Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SINGS SONGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY   -  Frank Sinatra

YEAR:  1958
LABEL:  Capitol
TRACK LISTING:  Only the Lonely,  Angel Eyes,  What's New?,  It's A Lonesome Old Town,  Willow Weep For Me,  Goodbye,  Blues In the Night,  Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,  Ebb Tide,  Spring Is Here,  Gone With the Wind,  One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)
BONUS TRACKS:  Sleep Warm,  Where or When
IMPRESSIONS:  I've said previously the only Frank Sinatra I'm really interested is the suicidal one; the one that sounds like he's about to slash his wrists.  This album, perhaps more than any other, fulfills that function.  In the mid 1970s, according to John Rockwell's biography "SINATRA: AN AMERICAN CLASSIC", Sinatra unhesitating called ONLY THE LONELY his all-time favourite of all his albums.  This, along with the earlier masterpieces "IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS" and "WHERE ARE YOU?", is the perfect "late night" album.  Sinatra's singing is far from maudlin or wallowing but instead sounds easy and unforced.  I don't think he was in the mood to be melodramatic when he recorded this album since it was made just after Sinatra's divorce from Ava Gardner was finalized.  The emotions and delivery we hear from the singer are all too real.  Also, arranger Nelson Riddle's mother and daughter had both just died.  "If I can attach events like that to music," Riddle proclaimed, "perhaps ONLY THE LONELY was the result." 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Only the Lonely,  Angel Eyes,  What's New?,  It's A Lonesome Old Town,  Willow Weep For Me,  Goodbye,  Ebb Tide,  Spring Is Here,  Gone With the Wind,  One For My Baby (And One More For the Road),  Sleep Warm,  Where or When
GUEST ARTISTS:  Nelson Riddle (arranger),  Felix Slatkin (conductor)
FACT SHEET:  SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY is Frank Sinatra's tenth album for Capitol Records.  Originally Gordon Jenkins (producer of the previous magnificent WHERE ARE YOU? album) was intending to produce this album but he was unavailable so Sinatra returned to his previous Capitol Records producer Nelson Riddle (who also did arrangements).  Three tracks were recorded for this session with Riddle conducting but they were not used; after Riddle went on tour with Nat King Cole, Felix Slatkin conducted the songs ONLY THE LONELY.  An aborted attempt of "Lush Life" was attempted by Sinatra for this session; it exists only as a bootleg and the singer would never officially record the song.  The cover painting of Sinatra as a Pagliacci-like clown is by Nicholas Volpe and won a Grammy for "Best Album Cover" and the album itself was nominated for "Best Album" at the first Grammy Awards. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

LOUIS ARMSTRONG PLAYS W.C. HANDY   -   Louis Armstrong

YEAR:  1954
LABEL:  Columbia
TRACK LISTING:  St. Louis Blues,  Yellow Dog Blues,  Loveless Love,  Aunt Hagar's Blues,  Long Gone (From Bowling Green),  The Memphis Blues (or Mister Crump),  Beale Street Blues,  Ole Miss Blues,  Chantez Las Bas (Sing 'Em Low),  Hesitating Blues,  Atlanta Blues (Make Me One Pallet On the Floor)
BONUS TRACKS:  George Avakian's Interview with W.C. Handy,  Loveless Love (Rehearsal Sequence),  Hesitating Blues (Rehearsal Sequence),  Alligator Story,  Long Gone (From Bowling Green)(Rehearsal Sequence)
IMPRESSIONS:  "What's a really good jazz album I can get, Maz?"  This was a frequent question I'd ask Maz when we'd chat while working at Borders.  She was in charge of the jazz cds and I was in charge of the classical cds.  One of the greatest jazz albums of all time was her answer.  This one.  "The father of the blues interpreted by the master of jazz trumpet and jazz singing..."  How could you go wrong?  A perfect album.  In the liner notes it tells of W.C. Handy listening to the playback with tears streaming down his sightless eyes stating:  "I never thought I'd hear my blues like this!  Truly wonderful!"  Called by Allmusic "Louis Armstrong's finest record of the 1950s" and "...essential music for all serious jazz collections".   
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em.
GUEST ARTISTS:  Velma Middleton (vocals)
FACT SHEET:  It's impossible to really number Louis Armstrong's albums since he predates LPs completely.  The album features Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars consisting of Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Barrett Deems (drums),  Billy Kyle (piano), Arvell Shaw (bass), Trummy Young (trombone) and Velma Middleon (vocals).  The album was first issued on cd in 1986 to vast controversy as alternate versions of tracks were used meaning that it wasn't the same album as originally released; this happened all-too-frequently with Louis' cd reissues sadly.  Thankfully the 1997 cd re-issue (the one here) restored the album to the original version and also included the bonus tracks listed above including a short interview with Handy, Armstrong telling his "alligator joke" and some rehearsal takes. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

99.9   -   Suzanne Vega

YEAR:  1992
LABEL:  A&M
TRACK LISTING:  Rock In This Pocket (Song of David),  Blood Makes Noise,  In Liverpool,  99.9 F°,  Blood Sings,  Fat Man & Dancing Girl,  (If You Were) In My Movie,  As A Child,  Bad Wisdom,  When Heroes Go Down,  As Girls Go,  Song of Sand
IMPRESSIONS:  This album was a Christmas present (requested by me from Santa Claus) and the only Suzanne Vega album I own (with the exception of a greatest hits compilation, that is).  Produced by Crowded House producer Mitchell Froom (whom Vega would later marry), this album marks a dramatic sonic change from Vega's folky "My Name Is Luka" past which is defiantly declared in the album's first single/music video "Blood Makes Noise".  The single (which reached #1 on the UK charts) is frenetic and breathless (literally as Vega allows herself practically no room to breathe between lyrics) as well as the metallic clanking percussion which marks this as something of an industrial-sounding album.  Small bits (on "Fat Man & Dancing Girl", f'rinstance) remind me somewhat of the sound Butch Vig later got with Garbage; hmmm . . . if Shirley Manson hadn't been available Suzanne Vega may have been a good fall-back choice for lead vocals in that band.  While this percussive sound appears spotlighted, there are still quieter, folky ballads like "Blood Sings" or the exquisitely gloomy "In Liverpool" (which Vega performed live in 1993 on the first "PAVAROTTI & FRIENDS" concert cd). 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Rock In This Pocket (Song of David),  Blood Makes Noise,  In Liverpool,  99.9 F°,  Blood Sings,  (If You Were) In My Movie,  As A Child,  Song of Sand
GUEST ARTISTS:  Mitchell Froom (keyboards, string arrangements (on "Song of Sand"), producer,  Richard Thompson (guitar solo on "As Girls Go")
FACT SHEET:  99.9 F° is Suzanne Vega's fourth album.  The album was nominated for a Penguin Award for "Album of the Year"as well as two nominations for "Song of the Year" for "Blood Makes Noise" and "In Liverpool".  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

CHER   -   Cher

YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  Imperial/Liberty
TRACK LISTING:  Sunny,  Twelfth of Never,  You Don't Have To Say You Love Me,  I Feel Something in the Air (Magic In the Air),  Will You Love Me Tomorrow,  Until It's Time For You To Go,  Cruel War,  Catch the Wind,  Pied Piper,  Homeward Bound,  I Want You,  Alfie
IMPRESSIONS:  Long, long before Cher's solo success with such songs as "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" etc., this is still back in the "I Got You Babe" era of Sonny & Cher.  Like her previous two albums, CHER is basically all covers re-arranged for Cher to sing with one Sonny-written new song.  I honestly can't say this is a particularly great record; it features competent if not spectacular covers sung by Cher before the timbre of her voice mellowed into the familiar 70s vocals we're more familiar with.  No, this album owes it's place here simply due to pure, base nostalgia on my part.  This is an album I found in my mother's record collection when I was a teeny tiny tot.  In the middle of my childhood house in Maple Surple, there was a sort of circular connecting area from which most of the rooms radiated outward like spokes on a wheel.  Standing in this "middle non-hall" which connected to my bedroom, the bathroom, the attic stairs, the living room and my mother's bedroom, was a black metal record two-tier record rack (which still stands in my bedroom to this very day).  The rack is not solid and opaque but totally open in that the first album cover in it can clearly be seen when look at the rack from the side.  This side coincidentally faces my bedroom door.  I couldn't have been more than 5 years old when the glum face of Cher confronted me from this album and I took it down and played it often over the years.  The songs were pleasant to my young ears (since they were obviously great songs originally and Cher didn't foul them up) but I do remember being fascinated by that odd bubble next to Cher's hand.  It looks like a soap bubble hanging there in the air.  What the hell is it?!?  It is just there or is it actually attached to that ring on her hand???  Is it a glass bubble on the ring???  If not, how did the photographer get a soap bubble to hang suspended in air exactly in the right spot to take the photo!?!?!?!?  Ah, these mysterious of our childhoods remain.  And hence, we have this post about it!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Sunny,  Twelfth of Never,  You Don't Have to Say You Love Me,  Will You Love Me Tomorrow,  Until It's Time For You To Go,  Pied Piper,  Homeward Bound
FACT SHEET:  CHER is Cher's third album.  It is produced by Sonny Bono and arranged and conducted by Harold Battiste.  The album consists of all covers except "I Feel Something in the Air" which was written for Cher by Sonny Bono.  The cover songs are of hits by respectively Bobby Hebb, Johnny Mathis (et. al.), Dusty Springfield, the Shirelles, Buffy Saine-Marie, Peter, Paul & Mary, Donovan, Crispian St. Peters/Bob & Marcia, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Dionne Warwick.  Cher's version of "Alfie" appeared in the eponymous film but it was Dionne Warwick's version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song which became definitive. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

JUST ENOUGH EDUCATION TO PERFORM   -   Stereophonics

YEAR:  2001
LABEL:  V2
TRACK LISTING:  Vegas Two Times,  Lying In the Sun,  Mr. Writer,  Step On My Old Size Nines,  Have A Nice Day,  Nice To Be Out,  Watch Them Fly Sundays,  Everyday I Think of Money,  Maybe,  Caravan Holiday,  Rooftop
IMPRESSIONS:  Number 4 in our series of "Borders albums".  Yet another album I got into because it was frequently played on the overhead speakers while I was shelving cds at Borders.  Indie rock darlings Stereophonics "J.E.E.P." album features the quirky writing and cracked voice of Kelly Jones sounding as if he's just gargled with razor blades.  There are a couple "rockers" but the best songs are slowed down and reflective; this fact is probably owed to shake-ups in the band's life including Kelly Jones' break-up with his girlfriend at the time.  The single "Mr. Writer" finds Jones sneering at critics and their knee-jerk, pat conclusions.  "Step On My Old Size Nines" is a romantic (in the true sense of the word) ballad and arguably the best song on the album with its comfortable, loving feel.  One of several "story songs" on the album is "Everyday I Think of Money" where the singer drives a money truck and we experience the dreaming and planning of a crime and its inevitable aftermath; a song I've always thought of as Stereophonic's very own "There Goes A Tenner".      
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Lying In the Sun,  Mr. Writer,  Step On My Old Size Nines,  Have A Nice Day,  Everyday I Think of Money,  Caravan Holiday
FACT SHEET:  JUST ENOUGH EDUCATION TO PERFORM is Stereophonics' third album.  The Welsh group consists of Kelly Jones (lead vocals, guitar, production), Richard Jones (bass) and Stuart Cable (drums).  All songs were written by Kelly Jones with the exception of "Mr. Writer" which was co-written with Marshall Bird.  The album is known by its acronym "J.E.E.P.", which earned the band the ire of Daimler-Chrysler for unauthorized use of the word "jeep".  In 2002, the album was re-released with an extra track of Stereophonic's cover version of "Handbags and Gladrags" as well as a hidden track called "Surprise".  Since I got the original album, I be not having them.  J.E.E.P. was nominated for a Penguin Award for "Album of the Year" and also for "Song of the Year" for "Step On My Old Size Nines".

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A FIFTH OF BEETHOVEN   -   Walter Murphy

YEAR:  1976
LABEL:  Private Stock
TRACK LISTING:  Flight 76 (Flight of the Bumble Bee),  (You've Got To Be) Your Own Best Friend,  California Strut,  A Fifth of Beethoven (Beethoven's Fifth Symphony),  Night Fall (Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E Minor),  Russian Dressing (Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1),  Suite Love Symphony,  Midnight Express,  Get A Little Lovin',  Just a Love Song
IMPRESSIONS:  Before there was HOOKED ON CLASSICS, there was Walter Murphy sittin' on the top of the charts with his disco version of Beethoven's fifth.  What a country, eh?  Gloriously embarrassing music, this.  I remember buying this record when I was still living in Maple Surple as this was a huge bicentennial hit in the very early days when disco was just starting to take off.  I'll never forget family friend Ronnie kvetching about murdering the classics and why would I buy such a record when I could buy legitimate recordings of Beethoven or Tchaikovsky.  Well hey, I was 10.  And although it probably wasn't the intended purpose of Walter Murphy, this album probably helped me a long way towards my true love of classical music about 5 years later.  So, we must forgive the trashiness and embrace the fromage of this album.  From the album opener of Flight of the Bumblebee sounding quite a bit like the recent hit single "THEME FROM SWAT" by Rhythm Heritage, the goofy (but lovable) vocal performance of "(You've Got To Be) Your Own Best Friend" and the uber-disco embarrassing (Embarrasment seems to be a theme with this album) sweeping strings of "California Strut".  I actually believe that this record was originally not made out of vinyl but polyester!  But my God, hearing this album again after all these years is incredibly nostalgic!  And I still find myself expending the record skip during "Midnight Express". . .
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  (You've Got To Be) Your Own Best Friend,  California Strut, A Fifth of Beethoven,  Night Fall,  Russian Dressing,  Suite Love Symphony,  Midnight Express   
FACT SHEET:  A FIFTH OF BEETHOVEN is Walter Murphy's first album.  Murphy was given the idea of updating classical music by a producer while he was writing a disco instrumental for a commercial.  After shopping a demo around, Private Stock Records owner Larry Uttal contracted Murphy to make an album.  Even though Murphy played most of the instruments himself, the album was credited to "Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band" when it was decided it might sell more as a "band" than as a single artist.  However, days later it was discovered there already was a "Big Apple Band" and subsequent pressings imaginatively changed the credit to "The Walter Murphy Band".  The single "A Fifth of Beethoven" went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.  Never again reaching this kind of chart success, Murphy returned to jingle writing and television work including his Grammy award-winning work on "FAMILY GUY".     

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TELEVISION'S GREATEST HITS   -   Various Artists

YEAR:  1985
LABEL:  TVT
TRACK LISTING:  Captain Kangaroo (Puffin Billy),  The Little Rascals (Good Old Days),  The Flintstones (Meet the Flintstones),  The Woody Woodpecker Show,  Bugs Bunny Overture (This Is It),  Casper the Friendly Ghost,  Felix the Cat,  Popeye,  Yogi Bear,  Magilla Gorilla,  Top Cat,  The Jetsons,  Fireball XL-5,  Howdy Doody,  The Beverly Hillbillies (Ballad of Jed Clampett),  Petticoat Junction,  Green Acres,  Mr. Ed,  The Munsters,  The Addams Family,  My Three Sons,  The Donna Reed Show,  Leave It To Beaver (The Toy Parade),  Dennis the Menace,  Dobie Gillis,  The Patty Duke Show,  The Dick Van Dyke Show,  Gilligan's Island,  McHale's Navy,  I Dream of Jeannie,  I Love Lucy,  The Andy Griffith Show,  Star Trek,  Lost In Space,  The Twilight Zone,  Alfred Hitchcock Presents,  The Adventures of Superman,  Batman,  Flipper,  Combat,  The Rifleman,  Bonanza,  Branded,  F-Troop,  Rin Tin Tin,  Daniel Boone,  The Wild Wild West,  The Lone Ranger (William Tell Overture),  Happy Trails,  Mission:  Impossible,  The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,  Get Smart,  Secret Agent Man,  Dragnet,  Perry Mason,  Adam-12,  The F.B.I.,  Hawaii Five-O,  77 Sunset Strip,  Surfside 6,  Ironside,  Mannix,  The Mod Squad,  The Tonight Show (Johnny's Theme),  The Late Late Show (Syncopated Clock)
IMPRESSIONS:  This is the one that started it all -- the flood of TV theme song compilations to follow.  I will forever associate this with Rustler.  One night after closing, we all sat around a table in the Rustler Steak House dining room listening to my tape of this album and playing "who can guess the TV show first".  No one will ever forget Meg's immortal guess:  "Smoke Gun????".  The San Francisco Chronicle famously called the album "the most fun you can have with your pants on".
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  The Little Rascals (Good Old Days),  Bugs Bunny Overture (This Is It),  Casper the Friendly Ghost,  Top Cat,  The Jetsons,  Petticoat Junction,  Green Acres,  Mr. Ed,  The Munsters,  The Addams Family,  My Three Sons,  The Patty Duke Show,  The Dick Van Dyke Show,  Gilligan's Island,  McHale's Navy,  I Dream of Jeannie,  I Love Lucy,  The Andy Griffith Show,  Star Trek,  Lost In Space,  The Twilight Zone,  Alfred Hitchcock Presents,  The Adventures of Superman,  Batman,  Flipper,  Bonanza,  F-Troop,  The Wild Wild West,  Happy Trails,  Mission:  Impossible,  Get Smart,  Secret Agent Man,  Dragnet,  Perry Mason,  Adam-12,  Hawaii Five-O,  Mannix,  The Mod Squad,  The Tonight Show (Johnny's Theme),  The Late Late Show (Syncopated Clock)
FACT SHEET:  TELEVISION'S GREATEST HITS is the first album in the series of TVToons albums which ran to 8 volumes.  The album features both original soundtrack recordings taken from the TV shows themselves as well as newly recreated versions of themes.  The original vinyl pressing of the double LP featured brief narration by announcer Don Pardo which was sadly excised for the cd reissue. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PARSLEY, SAGE, ROSEMARY & THYME   -   Simon & Garfunkel

YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  Columbia
TRACK LISTING:  Scarborough Fair/Canticle,  Patterns,  Cloudy,  Homeward Bound,  The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine,  The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy),  The Dangling Conversation,  Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall,  A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission),  For Emily Whenever I May Find Her,  A Poem on the Underground Wall,  7 O'Clock News/Silent Night
IMPRESSIONS:  Maple Shade living room, wood panelling, lime green bean bag chair.  Yep, once again we're back there listening to this album on the ole 6 foot tall record player.  Hilariously and succinctly described by itunes as "Two singers, four herbs, twelve cuts", PSR&T sat among my Dad's other Simon and Garfunkel albums throughout my 1970s childhood and I would listen to them all.  No wonder I grew up to be such a bookish snot!  I didn't stand a chance!  My favourite song on the album was "The Dangling Conversation" --  a song Paul Simon dislikes as pretentious wanking -- however I really REALLY like it's raindrops-on-the-windowsill atmosphere of dull, grey light slanting sideways into the room accenting the dust particles in the air as I listen to it. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Scarborough Fair/Canticle,  Patterns,  Cloudy,  Homeward Bound,  The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine,  The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy),  The Dangling Conversation,  Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall,  7 O'Clock News/Silent Night
GUEST ARTISTS:  Charlie O'Donnell (newcast on "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night")
FACT SHEET:  PARSLEY, SAGE, ROSEMARY & THYME is Simon & Garfunkel's third album.  "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night" mixes the German carol in with a news broadcast by Charlie O'Donnell recorded on August 3, 1966:  the day of Lenny Bruce's death.  "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" combines a Paul Simon protest song with a 16th century English traditional folk song.

Monday, May 21, 2012

THE MOLLUSK   -   Ween

YEAR:  1997
LABEL:  Elektra
TRACK LISTING:  I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight,  The Mollusk,  Polka Dot Tail,  I'll Be Your Jonny On the Spot,  Mutilated Lips,  The Blarney Stone,  It's Gonna Be (Alright),  The Golden Eel,  Cold Blows the Wind,  Pink Eye (On My Leg),  Waving My Dick In the Wind,  Buckingham Green,  Ocean Man,  She Wanted To Leave/(Reprise)
IMPRESSIONS:  It's hard to decide which Ween album is my favourite but this is definitely in the running.  I've always had a great fondness for this album; I don't know if its because of the heavily (but not completely) "oceany" theme of it which makes me feel like I'm in an episode of "SIGMUND & THE SEA MONSTERS" but Dean Ween himself says:  "I will say that the only record that I ever felt really confident about was The Mollusk. That's my favorite record we've ever done".  As usual, the album contains almost a different musical genre per song from the folky murder ballad "Cold Blows the Wind" to the cod Ozzy Osbourne pastiche "Buckingham Green" to the aquatic bubbly title track. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  I'm Dancing In the Show Tonight,  The Mollusk,  I'll Be Your Jonny On the Spot,  Mutilated Lips,  It's Gonna Be (Alright),  Cold Blows the Wind,  Pink Eye (On My Leg),  Waving My Dick In the Wind,  Buckingham Green,  Ocean Man,  She Wanted To Leave/(Reprise)
FACT SHEET:  THE MOLLUSK is Ween's sixth album.  It is a partial concept album with most of the songs featuring an "aquatic" theme.  Following 1994's "CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE" album, Ween wanted to go back to recording the way they used to at home.  So, they gathered their recording equipment and toted it all to a beach house in Holgate, NJ which promptly flooded due to a burst water pipe.  After nearly losing their gear and recorded takes from THE MOLLUSK sessions, Ween put the album on hold and went to Nashville to record their "12 GOLDEN COUNTRY GREATS" which they subsequently released in 1996.  After touring that album, Ween returned to work on "THE MOLLUSK" and released it finally in 1997.  "THE MOLLUSK" was nominated for an "Album of the Year" Penguin Award and "Buckingham Green" was nominated for "Song of the Year".

Sunday, May 20, 2012

WHO IS JILL SCOTT? WORDS AND SOUNDS VOL. 1   -   Jill Scott

YEAR:  2000
LABEL:  Hidden Beach
TRACK LISTING:  Jilltro,  Do You Remember?,  Exclusively,  Gettin' In the Way,  A Long Walk,  I Think It's Better,  He Loves Me (Lyzel in B-Flat),  It's Love,  The Way,  Honey Molasses,  Love Rain,  The Roots (Interlude),  Slowly Surely,  One Is the Magic #,  Watching Me,  Brotha,  Show Me
BONUS TRACKS:  Try,  Love Rain (Remix)
IMPRESSIONS:  Number three in our series of "Borders Albums"; that is, those albums which I got into heavily when I first started working at Borders in the Multimedia Section.  I can't hear this album without flashing back to wheeling my V-cart out to the music browsers and shelving cds in the classical music section (or in Maz's Jazz section when she was off) and listening to this album piped through the overhead speakers.  This also got me smoothly through my RPL's.  Ah, better days. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Exclusively,  Gettin' In the Way,  A Long Walk,  He Loves Me (Lyzel in B-Flat),  It's Love,  The Way,  Love Rain,  Slowly Surely,  One Is the Magic #
GUEST ARTISTS:  Mos Def  (vocals on "Love Rain (Remix)")
FACT SHEET:  WHO IS JILL SCOTT? WORDS AND SOUNDS VOL. 1 is Jill Scott's first album.  It was nominated for a "Best R&B Album" Grammy as well as a Penguin Award for Album of the Year. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

PARACHUTES   -   Coldplay

YEAR:  2000
LABEL:  Capitol/Parlophone
TRACK LISTING:  Don't Panic,  Shiver,  Spies,  Sparks,  Yellow,  Trouble,  Parachutes,  High Speed,  We Never Change,  Everything's Not Lost
BONUS TRACKS:  Life Is For Living  (hidden track)
IMPRESSIONS:  I don't like Coldplay anymore.  But this album is exquisitely rendered and quite rightly considered one of the best debut albums ever.  This is definitely the only Coldplay album to own as they promptly dropped the ball with their second album.  As evidenced by PARACHUTES, Chris Martin's songwriting ability went to hell after he lost his virginity!  This deceptively quiet album of intense yearning is a wonderfully powerful song cycle.  At least the first six songs are.  Less so the remainder of the album.  But oh, those first six songs!  Proving the old maxim that artists don't know squat about their own work, Chris Martin has said that Coldplay don't like this album:  "We know that's terrible music and we always try to think about what we can do next."  What they DID do next was crap.  This album shared the Penguin Award for Album of the Year with Rufus Wainwright's equally impressive sophomore effort POSES.  The apex of early 21st century music.  Shame it didn't last.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Don't Panic,  Shiver,  Spies,  Sparks,  Yellow,  Trouble
FACT SHEET:  PARACHUTES is Coldplay's first album.  It is number 12 on the list of biggest selling albums of the 21st century.  It won the Grammy for "Best Alternative Music Album" and the Brit Award for "Best British Album" and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

POSES   -   Rufus Wainwright

YEAR:  2001
LABEL:  Dreamworks
TRACK LISTING:  Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,  Greek Song,  Poses,  Shadows,  California,  The Tower of Learning,  Grey Gardens,  Rebel Prince,  The Consort,  One Man Guy,  Evil Angel,  In A Graveyard,  Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)
IMPRESSIONS:  A sweeping, baroque cavalcade of excess and paean to debauchery, POSES won the Penguin Award for Album of the Year (an honour it shares with Coldplay's PARACHUTES in the only tie ever reached in the category).  The absolute perfect word to describe this album was coined by Allmusic's Zac Johnson when he dubbed the album "popera":  a combination of pop and opera.  It is indeed operatic in a smudged mascara kind of way with faded roses trampled underfoot and glasses of absinthe waiting.  Or rather glasses of chocolate milk.  Most of the album was written during Wainwright's stay at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City which perhaps accounts for the album's sound of ornate dissipation.     
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,  Greek Song,  Poses,  California,  The Tower of Learning,  Grey Gardens,  Rebel Prince,  One Man Guy,  In A Graveyard,  Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)
GUEST ARTISTS:  Melissa Auf der Mar (bass, backing vocals on "Evil Angel"), Jim Keltner (drums on "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk", "The Consort" and "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)"),  Teddy Thompson (backing vocals on "California" and "One Man Guy", guitar on "One Man Guy"),  Martha Wainwright (backing vocals on "Poses", "California", "Rebel Prince", "One Man Guy" and "Evil Angel"), 
FACT SHEET:  POSES is Rufus Wainwright's second album.  "One Man Guy" is a cover of his father Loudon Wainwright III's song.  "Shadows" was co-written with the Propellorheads' Alex Gifford.  "Grey Gardens" is a tribute to the documentary film of the same name and Thomas Mann's "DEATH IN VENICE"; a soundbyte of dialogue spoken by "Little Edie" Beale is taken from the film.   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

RUNNING ON EMPTY   -   Jackson Browne

YEAR:  1977
LABEL:  Elektra/Asylum
TRACK LISTING:  Running On Empty,  The Road,  Rosie,  You Love the Thunder,  Cocaine,  Shaky Town,  Love Needs A Heart,  Nothing But Time,  The Load-Out,  Stay
IMPRESSIONS:  I'm no Jackson Browne fan; this is, in fact, the only Jackson Browne I own.  But the reason for that is that this was a major "camping" album during the early 90s when our group of friends headed out to the state park in early autumn.  I'm not sure if it was Cindy or the Queen (Dee Dee) who supplied this album but it was one of those in heavy rotation around the campfire.  Both ladies are sadly gone now so that makes this album particularly poignant to hear these days.  
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  The Road, You Love the Thunder,  Cocaine,  Shaky Town,  The Load-Out,  Stay
FACT SHEET:  RUNNING ON EMPTY is Jackson Browne's fifth album.  The album concept deals with touring and the album consists of songs recorded either live in front of an audience or in hotel rooms, etc.  Called by Bill Shapiro "audio verite", RUNNING ON EMPTY has an intimate feel to it and paradoxically became Browne's biggest selling album.      

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

JAZZ IN PARIS, VOL. 53:  CHET BAKER QUARTET PLAYS STANDARDS   -   Chet Baker

YEAR:  1955
LABEL:  Sunnyside/Emarcy
TRACK LISTING:  Summertime,  You Go To My Head,  Tenderly,  Lover Man,  There's A Small Hotel,  Autumn In New York,  These Foolish Things,  I'll Remember April
IMPRESSIONS:  A justly famous series of live performances by Chet Baker's Quartet in Paris originally released in 3 volumes, we now find here on this re-released cd.  Chet and his quartet are pretty sublime on this performance of standard ballads.  A late night album or something for a grey day, this album would even be perfect on a sunny summer afternoon.  The complete original Emarcy CHET IN PARIS recordings have also since been reissued on cd and Volume 2 contains everything here as well as other equally beautiful tracks not included here; but this is the cd that I had originally so this is the one I'm posting about.      
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em.
FACT SHEET:  JAZZ IN PARIS VOL. 53:  CHET BAKER QUARTET PLAYS STANDARDS is a newer cd version of performances culled from the Barclay series of CHET IN PARIS volumes originally released on Emarcy. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

COMEDIAN   -   Eddie Murphy

YEAR:  1983
LABEL:  CBS
TRACK LISTING:  Faggots Revisited/Sexual Prime,  Singers,  Ice Cream Man/Shoe Throwin' Mothers,  Modern Women,  The Barbecue,  The Fart Game,  Politics/Racism,  Languages,  TV
IMPRESSIONS:  Remember when Eddie Murphy was funny?  Wow, you ARE old, aren't you?!?  This comedy album makes me very nostalgic.  Hear this and I'm right back in Rustler days road tripping with Paul & Cheeks.  Actually, I never actually owned the physical album back then but only a recording made by Cheeks for a Cerpts tape.  It's also quite hilarious to me that Eddie Murphy does routines on racism almost simultaneously with routines on "faggots".  Ah, he was very, VERY young; I suppose one might blame it on the folly of youth.  Be that as it may, there is some fine comedy included on this album.  Sadly, the only thing missing is "My God Is Color Blind" and "Party All the Time".  But that would loom in the comedian's immediate future.   
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Singers,  Ice Cream Man/Shoe Throwin' Mothers,  The Barbecue,  The Fart Game,  Politics/Racism,  Languages,  TV
FACT SHEET:  COMEDIAN is Eddie Murphy's second album.  The stand-up appearing on this album also was included in the HBO comedy special "EDDIE MURPHY:  DELIRIOUS" which pretty much catapulted Murphy to mega-stardom. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

ROCKIN' WITH WANDA!   -   Wanda Jackson

YEAR:  1960
LABEL:  Capitol
TRACK LISTING:  Rock Your Baby,  Fujiyama Mama,  You're the One For Me,  Did You Miss Me?,  Cool Love,  Honey Bop,  Hot Dog! That Mad Him Mad,  Baby Loves Him,  Mean Mean Man,  You've Turned To A Stranger,  Dona'a Wan'a,  I Gotta Know,  (Everytime They Play) Our Song,  Sinful Heart,  Savin' My Love,  A Date with Jerry,  Reaching,  I'd Rather Have You
IMPRESSIONS:  The Queen of Rockabilly!  This is a super collection of Wanda's records up to 1960; however this isn't really a "greatest hits" album because "Hard Headed Woman" and "Let's Have a Party" are not to be found here.  Well, we can't have everything, can we?  Elvis Presley's protege could really knock out a rock and here's 18 of 'em:  "a collection of great country songs in the rhythmic singing style of Wanda Jackson"! 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Rock Your Baby,  Fujiyama Mama,  Did You Miss Me?,  Cool Love,  Honey Bop,  Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad,  Mean Mean Man,  You're Turned To A Stranger,  Dona'a Wan'a,  I Gotta Know,  (Everytime They Play) Our Song,  Savin' My Love,  Reaching
FACT SHEET:  ROCKIN' WITH WANDA is Wanda Jackson's second album. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

HEAR HOW TO SKIN DIVE   -   Lloyd Bridges

YEAR:  1961
LABEL:  Carlton
TRACK LISTING:  Where To Start,  Snorkel Diving,  Scuba Equipment,  Diving Science,  Scuba Fundamentals,  Entering the Diving Area,  Underwater,  Underwater Hunting,  Sea Denizens
IMPRESSIONS:  Ah, the age of instructional records.  Obviously, our friend Lloyd Bridges is here owing to his then-current role on the hit TV series "SEA HUNT".  Lloyd sounds a little cranky here; perhaps he was told to try to sound "manly" while simultaneously friendly.  This is the kind of ridiculous direction that would make me cranky too.  However, I'm only guessing.  Lloyd only sounds a little bit cranky.  While I do have some mild interest in scuba diving, any such devotion is not necessary to get great enjoyment from listening to these vintage instructional records which include everything from "HOW TO USE TACT AND SKILL WHEN HANDLING PEOPLE", "HOW TO BE A VENTRILOQUIST" or "HOW TO C.B." (all of which I also have in my vaults, natch).  But here, it's a plus to have a recognizable and admittedly charismatic star like Lloyd Bridges talk about something which he is actually fairly familiar with.  This 38 minutes and change with Lloyd under da sea is a wonderful listen.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em.  There's no sense in breaking up the lesson.
FACT SHEET:  HEAR HOW TO SKIN DIVE is an instructional record featuring Lloyd Bridges.  Apparently there were only 500 copies pressed (which I'm not sure I believe) so it's a pretty rare record.  It was in the Carlton "Hear How" series of LPs of which sadly this is my only example residing in my vaults.  Ah, but someday . . . someday . . .

Saturday, May 12, 2012

YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY   -   Julie London

YEAR:  1969
LABEL:  Liberty
TRACK LISTING:  Stoned Soul Picnic,  Like To Get To Know You,  Light My Fire,  It's Nice To Be With You,  Sunday Morning,  Hushabye Mountain,  The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo),  Come To Me Slowly,  And I Love Him,  Without Him,  Yummy Yummy Yummy,  Louie Louie
IMPRESSIONS:  One of the prime delirious examples of older performers in the 60's who try to make music that "the kids will dig".  Julie London however doesn't sound as totally at sea as most singers who try this trick; however, she is obviously in unfamiliar territory.  But this is what makes such a treasure trove of loungy lusciousness as London trades on her sultry image and smoky voice while negotiating the tricky (for her generation) tempos of contemporary pop hits by such trippy acts as the 5th Dimension, Spanky and Our Gang and the Ohio Express.  Her version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" is breathtaking (in whatever way you choose to interpret the word) while her slow version of "Louie Louie" is simply . . . well, unexpected would perhaps be the best word.  None of this implies bad, I'll have you know.  This isn't a "so bad it's good" album by any means.  London knows what she's doing musically (even if the goal itself may be questionable) and we have here a great "late lounge music" record.  If you don't "get" this album then the angels weep for you.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Stoned Soul Picnic,  Like To Get To Know You,  Sunday Morning,  Hushabye Mountain,  Come To Me Slowly,  And I Love Him,  Without Him,  Yummy Yummy Yummy,  Louie Louie
FACT SHEET:  YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY is Julie London's 30th album.  Can that be right?!?!  It was also her final album for Liberty Records:  her label since 1955.  "Stoned Soul Picnic" was written by Laura Nyro and was a hit for the 5th Dimension.  "Like To Get To Know You" and "Sunday Morning" are covers of Spanky & Our Gang songs.  "Light My Fire" is a Doors cover.  "It's Nice To Be With You" is a Monkees cover song.  "Hushabye Mountain" was written by Richard & Robert Sherman for "CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG".  "The Mighty Quinn" is a Bob Dylan cover.  "And I Love Him" is a cover of the Beatles' "And I Love Her".  "Without Him" is a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Without Her".  "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" is a cover of an Ohio Express hit single.  "Louie Louie" is a cover of Richard Berry's hit also covered by countless other artists. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

CHARLTON HESTON READS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT (THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES)   -   Charlton Heston

YEAR:  ???
LABEL:  Artemis/Vanguard
TRACK LISTING:  The First Day,  Chorus:  My Lord What a Morning,  The Second Day,  The Third Day,  The Fourth Day,  The Fifth Day,  The Sixth Day:  God Created Adam,  The Seventh Day,  Chorus:  Oh Lord What A Beautiful City,  The Garden of Eden,  God Created Eve,  The Serpent Apple and Expulsion,  Chorus:  Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,  Cain and Abel,  Chorus:  Too Late Sinner,  Conclusion Adam and Eve,  Chorus:  Noah Noah Hold On,  God Brings the Flood,  The Flood with Chorus:  Didn't It Rain,  The Rains Abate,  Abraham and Sarah,  Abraham and Isaac,  Chorus:  You Hear the Lambs A-Cryin',  Abraham and Isaac Conclusion,  The Story of Joseph,  Jacob In Israel with Chorus:  We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder,  Israel's People In Egypt,  The Infant Moses,  Chorus:  We Shall Overcome,  Moses Flees Egypt,  The Burning Bush,  The Plagues of Egypt,  Chorus:  Go Down Moses,  The Parting of the Red Sea,  Chorus:  Mary Don't You Weep,  Water from a Rock Manna from Heaven,  Chorus:  Come and Go With Me,  Contention Among the Israelites,  The Ten Commandments; the Golden Calf,  Chorus:  There Is A Balm in Gilead,  The Last Blessing of Moses,  Chorus:  Deep River,  The Death of Moses
IMPRESSIONS:  What could be better than Charlton Heston at his most bombastic paraphrasing the Old Testament while the Robert DeCormier Chorale sings wildly inappropriate negro spirituals which must've confused all hell out of ole Chuck.  Nothing, that's what.  High on the kitsch value probably even at the time, this nebulously released album (whose original release date I can't seem to find anywhere other than the cd re-release date of 2003), Heston probably scared hell out of any small children who happened to listen to this album.  Warm and cuddly he ain't.  This was obviously made post-TEN COMMANDMENTS movie probably in the late 50s - 60s.  Chuck's voice thunders over passage after passage in sometimes quite scary fashion as if he's going to shot anyone who doesn't immediately convert.  The Robert DeCormier Chorale also comes in a little too insistently (probably in self-defence to compete with la Chuck) and the spirituals sometimes come off as strident when a more subtle rendition might've been quite good (I am a fan of spirituals and true gospel music as opposed to that "Christian Contemporary" crap which is obviously the work of the evil one!!!).  Happily, Heston would follow this up with a sequel album "CHARLTON HESTON READS THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST" so the fun never ends!  This is the kind of album I often choose to mine for snippets to insert in between songs in my cd mixes to perplex the unaware.  It usually works.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Oh, come on!
GUEST ARTISTS:  The Robert DeCormier Chorale
FACT SHEET:  God only knows.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SONGS FOR A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM   -   Elsa Lanchester

YEAR:  1957
LABEL:  Hi-Fi
TRACK LISTING:  Never Go Walking Without Your Hat Pin,  If You Peek In My Gazebo,  Fiji Fanny,  When A Lady Has A Piazza,  The Rat-Catcher's Daughter,  At the Drive-In,  If You Can't Get In the Corners,  The Husband's Clock,  Please Sell No More Drink to My Father,  Linda and Her Londonderry Air,  Catalogue Woman,  Lola's Saucepan
IMPRESSIONS:  As a wee nipper I first became aware of this album by hearing "Never Go Walking Without Your Hat Pin" on the Dr. Demento Show circa 1977.  These are a type of double entendre British music hall songs you either appreciate or you don't.  I 'preciate.  Many thanks to the irrepressible Terry Frost for jogging my memory on this one by playing "Fiji Fanny" on his latest Paleo-Cinema podcast #101. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Never Go Walking Without Your Hat Pin,  Fiji Fanny,  When A Lady Has A Piazza,  At the Drive-In,  If You Can't Get In the Corners,  The Husband's Clock,  Please Sell No More Drink To My Father,  Linda and Her Londonderry Air,  Lola's Saucepan
GUEST ARTISTS:  Charles Laughton ("remarks")
FACT SHEET:  SONGS FOR A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM is, I suppose, Elsa Lanchester's first album but I can't really be sure of that.  I can tell you that this album and its 1958 follow-up "SONGS FOR A SHUTTERED PARLOR" were re-released (for some odd reason) only three years later in 1961 as "BAWDY COCKNEY SONGS" and "MORE BAWDY COCKNEY SONGS".  Lanchester co-founded a theatre called "The Cave of Harmony" in 1924 which put on plays by the likes of Pirandello and Chekhov where she was also a dancer.  In her autobiography, Lanchester says she gathered out-of-print songs in the British Museum to utilize as filler material to "re-create the Victorian era under the title of 'The Old Mahogany Bar'"  She was seen performing her bawdy music hall songs at the 'Cave of Harmony' by such luminaries as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, James Whale and future husband Charles Laughton who provides brief introductions to the songs on this record.  Oddly enough, while Lanchester mentions this period and her gathering the songs in her autobiography, she makes no mention of these two record albums; perhaps because she never considered herself to be a "singer " but a "...diseuse who tells a story rather than sings it".  This term is nicely defined by Laughton in his introduction to the first album track when he compares her to Rex Harrison in "MY FAIR LADY".  Years later at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood, Lanchester had a long-running stage show in which she revived these songs and this probably led to their transciption onto vinyl at this time.      

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE   -   Yo La Tengo

YEAR:  1997
LABEL:  Matador
TRACK LISTING:  Return To Hot Chicken,  Moby Octopad,  Sugarcube,  Damage,  Deeper Into Movies,  Shadows,  Stockholm Syndrome,  Autumn Sweater,  Little Honda,  Green Arrow,  One PM Again,  The Lie and How We Told It,  Center of Gravity,  Spec Bebop,  We're an American Band,  My Little Corner of the World
IMPRESSIONS:  Love and romance.  Love and romance.  Generally considered one of the finest albums of the 1990s and certainly a career high for the Hoboken band.  Spin's Robert Christgau called the first nine songs "perfect" with "Autumn Sweater" as the "very peak" of the album.  This is certainly one of those quintessential 90s albums which immediately evoke that time for me.  It's somewhat discombobulating to realize that music like this was all over the radio not that long ago and would never have a chance to be heard today.  Perhaps that's why I don't listen to the radio anymore.  There's quite a variety of sound on this album:  the quiet guitar-strumming of "Shadows", the Hammond Organ demonstrator sound of "Center of Gravity", the ambient instrumental "Green Arrow" and the fuzz-drone of "We're an American Band" which evokes everything from Bongwater to the Byrd's "Eight Miles High" to My Bloody Valentine.  A delicious album. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Return To Hot Chicken,  Moby Octopad,  Sugarcube,  Damage,  Shadows,  Stockholm Syndrome,  Autumn Sweater,  Little Honda,  Green Arrow,  One PM Again,  The Lie and How We Told It,  Center of Gravity,  We're An American Band
FACT SHEET:  I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE is Yo La Tengo's eighth album.  "Little Honda" is a Beach Boys cover written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love.  My Little Corner of the World is an Anita Bryant cover written by Bob Hilliard and Lee Pockriss.   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS   -   Fine Young Cannibals

YEAR:  1985
LABEL:  I.R.S.
TRACK LISTING:  Johnny Come Home,  Couldn't Care More,  Don't Ask Me To Choose,  Funny How Love Is,  Suspicious Minds,  Blue,  Move To Work,  On A Promise,  Time Isn't Kind,  Like a Stranger
BONUS TRACKS:  Johnny Come Home (Extended Mix),  Suspicious Mind (Extended Mix)
IMPRESSIONS:  This album means driving to college listening to this album on a battery-operated tape recorded sitting on the passenger seat of my 1975 copper Ford Granada.  It was the video I saw on late-night MTV that got me.  "Johnny Come Home":  the jazz-tinged minor-key single with the driving, heavy beat.  It was out to the Echelon Mall to pick up a copy of the LP on a swing-by during my commute to Glassboro State College.  Then it was the spectacular cover of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" that captured my heart.  And by the way, for some odd reason the cd release cover shown above recoloured the upper quadrant of the cover brown instead of its original blue found on the vinyl record cover.  The blue is superior.  After all, there's a song on the album (and it's second single) called "Blue"!  And for the record:  the band's second huge blockbuster album "THE RAW AND THE COOKED" left me cold.  No sir, I didn't like it.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Johnny Come Home,  Funny How Love Is,  Suspicious Minds,  Blue,  Move To Work,  Time Isn't Kind,  Johnny Come Home (Extended Mix),  Suspicious Minds (Extended Mix)
GUEST ARTISTS:  Jimmy Somerville  (backing vocals on "Suspicious Minds")
FACT SHEET:  FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS is Fine Young Cannibals' first album.  Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger left the English Beat to form General Public so remaining members Andy Cox and Dave Steele advertised on MTV for a new lead singer.  What they got was soul singer/actor Roland Gift and Fine Young Cannibals was born. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

HIP HOP GREATS:  CLASSIC RAPS   -   Various Artists

YEAR:  1990
LABEL:  Rhino
TRACK LISTING:  Rapper's Delight  -  Sugarhill Gang,  Fat Boys  -  Fat Boys,  White Lines (Don't Do It)  -  Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel,  Roxanne Roxanne  -  UTFO,  Jam On It  -  Newcleus,  It's Like That  -  Run-DMC,  The Message  -  Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five featuring Melle Mel & Duke Bootee,  Funk You Up  -  Sequence,  The Breaks  -  Kurtis Blow,  8th Wonder  -  Sugarhill Gang
IMPRESSIONS:  I originally had this album on cassette, y'all!  Can you believe that?!?  This was before I got my first cd player a year later.  Here we have rap back when it was fun!  When it was new.  Before it got tired and predictable.  The only problem with it is it's brevity; there are quite a lot of important and seminal rap songs missing from this album.  However, what's here is cherce.  And an extra added bonus is that it also features "Jam On It":  the song that gave me my nickname when Lynne M. dubbed me "Ricky Ricky Ricky" the first night I worked at my first job at Rustler Steak House.  Perhaps something like the later Rhino compilation "THE SUGAR HILL RECORDS STORY" is more comprehensive but this cd with it's colourful-striped cover has the nostalgic power for me. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Rapper's Delight  -  Sugarhill Gang,  White Lines (Don't Do It)  -  Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel,  Roxanne Roxanne  -  UTFO,  Jam On It  -  Newcleus,  It's Like That  -  Run-DMC,  The Message  -  Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five featuring Melle Mel & Duke Bootee,  The Breaks  -  Kurtis Blow,  8th Wonder  -  Sugarhill Gang
FACT SHEET:  HIP HOP GREATS:  CLASSIC RAPS is a Rhino compilation of early rap hits from the late 70's to the early 80's. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

CHILDREN'S TREASURY OF SUPERMAN MUSICAL STORIES  -  The Merriettes

YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  Tifton
TRACK LISTING:  Superman, Clark Kent,  Busy Busy Busy,  Lois Lane,  Superboy,  Kid Stuff,  Don't Want To Go Back to the 5th Dimension,  Mr. Mxyzptlk,  Jimmy Olsen,  The Lion and the Cub,  Krypto,  A Dog's Life
IMPRESSIONS:  Maybe Superman is a harder sell with me than Batman but this companion album to the other Merriettes lp is tedious whereas the Batman album is fun.  Granted, Superman is much more boring (Wayne?) than Batman but the singers even sound as if they're struggling to inject some life into the rather lackluster songs; one gets the sense of them reading the lyric sheets by rote rather than having a party as in the Batman record.  Ah well, it's still worth a listen for the kitschy 60's go-go music sound to the tunes.  A special warning:  the opening track "Superman" is obnoxiously annoying in parts.  High points are the absolute bizarreness of "Mr. Mxyzptlk" (which features the extra-dimensional imp pronouncing his name sounding like a chicken pulled backwards through a hedge) and the slightly obscene-toned "Jimmy Olsen".
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Busy Busy Busy,  Superboy,  Mr. Mxyzptlk,  Jimmy Olsen,  Krypto
FACT SHEET:  Yeah, I got nuthin'.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

CHILDREN'S TREASURY OF BATMAN MUSICAL STORIES  -  The Merriettes

YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  Tifton
TRACK LISTING:  Look Out For the Batman,  Ho Ho Ho The Joker's Wild,  The Wonderful Boy Wonder,  The Penguin,  Here Comes the Batmobile,  It's the Batman,  The Joker Gets Trumped,  There Goes Robin,  A Penguin Caper,  The Battiest Car Around
IMPRESSIONS:  The kiddiest of kiddie records.  The music here sounds very "Peter Pan Players" and is perfect for boppin' toddlers.  The singing is so breezy and chirpy it's hard to remember this album concerns the Dark Knight Detective.  Either released right on the cusp of the campy BATMAN TV show craze, it's particularly fun to hear the struggling orchestra try to cope with the hip, modern, go-go sound on "There Goes Robin".  One can only suppose children are instructed to do the "Batusi" while listening.  Also, the musical intro to "Ho Ho Ho The Joker's Wild" is nothing other than the "Casper the Friendly Ghost" theme surely lifted without permission.  Another well-known super-hero would get the "Merriettes" treatment . . . but that's a story for another day. . .
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Look Out For the Batman,  Ho Ho Ho The Joker's Wild,  The Penguin,  Here Comes the Batmobile,  It's the Batman,  The Joker Gets Trumped,  A Penguin Caper,  The Battiest Car Around
FACT SHEET:  No facts . . . just bats.

Friday, May 4, 2012

OXYGENE  -  Jean Michel Jarre

YEAR:  1976
LABEL:  Disques Dreyfud/Polydor
TRACK LISTING:  Oxygène (Part I),  Oxygène (Part II),  Oxygène (Part III),  Oxygène (Part IV),  Oxygène (Part V),  Oxygène (Part VI)
IMPRESSIONS:  I sought this album out after hearing snippets of "Oxygène (Part II)" in the film GALLIPOLI as well as the use of Jarre's EQUINOXE album in Carl Sagan's COSMOS series in 1980.  This was the height of electronic music which sounded bizarre or spacey in the late 70's - early 80's and I lapped it up with fiendish glee.  After having been raised on Mike Oldfield's first three albums, I was certainly predisposed to the likes of Kraftwerk, Isao Tomita or Jean Michel Jarre (and yes, even non-CHARIOTS OF FIRE Vangelis, if you please).   "Oxygène" is certainly one of those "headphones" albums as well as something equally suited for playing on the stereo in a darkened, candlelit room or driving through the night in your car.  Hearing "Oxygène" or its companion album "Equinoxe" always reminds me of a fun pasttime our family friend Ronnie taught me when I was a kid.  If you turn the TV to a non-used channel (this was the days before cable, folks) where there was nothing but "snow" and you turned the "brightness" all the way down to almost but not quite total blackness, the snow on the screen would appear as if you were flying through space and passing through millions of stars.  I'm here to tell you it worked and it was cool.  Much like the forward viewscreen as the starship Enterprise or the Millenium Falcon travelled through space.  Ah, for the analog seventies!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em.  The album plays as one continuous piece.
FACT SHEET:  OXYGENE is Jean Michel Jarre's third album.  Jarre recorded the album in his apartment kitchen using electronic instruments as well as analog synthesizers.  The cover painting is by Michel Granger; the album "Oxygène" was inspired by this painting when it was given to Jarre by his wife Charlotte Rampling.  "Oxygène (Part II)" was used in the soundtrack to the film GALLIPOLI.  The motif for "Oxygène (Part IV)" was based on Gershon Kingsley's hit single "Popcorn".

Thursday, May 3, 2012

AUTOBAHN   -   Kraftwerk

YEAR:  1974
LABEL:  Philips
TRACK LISTING:  Autobahn,  Kometenmelodie 1,  Kometenmelodie 2,  Mitternacht,  Morgenspaziergang
IMPRESSIONS:  It's astonishing to me that this album is from 1974 because I first encountered it when my parents brought it home sometime in the late 70's (circa 1979 probably).  This album always seemed to get played during springtime when the windows in the house could finally be opened and spring cleaning undertaken.  The title track is obviously perfect for driving with the car windows down on a sunny spring day.  The album cover pictured above is the version I know from the vinyl LP we had back in the late 70's; however, the current remastered cd version has the blue and white graphic which can be glimpsed in the upper left corner of the photo above.   
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  How can you NOT listen to the entire album so I'm afraid it's all of 'em again.  But especially the towering "Autobahn", natch.
FACT SHEET:  AUTOBAHN is Kraftwerk's fourth album.  Kraftwerk are Ralf Hütter (vocals, electronics), Florian Schneider (vocals, electronics), Klaus Röder (violin, guitar) and Wolfgang Flür (percussion).  The cover painting is by Emil Schult.  A severly editted three-and-a-half minute single version of the title track was released and went to #11 on the UK charts and #25 on the US Billboard Hot 100.  While much of the album is electronic, there are analog instruments including violin, guitar, flute and synthesizer.  The title track features both untreated vocals as well as vocals filtered through a vocoder; the rest of the album is instrumental.  "Autobahn" of course is meant to evoke the feeling of driving on Germany's superhighway; passing through the landscape, accelerating into the fast lane and the general monotony of a long road trip evoked by the hypnotic rhythm of the track.  Specifically, the track is meant to refer to the first Autobahn stretch of the A555 from Köln to Bonn.  The rest of the tracks have a two-part structure of an introduction followed by a main section; all of which loosely based on a nighttime theme.  "Kometenmelodie" means "Comet Melody" in German.  "Mitternacht" translates to "Midnight" and "Morgenspaziergang"means "Morning Stroll".  "Morgenspaziergang" utilizes electronically-created birdsong and concludes with an extended variation of the melody heard in the first section of the title track. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MOJO MUSIC GUIDE VOL. 2:  ROOTS OF HIP HOP   -   Various Artists

YEAR:  2003
LABEL:  Mojo
TRACK LISTING:  Adventures of Flash on the Wheels of Steel  -  Grandmaster Flash,  Get Out of My Life Woman  -  Lee Dorsey,  Tramp  -  Lowell Fulson,  Itch and Scratch (Part 1),  In the Whole  -  The Bar-Kays,  No Strings Attached  -  The Mad Lads,  Give It Up or Turnit A Loose  -  James Brown,  Lucretia Mac Evil  -  Blood Sweat & Tears,  The Grunt (Parts 1 & 2)  -  the JB's,  Get Up & Get Down  -  The Dramatics,  Here I Am (Come & Take Me)  -  Al Green,  Gotta Get Away  -  Flaming Ember,  It's Just Begun  -  The Jimmy Castor Bunch,  NT  -  Kool & the Gang,  Bra  -  Cymande,  Flash Light  -  Parliament,  King Tim III  -  The Fatback Band,  That's the Joint  -  Funky 4 + 1
IMPRESSIONS:  One of the better cover-mounted cds produced by MOJO magazine over the years, this one provides the funk, all right.  Funk funk funk and some soul and rap as well.  Particularly fun to listen to is the cd opener of Grandmaster Flash's remix 12" EP utilizing his various past productions combined into an autobiographical turntable classic.  There's the much-sampled drum beat from Lee Dorsey's "Get Out of My Life Woman" as well as James Brown's "Give It Up or Turnit A Loose".  The early days of rap can be glimpsed with fun tracks "King Tim III" and "That's the Joint" by the Fatback Band and Funky 4 + 1 respectively.  This is one of Mojo's most satisfying listens from start to finish as it keeps the groove on the move!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Adventures of Flash on the Wheels of Steel, Get Out of My Life Woman  -  Lee Dorsey,  Itch and Scratch (Part 1)  -  Rufus Thomas,  In the Whole  -  The Bar-Kays,  No Strings Attached  -  The Mad Lads,  Give It Up or Turnit A Loose  -  James Brown,  The Grunt (Parts 1 & 2)  -  The JB's,  Get Up & Get Down  -  The Dramatics,  Here I Am (Come & Take Me)  -  Al Green,  Gotta Get Away  -  The Flaming Ember,  It's Just Begun  -  The Jimmy Castor Bunch,  NT  -  Kool & the Gang,  Flash Light  -  Parliament,  King Tim III  -  The Fatback Band,  That's the Joint  -  Funky 4 + 1 
FACT SHEET:  MOJO MUSIC GUIDE VOL. 2:  ROOTS OF HIP HOP is a cd given away free with the September 2003 issue of Great Britain's music magazine MOJO.  It is the second in a series of 4 "music guide" volumes released at the time:  the others were Vol. 1: Instant Garage, Vol. 3: Raw Soul and Vol. 4: Blues Power. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SCOTT   -   Scott Walker
YEAR:  1967
LABEL:  Philips/Fontana
TRACK LISTING:  Mathilde,  Montague Terrace (In Blue),  Angelica,  The Lady Came From Baltimore,  When Joanna Loved Me,  My Death,  The Big Hurt,  Such A Small Love,  You're Gonna Hear From Me,  Through A Long and Sleepless Night,  Always Coming Back To You,  Amsterdam
IMPRESSIONS:  After (actually still during) the phenomenal success of the Walker Brothers, Scott Walker continued that success with his legendary first four solo albums of which this is the first.  Far from the teen idol bluesy heartthrob releases of the "Brothers", Scott's solo material is something like an absinthe-drinking Tom Jones singing the theme from "VALLEY OF THE DOLLS"!  It has been labelled "baroque pop" and I suppose that's as good a name as any to describe the sometimes gothic but always moody and atmospheric songs Scott placed on his first solo album.  Nearly all handpicked covers with a smattering of original compositions like raindrops on a London street, SCOTT is certainly an album to spin on grey days or deep, dark nights of the soul.  Walker's fondness for Jacques Brel emerges on the opening track which comes off like a demented dark carnival featuring strings occasionally evoking Bernard Herrmann's PSYCHO stings and the sudden appearance of mariachi-type brass; all provided by the wonderful Wally Stott's arrangements and conducting.  The next song is an operatic and dramatic original Scott Walker composition which has all the bleakness of a hard-boiled detective novel without the crime; and one can certainly spot the huge influence Scott's vocals would have on David Bowie several years later!  Scott follows that with song by Brill Building popmeisters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann which could've (and may even have been) recorded by the Monkees; however Scott Walker's soaring vocals and Reg Guest's rainy day arrangements transform the song into the singer's very own.  The album continues in this vein throughout it's entire (too brief) running time leaving the listener gasping for more.  Thankfully for us, we can immediately pop on SCOTT 2!  But that's a (sordid) tale for another (rainy) day. . .

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Montague Terrace (In Blue),  Angelica,  The Big Hurt,  Such A Small Love,  You're Gonna Hear From Me,  Through A Long and Sleepless Night,  Always Coming Back To You,  Amsterdam
GUEST ARTISTS:  Wally Stott (arranger, conductor), Reg Guest (arranger, conductor), Peter Knight (arranger, conductor)
FACT SHEET:  SCOTT is Scott Walker's first album.  It was released only six months after the Walker Brothers' IMAGES album and reached #3 on the UK album charts remaining there for 17 weeks.  "Mathilde" was written by Jacques Brel and
Gérard Jouannest and translated into English by Mort Shuman.  "Montague Terrace (In Blue)", "Such A Small Love" and "Always Coming Back To You" were written by Noel Scott Engel (aka Scott Walker).  Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann wrote "Angelica".  Tim Hardin wrote "The Lady Came From Baltimore".  Robert Wells and Jack Segal wrote the standard "When Joanna Loved Me".  Jacques Brel wrote "My Death" and "Amsterdam" both translated into English by Mort Shuman.  "The Big Hurt" was written by Wayne Shanklin and originally recorded by Toni Fisher.  Andre Previn and Dory Previn wrote "You're Gonna Hear From Me".  "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" was written by Mack Gordon and Alfred Newman.