), If I Should Die Tonight, Keep Gettin' It On, Come Get To This, Distant Lover, Just To Keep You Satisfied, Song #3 (Instrumental), My Love Is Growing, Cakes (Instrumental), Symphony (Undubbed Version), I'd Give My Life For You (Alternate Mix), I Love You Secretly (Miracles Version), You're the Man (Alternate Version 1), Just To Keep You Satisfied (Monitors Version 1968), Where Are We Going? (Alternate Mix), The World Is Rated X (Alternate Mix), I'm Gonna Give You Respect, Running From Love (Instrumental Version 1)

GUEST ARTISTS: Herbie Hancock (piano on "Song #3, My Love Is Growing" and "Cakes"), The Miracles (vocals on "I Love You Secretly"), The Originals (vocals on "Just To Keep You Satisfied (Originals Version 1970), The Monitors (vocals on "Just To Keep You Satisfied (Monitors Version 1968), The Funk Brothers (house band on "Just To Keep You Satisfied (Monitors Version 1968), Ray Parker Jr. (guitar on "Running From Love (Instrumental Version 1)", "Mandota (Instrumental)", "Running From Love (Instrumental Version 2)" and "Come Get To This (Live From Oakland)".

FACT SHEET: LET'S GET IT ON is Marvin Gaye's 12th album. It was Gaye's first foray into different styles of music including funk and smooth soul/quiet storm and the heavily sexual lyrics established Marvin as a major sex symbol. Following the success of his "WHAT'S GOING ON" album, Gaye received much more creative control. Originally the artist was going to follow that album with one called "YOU'RE THE MAN" and recorded such tracks as "The World Is Rated X", "Where Are We Going?" and the eponymous title track but that project was shelved for unknown reasons; these songs and more would finally appear on the 2 disc "Deluxe Edition" as listed above. The title track "Let's Get It On" had a circuitous life starting first as a religious ode, then morphing into a political song (a la "What's Going On") and finally, at the suggestion of co-writer Ed Townsend, changed to "a song about making sweet love"; the emotional intensity Gaye brought to the vocal was inspired by his new infatuation Janis Hunter (for whom he would base his following album "I WANT YOU" upon). "Keep Gettin' It On" (also known as "Let's Get It On Part II") is a continuation/sequel to the title track which also includes some more politcally aware lyrics. A more doo-wop influence pervades "Come Get To This", "Distant Lover" and "Just To Keep You Satisfied" which also finds Marvin's embrace of the "quiet storm" smooth soul style on the latter two songs. LET'S GET IT ON is generally considered one of the most influential soul albums of all-time and the title track became a number one hit single.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

LE COEUR QUI JAZZE - Various Artists

YEAR: 1997

LABEL: Discomagic

TRACK LISTING: Le Coeur Qui Jazze - France Gall, Marins Amis Amant ou Maris - Michel Legrand, Aruanda - Astrud Gilberto, Here We Are Falling In Love - Meta Roos & Nippe Sylvens Band, Autumn Leaves - Milt Jackson, Jive Samba - Jon Hendricks, Panema Leblon - Claudia, Five Four - Roberto Menescal, Samba Em Paris - Leny Andrade, Sombre Guitar - Dancers Inferno, Uela Uela - Charly Antolini, Sunshine Superman - Big Jim Sullivan, In Memory Of - Randy Weston, The Mad Mad Doktors - The Mad Doktors, Ladeira Da Pregula - Elis Regina, Exotica - Walter Kubiczeck, Young Blood - The Silhouettes, Conversations - The Silhouettes

IMPRESSIONS: Unaccustomed as I am to posting albums which I've just recently acquired, I just had to mention LE COEUR QUI JAZZE which was brought to my attention by Mr. Bremson over at the "Exciting Sounds" blog. As he so rightly says: "The world needs more CD comps like this." And then, of course, there's the added bonus of a cd booklet full of photos of naked ladies. The tracks here are quite rarely heard (with the possible exception of the France Gall song) and puts you right in the mood for a tropical drink while shopping for white go-go boots. Hearing the track by the great Michel Legrand makes me wanna watch LES DESMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT again. Jon Hendricks' vocal on "Jive Samba" is actually reminiscent of King Pleasure while Roberto Menescal is obviously going for the "Dave Brubeck TAKE FIVE" vibe with "Five Four" -- check the time signature.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Le Coeur Qui Jazze - France Gall, Marins Amis Amant ou Maris - Michel Legrand, Aruanda - Astrud Gilberto, Here We Are Falling In Love - Meta Roos & Nippe Sylvans Band, Autumn Leaves - Milt Jackson, Jive Samba - Jon Hendricks, Panema Leblon - Claudia, Five Four - Roberto Menescal, Samba Em Paris - Leny Andrade, In Memory Of - Randy Weston, The Mad Mad Doktors - The Mad Doktors, Ladeira Da Preguia - Elis Regina, Exotica - Walter Kubiczeck

FACT SHEET: Compilation goodness!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ESQUIVEL 1968! - Esquivel

YEAR: 1968


TRACK LISTING: Todavia, Speak Low, Guantanamera, Lamento Borincano, My Melancholy Baby, Yeyo, Mini Skirt, Esta Tarde Vi Llover, El Cable, Walking Happy, Guanacoa, Tengo

IMPRESSIONS: This one comes very late in Esquivel's "golden age" recording career as it is his last album recorded for RCA Victor and wasn't even released officially in the United States. However, the music herein is certainly the equal to anything Esquivel released previously and in no way reflects a "tailing off" period for the King of Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music (as he would be dubbed in the 90's "lounge music revival" instigated in no small part by the interview included in RE/SEARCH's "INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC" volume). The first Esquivel cd I ever got was a sorta "best of" called "CABARET MANANA" which I glommed when I belonged to a mail-order "cd of the month" club in the very early 90's. Many of the songs on that cd were originally from "1968!" -- "Mini Skirt", "El Cable", "Guanacoa", "Todavia" and "Yeyo" -- so naturally I find this album rather close to my heart. The music is lively and vibrant from the first "zu-zu" to the last "Pow!" and is everything you'd want in an Esquivel album. "1968!" may have been an album seemingly left behind by the so-called "groovier" generation but the world would eventually catch up with it again in the mid-90s and thankful I am that it did. Far from a musical fad, the world of lounge/space age bachelor pad/exotica music that resurfaced in the 1990s was and still is a very important music for me and I never go for very long without listening to it. The very fact of its belonging so strongly to a bygone era is what makes it absolutely timeless. Mix yourself a cocktail right now and listen to some "incredibly strange music". You'll be glad you did.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Todavia, Speak Low, Lamento Borincano, Yeyo, Mini Skirt, Esta Tarde Vi Llover, El Cable, Guanacoa, Tengo

FACT SHEET: 1968! is Esquivel's 16th album (more or less) if you count such things as his collaboration with the Ames Brothers etc. It is also the last album the maestro made with RCA Victor and it was only released in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Esquivel's experimentation with stereophonic separation, unusual instruments and choral nonsense-syllables is legendary. Pow!

Friday, February 24, 2012

BLUE MOVES - Elton John

YEAR: 1976


TRACK LISTING: Your Starter For..., Tonight, One Horse Town, Chameleon, Boogie Pilgrim, Cage the Songbird, Crazy Water, Shoulder Holster, Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word, Out of the Blue, Between Seventeen and Twenty, The Wide-Eyed and Laughing, Someone's Final Song, Where's the Shoorah?, If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For)?, Idol, Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series, Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance)

IMPRESSIONS: "Here's one from the Blue Moves album!" This is one of Elton's favourites of his own albums and that's probably attested to by the number of times he's hollared the above sentence in concert. In my mind, this album marks the end of Elton's first "golden age" during which he could seemingly do no wrong in the charts. It was released around the time of John's famous interview in which he came out as bi-sexual which surely put a hurtin' on his career. This is a great album although there is a fair amount of padding on it; here is a prime example of a double album which would've made a superb single album (with the perfect track listing appearing below in "my favourite tracks" list. Elton's feverish pace of releasing 11 albums in only 7 years was obviously sending him to burnout city and Elton famously declared at a Wembley concert that "That's it! This is the last one" after which he temporarily gave up touring for a time. Nevertheless, BLUE MOVES carries some of my favourite Elton John songs of all-time: "Tonight", "Cage the Songbird", "Someone's Final Song", "Idol" and "Bite Your Lip".

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Your Starter For..., Tonight, One Horse Town, Cage the Songbird, Crazy Water, Shoulder Holster, Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word, Someone's Final Song, Idol, Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series, Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance)

GUEST ARTISTS: David Crosby (background vocals), Ray Cooper (percussion), Bruce Johnston (background vocals), The London Symphony Orchestra, Graham Nash (background vocals), James Newton-Howard (organ, synthesizer, clavinet, conductor, electric piano, mellotron), David Sanborn (saxophone), Toni Tennille (background vocals), Daryl Dragon (arrangements)

FACT SHEET: BLUE MOVES is Elton John's eleventh album. The cover painting was done by Patrick Procktor. "Cage the Songbird" is written for Edith Piaf. "Idol" is written for Elvis Presley. "The Wide-Eyed and Laughing" is used as a lyric in the Indigo Girls song "Joking". BLUE MOVES is Elton's second double album (after GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD) and the first album released by Elton's own Rocket Records Ltd.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


YEAR: 1982


TRACK LISTING: Singin' In the Rain, Tribute To Tino, Puttin' On the Ritz, I Should Care, Carmella, La Vie En Rose, Cheek To Cheek, After Eight, Livin' In My Dream World, Encore (Sweet Gypsy Rose), Thanks A Million

IMPRESSIONS: Bubble gum with a new wave sound. A quintessential 80s one-hit-wonder, Taco's single for "Puttin' On the Ritz" was in heavy rotation on the early MTV and made a huge splash in the record charts as well. For something that looks in every way to be a disposable "product", AFTER EIGHT actually has some things going for it. The heavy synth reworking of classic standards from the "Great American Songbook" struck the right chord with early 80's America and the songs are strong enough to stand up to whatever is done to them. In Taco's case, he doesn't do much violence to the songs but performs them in a straight forward "crooner" fashion (deliberately apeing the sound of Rudy Vallee's megaphone) while laying them on a bed of Gary Numanesque synthesizer. While the "original compositions" are predictably weak, the ever-popular standards come off rather well; particularly Taco's version of "I Should Care" which insanely is my favourite version of that song. And of course the charm of "Puttin' On the Ritz" is hard to resist.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Singin' In The Rain, Puttin' On the Ritz, I Should Care, La Vie En Rose, Cheek To Cheek, Thanks A Million

FACT SHEET: AFTER EIGHT is Taco's first album. Taco Ockerse is a Dutch singer/actor who was born in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BATMAN - Power Records

YEAR: 1975

LABEL: Power

TRACK LISTING: Stacked Cards, The Scarecrow's Mirages, Challenge of the Catwoman, If Music Be the Food of Death

IMPRESSIONS: As a comic book reader from the age of nought, I thought I'd hit the jackpot when I first discovered Power Records in the mid-70's. I really don't know which I found first but I believe it was probably the 45 rpm records packaged inside an actual comic book of the story dramatized. It was, however, probably the Marvel Comics adaptation of the first issue of "THE MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN". This BATMAN album was the one and only Power Records 33 1/3 LP I ever owned as a kid and it was a treasured item. Apparently, it is also the most popular and sought after Power Record of them all if ebay prices are anything to go by. While some of the campiness of the 60s BATMAN TV show still clung to the album like fear gas from the Scarecrow's gun, I found it to be particularly "grown-up" sounding (to my 9 year old ears) with music and sound effects just like the old-time radio shows I would grow to love several years later. Now of course the acting is laughably stiff and melodramatic and some of the dialogue is MST3K-worthy; a particular favourite of everyone appears to be the Joker caterwauling: "Help me, Batman! I'm stuck in the mud down here!". -- although mine is probably when Robin says "Oops, I tripped. Batman, look! It's a body!" and Batman replies "Yeeeeees, a dead one!"

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: All of 'em. This is getting monopollus!

FACT SHEET: BATMAN is a collection of four dramatized adventures by Power Records. The beautiful cover which was iconic from my childhood is drawn by comic great Neal Adams. The album was produced apparently by Cornel Tanassy for Power Records. "Stacked Cards" was written by Joey Lapidos, "If Music Be the Food of Death" was written by Joan Wile and both "The Scarecrow's Mirages" and "Challenge of the Catwoman" were written by long-time comic book scribe E. Nelson Bridwell.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


YEAR: 1965


TRACK LISTING: Introduction, Lesson 1: The Basic Techniques of Jewish Motherhood, Lesson 2: The Jewish Mother's Guide to Food Distribution - A. Mealtime Strategy, Lesson 2. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Food Distribution - B. Bread With Everything: Between Meal Treats, Lesson 3. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Entertaining - A. How To Tell A Funny Story, Lesson 3. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Entertaining - B. How To Discuss Current Events, Lesson 3. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Entertaining - C. How To Pay A Compliment, Lesson 4. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Relaxation - A. How To Enjoy Yourself At Home And At The Beach, Lesson 4. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Relaxation - B. How To Leave The House For A Social Engagement, Lesson 5. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Education, Lesson 6. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Thrift , Lesson 7. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Sex And Marriage - A. Introduction To Sex , Lesson 7. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Sex And Marriage - B. The Son, Lesson 7. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Sex And Marriage - B. The Son 1) The Early Years, Lesson 7. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Sex And Marriage - C. The Daughter 1) What To Do Before The Date, Lesson 7. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Sex And Marriage - C. The Daughter 2) Dinner With The Boy Friend, Lesson 7. The Jewish Mother's Guide To Sex And Marriage - C. The Daughter 3) The Last Resort, Lesson 8. How To Be A Jewish Grandmother, Glossary of Terms: Final Word

IMPRESSIONS: Oy, so you want I should tell you my impressions of this album? So now they ask me. All this time they don't know I'm alive but now they ask me.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: All of 'em. Again, how could anyone miss a minute.

FACT SHEET: HOW TO BE A JEWISH MOTHER is a comedy album based on the book by Dan Greenburg and starring Gertrude Berg as the "Jewish Mother". Berg was pretty much America's Jewish mother having starred on radio and subsequently on television as the matriarch in the sitcom "THE GOLDBERGS".

Monday, February 20, 2012

HOW TO SPEAK HIP - Del Close & John Brent

YEAR: 1959

LABEL: Mercury

TRACK LISTING: Introduction, Basic Hip, Vocabulary Building, The Loose Wig, The Riff, The Hang Up, Put On Put Down Come On Come Down Bring Down, Cool, Uncool, Field Trip No. 1, Field Trip No. 2, Field Trip No. 3, Summary

BONUS TRACKS: The Wisecrack cd re-release also includes the complete 1959 Del Close album "THE DO-IT-YOURSELF PSYCHOANALYSIS KIT"

IMPRESSIONS: This album is the ginchiest and one of my favourite comedy/spoken word albums. Dating from the 30's, mainstream society seemed to have a hunger for understanding the slang of "hep cats"; Cab Calloway recorded a song called "Jive (Page One of the Hepster's Dictionary) in 1938 which was actually accompanied by an instruction booklet! By the time HOW TO SPEAK HIP came out in 1959, the beatnik phenomenon was already on the wane; however the slang provided on the record is actually quite informative while remaining a funny comedy record. John Brent's Geets Romo is the ultimate stereotypical beatnik and a wonder for our ears to behold while Del Close's terminally square interviewer struggles through the simplest of hipster terms. The sheer pleasure of listening to sound of the two voices combined with sharp writing and expert comic timing makes this an album one can listen to again and again. A sheer joy!

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: The whole album needs to be played as a whole. Why would anyone want to miss a minute of it?

FACT SHEET: HOW TO SPEAK HIP is a comedy album by Del Close and John Brent which pokes fun at the "language instruction" records of the day by treating "hipster/beatnik" slang as a foreign language. Del Close was an early member of the Compass Players which would move from St. Louis to Chicago and become Second City; Close would later become the company's director. Close plays the uncomprehending "straight man" interviewer on the album while fellow comic John Brent plays the beatnik Geets Romo.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


YEAR: 1956

LABEL: Verve

TRACK LISTING: All Through the Night, Anything Goes, Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable To Lunch Today), Too Darn Hot, In the Still of the Night, I Get A Kick Out of You, Do I Love You?, Always True To You In My Fashion, Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love), Just One of Those Things, Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, All of You, Begin the Beguine, Get Out of Town, I Am In Love, From This Moment On, I Love Paris, You Do Something To Me, Ridin' High, Easy To Love, It's All Right With Me, Why Can't You Behave?, What Is This Thing Called Love?, You're the Top, Love For Sale, It's De-Lovely, Night and Day, Ace In the Hole, So In Love, I've Got You Under My Skin, I Concentrate On You, Don't Fence Me In

BONUS TRACKS: You're the Top (Alternate Take), I Concentrate On You (Alternate Take), Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) (Alternate Take)

IMPRESSIONS: This is one of those albums which can safely be called indispensable. It can also be safely said that Ella Fitzgerald had one of the most perfect voices on the face of the earth in a technical perspective. Here we have one of the greatest voices interpreting one of the greatest, deftest songwriters. Here also we find Ella connecting with the music in a very solid way so that there can be no criticism of her singing in a "detached" or "not emotion enough" way; her singing is particularly warm on this album. What's not to love in all this? And here we also have one of the most ridiculously awful album covers for one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. Just goes to show you can't have everything.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: All Through the Night, Anything Goes, Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable To Lunch Today), Too Darn Hot, In the Still of the Night, I Get A Kick Out of You, Do I Love You?, Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love), Just One of Those Things, Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, All of You, Begin the Beguine, Get Out of Town, From This Moment On, You Do Something To Me, Easy To Love, It's All Right With Me, What Is This Thing Called Love?, You're the Top, It's De-Lovely, Night and Day, Ace In the Hole, So In Love, I've Got You Under My Skin, I Concentrate On You, Don't Fence Me In

GUEST ARTISTS: Maynard Ferguson

FACT SHEET: THE COLE PORTER SONGBOOK is Ella Fitzgerald's first album for the newly created Verve Records. Norman Granz built the label mainly in order to showcase Fitzgerald after being unsatisfied with her handling by her former label Decca Records. This album launched Ella's epoch-making series of single-composer "songbook" albums which found the singer interpreting many of the greatest songs in the great American songbook as well as presenting some of Ella's most elegant and accomplished recordings of her entire career. Buddy Bregman arranged the songs and conducted the studio orchestra. Granz played the entire album for Cole Porter at the Waldorf-Astoria after which the composer merely remarked "My, what marvelous diction that girl has." The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000; this award honors recordings of "qualitative or historical significance" which are at least 25 years old. In 2003, it was one of only 50 albums chosen by the Library of Congress to add to the National Recording Registry.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

ARKANSAS TRAVELER - Michelle Shocked

YEAR: 1992

LABEL: Mercury

TRACK LISTING: 33 RPM Soul, Come A Long Way, Secret To A Long Life, Contest Coming (Cripple Creek), Over the Waterfall, Shaking Hands (Soldier's Joy), Jump Jim Crow/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Hold Me Back (Frankie & Johnny), Strawberry Jam, Prodigal Daughter (Cotton Eyed Joe), Blackberry Blossom, Weaving Way, Arkansas Traveler, Woody's Rag

BONUS TRACKS: (In 2004, a special edition of the cd was released with the following bonus tracks): Worth the Weight (Live at Mountain Stage), Come A Long Way (acoustic studio demo), Blackberry Blossom (Live at Steamboat Springs), Weaving Way (alternate version), Down In the Arkansas (Live at the Folk Music Hall of Fame), Introducing Dollar Bill (Live at Vienna), C-H-I-C-K-E-N (The Way To Spell Chicken)

IMPRESSIONS: Here we have a major Papa Razzi album. A girlfriend/co-worker at the time was heavily into this album and introduced me to it. The album was spectacularly unsuccessful sales-wise no doubt because of its "hillbilly" sound and the "Appalachian Mountain" album cover. However, I thought it was pretty good! It was certainly unlike anything else being released at the time and I was a fan of old folk/country/country blues music typified by what was found on Harry Smith's monumental "ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC". So I was predisposed to like it. My absolute favourite songs on the album are the exquisite "Come A Long Way" and the bluesy funk of "33 RPM Soul" featuring the distinctive guitar work of Pops Staples. This album is also something of an all-star affair with every track seemingly bursting with major talent from the folk, blues, country and bluegrass world.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: 33 RMP Soul, Come A Long Way, Secret to a Long Life, Contest Coming (Cripple Creek), Over the Waterfall, Shaking Hands (Soldier's Joy), Strawberry Jam, Prodigal Daughter (Cotton Eyed Joe), Blackberry Blossom, Arkansas Traveler, Woody's Rag

GUEST ARTISTS: Pops Staples (on "33 RPM Soul"), The Band (on "Secret to a Long Life"), The Red Clay Ramblers (on "Contest Coming"), Hothouse Flowers (on "Over the Waterfall"), Uncle Tupelo (on "Shaking Hands"), Taj Mahal (on "Jump Jim Crow"), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (on "Hold Me Back"), Doc Watson (on "Strawberry Jam"), Mark O'Connor (on "Strawberry Jam"), Alison Krauss and Union Station (on "Prodigal Daughter"), Norman Blake (on "Blackberry Blossom"), The Messengers (on "Weaving Way"), Jimmy Driftwood (on "Arkansas Traveler" and "Down In the Arkansas"), Dollar Bill Johnston (on "Woody's Rag" and "C-H-I-C-K-E-N"), The String Cheese Incident (on "Blackberry Blossom (Live)")

FACT SHEET: ARKANSAS TRAVELER is Michelle Shocked's fourth album. The album received critical acclaim at the time -- the word "ambitious" was often used -- but didn't sell well. There was a great deal of controversy at the time due to Shocked's assertion that American music today derives a great deal from blackface minstrelsy; in fact, Shocked originally wanted to appear on the album cover in blackface. In her own words: "Why remind people of a painful, shameful past? Here's two reasons: American music today is still being created from the rich traditions of blackface minstrelsy...also, for many, putting on blackface was, and still is, an opportunity to express a soulfulness their own culture couldn't provide..." Whatever. Whether or not you buy the "blackface" rationale, the music here is indeed a celebration of "old-timey" music by an artist who obviously loves it and obviously has the best, most respectful intentions. "Woody's Rag" is a cover of a song by Woody Guthrie.

Friday, February 17, 2012

APOLLO 18 - They Might Be Giants

YEAR: 1992

LABEL: Elektra

TRACK LISTING: Dig My Grave, I Palindrome I, She's Actual Size, My Evil Twin, Mammal, The Statue Got Me High, Spider, The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), Dinner Bell, Narrow Your Eyes, Hall of Heads, Which Describes How You're Feeling, See the Constellation, If I Wasn't Shy, Turn Around, Hypnotist of Ladies, Fingertips 1: Everything Is Catching On Fire, Fingertips 2: Fingertips, Fingertips 3: I Hear the Wind Blow, Fingertips 4: Hey Now Everybody, Fingertips 5: Who's That Standing Out the Window?, Fingertips 6: I Found A New Friend, Fingertips 7: Come On and Wreck My Car, Fingertips 8: Aren't You the Guy Who Hit Me In the Eye?, Fingertips 9: Please Pass the Milk Please, Fingertips 10: Leave Me Alone, Fingertips 11: Who's Knockin' On the Wall?, Fingertips 12: All Alone, Fingertips 13: What's That Blue Thing Doing Here?, Fingertips 14: Somethin' Grabbed Ahold of My Hand, Fingertips 15: I Don't Understand You, Fingertips 16: I Heard A Sound, Fingertips 17: Mysterious Whisper, Fingertips 18: The Day That Love Came To Play, Fingertips 19: I'm Having A Heart Attack, Fingertips 20: Fingertips (Reprise), Fingertips 21: I Walk Along Darkened Corridors, Space Suit

IMPRESSIONS: This is the first album where John and John decided to move away from their earlier sound somewhat and include more traditional rock arrangements. The ridiculously daffy 21-song suite "Fingertips" is full of more pop hooks than some recording artists' entire careers! While the album doesn't contain any major hits ("The Guitar" got modest radio play at the time), APOLLO 18 is a particular fan favourite and has been played in its entirety at TMBG live shows in 2003 and 2008. The bright, sunny ambience of previous albums (most notably "FLOOD") is tinged here with some spooky shadows and a decidedly darker tone which gives the music an added weight. This is a major Sizzler album. At the time, I used to put my boom box on a prep table in the back room and play cds while I was doing food prep; this was in heavy rotation at the time it came out -- along with Boston's first album, the first three Indigo Girls albums, Pearl Jam's TEN, Metallica's black album and many more.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: I Palindrome I, She's Actual Size, The Statue Got Me High, Spider, The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), Dinner Bell, See the Constellation, Turn Around, Fingertips, Space Suit

FACT SHEET: APOLLO 18 is They Might Be Giants' fourth album. The album was named after the Apollo space missions, the last of which was Apollo 17. The song sequence "Fingertips" is a group of 21 song fragments which can be programmed randomly to provide a constantly new and changing song experience; it's possible this was inspired by the Residents' "COMMERCIAL ALBUM" which entirely consists of extremely short songs -- one of which is even entitled "Fingertips". "The Guitar" originated as a jam session of the Tokens song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"; the addition of the original Tokens song in parentheses was at the insistence of the record label due to legal issues. The legend "Musical Ambassadors to International Space Year" appears on the back cover of the cd; this was bestowed on the band by NASA when John Linnell & John Flansburgh were searching the NASA Archive Center for appropriate photos for the album cover and got to know the staff. Since the band would be touring in "International Space Year" 1992, NASA staffers asked them if they'd like to be the "spokesband" for the event.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

II - Led Zeppelin

YEAR: 1969

LABEL: Atlantic

TRACK LISTING: Whole Lotta Love, What Is And What Should Never Be, The Lemon Song, Thank You, Heartbreaker, Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman), Ramble On, Moby Dick, Bring It On Home

IMPRESSIONS: What is the better album? II or IV? The controversy rages on. If it's any indication, Bonzo's son thinks it's II. There's no mistaking that "The Brown Bomber" is an extremely influential album in the history of hard rock and the formation of heavy metal. Good as their first album is, it seems like it wasn't until "II" that Led Zeppelin had really crystalized their sound into what we really think of as Led Zeppelin. The priapic and (sadly) overfamiliar "Whole Lotta Love" and the Robert Johnsonesque "The Lemon Song" are bursting with virility while "Ramble On" features the Tolkien-inspired fantasy elements which would become so widespread in prog rock and heavy metal to come. There are the barnstormers "Living Loving Maid" and "Heartbreaker", the blues-inflected "Bring It On Home", the instrumental bonzofest of "Moby Dick", the ballad "Thank You" and the "soft-loud-soft-loud" experimentation of "What Is And What Should Never Be". Here we have the mighty Zep fulling form for the first time.


FACT SHEET: II is Led Zeppelin's second album as if you needed me to tell you. The album cover was designed by David Juniper and was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Recording Package". Juniper was told by the band to "come up with something interesting" so he took a World War I photograph featuring "The Red Baron" Manfred von Richtofen's Flying Circus squadron and airbrushed on the faces of the four bandmembers, band manager Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole a la SGT. PEPPER. Also added to the photo was actress Glynis Johns best known for her role as the mother in MARY POPPINS; this addition was a play on the name of recording engineer Glyn Johns. The zeppelin outline was included from the first album on a brown background resulting in II's nickname of "The Brown Bomber".

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TRACK RECORD - Joan Armatrading

YEAR: 1983


TRACK LISTING: Drop the Pilot, (I Love It When You) Call Me Names, Frustration, When I Get It Right, I'm Lucky, Me Myself I, The Weakness In Me, Heaven, Down To Zero, Love and Affection, Show Some Emotion, Willow, Rosie

IMPRESSIONS: I usually don't choose "greatest hits" collections to put up her except when I don't have a representative of actual albums -- and this is the case with Joan Armatrading. It was this album which caused me to fall in love with her music and it was my late friend Cindy who put me onto it. This album of Joan's greatest hits is a perfect compact primer to what she's all about; even though my favourite Joan Armatrading song ("Save Me") is not included. However, this album will always mean to me those wonderful years camping with Cindy and Rob at various state parks. Like every other time in my life, there is certain music I will always associate with those camping trips: Van Morrison's "TUPELO HONEY" and "BEST OF" collection, Jackson Brown's "RUNNING ON EMPTY", Bonnie Raitt's "NICK OF TIME", the 1979 film soundtrack of "HAIR", Stevie Nicks' best of "TIMEPIECE" and above all Joan Armatrading's "TRACK RECORD".


FACT SHEET: Greatest Hits. Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION - Black Country Communion

YEAR: 2010

LABEL: J & R Adventures

TRACK LISTING: Black Country, One Last Soul, The Great Divide, Down Again, Beggarman, Song of Yesterday, No Time, Medusa, The Revolution In Me, Stand (At the Burning Tree), Sista Jane

IMPRESSIONS: The newest supergroup. No better description of the album could top Glenn Hughes' own: "...a traditional classic rock record with a modern twist." Hughes also quipped on THAT METAL SHOW that they went into the studio planning to make a new album but ended up sounding like it was 1974. This of course is a very very good thing. The release less than a year later of their second album sounds a little too derivative of Led Zeppelin and others but this debut is a fresh sounding as it gets.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Black Country, One Last Soul, The Great Divide, Down Again, Song of Yesterday, No Time, Medusa, Stand (At the Burning Tree), Sista Jane, Too Late For the Sun

FACT SHEET: BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION is Black Country Communion's first album. Working together at L.A.'s Guitar Center King of the Blues event, Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa decided to record together. Producer Kevin Shirley suggested they include Jason Bonham on drums and, not wanting to be a power trio, they also brought in former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian. The group named themselves "Black Country" after the English industrial area of Hughes' and Bonham's hometowns; however another group had the name so they altered it to "Black Country Communion". "Medusa" is a cover of a 1970 song by Hughes' old group Trapeze. The album was nominated for the 2011 Penguin Award and won the 2011 Song of the Year Penguin Award for "Song of Yesterday".

Monday, February 13, 2012


YEAR: 1973


TRACK LISTING: I Ain't the One, Tuesday's Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, Things Goin' On, Mississippi Kid, Poison Whiskey, Free Bird

IMPRESSIONS: As the itunes review rightly puts it: "One of Southern Rock's greatest five year runs begins with this album." This album was released the day before my eighth birthday on August 13, 1973. And of course it contains my favourite Skynyrd song of all-time; the trouble is there's two of them. I wanna say my fave is "Tuesday's Gone" but how can I deny the power and the glory of "Free Bird"?!?!

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: I Ain't the One, Tuesday's Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, Things Goin' On, Free Bird

FACT SHEET: PRONOUNCED LEH-NERD SKIN-NERD is Lynyrd Skynyrd's first album. The cover photo was taken on Main Street in Jonesboro, Georgia and featuress band members (from left to right) Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington (seated), Bob Burns, Allen Collins and Ed King (formerly of Strawberry Alarm Clock). The album was produced by Al Kooper.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

VOICES - Hall & Oates

YEAR: 1980


TRACK LISTING: How Does It Feel To Be Back, Big Kids, United State, Hard To Be In Love With You, Kiss On My List, Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect), You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', You Make My Dreams, Everytime You Go Away, Africa, Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)

IMPRESSIONS: Still stuck in the 80s this week with Hall & Oates big blockbuster. This album my mother actual bought because she was always a bigger Hall & Oates fan than I was. The big hits on this album I'm not really interested in; however this disc does contain some of my all-time favourite Hall & Oates songs. Their original version of "Everytime You Go Away" is a masterpiece and nothing like the light and puffy fluff Paul Young made of it; here it's a pain-packed, soulful smolder of a song. Then there's the two delightfully dippy winners "Africa" and "Gotta Lotta Nerve". The former is a "Lion Sleeps Tonight"-like romp where John Oates' girlfriend has gone to Africa and he's gotta go get her before "the lions and tigers try to jump on her bones" and the later is a nice piece of Daryl Hall vitriol with a sense of humour La Daryl is not generally known for. The big hits are pleasant enough listening but I've frankly heard them enough over the years due to the massive overplay they suffered at the time.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect), Everytime You Go Away, Africa

FACT SHEET: VOICES is Hall & Oates' ninth album and the first they produced themselves. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" is of course a cover of the Righteous Brothers song written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector. This is the album whose new sound began Hall & Oates' domination of the music charts and MTV in the first half of the 1980s. The album has had a seeming multitude of covers but this black & white version was the first featuring raised embossed "sound waves" on the record sleeve. Paul Young would have a number one hit with a vastly inferior cover of "Everytime You Go Away" in 1985.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

LEARNING TO CRAWL - The Pretenders

YEAR: 1984


TRACK LISTING: Middle of the Road, Back On the Chain Gang, Time the Avenger, Watching the Clothes, Show Me, Thumbelina, My City Was Gone, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, I Hurt You, 2000 Miles

IMPRESSIONS: It's still 80s week. This is the Pretenders album I never thought I'd see. When half the band dies of drug overdoses, you'd probably be correct in guessing that was it for the band. However, Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers picked themselves up, rebuilt the band and came out with an even more successful album than their first two.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Middle of the Road, Back On the Chain Gang, Time the Avenger, Watching the Clothes, Show Me, Thumbelina, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, 2000 Miles

GUEST ARTISTS: Billy Bremner (lead guitar on "Back On the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone", rhythm guitar and vocals on "Thin Line Between Love and Hate"), Paul Carrack (piano and vocals on "Thin Line Between Love and Hate"), Tony Butler (bass guitar on "Back On the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone"), Andrew Bodnar (bass guitar and vocals on "Thin Line Between Love and Hate")

FACT SHEET: LEARNING TO CRAWL is the Pretenders' third album. This is the first album following the deaths of James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon featuring replacements Robbie McIntosh on lead guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass. Chrissie Hynde named the album because her daughter Natalie Rae Hynde was learning to crawl at the time they were trying to think of an album title. "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" is a cover of a Persuaders song. Before the final band line-up was completed, a "caretaker line-up" consisting of Rockpile's Billy Bremner and Big Country's Tony Butler were recruited as well as Squeeze's Paul Carrack and the Rumour's Andrew Bodnar on "Thin Line" only.

Friday, February 10, 2012

TONIGHT - David Bowie

YEAR: 1984


TRACK LISTING: Loving the Alien, Don't Look Down, God Only Knows, Tonight, Neighbourhood Threat, Blue Jean, Tumble and Twirl, I Keep Forgettin', Dancing with the Big Boys

BONUS TRACKS: (the 1995 Virgin cd reissue contained 3 bonus tracks of contemporary singles): This Is Not America from the film "THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN"), As the World Falls Down (from the film "LABYRINTH"), Absolute Beginners (from the film "ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS")

IMPRESSIONS: 80s week continues with what many (including Bowie himself) consider one of the Thin White Duke's lesser efforts. And while he's setting no worlds on fire here, I think it compares favourably with his previous LET'S DANCE album which is just as commercial and safe as TONIGHT. Bowie wrote and recorded this album right after his phenomenally successful "Serious Moonlight" World Tour supporting the LET'S DANCE album. Far from rushed, TONIGHT was actually laboured over for 5 weeks (as opposed to only 3 weeks to create LET'S DANCE). Bowie retains the Borneo Horns which made such an impact on the earlier album and the singer in fact plays no instruments on TONIGHT; leaving this to his band. I remember at the time the first single "Blue Jean" was released (in a 14 minute video directed by Julien Temple a la Michael Jackson's "Thriller"), my mother said "Bowie's back". That is, the old Bowie after the commercial pop persona of the LET'S DANCE era. Frankly, there is a lot more experimentation (albeit minimal) on TONIGHT than there was on LET'S DANCE. My mother and I liked both albums but let's get the facts straight here. If there was a "sell out" album here (and I don't agree with that term concerning either of these albums) it would be commercial blockbuster LET'S DANCE and not the quirky TONIGHT. Now that the rant is out of the way, the actual album TONIGHT contains several covers (Iggy Pop's "Neighbourhood Threat" and "Tonight", the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows", Lieber & Stoller's "I Keep Forgettin'") and one of my favourite Bowie songs ("Loving the Alien"). Bowie himself hated how "Neighbourhood Threat" came out; he described it as "too tight" and the band was simply not the right one to bring off the tune; however, I still like it's frenetic fractured propulsion. Bowie expertly slows down the Beach Boys tune and gives the definitive rendition, I think. Also, Bowie's duet with Tina Turner on the title track is sublime. So come on, all those who knock Bowie's TONIGHT album; like Paul McCartney said to all the Beatles' "White Album" naysayers: "Shut the fuck up! It's the Beatles' White Album"! Well, I could say the same about Bowie's TONIGHT: it's a nice little album so leave it alone and enjoy it, you bastards!

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Loving the Alien, Don't Look Down, God Only Knows, Tonight, Neighbourhood Threat, Blue Jean, I Keep Forgettin', This Is Not America, As the World Falls Down

GUEST ARTISTS: Tina Turner (vocals on "Tonight"), Iggy Pop (vocals on "Dancing with the Big Boys"), The Borneo Horns (brass), Pat Metheny (instrumentation on "This Is Not America")

FACT SHEET: TONIGHT is David Bowie's 16th album. The title track duet with Tina Turner found Bowie eliminating Iggy Pop's original spoken introduction (Iggy approved of the changes) and featured Bowie & Turner singing "face-to-face" live in the studio. Iggy Pop spent a lot of time in the studio during the recording of TONIGHT; in his own words "I worked extensively on that album. There's a lot more work there than is reflected in just the simple co-writing credit for two songs and some of the old stuff."

Thursday, February 9, 2012


YEAR: 1983


TRACK LISTING: Strait Old Line, Bullet Brain and Cactus Head, Message To My Girl, Working Up An Appetite, Our Day, No Mischief, The Devil You Know, I Wake Up Every Night, Conflicting Emotions, Bon Voyage

IMPRESSIONS: Continuing with 80's week and still one more of the "pool records" described in the Lene Lovich NO MAN'S LAND entry. This is usually mentioned as Split Enz's poorest release but there is some really good stuff here. Also, I consider it the last Split Enz album (even though there was one later on which surely IS the worst Enz album by the way) as this is the final one involving Tim Finn who left his group after the great success of his solo album "ESCAPADE". Therefore to me this is the real farewell to Enz fans; especially with the exquisite final track "Bon Voyage" which is nothing else but Tim Finn saying goodbye. The album opener "Strait Old Line" has an instrumental opening which has to be the most Split Enz-sounding song encapsulating everything that made the group unique. Beautiful Neil Finn-penned songs like "Message To My Girl" and "The Devil You Know" point the way to Neil's post-Enz career while Tim Finn-penned classics like the aforementioned "Bon Voyage" and the Devoesquely mental frenzy of "I Wake Up Every Night" show the band could've continued if they'd wanted to. However, the presence of a fair amount of dross makes us conclude that their hearts just weren't in it anymore and they needed to go their separate ways. Conflict over Tim Finn's insistence on utilizing drum machines and general jealously from other band members over Tim's successful solo career pretty much guaranteed the band should call it a day. At least for the time being.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Strait Old Line, Message To My Girl, The Devil You Know, I Wake Up Every Night, Conflicting Emotions, Bon Voyage

GUEST ARTISTS: Ricky Fataar (drums on "Message To My Girl")

FACT SHEET: CONFLICTING EMOTIONS is Split Enz's eighth album and the final one featuring Tim Finn. The intriguing, autumnal album cover art is by Split Enz's original frontman Phil Judd.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

RIO - Duran Duran

YEAR: 1982

LABEL: EMI/Capitol

TRACK LISTING: Rio, My Own Way, Lonely In Your Nightmare, Hungry Like the Wolf, Hold Back the Rain, New Religion, Last Chance on the Stairway, Save A Prayer, The Chauffer

IMPRESSIONS: Continuing 80s week with another quintessential "pool record" (see entry for Lene Lovich's NO MAN'S LAND for explanation). I was actually a fan of Duran Duran from their first album and loved "Planet Earth" and "Is There Something I Should Know?" so this follow-up sophomore effort was nothing new to me. What WAS new was the incredible success which blew up with this album and the "Hungry Like the Wolf" video. It's also intriguing to me how they went completely off the rails after this album and I liked practically nothing they would release until their 1990s "comeback" with "The Wedding Album" (actually the self-titled "DURAN DURAN" album which produced "Ordinary World" and "Come Undone"). Here, however, we have one of the peaks of the New Romantic era and I could float around in the pool daydreaming I was on the yacht in the "Rio" video.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Rio, Lonely In Your Nightmare, Hungry Like the Wolf, New Religion, Last Chance on the Stairway, Save A Prayer, The Chauffer

FACT SHEET: RIO is Duran Duran's second album. The album went double platinum. The iconic 80's cover illustration is by Patrick Nagel. In the album credits, "Renate" is listed as technician; I can only assumed this is Renate Blauel (the future Mrs. Elton John).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

NO MAN'S LAND - Lene Lovich

YEAR: 1982

LABEL: Stiff/Epic

TRACK LISTING: It's You Only You (Mein Schmerz), Blue Hotel, Faces, Walking Low, Special Star, Sister Video, Maria, Savages, Rocky Road

IMPRESSIONS: We begin 80s week with a vintage pool record. Now what that means is there was a time in the summers of 1982 and 1983 when we had an above-ground swimming pool in the backyard. We would face the stereo speakers out on the back porch and crank up the music so we could hear it in the pool. Several albums were constant spins at the time; Adam & the Ants' PRINCE CHARMING (posted elsewhere) was one and this was another major one. I had always been a Lene Lovich fan back in the "Lucky Number", "New Toy", "Angels", "Bird Song" days and, back when MTV actually played music videos, Lovich was shown all the time in the first couple years of the channel. This was the last album of her "glory years"; she would take off most of the 80s to raise a family and only returned with the disappointing "MARCH" in 1989. In 2005, Lene returned with a pretty good comeback album in "SHADOWS & DUST".

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: It's You Only You (Mein Schmerz), Blue Hotel, Walking Low, Sister Video, Maria, Savages, Rocky Road

BONUS TRACKS: There is an untitled instrumental hidden track at the end of side two.

GUEST ARTISTS: Jimmie O'Neil (vocals on "Sister Video"), Thomas Dolby (synthesizer on "Rocky Road")

FACT SHEET: NO MAN'S LAND is Lene Lovich's fourth album.

Monday, February 6, 2012

LEVIATHAN - Mastodon

YEAR: 2004

LABEL: Relapse

TRACK LISTING: Blood and Thunder, I Am Ahab, Seabeast, Island, Iron Tusk, Megalodon, Naked Burn, Aqua Dementia, Hearts Alive, Joseph Merrick

IMPRESSIONS: Atlanta-based purveyors of sludge metal Mastodon hit the big time with this album; it gained them critical acclaim as well as vastly increasing their sales and fan base. A real example of prog metal which combines heaviness with experimental rhythms and unusual instrumentation (the fact there's a guest cellist on this album speaks volumes) as well as the "high concept" of "MOBY DICK" and "the water element" section in their quadrilogy of "classical element-themed" albums. Brann Dailor's constantly shifting drumwork is, as described in the itunes review "...often dazzling, spurring guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds to unleash volleys of intricate, incendiary riffage." In Sam Dunn's documentary series METAL EVOLUTION, the point is made that if Rush is Led Zeppelin meets Yes then Mastodon is surely Metallica meets Yes. Although I'm not a fan of Yes (I'd probably substitute King Crimson), I'd have to agree.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Blood and Thunder, I Am Ahab, Seabeast, Iron Tusk, Megalodon, Naked Burn, Hearts Alive, Joseph Merrick

GUEST ARTISTS: Scott Kelly (additional vocals on "Aqua Dementia"), Neil Fallon (additional vocals on "Blood and Thunder"), Matt Bayles (organs on "Joseph Merrick"), Phil Peterson (cello on "Aqua Dementia")

FACT SHEET: LEVIATHAN is Mastodon's second album. It is a concept album loosely based on Herman Melville's MOBY DICK. It is also the second album in Mastodon's sequence of albums which are based on "classical elements" starting with their first album REMISSION (2002) based on the element of fire, LEVIATHAN (2004) based on water, BLOOD MOUNTAIN (2006) based on earth and CRACK THE SKYE (2009) based on the air element. Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Neil Fallon of Clutch provide guest vocals on "Aqua Dementia" and "Blood and Thunder" respectively. The cover artwork is by Paul A. Romano which features (in the full artwork) a reflection of Hokusai's "Great Wave" from "36 VIEWS OF MT. FUJI". Three magazine awarded LEVIATHAN album of the year in 2004: Kerrang!, Revolver and Terrorizer. The song "Joseph Merrick" refers to the famous Victorian-era "Elephant Man" often incorrectly called "John Merrick".

Sunday, February 5, 2012


YEAR: 1957

LABEL: Commentary

TRACK LISTING: Shrinker Man, The Will To Fail, The Guilty Rag, Stay As Sick As You Are, Hush Little Sibling, Real Sick Sounds, Repressed Hostility Blues, I Can't Get Adjusted to the You Who Got Adjusted To Me, Schizophrenic Moon, Properly Loved, Gunslinger (A Ballad For Adult Westerns), It Must Be Something Psychological

IMPRESSIONS: Before Cheryl Wheeler's "Is It Peace Or Is It Prozac?" there was Katie Lee. This here album was actually given to me by friend Roxor whom I met back in the late 90's on The Monster Club Forum. We've lost touch over the years (owing probably to his unending quest for world domination) but for a while there we were sending great boxes of tapes, cds and videos to each other; many of my favourite examples of lounge music were originally sent to me by Roxor including this and Katie Lee's follow-up album "LIFE IS JUST A BED OF NEUROSES". Anyone who has ever read Re/Search's classic two volume "INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC" books is familiar with Katie Lee's two novelty albums sending up psychoanalysis. There was just something magical about this time in the 1950s-1960s when superb examples of "incredibly strange music" seemed to swarm America's hi-fi sets like a shining bevy of silverfish.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Shrinker Man, The Will To Fail, Stay As Sick As You Are, Hush Little Sibling, Repressed Hostility Blues, Schizophrenic Moon, Gunslinger (A Ballad For Adult Westerns), It Must Be Something Psychological

FACT SHEET: SONGS OF COUCH AND CONSULTATION is Katie Lee's second album. Katie Lee became a folk singer after studying with Burl Ives and Josh White. Jazz saxophonist Bud Freeman dreamed up the album's concept and wrote the lyrics to the songs with Leon Prober tackling the music. Lounge legend Bob Thompson did the orchestral arrangements. Katie Lee plays guitar on "Hush Little Sibling". Utah Phillips pays tribute to Katie Lee and SONGS OF COUCH AND CONSULTATION in his 1996 song "Half A Ghost Town". "It Must Be Something Psychological" was featured in the soundtrack of a 2010 episode of "UNITED STATES OF TARA".

Saturday, February 4, 2012


YEAR: 1969

LABEL: Atlantic

TRACK LISTING: 21st Century Schizoid Man (including "Mirrors"), I Talk To the Wind, Epitaph (including "March For No Reason" and "Tomorrow and Tomorrow"), Moonchild (including "The Dream" and "The Illusion"), The Court of the Crimson King (including "The Return of the Fire Witch" and "The Dance of the Puppets")

IMPRESSIONS: I'm not real fan of prog rock -- I say no to Yes. However, this album was in huge rotation throughout my formative childhood years owing to my dad's record collection. This was another odd victim of my father's tendency to only listen to one side of a new album (which I've mentioned in previous posts) so that years later he would still have a "new album" to listen to on the other side. I know . . . I don't understand it either. But such was the recession-plagued seventies tricks we played. Anywho, this album is usually considered probably the most important ever released in establishing the prog rock genre which would be taken to ridiculous lengths by such bands as Pink Floyd, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. However, here we have a more sober 1969 take on the musical niche (if such can be said of such a flight of fancy contained in songs about moonchildren and fire witches). The songs are quite long (the shortest clocking in at 6:05) but whereas later prog rock seemed to go on interminably, here the songs seem to unfold naturally without pointless soloing or forced bombast. In fact, the songs sit back and relax as the unfold their bizarre sonic soundscapes of some misty past courtly pageant. Oh, incidentally, the only side I heard of this album for years was side two which only contain two songs: "Moonchild" and the title track. Since then, I've discovered side one and find the entire song sequence to be one sonic whole which Pete Townshend has called "an uncanny masterpiece". There are dissenting opinions; most memorably critic Robert Christgau's dubbing the album as "ersatz shit". To each his own. Eerie and unwholesome-sounding with just a hint of bubonic plague lingering around the edges, this is one medieval album which should be listened to while reading tarot cards at the masque of Mandragora.


FACT SHEET: IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING is King Crimson's first album. The original stereo master tapes were discovered to have been recorded on a machine with misaligned tape heads resulting in unwanted sonic distortion; consequently all versions of the album released were of tape copies several generations removed from the original masters. Throughout the years, Robert Fripp has endlessly remastered the album until the original stereo masters (previously thought to have been lost) were rediscovered in a storage vault in 2003. Since then, a vastly improved remastered version has been in circulation. The iconic album cover was painted by computer programmer Barry Godber; the artist died of a heart attack in 1970 shortly after the album's release and this was his only painting (now owned by Robert Fripp). The face on the cover is of the Schizoid Man and the face on the interior is of the Crimson King.

Friday, February 3, 2012


YEAR: 1978

LABEL: Chrysalis

TRACK LISTING: Hanging On the Telephone, One Way or Another, Picture This, Fade Away and Radiate, Pretty Baby, I Know But I Don't Know, 11:59, Will Anything Happen, Sunday Girl, Heart of Glass, I'm Gonna Love You Too, Just Go Away

BONUS TRACKS: Once I Had A Love (aka The Disco Song), Bang A Gong (Get It On) (Live), I Know But I Don't Know (Live), Hanging On the Telephone (Live)

IMPRESSIONS: Skinny ties! Skinny Ties! My mother was a huge Blondie fan at the time. This brings me back to that certain time around 1979-1980 that is incredibly evocative for me nostalgically but which I cannot really describe in words. So I won't.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hanging On the Telephone, One Way or Another, Picture This, Fade Away and Radiate, 11:59, Sunday Girl, Heart of Glass, I'm Gonna Love You Too, Just Go Away

GUEST ARTISTS: Robert Fripp (guitar on "Fade Away and Radiate")

FACT SHEET: PARALLEL LINES is Blondie's third album. On the vinyl album, the lyric sheet contains lyrics for a song entitled "Parallel Lines" which does not appear on the album; in fact, it was an unfinished song. PARALLEL LINES went platinum and is Blondie's best selling album.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RESULTS - Liza Minnelli

YEAR: 1989


TRACK LISTING: I Want You To Know, Losing My Mind, If There Was Love, So Sorry I Said, Don't Drop Bombs, Twist In My Sobriety, Rent, Love Pains, Tonight Is Forever, I Can't Say Goodnight

IMPRESSIONS: I should get a toaster oven for this album! Not so much a Liza Minnelli album as a Pet Shop Boys album featuring vocals by Liza. I originally got this album on cassette tape back in 1989. I don't remember why. I assume they must've played a video from it on MTV since this album was a monster hit in Britain. Either that or it was because of that marathon car ride to Atlantic City described in the entry for the "LIZA WITH A 'Z'" album. No matter how it happened, I actually like the album a lot more now than I did then; I suppose the oddity had to age like port wine cheese before I could truly appreciate it. It also rockets me back to that time.

GUEST ARTISTS: Angelo Badalamenti (orchestral arrangements), Anne Dudley (orchestra arrangement, orchestra conductor), Chris Lowe (songwriting, keyboards, programming), Courtney Pine (saxophone), Neil Tennant (songwriting, keyboards, backing vocals, vocoder)

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: I Want To Know, Losing My Mind, If There Was Love, So Sorry I Said, Don't Drop Bombs, Twist In My Sobriety, Rent

FACT SHEET: RESULTS is Liza Minnelli's ninth album. It was produced by the Pet Shop Boys and Julian Mendelsohn. All the songs were written by Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant except for Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind", the Tanita Tikaram cover of "Twist In My Sobriety" and the Yvonne Elliman cover of "Love Pains" written by Steve Barri, Michael Price and Dan Walsh. "Losing My Mind" is from the 1971 musical "FOLLIES". The outro to "If There Was Love" features Liza reciting William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 94". The album reached #6 on the UK album charts and the single "Losing My Mind" reached #6 on the UK singles charts; unfortunately the album only reached #128 on the US album charts. The title of the album derives from an incident in a bar when Minnelli complemented a woman's dress; the woman thanked Liza and explained it was her "results" dress by quipping "When I wear this dress, I get results!"