Saturday, March 31, 2012

YEAR: 1992
LABEL: Arista
TRACK LISTING: The Best of Me (Intro Only), Sweet Life (Live), I Am Your Child (Live), Could It Be Magic (Featherbed featuring Barry Manilow), Could It Be Magic, Brandy (Original Scott English Single), Mandy (Original First Take), It's A Miracle, Sandra (Live), I Write the Songs, As Sure As I'm Standing Here, New York City Rhythm, Tryin' To Get the Feeling Again (Alternate Take), All the Time, Ready To Take A Chance Again, Somewhere In the Night, The Old Songs, I Don't Want To Walk Without You, If I Should Love Again (Alternate Take), Copacabana (Home cassette of composing the song), Copacabana (At the Copa), Dancin' Fool, I'm Your Man, Hey Mambo, Big Fun, Riders To the Stars (Live), I Wanna Be Somebody's Baby (Live), Daybreak (Live), Even Now (Live), Life Will Go On (Live), Memory (Live), Ships (Live), If I Can Dream (Live), One Voice (Live), This One's For You (Demo), Lay Me Down, Big City Blues, Somewhere Down the Road (Demo), A Little Traveling Music Please, You Could Show Me, Ave Maria, Look To the Rainbow, Joey (Demo), Please Don't Be Scared, Baby It's Cold Outside, When October Goes, Ain't It A Shame, Brooklyn Blues, How Do I Stop Loving You? (Demo), Just Remember (Live), I Can't Teach My Old Heart New Tricks, Weekend In New England, Give My Regards To Broadway (Live), Send In the Clowns/Looks Like We Made It (Live), Can't Smile Without You (Alternate First Take), Beautiful Music, Fugue For Tinhorns, My Girl/No One In This World, Don't Talk To Me of Love, The Last Duet, Wild Places (Demo), Never Met A Man I Didn't Like, Who Needs To Dream, Read 'Em and Weep, Let Freedom Ring, Let Me Be Your Wings, If Tomorrow Never Comes, Another Life, I Made It Through the Rain (Alternate Take), The Best of Me
IMPRESSIONS: Whenever November rolls around, I always seem to grab for this box set. A superb retrospective of Barr's career including well-known hits, unreleased demos and alternate takes and live performances.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Sweet Life (Live), I Am Your Child (Live), Could It Be Magic, Sandra (Live), Tryin' To Get the Feeling (Alternate Take), All the Time, Somewhere In the Night, Hey Mambo, Big Fun, Riders To the Stars (Live), I Wanna Be Somebody's Baby (Live), Even Now (Live), Ships (Live), If I Can Dream (Live), One Voice (Live), This One's For You (Demo), Lay Me Down, Somewhere Down the Road (Demo), A Little Travelling Music Please, Ave Maria, Baby It's Cold Outside, When October Goes, Brooklyn Blues, Just Remember (Live), I Can't Teach My Old Heart New Tricks, Weekend In New England, Beautiful Music, Fugue For Tinhorns, Don't Talk To Me of Love, The Last Duet, Never Met A Man I Didn't Like, Read 'Em and Weep, If Tomorrow Never Comes, I Made It Through the Rain (Alternate Take)
GUEST ARTISTS: Scott English (vocal on "Brandy"), Kid Creole & the Cocoanuts (vocal/performance on "Hey Mambo"), Full Swing (vocals on "Big Fun"), Mel Torme (vocal on "Big City Blues"), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax on "Big City Blues"), Barbara Cook (vocal on "Look To the Rainbow"), K.T. Oslin (vocal on "Baby It's Cold Outside"), Michael Crawford (vocal on "Fugue For Tinhorns"), Hinton Battle (vocal on "Fugue For Tinhorns), Melissa Manchester (vocal on "My Girl/No One In This World"), Mirielle Mathieu (vocal on "Don't Talk To Me of Love"), Lily Tomlin (vocal on "The Last Duet")
FACT SHEET: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION AND THEN SOME... is a career-spanning box set containing 4 cds and 1 videotape (recently remastered and re-released with a DVD). "I Don't Want To Walk Without You" was written by Frank Loesser & Jule Styne. "Memory" was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn & T.S. Eliot. "Ships" was written by Ian Hunter. "Look To the Rainbow" was written by Burton Lane & E.Y. Harburg. "Baby It's Cold Outside" was written by Frank Loesser (which won an Academy Award for Best Song) and "Fugue For Tinhorns" (from the musical "GUYS AND DOLLS"). Barry Manilow & Johnny Mercer wrote "When October Goes", "Just Remember" and "I Can't Teach My Old Heart New Tricks". George M. Cohan wrote "Give My Regards To Broadway". Stephen Sondheim wrote "Send In the Clowns". "My Girl" was written by Smokey Robinson. "Never Met A Man I Didn't Like" was written by Cy Coleman, Betty Comden & Adolph Green. "Read 'Em and Weep" was written by Jim Steinman. "If Tomorrow Never Comes" was written by Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy. "The Best of Me" was written by Richard Marx, David Foster and Jeremy Lubbock.

Monday, March 26, 2012

BING & SATCHMO - Bing Crosby & Louis Armstrong

YEAR: 1960

TRACK LISTING: Muskrat Ramble, Sugar (That Sugar Baby O' Mine), The Preacher, Dardanella, Let's Sing Like A Dixieland Band, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, Brother Bill, Little Ol' Tune, At the Jazz Band Ball, Rocky Mountain Moon, Bye Bye Blues


IMPRESSIONS: Here we have good friends getting together to record an album for the fun of it. Relaxed and easy, Bing and Louis settle into these old, old songs like a comfortable easy chair as each takes turns singing a verse then usually finishing up dueting together. The stereo orchestra by Billy May is lush (perhaps a little TOO lush) and the peppy chorus can be distracting and out-of-place as both occasionally attempt to drown out these two old pros; however, even these slight misteps cannot derail the camaraderie on display here between these two monumental performers. What makes rather ordinary songs extraordinary is the patented witty patter shooting back and forth between Bing and Louis which often makes each singer laugh at what sounds like ad-libs. Worn in as a pair of soft shoes, this album provides nothing challenging but is simply a celebration of a musical friendship.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Sugar (That Sugar Baby O' Mine), Dardanella, Let's Sing Like A Dixieland Band, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, Brother Bill, At the Jazz Band Ball, Rocky Mountain Moon, Bye Bye Blues, Lazy River

FACT SHEET: BING & SATCHMO is the only album Crosby & Armstrong recorded together. The orchestra is arranged and conducted by Billy May.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


YEAR: 1958

LABEL: Roulette

TRACK LISTING: What's New?, It's the Talk of the Town, I'll Never Smile Again, I'm Thru With Love, Where Are You (Top of the Town), I've Only Myself To Blame, Say It Isn't So, What Will I Tell My Heart, You've Got Me Crying Again, Can't We Talk It Over, I Laugh To Keep From Crying, A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry

IMPRESSIONS: Here's another one of those wonderful torch song albums; this time with the warm vibrato of Joe Williams. Much in the Billy Eckstine or Johnny Hartman style of baritone voices, Joe Williams' voice perfectly suits these songs and arrangements. Newly acquired by Roulette, Joe was being presented to make a big commercial hit with the lush romantic ballads contained herein. Williams had just had a monumental hit over at Verve with the Count Basie Orchestra on "Every Day I Have the Blues" and Roulette's Morris Levy wanted more of the same. No matter the motives, this album is a wonderful low-key listen . . . even if the orchestra is a little overpowering at times.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: It's the Talk of the Town, I'll Never Smile Again, I'm Thru With Love, I've Only Myself To Blame, Say It Isn't So, I Laugh To Keep From Crying, A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry

FACT SHEET: A MAN AIN'T SUPPOSED TO CRY is Joe Williams' first album for Roulette records after leaving Verve. The swing orchestra is arranged by Jimmy Mundy.

Monday, March 12, 2012


YEAR: 1996

LABEL: Harmonia Mundi

TRACK LISTING: Invitatory: Venite omnes cristicole, Processional: Salve festa dies, Benedicamus trope: Vox nostra resonet, Invitatory: Regem Regum Dominum, Benedicamus trope: Nostra phalanx plaudat leta, Antiphon: Ad sepulcrum beati Iacobi, Benedicamus trope: Ad superni regis decus, Brief responsory: Iacobe servorum, Benedicamus Domino, Conductus: In hac die laudes, Kyrie trope: Cunctipotens genitor, Hymn: Psallat chorus celestium, Prose: Alleluia - Gratulemur et letemur, Offertory: Ascendens Ihesus in montem, Agnus dei trope: Qui pius ac mitis, Benedicamus trope: Gratulantes celebremus festum, Conductus: Iacobe sancte tuum, Responsory: O adiutor omnium seculorum, Prosa: Portum in ultimo, Benedicamus trope: Congaudeant catholici, Prosa: Clemens servulorum

IMPRESSIONS: Since I've been obsessing lately about el Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James pilgrimage), I thought it would be rather appropriate to select this Anonymous 4 album which features music taken from the Codex Calixtinus: the original "tour guide" for the pilgrimage trail. When I say "obsessed", I mean that I've gone so far as to consult the American website to apply for the "credentials" or "pilgrim's passport" one needs before embarking on the camino. I've looked . . . I haven't signed up. But that doesn't mean I don't want to. Having said that, I think this album would be one of the most appropriate to have on one's ipod earbuds during the walk from France to Spain. I have always been a fan of medieval music, chants and polyphony, and have gotten several of Anonymous 4's albums over the years. But this is the one I'm listening to a lot at the moment after seeing Emilio Estevez's startlingly good film "THE WAY" as well as Luis Bunuel's "THE MILKY WAY" (which also takes place on the camino) and then fairly heavily researching the pilgrimage and buying two books on the subject. Hey, when I go overboard, I GO OVERBOARD!

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: I view this album as more of a piece so I guess all of 'em.

FACT SHEET: MIRACLES OF SANT'IAGO is Anonymous 4's sixth album. The Codex Calixtinus (aka "JACOBUS" or "LIBER SANCTI JACOBI") consists of five books containing sermons on St. James, chants and lessons for his feasts, accounts of the legends and miracles attributed to St. James, an epic featuring Charlemagne in Spain, a "travel guide" to the pilgrimage routes through France and Spain and a circa 12th century supplement of polyphonic music. Since the 12th century, this Codex has resided at the destination of the pilgrimage: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. About 90 percent of the music is plainchant for St. James feast days (July 25 & December 30) while only about 10 percent of the music is polyphonic; however it is the later which commands most attention and is featured in this album because it represents some of the first known examples of polyphony we have in written form. The remains of St. James (the first apostle and first to be martyred) are entombed at the Cathedral and became one of the three major pilgrimage destinations (Jerusalem and Rome being the other two) since the medieval period and el Camino de Santiago still attracts scores of pilgrims every year. New York City's female a cappella quartet Anonymous 4 consists of Marsha Genesky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner and Ruth Cunningham; they specialize in recording medieval music but also have performed modern composers' work including John Taverner. The name "Anonymous 4" is a pun on the anonymous 13th century English music theorist known only as "Anonymous IV" who is the principal source of two famous composers of the Notre Dame school: Perotin and Leonin.

Friday, March 2, 2012


YEAR: 1968

LABEL: Colgems

TRACK LISTING: Dream World, Auntie's Municipal Court, We Were Made For Each Other, Tapioca Tundra, Daydream Believer, Writing Wrongs, I'll Be Back Up On My Feet, The Poster, P.O. Box 9847, Magnolia Simms, Valleri, Zor and Zam

BONUS TRACKS: (on the 1994 Rhino reissue): Alvin, I'm Gonna Try, P.O. Box 9847 (Alternate Mix), The Girl I Left Behind Me, Lady's Baby

IMPRESSIONS: You know, I've always called this the Monkees' "Sgt. Pepper" but I think I may just be wrong about that. It's possibly more like their "White Album". Or maybe it really IS their "Sgt. Pepper" now that I think of it. It's far too psychedelic to be their "White Album". However, you squeeze it, "TBTB&TM" is an album I have had my entire life; in fact, I've had it so long I cannot even remember how it came into my possession or when. It certainly must've been only a couple years after it's release in 1968. I'd say I must've had it since I was 4 or 5 years of age, definitely. Yesterday's death of Davy Jones brought to mind my childhood when I never missed a Monkees rerun on telly (Channel 48 played them, dontcha know). The classic TV show was probably my young mind's first encounter with absurdist humour which I would come to worship in the coming years in such comedy gods as "MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS", The Marx Brothers and "THE GOON SHOW". But I think THE MONKEES actually wormed its way into my mind a couple years before the Marx Brothers movies. As far as the music is concerned, the Monkees always got a bad rap for not playing their instruments or writing their songs. Somehow that's supposed to be a bad thing. I don't seem to recall Mario Lanza getting flak for not playing an instrument or Ella Fitzgerald slagged off for not writing her own songs. The Pre-Fab Four were certainly nowhere near the same league but they were a nice-enough pop group that benefitted from a stable of excellent songwriters: Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, Carol Bayer Sager, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, John Stewart and Neil Sedaka are just a few of the top drawer talent providing songs for the group. Well respected songwriters all and the songs were good regardless of who was singing them. Here we have the Monkees beating their heads against the wall for respect. Tired of the prepackaged label, the Monkees insisted on more creative control and were allowed to play their own instruments with their previous album "PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN & JONES LTD." which is generally considered their finest album. I wouldn't know because I don't own it. This is the one I've owned all my life and it's a damn fine album as well. Here Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork & Michael Nesmith have jumped feat first into the 60's psychedelic era with the trippiest song cycle since the HEAD soundtrack. The elaborate cover practically announces they're going for a SGT. PEPPER-type album; the album recording sessions began only a couple months after the Beatles' released PEPPER in 1967. There is no way I can listen to this album without being transported right back to my single digits; I even recall an early birthday party where this album was used for the music to a game of musical chairs! The album is a psychedelic 60s treasure trove: the record scratches and skips on Nesmith's "Magnolia Simms", the propulsive bombast of "Valleri", the kitchen-sink bubblegum of "Daydream Believer", the mystical medieval majesty of "Zor and Zam" or the LSD inspired "Tapioca Tundra" are all minor masterpieces. This is an album which always puts a big grin on my kisser.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Dream World, Auntie's Municipal Court, Tapioca Tundra, Daydream Believer, I'll Be Back Up On My Feet, P.O. Box 9847, Magnolia Simms, Valleri, Zor and Zam, Alvin

GUEST ARTISTS: Harry Nilsson (piano on "Auntie's Municipal Court"), Bill Martin (percussion on "Daydream Believer"), Hal Blaine (drums on "The Poster"), Stephen Stills (electric guitar on "Lady's Baby")

FACT SHEET: THE BIRDS, THE BEES & THE MONKEES is the Monkees' fifth album. It sold over a million copies but was the first Monkees album that didn't reach number one; it made it to number three. After finally gaining artistic control and recording together as a band on their previous album, TBTB&TM saw the four members basically coming up with and recording their own tracks separately from the others often in different studios; although all recordings were agreed to bear the legend "Produced by The Monkees" this is somewhat the same thing that happened on the Beatles' "White Album". The resulting album is something of a fractured affair (although in the best possible way) featuring contrasting musical styles between Mike Nesmith's country/western or LSD trippy tracks, Davy Jones' Broadway pop/bubblegum style and Mickey Dolenz's straitforward rock and roll. Peter Tork, very disturbed by the group's not working together as a unit, found most of his songs considered for the album but eventually not included; Tork's participation is almost non-existent with his sole appearance on the album consisting of his playing piano on "Daydream Believer". "We Were Made For Each Other" was written by Carole Bayer & George Fischoff. Former Kingston Trio member John Stewart wrote the smash number one hit "Daydream Believer". Perennial Monkees songsmiths Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart wrote "P.O. Box 9847" and "Valleri".

Thursday, March 1, 2012


YEAR: 2001

LABEL: In the Red

TRACK LISTING: Chains of Love, If You Can Want, Underdog, Your Love Belongs Under A Rock, I'll Wait, Livin' For the City, The Thing, Kung Fu, Ode To A Black Man, Got To Give It Up, Livin' For the Weekend, I'm Qualified To Satisfy You, Do You See My Love

IMPRESSIONS: A raunchy rockin' party record mixing garage rock, fuzzy guitars and classic soul songs. Lead singer Mick Collins (of the garage punk band the Gories) says this album to the black music he grew up with. A perhaps perfect description of this album of covers (with one exception) is found on itunes: "The Dirtbombs have created a record that is akin to stumbling across a box of cool records in your parents' attic, and is suitable for continuous play at any house party."

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Chains of Love, If You Can Want, Underdog, I'll Wait, Livin' For the City, Kung Fu, Ode To A Black Man, Got To Give It Up, I'm Qualified To Satisfy You, Do You See My Love (For You Growing)

FACT SHEET: ULTRAGLIDE IN BLACK is the Dirtbombs' second album. The Dirtbombs is a side project by singer Mick Collins of the influential Detroit garage punk band the Gories. All songs on the album are covers except "Your Love Belongs Under a Rock". "Chains of Love" is a J.J. Barnes song. "If You Can Wait" was originally by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. "Underdog" is a Sly and the Family Stone cover. "I'll Wait" is a song from George Clinton's early band the Parliaments. "Livin' For the City" is a Stevie Wonder song. "The Thing" was originally by Larry Bright. "Kung Fu" is a Curtis Mayfield song. "Ode To A Black Man" is a Phil Lynott song. "Got To Give It Up" is a Marvin Gaye cover. "Livin' For the Weekend" is an O'Jays song. "I'm Qualified To Satisfy You" is a Barry White cover. "Do You See My Love (For You Growing)" is a song by Jr. Walker and the All-Stars. The album cover is an homage to Stevie Wonder's 1967 album "I WAS MADE TO LOVE HER".