Friday, November 30, 2012

DISCOVERY  -  DAFT PUNK

YEAR:  2001
LABEL:  Virgin
TRACK LISTING:  One More Time,  Aerodynamic,  Digital Love,  Harder Better Faster Stronger,  Crescendolls,  Nightvision,  Superheroes,  High Life,  Something About Us,  Voyager,  Veridis Quo,  Short Circuit,  Face To Face,  Too Long
IMPRESSIONS:  Don't you just love French musical robots?  Whether they intended it or not (and I think they DID), the album title is always pronounced by me "Disco (pause) Very".  Daft Punk, following up their influential first album (which had a "Chicago House" sounds as opposed to DISCOVERY's synthpop/disco house sound) from four years earlier, reigned at the tippy top of noughties house music.  I was never really into that genre but managed to pick up some of the best house albums through the years and this is definitely one of them.  The thing I enjoy most, apart from the obviously hook-heavy music, is the tremendous sense of humour to all the songs.  I think this album slightly makes up for the French love of Jerry Lewis and proves that sometimes they actually have a good sense of humour.  There is, of course, a load of disco tropes to be heard here as well as other seventies "sounding" musical devices.  The album creates such a particular soundscape that it served as the sole soundtrack of the Japanese anime film "Interstella 555:  The Story of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem" which . . . yes . . . I also own.  Listening to this album is just such a pleasant experience; I think the word "giddiness" has been used.  Thomas Bangalter described the vibe of the album in a Remix magazine interview thusly:  "This album has a lot to do with our childhood and the memories of the state we were in at that stage of our lives. It's about our personal relationship to that time. It's less of a tribute to the music from 1975 to 1985 as an era, and more about focusing on the time when we were zero to ten years old. When you're a child you don't judge or analyze music. You just like it because you like it. You're not concerned with whether it's cool or not. Sometimes you might relate to just one thing in a song, such as the guitar sound. This album takes a playful, fun, and colorful look at music."  Regardless, it's an indispensible album of the noughties.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  One More Time,  Aerodynamic,  Digital Love,  Harder Better Faster Stronger,  Nightvision,  Something About Us,  Voyager,  Veridis Quo,  Face To Face
GUEST ARTISTS:  Romanthony (vocals on "One More Time" and "Too Long",  Todd Edwards (vocals and production on "Face To Face")
FACT SHEET:  DISCOVERY is Daft Punk's second album.  Daft Punk are robots.  Or else they're French electronic music duo Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter.  The album provides the soundtrack to the "INTERSTELLA 555" anime film by Leiji Matsumoto and Toei Animation.  The album's departure from the sound of the previous HOMEWORK album confused and annoyed some fans but critical reception was usually extraordinarily good.  Q Magazine rated it 5 out of 5 stars (a rarity), Resident Advisor rated it the fourth best album of the decade, and Rhapsody as well as Pitchfork Media both rated it #12 of the best albums of the decade.  The album was also nominated for a 2001 Penguin Award as well as both "Something About Us" and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" were also nominated for Song of the Year.   

Thursday, November 29, 2012

10 FROM 6  -  BAD COMPANY

YEAR:  1985
LABEL:  Atlantic
TRACK LISTING:  Can't Get Enough,  Feel Like Makin' Love,  Run With the Pack,  Shooting Star,  Movin' On,  Bad Company,  Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy,  Electricland,  Ready For Love,  Live For the Music
IMPRESSIONS:  Loathe as I am to include "greatest hits" albums on here, that eventually occurs in certain cases and here is one of them.  This is the only album I own by Bad Company (with the exception of some live reunion cd released in the last decade).  But more importantly, this is a "Sizzler album" with nostalgic connotations to my mind.  This album means to me heading to Guppy's condo after work most nights to hang out and drink copious amounts of vodka.  Guppy was called "Guppy" cuz she drank like a fish; the only things in her refrigerator were a bottle of Absolut and some lemons!  But for some reason, one of the albums we listened to A LOT there and at the time generally (this was circa 1991) was this Bad Company "Best Of".  It's always seemed odd to me how this very English rock supergroup had all these cowboy-sounding songs; but England has always had more of a lingering love affair with the Western than we indigenous Yanks.  Be that as it may, this album is chock full of great songs which practically define the term "70's classic rock" and the eponymous song "Bad Company" is one of my all-time favourites.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Can't Get Enough,  Run with the Pack,  Movin' On,  Bad Company,   Electricland,  Ready For Love
FACT SHEET:  10 FROM 6 is Bad Company's first "greatest hits" album culled from their first six albums:  hence the title referring to 10 songs from 6 albums.  Those albums being:  BAD COMPANY (1974), STRAIGHT SHOOTER (1975), RUN WITH THE PACK (1976), BURNIN' SKY (1977), DESOLATION ANGELS (1979) and ROUGH DIAMONDS (1982).  The personnel of "supergroup" Bad Co. included singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke (from Free), guitarist Mick Ralphs (from Mott the Hoople) and bassist Boz Burrell (from King Crimson).  10 FROM 6 has been certified double platinum.      

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

AT MISTER KELLY'S  --  SARAH VAUGHAN

YEAR:  1957
LABEL:  EmArcy
TRACK LISTING:  September in the Rain,  Willow Weep For Me,  Just One of Those Things, Be Anything (But Be Mine),  Thou Swell,  Stairway To the Stars,  Honeysuckle Rose,  Just A Gigolo,  How High the Moon,  Dream,  I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,  It's Got To Be Love,  Alone,  If This Isn't Love,  Embraceable You,  Lucky In Love,  Dancing in the Dark,  Poor Butterfly,  Sometimes I'm Happy,  I Cover the Waterfront
IMPRESSIONS:  Sarah Vaughan's first live album is an easy and swinging affair with the Divine One bantering easily with the audience.  The cd release has, of course, given us much more of the original performances including one or two lyrical flubs by Sassy (despite using lyrics sheets as stated by the emcee at the beginning of the concert).  This album was fairly early in the live LP stakes but it still sounds fresh and modern without any sense of archaic production.  As I've said, Sassy swings the up-tempo songs and sounds really on point vocally in the ballads as well; she sounds really involved in the performance.  She expertly lays back in the tempo of such songs as Fats Waller's "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" or Johnny Mercer's "Dream" with a confidence and assuredness of masterly control that is astonishing.  John Bush of Allmusic states it rather better:  "her unerring sense of rhythm carries her through every song on this set, whether the occasion calls for playfulness and wit ("Thou Swell," "Honeysuckle Rose") or a world-wise melancholia ("Willow Weep for Me")" and that the album captures her at her "best and most relaxed".  There are also some nice surprises on display i.e. her slowed-down version of the usually frenetic "Just a Gigolo" or her playful imitation of Ella Fitzgerald's scat singing on "How High the Moon". 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  September in the Rain,  Willow Weep For Me,  Thou Swell,  Stairway to the Stars,  Honeysuckle Rose,  Just a Gigolo,  How High the Moon,  Dream,  I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,  It's Got To Be Love,  Embraceable You,  Poor Butterfly,  I Cover the Waterfront
FACT SHEET:  AT MISTER KELLY'S is Sarah Vaughan's first live album; it was recorded between August 6 - 8, 1957 at Mister Kelly's Club in Chicago.  Sarah Vaughan's trio includes Jimmy Jones (piano), Richard Davis (double bass) and Roy Haynes (drums). 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BONA DRAG  -  MORRISSEY

YEAR:  1990
LABEL:  Sire
TRACK LISTING:  Piccadilly Palare,  Interesting Drug,  November Spawned a Monster,  Will Never Marry,  Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference,  The Last of the Famous International Playboys,  Ouija Board Ouija Board,  Hairdresser On Fire,  Everyday Is Like Sunday,  He Knows I'd Love To See Him,  Yes I Am Blind,  Lucky Lisp,  Suedehead,  Disappointed
IMPRESSIONS:  Somehow I'd totally missed the Smiths the first time around.  It was the music of solo Morrissey I encountered first here on this oddball collection I got from the BMG Music Service back in 1990.  And I quite enjoyed the rococo songs herein and found myself spinning them fairly frequently.  Also my mother was a fan.  It wasn't until years later that my dear wifey Lisa* gave me pretty much the entire recorded output of the Smiths.  However, it is with my wifey that my favourite story about Morrissey occurs -- and my one degree of separation with the nutball.  {I hope I get the story right; I haven't heard you tell it in years so let me know if I get it wrong, dahling.}  Lisa* and some friends were waiting in line to see Morrissey but La Mo was very, very late.  When he pushed his way through the waiting crowd without making eye contact or apologizing or doing anything other than acting surly, my Lisa*, in order to express her displeasure, started yelling "JOHNNY MARR!  JOHNNY MARR! JOHNNY MARR!" and instituted a chant amongst the throng.  Love it!  And hey, I love this compilation cd too.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Piccadilly Palare,  Interesting Drug,  November Spawned a Monster,  Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference,  The Last of the Famous International Playboys,  Ouija Board Ouija Board,  Hairdresser On Fire,  Everyday Is Like Sunday,  Yes I Am Blind,  Suedehead,  Disappointed
GUEST ARTISTS:  Graham "Suggs" McPherson (vocals on "Piccadilly Palare"),  Kirsty MacColl (backing vocals on "Interesting Drug")
FACT SHEET:  BONA DRAG is a 1990 compilation cd of songs selected from Morrissey's previous solo albums dating from between 1987 to 1989; this is not a greatest hits compilation but is a sampling of his non-album singles and b-sides.  During this period, Morrissey focussed on releasing singles that were stand-alones and not from any album; it was this cd which collected some of them (and other material) onto an album for the first time.  This change in "policy" occurred after the release of Morrissey's 1988 album "VIVA HATE" when the artist decided that, rather than produce a follow-up album he would release a string of singles before working on the next album.  Thusly, Morrissey released top ten hit singles "The Last of the International Playboys" and "Interesting Drug" followed by "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" throughout 1989.  Soon realising that he would not in fact be able to put together an entire album of new material soon enough, Morrissey scrapped this strategy and decided to put together a compilation album of singles and b-sides instead.  In May 1990, he released the single "November Spawned a Monster" and the following October released the single "Piccadilly Palare" and the "BONA DRAG" album on the same day.  The album contains the strongest material from Morrissey first three years as a solo artists including "Suedehead" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday" from the "VIVA HATE" album.  "BONA DRAG" was the first album to break Morrissey into the US charts:  "Piccadilly Palare" and "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" both hit #2 on the "Modern Rock" charts, with "The Last of the International Playboys" hitting #3, "November Spawned a Monster" making #6, and "Interesting Drug" at #11.  Wikipedia states:  "Bona Drag launched Morrissey's career in the US, and in many ways it marked the turning point after which he became less popular in the UK but achieved increasing success in America."  The title "Bona Drag" is "Polari" slang for "nice outfit"; the slang form is highlighted on the opening track "Piccadilly Palare".  The cover photo is taken from Morrissey's video for "November Spawned a Monster"; his shirt was optically altered from black to red.  In 2010, an expanded edition of "BONA DRAG" was released including 6 new bonus tracks of outtakes and different mixes of "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" (edited in the middle section), "Piccadilly Palare" (including an extra verse circulated on bootlegs), "Interesting Drug" (fades into "November Spawned a Monster") and "Suedehead" (edited to remove guitar fade on the intro).  The new edition features Morrissey's jacket changed back from red to the original black again.  I have it not.     

Monday, November 26, 2012

THE GREAT MILENKO  -  INSANE CLOWN POSSE

YEAR:  1997
LABEL:  Island/Psychopathic Records
TRACK LISTING:  Intro,  Great Milenko,  Hokus Pokus,  Piggy Pie,  How Many Times?,  Southwest Voodoo,  Halls of Illusions,  Under the Moon,  What Is A Juggalo?,  House of Horrors,  Boogie Woogie Wu,  The Neden Game,  Hellalujah,  Down With the Clown,  Just Like That,  Pass Me By
IMPRESSIONS:  This was the first of the Joker's Cards I got into in a really big way (working backwards to RIDDLE BOX soon after) and this shows by the fact that I nominated it for a Penguin Award for Album of the Year.  The dunderheaded rap of ICP combined with an expertly hidden morality and some good ole axe murders made for a strange combination but one I found to be very amusing.  The mystique of the "Dark Carnival" and the six "Joker's Cards" melted this horror-fan's heart and the abundance of hooks melted my ears.  And how can you not love an album which starts with Alice Cooper introducing it?  And the fact that the whole album was made by Disney is just too hilarious to forget!  The title track is a monster "head-nodder" you can't help but move to -- as is the rather profound (for wicked clowns) "How Many Times?" which holds up as a stand-out track.  Seriously though . . . who was asleep at Disney that didn't realize what kind of album Insane Clown Posse was gonna produce?!?!?!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Intro,  Great Milenko,  Hokus Pokus,  Piggie Pie,  How Many Times?,  What Is A Juggalo?,  House of Horrors,  Boogie Woogie Wu,  The Neden Game,  Hellalujah,  Pass Me By
GUEST ARTISTS:  Alice Cooper (narration on "Intro"),  Steve Jones (guitar on "Piggy Pie"),  Slash (guitar on "Halls of Illusions"), Rich "Legs Diamond" Murrell (vocals, guitar on "Piggie Pie", "How Many Times", "Halls of Illusions", House of Horrors", "Hellalujah" and "Pass Me By"), Deb Agoli (vocals on "Intro", "Hokus Pokus" and "House of Horrors")
FACT SHEET:  THE GREAT MILENKO is Insane Clown Posse's fourth album and the fourth "Joker's Card".  The Great Milenko (in the "Dark Carnival" mythology) is a "Necromaster" illusionist who tricks people into "greed, envy and lust" and warns them against committing these sins.  The album was released by Disney-owned Hollywood records who quickly pulled the album from release laughingly stating that they didn't realize what the album's content would be -- despite the fact they spent a million dollars making it.  Island Records agreed to take the album and release it untouched.  The album features guest appearances by original horror-glam rocker Alice Cooper, the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones and former Guns N Roses guitar hero (and self-confessed ICP fan) Slash.  A song called "House of Wonders" was originally recorded for this album but didn't make it; instead winding up on the collection "FORGOTTEN FRESHNESS VOLUME 1 & 2"; this cd compilaton also features the "uncensored" version of "Piggy Pie".  THE GREAT MILENKO was produced by DJ Mike E. Clark who brought a stronger "rock" sound and better production to the album.  The strong sense of morality always hidden beneath ICP's violent lyrics always guaranteed that those punished with violence in the songs were guilty of such sins as bigotry, perversion, violence and injustice themselves; the innocent never get axed in an ICP song.  This quite clear theme throughout ALL the Joker's Cards assured my guessing quite early that Violent J and Shaggy were secretly Christians; a fact revealed in the final Joker's Card to some juggaloes' dismay.  In 2009, long-running horror magazine FANGORIA named "THE GREAT MILENKO" an iconic horrorcore album . . . whatever THAT means.  The album was also nominated for a Penguin Award for Album of the Year.   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HELP!  -  THE BEATLES

YEAR:  1965
LABEL:  Capitol/Parlophone
TRACK LISTING:  Help!,  The Night Before,  You've Got To Hide Your Love Away,  I Need You,  Another Girl,  You're Going To Lose That Girl,  Ticket To Ride,  Act Naturally,  It's Only Love,  You Like Me Too Much,  Tell Me What You See,  I've Just Seen A Face,  Yesterday,  Dizzy Miss Lizzy
IMPRESSIONS:  This is not the HELP! album I grew up with; that was the US version which was truly a soundtrack album featuring instrumental pieces from the movie on half the album.  However, this is the "real" HELP! album and what's to be said about it that hasn't been said before.  Obviously it's got some solid mid-period Beatles numbers in it.  There's John Lennon's favourite Beatles song "Help!" which he preferred in its original slow-tempo, piano-driven ballad format instead of the commercial rocker it became; the song was Lennon's self-described "fat Elvis" song which was an unconscious cry for help by Lennon at the time.  Then there's apparently everybody ELSE'S favourite Beatles song "Yesterday" which is actually a solo track by Paul McCartney with no other Beatles present; the song was thought by its author to be somebody else's so he constantly went around humming the tune to everyone he met asking "What's this song?"  After everyone assured him that it was indeed a newly-written song and not someone else's, Paul assigned it the temporary title "Scrambled Eggs" before the lyrics were finalized.  Also featuring two George Harrison songs (of varying degrees of success) for the first time on a Beatles album since 1963's "WITH THE BEATLES".  A good, solid Beatles album.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Help!,  The Night Before,  You've Got To Hide Your Love Away,  I Need You,  Another Girl,  You're Going To Lose That Girl,  Ticket To Ride,  I've Just Seen A Face,  Yesterday
GUEST ARTISTS:  John Scott (flute on "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away)
FACT SHEET:  HELP! is the Beatles' fifth album and the "somewhat" soundtrack to their second movie; seven songs appear in the film.  The iconic cover photo is by Robert Freeman and DOES NOT feature the Beatles spelling out H-E-L-P in semaphore; they were supposed to originally but the correct letters did not look aesthetically pleasing so the fabs are in fact spelling out the letters N-U-J-V.  Of course, the Beatles being the Beatles, the original UK cover photo was reverse-printed so, if you hold it up to a mirror, the boys are spelling out L-P-U-S (i.e. "Help us").  "Act Naturally" was written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison.  "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" was written by Larry Williams.  "I Need You" and "You Like Me Too Much" were written by George Harrison; all the other songs are by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  This is the last Beatles album to feature cover songs until "LET IT BE" in 1970 included folk song "Maggie Mae".  The song "Wait" was originally recorded for this album but instead ended up going on "RUBBER SOUL" when it was one song short.       

Saturday, November 24, 2012

THE ROCKIN'EST  -  THE COLLINS KIDS

YEAR:  1997
LABEL:  Columbia/Bear Family
TRACK LISTING:  Hop Skip and Jump,  Hoy Hoy,  Beetle-Bug-Bop,  Just Because,  Whistle Bait,  I'm In My Teens,  Move A Little Closer,  Hot Rod,  Rock Boppin' Baby,  Go Away Don't Bother Me,  The Rockaway Rock,  Rock and Roll Polka,  The Cuckoo Rock,  Sweet Talk,  Hush Money,  They're Still In Love,  Make Him Behave,  Shortnin' Bread Rock,  Heartbeat,  The Lonesome Road,  Mercy,  Party
IMPRESSIONS:  I have never been a fan of "precocious youths"; usually because kid performers are nowhere near as good as they're touted to be.  When described as "remarkable for a kid" that means they're not equal to an adult level of performance.  The Collins Kids could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their adult peers and quite often outdo them.  Little Larry Collins was an acknowledged guitar master by age 10 who played his double-necked Mosrite with lightning dexterity while his older sister (by two years) Lorrie sang with adult-sounding forceful assuredness to match any female singer of her day.  While performing seemingly juvenile songs as "I'm In My Teens", it was only the subject matter that dealt with their ages; the songs were not children's novelty but straight-ahead, solid rockabilly which sounded more "grown-up" then a lot of their "adult" peers.  Larry's guitar mentor was Joe Maphis and the youngster learned his craft well.  Lorrie became the first girlfriend of teen idol Ricky Nelson and allegedly broke his heart when she broke up with him and married another guy.  Regardless of the "gimmick" of their young ages, the Collins Kids were the real deal; knocking out rockabilly belters on the stage of "TOWN HALL PARTY" which, when at their best, blew veteran performers right off the stage.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Hop Skip and Jump,  Hoy Hoy,  Whistle Bait,  I'm In My Teens,  Move A Little Closer,  Hot Rod,  Rock Boppin' Baby,  Rock and Roll Polka,  Sweet Talk,  Shortnin' Bread Rock,  Heartbeat,  The Lonesome Road,  Mercy,  Party
FACT SHEET:  THE ROCKIN'EST is a compilation of the Collins Kids' songs ranging from the years 1955 to 1959.  Lorrie and Larry became regular performers on TOWN HALL PARTY beginning in 1954 and also the show's TV version "TEX RITTER'S RANCH PARTY" from 1957 to 1959.  Larry is also a successful songwriter whose most famous composition is "Delta Dawn".  The duo reunited in 1993 for an English rockabilly concert and have performed together many times since.   

Friday, November 23, 2012

HERGEST RIDGE  -  MIKE OLDFIELD

YEAR:  1974
LABEL:  Virgin
TRACK LISTING:  Hergest Ridge Part One,  Hergest Ridge Part Two
IMPRESSIONS:  TUBULAR BELLS was the big commercial monster hit; even before THE EXORCIST utilized it, the album was a blockbuster.  Naturally, a follow-up was demanded and HERGEST RIDGE was it.  Also a commercial and critical success, Mike Oldfield's second album was much more "quiet" than his previous; I might actually go so far as to call it Mike Oldfield's "pastoral album".  After all, the album cover (which Oldfield says he was "never entirely sold on" for some reason) features as it's four major images:  sky, grass, doggie and model airplane.  And the very name of the album derives from the Hergest Ridge summit nearby Oldfield's house at the time.  The album, of course, follows much of the previous pattern; it's a piece broken into two movements (to fascillitate vinyl's side one and side two) and features building, interweaving instrumentals and melodies; however, like I said this is a more "lyrical" and quite "medieval" sounding album to my ears, quieter, less fireworks (in fact, for the first re-release in 1976 as part of the 4 LP vinyl box set "BOXED", Oldfield remixed and removed some of the "bells and whistles" that made the original release more "Tubular Bells-like" and announced his preference for the remixed version.  I have the original vinyl LP, the vinyl "BOXED" set as well as the cd of this album and I still don't know if I can speak to the differences between them -- I haven't heard the original vinyl for years.  However, I waver back and forth as to whether HERGEST RIDGE or its follow-up OMMADAWN is my favourite Mike Oldfield album; OMMADAWN being something of a melding between the commercial blockbuster TUBULAR BELLS and the mellower HERGEST RIDGE.  The building up of textures seems more seamless here than on TUBULAR BELLS making the entire work feel more "organic".  While OMMADAWN usually pips this album to the post as my favourite Oldfield work, HERGEST RIDGE is always closely nipping at its heels.  
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  It's all one track, folks.
FACT SHEET:  HERGEST RIDGE is Mike Oldfield's second album.  The album is named after the hill Hergest Ridge summit near Kington, Herefordshire close to the English/Welsh border; Oldfield lived there at the time in a house called "The Beacon" (now a guest house and popular tourist destination for Oldfield fans) wherein Oldfield wrote the album.  The album itself was recorded at Branson's The Manor as was its predecessor TUBULAR BELLS.  HERGEST RIDGE entered the UK album charts at number one; it was displaced by TUBULAR BELLS(!); this making Mike Oldfield among the select company of artists (like The Beatles and Bob Dylan) who knocked themselves off the number one spot.  The album was produced by Tom Newman and features choral vocals by the London Sinfonietta.  The original vinyl mix has been released on cd in 2010 along with a new remix and different cover art.     

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TRUE COLOURS  -  SPLIT ENZ

YEAR:  1980
LABEL:  A&M
TRACK LISTING:  I Got You,  Shark Attack,  What's the Matter With You?,  Double Happy,  I Wouldn't Dream Of It,  I Hope I Never,  Nobody Takes Me Seriously,  Missing Person,  Poor Boy,  How Can I Resist Her?,  The Choral Sea
IMPRESSIONS:  The album that broke Split Enz in the USA.  A classic in every respect, this is the album that produced the first videos I'd ever seen of the band on MTV:  that is, the videos for "I Got You" and "I Hope I Never".  My love for Split Enz has probably been covered enough already in my previous posts here so I'll give you a break and not go over old territory.  Suffice it to say that the album cover of this album was released with many different colour combinations; the above "yellow and blue" model was what my original vinyl LP looked like whereas my cd has the red and green cover.  I prefer my original.  Also, the original vinyl features the spectacular "laser etching" of geometric patterns right on the grooves themselves; this effect truly was (and is) spectacular as it catches the light brilliantly.  I still have mine.  As good as this album is, the next album ("WAIATA" aka "CORROBOREE") would be better still and the following "TIME AND TIDE" is a masterpiece.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  I Got You,  Shark Attack,  What's the Matter With You?,  I Hope I Never,  Nobody Takes Me Seriously,  Poor Boy,  The Choral Sea
FACT SHEET:  TRUE COLOURS is Split Enz's fifth album.  The band's line-up for this album was Tim Finn (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Neil Finn (lead vocals, guitar), Noel Crombie (vocals, percussion), Malcolm Green (drums), nigel Griggs (bass guitar) and Eddie Rayner (keyboards).  The original album featured "Shark Attack" as track one and "I Got You" as track two but the success of the latter as a hit single prompted US label A&M to switch the order so that the popular hit would lead off the album.  Just to prove the old axiom that artists never can judge their own best stuff, the band thought "Missing Persons" was the stand-out track to be released as a single; thankfully, wiser heads prevailed.  The album cover was designed by band member Noel Crombie and was originally released in four colour combinations:  yellow and blue, red and green, purple and yellow and blue and orange; there have since been even further colour combinations in re-releases including lime-green and pink, hot purple and burnt orange, gold and platinum (denoting its sales success) and and yellow, blue and red.  A&M also chose this album as the first to ever feature "laser-etching" directly on the vinyl; geometric shapes were literally etched onto the grooves so that light hitting it would flash around the room.  This technique was not only a boon to DJs spinning the record but also a deterrent to the then-problem of vinyl pirating of counterfeit LPs.  Cyndi Lauper was a Split Enz fan and her 1986 hit single and album "True Colors" were named in tribute to the band.  In a boner of the same proportions as Rolling Stone magazine's crowning of 1979's "London Calling" by the Clash as the best album of the 1980s, New Zealand's Split Enz found their TRUE COLOURS declared #22 in the book "100 BEST AUSTRALIAN ALBUMS".  Apparently at the time 1 in every 4 households in New Zealand owned a copy of TRUE COLOURS.    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

BRYTER LATER  -  NICK DRAKE

YEAR:  1970
LABEL:  Island
TRACK LISTING:  Introduction,  Hazey Jane II,  At the Chime of the City Clock,  One of These Things First,  Hazey Jane I,  Bryter Later,  Fly,  Poor Boy,  Northern Sky,  Sunday
IMPRESSIONS:  Probably my least favourite Nick Drake album of the three; despite the fact that some of his best songs can be found here.  I think the major problem I have with the album is that Nick himself seems to be absent for about a quarter of it; we have here a few instrumental tracks which, sure, Nick plays guitar on and Nick wrote, but it's almost as if he's stepped out for a smoke.  And the fact that we have precious little Nick Drake on record, this is almost an unpardonable sin.  Then we have the often-touted complaint of the overly-sweet string arrangements by Robert Kirby which Nick himself seemed to dislike as he insisted on a stripped-down sound for his next album "PINK MOON".  I actually don't have much of a problem with these arrangements except in a few cases.  "Poor Boy" actually sounds like a decent song but when smothered in an inappropriate pop arrangement and back-up singers (including the wonderful Doris Troy), the effect is jarring compared to the rest of the album.  And back to those instrumentals.  The opening track "Introduction" is innocuous, I suppose, but the title track is pure rubbish; it sounds like it was lifted from a 60's comedy film.  So we have here a seriously flawed album -- and that's a big deal since we've only got three Nick Drake albums to listen to.  However, even a flawed Nick Drake album is something to be conjured with.  Here we find some of his greatest recordings:  the darkly jazzy "At the Chime of a City Clock", the beautiful rolling ramble of "One of These Things First", the sunny, drumming-tempo of Fairport Convention's rhythm section in  "Hazey Jane I", the drawing room miniature of "Fly" and the exquisitely joyful spring air chasing away the winter chill in "Northern Sky".  Q Magazine in 2007 declared the album as having "more hooks than a pirate convention".  So even Nick Drake's worst album is a stone classic.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  At the Chime of a City Clock,  One of These Things First,  Hazey Jane I,  Fly,  Northern Sky
GUEST ARTISTS:  Dave Pegg (bass guitar), Dave Mattacks (drums), Richard Thompson (lead guitar on "Hazey Jane II"), Doris Troy (backing vocals on "Poor Boy"), Ray Warleigh (alto saxophone on "At the Chime of a City Clock" and "Poor Boy", flute on "Sunday"), Mike Kowalski (drums on "At the Chime of a City Clock", "One of These Things First", "Poor Boy" and "Northern Sky"), Paul Harris (piano on "One of These Things First"), Ed Carter (bass on "One of These Things First"), Lyn Dobson (flute on "Bryter Later"), John Cale (viola and harpsichord on "Fly", celeste, piano and organ on "Northern Sky"), Pat Arnold (backing vocals on "Poor Boy"), Chris McGregor (piano on "Poor Boy"), Robert Kirby (arrangements)
FACT SHEET:  BRYTER LATER is Nick Drake's second album.  The album title is a reference to the common British weather report term for clearing weather as "brighter later".  The album features members of Fairport Convention's rhythm section Pegg and Mattacks (as well as Fairport's leader Richard Thompson), John Cale of The Velvet Underground, R&B singer Doris Troy and Beach Boys rhythm section Kowalski and Carter.  The album was produced by Joe Boyd and arranged by Robert Kirby.  The paradoxically dark iconic album cover to BRYTER LATER was designed and photographed by Nigel Waymouth.       

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

GO INSANE  -  LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM

YEAR:  1984
LABEL:  Reprise
TRACK LISTING:  I Want You,  Go Insane,  Slow Dancing,  I Must Go,  Play in the Rain,  Play in the Rain (Continued),  Loving Cup,  Bang the Drum,  D.W. Suite
IMPRESSIONS:  Ah, remember when 38 minutes made an album?  Nowadays, if you put out an album only 38 minutes long people would either call you a slacker or rename it an EP.  But back in the days of vinyl, this was a respectable album length (any more and you'd have a double LP) and nobody expected more.  This brings us to Lindsey Buckingham's second solo album right at the height of the mid-80's new wave MTV boom when Fleetwood Mac's guitar god was perhaps even a little too odd for music videos.  This was when Mr. Buckingham went around everywhere with his "high hair" do -- I mean everywhere -- even on the "We Are the World" video!  The album's first single "Go Insane" is a fantastic song and I loved it the minute I heard it:  driving drums, bizarre sound and even featuring a heavy guitar presence during the age of synthesizers.  The song was quite successful and got a lot of airplay.  Mr. Buckingham followed it up with another fantastic single which sadly didn't capture the public's attention as much:  "Slow Dancing"; the video for this song was exquisite -- think waltzing ghosts from "THE HAUNTED MANSION", folks.  There were a few other notable album tracks:  the two-part "Play in the Rain" (which ended side one with a "locked groove" which meant that the song would endlessly play until you physically lifted the needle) and album-ender "D.W. Suite" which was a tribute to the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson who died during the making of this album. The experimental sound here looks forward in many ways to a little techno, a little bit of the synth-driven Depeche Mode sound as well as sounding strongly influential (in the song "D.W. Suite") to the sound of the Polyphonic Spree.  But while half of this album is great, the other half is mainly undistinguished 80's experimentation which fell kinda flat.  I've had the album since it came out in 1984 and I don't think I've ever listened to the other songs (I haven't mentioned) more than once.  And I certainly can't remember them.  For an album only 38 minutes long, this isn't a laudable track record.  More time focused on melodies and less on experimental sound tinkering would've netted a better album.  Lindsey's first album suffers from a similar complaint:  half a great album, half a forgettable album.  So, indeed perhaps the best thing to do is to take half the songs from his first album "LAW AND ORDER" and half the songs from "GO INSANE" and create the perfect Lindsey Buckingham 80's solo album; I dunno, you could rename it "INSANE ORDER".  That's kinda fitting, actually.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Go Insane,  Slow Dancing,  Play in the Rain,  Play in the Rain (Continued),  D.W. Suite
FACT SHEET:  GO INSANE is Lindsey Buckingham's second solo album.  It was recorded during the time when Fleetwood Mac had supposedly broken-up for good with the release of what was supposed to be their final album "MIRAGE"; the break-up was short-lived when Fleetwood Mac suddenly re-formed in the mid-80's.  All the songs (except "D.W. Suite") are about Buckingham's break-up with girlfriend Carol Ann Harris and the album is dedicated to her.   

Monday, November 19, 2012

CASTLEWISE  -  ROY CASTLE

YEAR:  1961
LABEL:  Philips
TRACK LISTING:  One Two Button Your Shoe,  How High the Moon,  Blue Moon,  Softly As In A Morning Sunrise,  So Would I,  Breezin' Along with the Breeze,  Top Hat White Tie and Tails,  I'm Old Fashioned,  If I Can Help Somebody,  Dancing on the Ceiling,  A Brown Bird Singing,  Happy Ending
IMPRESSIONS:  Roy Castle OBE will always be Biff Bailey to me.  In me youth, my cousin and I dearly loved the Amicus flick "DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS" which featured a bumbling Biff Bailey stealing an "ancient voodoo tune" to use for his next big hit -- against the wishing of the great god Damballah!  In this film, Roy Castle even managed to toot his trumpet along with the Tubby Hayes Quintet; and Roy wasn't faking it -- he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player.  Besides this, Castle had debuted on the silver screen as an assistant to Peter Cushing in "DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS".  So how could I not love a Roy Castle record like this?  All "ring-a-ding-ding" early 60s finger-snapping goodness, CASTLEWISE maintains the light and breezy touch that seems integral to Roy Castle's personality.  Ably accompanied by "THE GOON SHOW" musical director Wally Stott (soon to become Angela Morley) and his Orchestra, Roy Castle gives us a delightful album.  A prime example is the easy swinging he brings to the vocals of "How High the Moon" as well as some friendly/comical band introductions and some respectable scat-singing as well.  Castle was truly multi-talented:  a pleasing singer, accomplished trumpet player, likeable TV host, comedian and actor and, at the end of his life, a public-spirited activist with his anti-smoking cancer fund.  Castle died of lung cancer despite not having been a smoker; he attributed it to all the second-hand smoke he passively absorbed while performing in countless jazz clubs.  Little known over here in the States, Roy Castle was a beloved and respected performer and public figure in the UK who deserves to be better-known here in the US.  Take this post as a small step towards that goal.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  One Two Button Your Show,  How High the Moon,   
GUEST ARTISTS:  Wally Stott & His Orchestra
FACT SHEET:  CASTLEWISE is Roy Castle's first album . . . or his second album . . . the internet is its usual useless self and cannot seem to provide me with an answer.  I know that Castle recorded assorted singles and three albums between the years 1958 and 1969 and this is one of them.  Oddly enough, the internet also tells me that, of the three albums, the only one available on cd is "ISN'T THIS A LOVELY DAY" when in reality THAT cd is almost impossible to get (except at exorbitant prices) while "CASTLEWISE" is easily available from itunes (from whence I gotted it).  Sad because "ISN'T THIS A LOVELY DAY" (retitled for cd from the original 1966 album "SONGS FOR A RAINY DAY") I would kill to get; all the songs are about rain, don'tcha know and I love rain songs.  Be that as it may, that's a lot of stuff NOT about "CASTLEWISE".  But since there seems to be no extraneous info on "CASTLEWISE" on the useless internet (other than what I've already told you) -- well, that's your lot then!         

Sunday, November 18, 2012

WHEATSTRAW SUITE  -  THE DILLARDS

YEAR:  1968
LABEL:  Elektra
TRACK LISTING:  I'll Fly Away,  Nobody Knows,  Hey Boys,  The Biggest Whatever,  Listen to the Sound,  Little Pete,  Reason to Believe,  Single Saddle,  I've Just Seen A Face,  Lemon Chimes,  Don't You Cry,  Bending the Strings,  She Sang Hymns Out of Tune
IMPRESSIONS:  Pretty damn near perfect album.  Uplifting as all hell.  Soaring vocals, mischievous sense of humour, stunning musicianship.  Buy this album immediately.  At the time, The Band got all the press for fusing country and rock but the Dillards are the ones who did it better.  Nothing the Band ever did is as beautiful as "She Sang Hymns Out of Tune"; one of the greatest songs I've ever heard.  And besides beauty and virtuosity, the Dillards brought the element of "shit-kickingocity" to their country/rock fusion which the Band could only dream about accomplishing.  All this and THE definitive version of the Beatles' "I've Just Seen A Face".  I don't know -- there's just always been something of the dilettante aspect of the Band i.e. art school studies trying to be "authentic" whereas the Dillards don't have to work at it -- they ARE authentic.  Produced a few traditional bluegrass albums for Capitol Records, the Dillards wanted to experiment with a rock/country fusion about which Capitol was unsure.  The group left Capitol for Elektra where they were allowed to try some innovations with this album.  Unfortunately the group's banjoist Doug Dillard, unhappy with this new direction, had already left the group.  What followed with "WHEATSTRAW SUITE" is one of the most ground-breaking country/rock albums ever made.    
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  I'll Fly Away,  Nobody Knows,  Hey Boys,  Listen to the Sound,  Reason to Believe,  Single Saddle,  I've Just Seen A Face,  Lemon Chimes,  Don't You Cry,  Bending the Strings,  She Sang Hymns Out of Tune
GUEST ARTISTS:  Buddy Emmons (pedal steel),  Joe Osborn (electric bass),  Jimmy Gordon (drums)
FACT SHEET:  WHEATSTRAW SUITE is the Dillards' fourth album.  The Dillards consisted of Rodney Dillard (lead vocals, guitar, dobro, pedal steel), Herb Peterson (lead vocals, Nashville rhythm guitar, banjo), Dean Webb (mandolin) and Mitch Jayne (acoustic bass).  "Reason to Believe" was written by Tim Hardin.  "Single Saddle" was written by Arthur Altman and Hal David.  "I've Just Seen A Face" was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  "She Sang Hymns Out of Tune" was written by Jesse Lee Kincaid and had been previously recorded by Harry Nilsson.    

Saturday, November 17, 2012

ELITE HOTEL  -  EMMYLOU HARRIS

YEAR:  1975
LABEL:  Reprise
TRACK LISTING:  Amarillo,  Together Again,  Feelin' Single Seein' Double,  Sin City,  One of These Days,  Till I Gain Control Again,  Here There and Everywhere,  Ooh Las Vegas,  Sweet Dreams,  Jambalaya (On the Bayou),  Satan's Jewel Crown,  Wheels
IMPRESSIONS:  Solid, solid, really solid album!  I'm trying to remember -- I think it was Rama who clued me into this one after I asked him yet again for a really good album recommendation.  I've always considered this album a really good choice if you've got a drive ahead of you; putting this album on in the car as you go your merry way will get you there kindly.  Emmylou combines the heart-tugging ballads with the shit-kickers and it's a nice combination.  Dynamite covers of Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, the Beatles, Gram Parsons, the Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams, Rodney Crowell . . . how can you go wrong?  All this and a voice like wine.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Amarillo,  Together Again,  Feelin' Single Seein' Double,  One of These Days,  Till I Gain Control Again,  Here There and Everywhere,  Sweet Dreams,  Jambalaya (On the Bayou),  Satan's Jewel Crown,  Wheels
GUEST ARTISTS:  Jonathan Edwards (backing vocals, vocals on "Wheels"),  Rodney Crowell (electric guitar, backing vocals),  James Burton (electric guitar),  Linda Ronstadt (backing vocals)
FACT SHEET:  ELITE HOTEL is Emmylou Harris' third album and her first #1 country album.  Both "Together Again" and "Sweet Dreams" went to #1 on Billboard's country singles charts and "One of These Days" went to #3; "Here There & Everywhere" went to #65 on the pop charts.  Rodney Crowell wrote "Till I Gain Control Again" and co-wrote "Amarillo" with Emmylou Harris.  "Together Again" was written by Buck Owens.  Gram Parsons co-wrote "Sin City" and "Wheels" with Chris Hillman and "Ooh Las Vegas" with Ric Grech.  "Here, There and Everywhere" is a Beatles cover written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney.  "Sweet Dreams" is a Patsy Cline cover (written by Don Gibson).  "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" is a Hank Williams cover and "Satan's Jewel Crown" is a Louvin Brothers cover.  "Wheels" is a duet with Jonathan Edwards.     

Friday, November 16, 2012

STEAL AWAY:  SPIRITUALS, HYMNS AND FOLK SONGS  -  CHARLIE HADEN & HANK JONES

YEAR:  1995
LABEL:  Verve
TRACK LISTING:  It's Me O Lord (Standing In the Need of Prayer),  Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,  Spiritual,  Wade In the Water,  Swing Low Sweet Chariot,  Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,  L'Amour De Moy,  Danny Boy,  I've Got A Robe You Got A Robe (Goin' To Shout All Over God's Heav'n),  Steal Away,  We Shall Overcome,  Go Down Moses,  My Lord What A Mornin',  Hymn Medley (Abide With Me/Just As I Am Without One Plea/What A Friend We Have In Jesus/Amazing Grace)
IMPRESSIONS:  This is another album that arose from my periodic asking of Maz to recommend a really good jazz album while we were both working at Borders. She hit it out of the park with this one.  Nothing but Haden's lyrical bass (oftentimes carrying the melody) and Jones' expressive piano but one of the most satisfying, joyful jazz albums I've heard.  These are the spirituals that most of us are familiar with but here they are presented in a light and swinging manner while still retaining respect for the songs.  The "sorrow songs", as W.E.B. DuBois called them -- and he really captures what listening to this album feels like when he writes:  "...through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope, a faith in the ultimate justice of things.  The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and calm confidence."  Don't mistake this for a gospel album; it's all jazz -- only the choice of songs links it to gospel in that spirituals are the bedrock on which these jazz duets build.  This is an album you can listen to again and again without fatigue; it continually energizes you.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em.
FACT SHEET:  STEAL AWAY is Charlie Haden's 13th album as leader and first with Hank Jones.  Most of the songs are traditional with "Spiritual" being the sole track written by Charlie Haden in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X.  17 years after this seminal album, Haden and Jones team-up for a sequel called "COME SUNDAY" released in 2012; the album was recorded shortly before Hank Jones' death in 2010.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

THE SOUND OF TIKI  -  VARIOUS ARTISTS

YEAR:  2010
LABEL:  Bear Family Records
TRACK LISTING:  Taboo Tu - Arthur Lyman,  Aku Aku - Martin Denny,  Bali Ha'i - Gloria Lynne,  Bird of Paradise - Les Baxter,  Castaway - Paul Page,  Tiki - Martin Denny & Si Zentner,  House of Bamboo - Andy Williams,  Kon-Tiki - The Shadows,  I-Ha-She - Marais & Miranda,  Hawaiian Eye - Buddy Morrow,  Hilo Boy - The Mary Kaye Trio,  Ulili-E - The Surfers,  Pieces of Eight - Paul Page,  Full Moon - Eden Ahbez,  Bamboo - The Surfmen,  Hawaii Five-O/Quiet Village Medley - Don Ho
BONUS TRACKS:  Luau Is Calling You - Radio Jingle
IMPRESSIONS:  Long after the big lounge music/exotica boom in the mid-90's, Bear Family Records came out with this handsome cd package compiled by "THE BOOK OF TIKI" author Sven A. Kirsten.  While this in no way can compare to the near-perfect ULTRA LOUNGE VOLUME 1:  MONDO EXOTICA (discussed elsewhere on this blog), any new tiki/exotica lounge music album is cause for celebration.  It's hardly surprising the author of the rather nice "BOOK OF TIKI" provides us with a lavishly-illustrated booklet for the cd describing the history of the lounge music phenomenon mid-20th century as well as brief bios of the artists and their songs.  The "big three" of exotica music -- Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman -- are all represented here but it's also an unexpected, pleasant surprise to see TWO tracks by the dippy Paul Page (whose album I also have previously discussed on this blog ... see the link on the right hand side there) as well as one of my favourite songs of all-time:  Eden Ahbez's "Full Moon" (and yes, Eden Ahbez's album has ALSO been previously discussed on this blog ... follow the links).  Andy Williams is not one of my favourite people but his version of "House of Bamboo" is pretty good; although the definitive version still remains Earl Grant's.  The inclusion of the obscure Surfmen (I should post on one of their albums one of these days) is welcome as is the track by that incredibly odd pair of "musical anthropologist" folk singers Marais & Miranda (I really should also do a post on one of THEIR albums one of these days as well).  The Shadows' "Kon-Tiki" is a good track but I don't really think it belongs here as it musically belongs to the "surf guitar" genre.  Buddy Morrow (of "POE FOR MODERNS" fame) does a fun and silly version of the Hawaiian Eye theme song too.  While not as musically strong as other "Ultra Lounge" compilations, this is a worthy addition to the pile of tiki tunes.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Taboo Tu - Arthur Lyman,  Aku Aku - Martin Denny,  Bird of Paradise - Les Baxter,  Castaway - Paul Page,  Tiki - Martin Denny & Si Zentner,  Kon-Tiki - The Shadows,  I-Ha-She - Marais & Miranda,  Hilo Boy - The Mary Kaye Trio,  Pieces of Eight - Paul Page,  Full Moon - Eden Ahbez,  Bamboo - The Surfmen,  Luau Is Calling You - Radio Jingle
FACT SHEET:  THE SOUND OF TIKI is a compilation album of exotica music focusing on the tiki/exotica fad of the mid-20th century and which has been celebrated in the RE/SEARCH: INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC books leading to a retro-boom in the mid-1990s.  Phew!  The collection is produced and compiled by Sven A. Kirsten:  author of "THE BOOK OF TIKI" who also appeared in a recent episode of "STORAGE WARS" as a "tiki expert".  "Taboo Tu" is from Arthur Lyman's "TABOO VOL. 2" album.  "Aku Aku" appears on Martin Denny's "AFRO DESIA" album.  "Bird of Paradise" is taken from Les Baxter's "THE PRIMITIVE AND THE PASSIONATE" album.  "Castaway" and "Pieces of Eight" are taken from Paul Page's "PIECES OF EIGHT" album.  "I-Ha-She" is from Mirais & Miranda's "GO NATIVE" album.  "Full Moon" is from Eden Ahbez's "EDEN'S ISLAND" album.  "Bamboo" is taken from the Surfmen's "THE SOUNDS OF EXOTIC ISLAND" album.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MUD WILL BE FLUNG TONIGHT  -  BETTE MIDLER

YEAR:  1985
LABEL:  Atlantic
TRACK LISTING:  Taking Aim,  Fit or Fat/"Fat As I Am",  Marriage Movies Madonna & Mick,  Vickie Eydie "I'm Singing Broadway",  Coping,  The Unfettered Boob,  Otto Titsling,  Why Bother?, Soph
IMPRESSIONS:  When you think of Bette Midler, you think of a lot of things . . . but I'll bet "stand-up comedian" isn't one of them.  Which is a shame because this, her one and only stand-up album, is a gem.  I don't know why she only did this once; maybe because this was before her late 80's "renaissance" when she became a really big noise in music and movies and she just didn't have time to cram "stand-up comic" into the mix.  But actually, "MUD WILL BE FLUNG TONIGHT" can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best stand-up comedy albums you can name.  Sure, Bette breaks out into musical numbers quite often but this is still a stand-up comedy routine where the music is part of the stand-up.  This was the height of MTV and Bette pokes fun at her appearance in the "We Are the World" video and her fellow celebrities as well as the fact that she had been on MTV before . . . once.  She refers to her video for "Beast of Burden" with Mick Jagger and, since she would soon make MANY videos appearing on MTV (not least of which the future mega-hit "Wind Beneath My Wings"), this album gives a unique insight into the post-70's Bette who hadn't quite morphed into the Bette Midler we know today.  but truly, any fan of stand-up comedy owes it to him or herself to check out this hilarious album.  If you can find it.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Taking Aim,  Marriage Movies Madonna & Mick,  Coping, The Unfettered Boob,  Otto Titsling,  Why Bother?,  Soph
FACT SHEET:  MUD WILL BE FLUNG TONIGHT is Bette Midler's first and only stand-up comedy album.  The routine was written by Bette Midler with "additional material" by Jerry Blatt, Frank Mula, Lenny Ripps, Marc Shaiman, Charlene Seeger and Bruce Vilanch.  The album was recorded at Budd Friedman's Improvisation in Los Angeles, California on April 30 - May 1, 1985.  The "Otto Titsling" song would appear almost unaltered a couple years later in the feature film "BEACHES".   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

VALOTTE  -  JULIAN LENNON

YEAR:  1984
LABEL:  Atlantic
TRACK LISTING:  Valotte,  O.K. For You,  On the Phone,  Space,  Well I Don't Know,  Too Late For Goodbyes,  Lonely,  Say You're Wrong,  Jesse,  Let Me Be
IMPRESSIONS:  Being the son of a murdered, martyred rock god can lead to all sorts of insurmountable problems if you're interested in a music career; especially if you look just like him and sound uncannily similar when you sing.  This is the peculiar double-edged sword faced by Julian Lennon in 1984 when he released his debut single and album "Valotte".  While the eponymous debut single sounded very much "in the style" of John Lennon, the rest of the album -- I think wisely -- stayed well in the pop realm.  I think that was the only way to do it.  Those are some REALLY big shoes to fill and, for a kid just barely 21 to try to write and perform songs in the same "genre" of a mature John Lennon would've been fatal and probably embarrassing.  I mean, John Lennon himself didn't start off writing "Imagine"; it all began with things like "Love Me Do".  So the slightly spooky "Valotte" single got all our attentions sounding hauntingly like John Lennon.  But then, the rest of the album (or most of it) and the succeeding hit single "Too Late For Goodbyes" was firmly bubble gum and quite successful.  Having just written all that, I'll now contradict myself in saying that I enjoyed the stuff on the album that was a little less poppy:  songs like the title track, the floating, ethereal "Space"or the keening "Lonely".  Still pop but less bubble gum.  I found some good things on his next two follow-up albums as well: the hit single "Stick Around" and "You Get What You Want" featuring Billy Joel on piano from the 2nd album "THE SECRET ART OF DAYDREAMING" and the single "Now You're In Heaven" from 3rd album "MR. JORDAN".  By the third album, however, Lennon had bizarrely chosen to mimic the singing style of David Bowie; perhaps this was an effort to shed his father's voice and constant comparisons?  I will say it worked wonderfully on the single "Now You're In Heaven" but such a conceit cannot be sustained over more than one song.  That was in 1989 and that's pretty much the last I heard of Julian Lennon except for the excellent "Saltwater" from 1991's "HELP YOURSELF".  Having such a father makes a singing career almost impossible to pull off and I think Julian's output is remarkable for succeeding as much as he did.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Valotte,   On the Phone,  Space,  Too Late For Goodbyes,  Lonely
GUEST ARTISTS:  Toots Thielemans (harmonica on "Too Late For Goodbyes"), Michael Brecker (saxophone on "Lonely")
FACT SHEET:  VALOTTE is the first album by Julian Lennon.  The album was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and at The Hit Factory in New York City.  The song demos for the album were actually sent in anonymously before Julian revealed who he actual was in order to have them judged solely on their own merit.  The title of the album is taken from the name of an old French chateau "Manon de Valotte" which Julian Lennon particularly loved.  The album went platinum. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

THE TONY BENNETT / BILL EVANS ALBUM  -  TONY BENNETT & BILL EVANS

YEAR:  1975
LABEL:  Fantasy
TRACK LISTING:  Young and Foolish,  The Touch of Your Lips,  Some Other Time,  When In Rome,  We'll Be Together Again,  My Foolish Heart,  Waltz For Debby,  But Beautiful,  Days of Wine and Roses
IMPRESSIONS:  Here we have an album that was suggested to me by my friend Rama.  Being something of a modern-day beatnik, Rama was somebody I'd sometimes ask to recommend music or films or books when we worked together at the late, lamented Borders.  This was his recommendation one day as one of his favourites.  I can see why.  If there's only one Tony Bennett album to own, this is it.  The album is spare but not in a bad way; there is only Anthony Benedetto on vocals and Bill Evans on piano.  But there is a rapport between the two musicians, both at something of a low ebb in their careers in the mid-70s.  Bennett's singing is emotionally connected and immediate while Evans' accompaniment is sympathetic but still interesting in its own right.  Neither one overshadows the other and the result is something like a perfect set.  The songs, for the most part, are lesser-known selections and there's a real, personal connection that happens between the listener and this record which makes it a very "human" experience.  No adornment, no fluff or fireworks - just an enthusiastic voice singing songs he wants to sing for non-commercial reasons probably for the first time in decades and an accomplished pianist whose virtuosity elevates the singer's performance with a generosity of spirit while still providing equally worthy piano playing in between the vocals.  Really a perfect, equal team-up.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Hell, the album's only 35 minutes long.  All of 'em.
FACT SHEET:  THE TONY BENNETT / BILL EVANS ALBUM is the first album pairing Tony Bennett and Bill Evans.  The album was recorded between June 10-13, 1975 at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California.  The two would make another album together in 1977 on Bennett's Improv record label entitled "TOGETHER AGAIN".     

Sunday, November 11, 2012

WATERGATE (5 Volumes)  -  Various

YEAR:  1973 - 1975
LABEL:  Smithsonian Folkways
TRACK LISTING:  President Nixon's Watergate Speech April 30, 1973,  James McCord Testifies ~ Outlines His Background,  Further Testimony of James McCord,  Bernard Barker Testifies,  Questioned by Samuel Dash - Jeb Stuart Magruder,  Questioned by Sen. Howard Baker Jr. - Jeb Stuart Magruder,  Questioned by Sen. Sam Ervin - Jeb Stuart Magruder,  Questioned by Samuel Dash - Jeb Stuart Magruder,  Questioned by Joseph M. Montoya - Jeb Stuart Magruder,  Questioned by Samuel Dash ~ Background/The White House/The Cover-Up/The President - John Dean,  Questioned by Sen. Edward J. Gurney ~ The C.I.A. & The Cover-Up/The Kalmbach Episode - John Dean,  Questioned by Sen. Edward J. Gurney (cont.) ~ Meeting with H.R. Haldeman/The $4800. Expenses/The Kalmback Meeting - John Dean,  The Nixon Meeting/Clemency Discussion - John Dean,  Questioned by Samuel Dash ~ The $1,000,000.,  Senator Talmadge:  The Liddy Plan - John Mitchell,  Senator Inouye:  Criminal Activities Discussed/Why Wasn't the President Advised?/Protecting the President/Is the President Above the Law? - John Mitchell,  Executive Privilege - John Mitchell,  Involvement of the F.B.I. and C.I.A. - John Mitchell,  Senator Baker:  Involving the President - John Mitchell,  Nixon as President - John Mitchell,  Senator Ervin:  Executive Privilege/Telling the Truth - John Mitchell,  Senator Weicker:  Protecting the President - John Mitchell,  The March 21st Meeting - John Ehrlichman,  The Ellsberg Case & the Plumbers - John Ehrlichman,  THE FBI Investigation - John Ehrlichman,  Political Espionage - John Ehrlichman,  Opening Statement - H.R. Haldeman,  The Tapes - H.R. Haldeman,  His Staff - H.R. Haldeman,  The Internal Revenue Service - H.R. Haldeman,  Handling Demonstrators - H.R. Haldeman,  Attacking the Democrats - H.R. Haldeman
IMPRESSIONS:  I've always had a strong fascination for the bizarre character of Richard M. Nixon.  As a tiny tot, I barely remember the actual Watergate scandal as it was going on (beyond vague recollection of it in Scholastic magazines at school and satirical reference to it in Cracked and Mad Magazines.  But since then, especially after earning my degree in history, I've found Nixon immensely puzzling; his intelligence and drive tempered by some incredibly glaring character flaws of Shakespearean proportions which both saw to it that he would reach the presidency and also guaranteed that he would lose it like he did.  These 5 volumes of Smithsonian Folkways recordings offer (with the exception of Nixon's speech on Watergate of April 30, 1973) the recorded testimony of key figures in the Watergate scandal:  Watergate burglars James McCord (ex-FBI and CIA agent) and Bernard L. Barker, odd little Republican zealot Jeb Stuart Magruder (former White House aide and Deputy Director of the Committe to Re-Elect the President), former Presidential Counsel John W. Dean III, former Attorney-General John Mitchell and Nixon's "Berlin Wall" H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman.  Even after all these years, this edited testimony is fascinating, riveting and astonishing. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  This isn't really the kind of album (or albums) in which you can pick and choose "tracks".
FACT SHEET:  WATERGATE is a 5 volume set of recordings of aspects of the Watergate hearings produced by Smithsonian Folkways records.  "WATERGATE VOLUME ONE" was released in 1973 and is entitled "THE BREAK IN:  JAMES MCCORD TESTIFIES/PRESIDENT NIXON'S WATERGATE SPEECH, APRIL 30, 1973".  VOLUME TWO was released in 1974 and is entitled "THE TESTIMONY OF JEB STUART MAGRUDER:  A QUESTION OF ETHICS".  VOLUME THREE was released in 1974 and is entitled "I HOPE THE PRESIDENT IS FORGIVEN":  JOHN W. DEAN III TESTIFIES".  VOLUME FOUR was released in 1974 and is entitled "WHITE HOUSE HORRORS:  THE TESTIMONY OF JOHN MITCHELL, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE U.S.".  VOLUME FIVE was released in 1975 and is entitled "THE TESTIMONY OF JOHN EHRLICHMAN AND H.R. HALDEMAN".  Also heard on these recordings are Senate Sub-Committee members Senator Sam Ervin, Samuel Dash, Senator Howard Baker, Senator Joseph M. Montoya, Senator Edward J. Gurney, Senator Herman Talmadge, Senator Daniel Inouye, and Senator Lowell Weiker.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

GOLDEN ALBUM (寺内タケシとブルージーンズ)  -  TAKESHI TERAUCHI & BLUE JEANS

YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  King
TRACK LISTING:  涙のギタ Sentimental Guitar,  雨の想い出 I'll Remember In The Rain,  ダイヤモンド・ヘッド Diamond Head,  黒田節 Kuroda-Bushi,  夜路 Night Road,  夜霧の渚 Yogiri-No Nagisa,  津軽じょんがら節 Tugaru Jyongara-Bushi,  越後獅子 Echigo Jishi,  ユア・ベイビー Your Baby,  ブルー・ジーンNo1 Blue Jean,  ハートで歌おう Touch Your Heart,  涙の十字路 Namida-No Jyugiro,  草津節 Kusatu-Bushi,  急がば廻れ Walk - Don't Run,  グラナダ Guranda,  黒い瞳 Dark Eyes,  禁じられた遊び Jeux Interdits 1st Part,  第三の男 The Harry Lime Theme,  ジャニー・ギター Johnny Guitar,  駅馬車 Stagecoach,  マラゲーニャ Malaguena,  魅惑のギタ Haunted Guitar,  キャラバン Caravan,  テネシー・ワルツ Tennessee Waltz,  ウスクダラ Usukudara (Turkish Tale)
IMPRESSIONS:  In that indispensible tome RE/SEARCH: INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC (Vol. 2), Jello Biafra states that "BLUE JEANS GOLDEN ALBUM" is the best instrumental album he's ever heard.  And it's hard to argue that point - except to say that it isn't entirely an instrumental album.  There are a couple vocals here.  But we know what he means.  In the realm of "surf guitar" albums (for want of a better term), Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans' "GOLDEN ALBUM" is certainly in the top 5 handful.  Certainly Terry (as he is known) is the greatest electric surf guitar player in Japan and can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Link Wray or the Ventures (whose 1962 tour of Japan was the "big bang" that created an entire Japanese musical genre:  the "Eleki Scene" or "Electric Boom" which is still going to this day).  As a rule, I cannot sit and listen to an entire "surf guitar" album without the "sameyness" wearing me down; however "GOLDEN ALBUM" is an exception.  There variety in Terry's playing as well as the song choices and many musical genres (still inside the surf guitar style) never tire the ear.  Besides the expected surf guitar fast rockers and slow ballads, Terry offers us cowboy western (the "Oh Bury Me Not"-sounding "Stagecoach" and the Joan Crawford operatic western theme "Johnny Guitar") and Spanish guitar ("Guranada", "Malaguena"), the whimsical big band arrangement of "The Harry Lime Theme" (better known as "The Third Man Theme"), the Russian folk dance "Dark Eyes" (better known as "Hotchacornya" or some such spelling) and even "Arabian Nights" lounge cliche "Caravan" (done in a style very reminiscent of the computerized Perry & Kingsley oeuvre) and the Turkish "Usukudara".  Then, as mentioned, there are a couple vocal tracks which give Japanese versions of mid-60's pop songs ("Your Baby" and "Touch Your Heart") which manage to duplicate and parody them at the same time.  That's quite a varied menu.  And Terry puts them all over with incredible energy, dexterity, virtuosity and whimsical humour.  
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Sentimental Guitar,  I'll Remember the Rain,  Kuroda-Bushi,  Night Road,  Tugaru Jyongara-Bushi,  Echigo Jishi,  Your Baby,  Touch Your Heart,  Namida-No Jyugiro,  Kusatu-Bushi,  Guranada,  Dark Eyes,  Jeux Interdits 1st Part,  The Harry Lime Theme,  Johnny Guitar,  Stagecoach,  Caravan,  Tennessee Waltz
FACT SHEET:  Takeshi Terauchi was born in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan on January 17, 1939.  He began his career playing rhythm guitar for the country-western band "Jimmy Tokita & the Mountain Playboys" before forming his own band "The Blue Jeans" in 1962 in response to surf guitar band the Ventures' immensely influential tour of Japan in tha year which created the Japanese surf guitar genre "Eleki Scene".  Terry's guitar of choice is a White Mosrite on which he demonstrates his virtuosity with the tremolo arm or "whammy bar" as well as his heavy use of vibrato and frenetic picking style.  In 1966, Terry left the Blue Jeans to form a new band called "The Bunnys"; this lasted only until 1968 when he left and re-formed the Blue Jeans in 1969 with whom he's recorded and performed ever since.      

Friday, November 9, 2012

STRANGE ANIMAL  -  GOWAN

YEAR:  1985
LABEL:  Columbia
TRACK LISTING:  Cosmetics,  Desperate,  City of the Angels,  Walking On Air,  Burning Torches of Hope,  Keep the Tension On,  Guerilla Soldier,  (You're A) Strange Animal,  A Criminal Mind
IMPRESSIONS:  Boy, listening to this album all these years later is cause for embarrassment.  It's not that the songs aren't good; they are.  But it's the hopelessly eighties song arrangements which almost totter the album into the land of cringe.  But I must admit this is a definite guilty pleasure.  The production and arrangements by David Tickle are much too poppy and seem to be aimed at 12 year old girls.  Which it probably was back then.  I even remember at the time hearing the follow-up album "GREAT DIRTY WORLD" and thinking what a more "grown-up" adult contemporary sound had been achieved.  The songs "Moonlight Desires" and especially the anthemic "Dedication" can be listened to today without the slightest cringing.  But back to STRANGE ANIMAL.  What a gloriously over-the-top eighties bubble gum hair mousse and lipstick mascara circus of an album this is.  Fittingly the first track is called "Cosmetics" because this is one glammed-up sounding MTV generation album.  The only song that made it onto MTV was the video for "A Criminal Mind" which is still a fantastic operatic tour de force in the style of the video for Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More"; all strange masks and straight jackets.  I seem to have purchased this record (yes, on vinyl) right before I had four impacted wisdom teeth out in 1985.  Actually, I bought the LP at Sam Goody at the Moorestown Mall!  I remember taping it and playing it over and over on my Walkman while I was recuperating.  Coming out as it did smack dab in the middle of the 80s, STRANGE ANIMAL always slams me right back to that time when I was working at Rustler and the eighties were at their height.  So I'm naturally extremely forgiving of the perhaps cheesy overly-theatrical production on this nostalgic guilty pleasure.  And the best song on the album -- A Criminal Mind -- can be listened to today with no apologies. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Cosmetics,  Desperate,  Burning Torches of Hope,  Keep the Tension On,  Guerilla Soldier,  A Criminal Mind
FACT SHEET:  STRANGE ANIMAL is Gowan's second album. Larry Gowan is a Scottish-born Canadian artist who is a classically-trained pianist.  He was in the band Rhinegold before going solo under the name Gowan.  STRANGE ANIMAL features Peter Gabriel's rhythm section of Jerry Marotta and Tony Levin.  The album was heavily honoured by the Juno Awards winning a "Best Video" Juno for "A Criminal Mind" and "Best Album Graphics" by designers Rob MacIntyre and Dimo Safari as well as being nominated for "Male Vocalist of the Year", "Album of the Year", "Best Selling Single" for "A Criminal Mind" and "Best Video" for both "(You're A) Strange Animal" and "Cosmetics".  Since 1999, Larry Gowan has been the lead singer for the band Styx.     

Thursday, November 8, 2012

SONGS IN THE KEY OF X  -  VARIOUS ARTISTS

YEAR:  1996
LABEL:  Warner Bros.
TRACK LISTING:  X-Files Theme (Main Title)  -  Mark Snow,  Unmarked Helicopters - Soul Coughing,  On the Outside - Sheryl Crow,  Down In the Park - Foo Fighters,  Star Me Kitten - William S. Burroughs & R.E.M.,  Red Right Hand - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds,  Thanks Bro - Filter,  Man of Steel - Frank Black,  Unexplained - Meat Puppets,  Deep - Danzig,  Frenzy - Screamin' Jay Hawkins,  My Dark Life - Elvis Costello with Brian Eno,  Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn) - Rob Zombie & Alice Cooper,  If You Never Say Goodbye - P.M. Dawn,  X-Files Theme (P.M. Dawn Remix)  -  P.M. Dawn
IMPRESSIONS:  This is not a soundtrack album; despite the fact that a couple songs did actually appear on the X-FILES TV show.  This is a compilation album of songs "inspired" by THE X-FILES during the height of its popularity.  I watched the show from its beginning (when no one else was watching, I hasten to add) and slowly lost interest after a few years just as the rest of the world was getting into the show.  Ah, I've never been a follower.  However, I always liked the conspiracy/paranoia atmosphere evoked by the show and this album (along with David Baerwald's TRIAGE album) perfectly conjure it up.  I think my favourite songs on the album are the Soul Coughing and Nick Cave songs because they REALLY strike the right mood.  I am far from a Sheryl Crow fan but "On the Outside" is the best thing she's ever done and the only thing by the artist I can listen to.  The Foo Fighters' Gary Numan cover is also a winner.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Unmarked Helicopters - Soul Coughing,  On the Outside - Sheryl Crow,  Down In the Park - Foo Fighters,  Red Right Hand - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds,  Man of Steel - Frank Black,  Unexplained - Meat Puppets
FACT SHEET:  SONGS IN THE KEY OF X is a compilation album inspired by the Fox TV series THE X-FILES.  The album was originally supposed to feature songs by Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Seal but these plans fell through.  "Star Me Kitten" is a new version of a song found on R.E.M.'s 1992 album AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE.  "Down In the Park" is a cover version of a song by Gary Numan.  "Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn) was nominated for the 1997 Best Metal Performance.