Sunday, December 8, 2013


YEAR:  1957
LABEL:  Capitol
TRACK LISTING:  Shangri-La,  Penthouse Serenade,  You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me,  Kiss Me,  How Long Has This Been Going On,  Close Your Eyes,  You Go To My Head,  Do Do Do,  Speak Low,  Don't Blame Me,  Isn't It Romantic,  You're My Thrill
BONUS TRACKS:  My Mama Likes You,  I'm Innocent,  Fool's Errand,  There'll Be Some Changes Made
IMPRESSIONS:  Since we're cruising into the dark nights of December and lounging lazily in front of the fireplace sounds appropriate, I thought I'd revisit one of the loungiest of lounge albums here provided by actress/singer Dolores Gray.  She never broke out of B-list status for stardom and she was never a superb vocalist but here Gray is perfectly cast for the whispery, come-hither vocals contained in this album.  Gray here is more of a song stylist than an great vocalist as she half-whispers/half-sings mostly quiet torch songs which are the audio equivalent of what used to be called "bedroom eyes".  The album cover perfectly captures what's contained inside.  As allmusic's J. Scott McLintock states:"The original selections presented all have the fireside couch in mind (with an eye on the bedroom) and, for sheer cocktail romanticism, this set has few peers."  The same website's Jason Ankeny also evocatively conjures the following image for the album:  "Gray doesn't sing so much as she curls up in the melody as if it were a chaise lounge--Sid Feller's late-night arrangements further extend the sultry, profoundly adult ambience, with hints of cool jazz that float under the surface like ice cubes." The lush strings and lightly-tapped bongos on "Close Your Eyes" is perhaps the perfect example of what this album stands for.  This is an album where the drums are played solely with brushes.  As the liner notes proudly proclaim:  "Dolores Gray draws close to the microphone and sings in a manner as intoxicating as warm brandy."  Especially as the hectic holiday season approaches, WARM BRANDY is perhaps the perfect album to put on as you wind down after a particularly crazy day.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Shangri-La,  Penthouse Serenade,  Kiss Me,  How Long Has This Been Going On,  Close Your Eyes,  You Go To My Head,  Speak Low,  Don't Blame Me
FACT SHEET:  WARM BRANDY is an album by Dolores Gray released in 1957 by Capitol Records.  The music was arranged and conducted by Sid Feller. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


YEAR:  1986
TRACK LISTING:  The Big Heat,  Pick It Up (And Put It In Your Pocket),  Can't Stop the Show,  Pile Driver,  Walkin' Home Alone,  Drive She Said,  Salesman,  Twisted,  Camouflage,  Rio Greyhound (Instrumental)
BONUS TRACKS:  Stormy Side of Town,  Foggy River,  End of the Line,  Nadine,  Can't Stop the Show (Live),  Drive She Said (Live)
IMPRESSIONS:  Boy, I miss that 80's sound.  Listening to this album once again, with its stabbing synths and drum machines, the sound of the mid-80's floods right back and I'm tempted to put on my acid-washed bomber jacket that's hanging in the back of my closet.  It's the sound of "THE BREAKFAST CLUB" incidental music -- Wang Chungin' to the "Fire in the Twilight" -- that Devo-influenced, Kraftwerk-influenced early to mid-80's sound.  A sound that was prevalent in . . . well . . . Ridgway's old group Wall of Voodoo even.  Here we have Stan on his debut solo album which has been called heavily drenched in the world of film noir; after all, the title track and the album itself is at least partly inspired by Fritz Lang's classic 50's noir film of the same name.  And that's kinda the feel of the whole album.  Each song is just like listening to a mini-movie which sets up its own atmosphere and characters.  Like the time-traveler in the title track who zips from 1986 to 1992 to read the headlines, Stan Ridgway's solo debut palpably rockets me right back to that time when I used to start my pre-close about five minutes after my shift started at 4pm and then rode around in my best friend's puke-coloured Camaro!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  The Big Heat,  Pick It Up (And Put It In Your Pocket),  Can't Stop the Show,  Walkin' Home Alone,  Drive She Said,  Salesman,  Twisted,  Camouflage,  Stormy Side of Town,  End of the Line,  Nadine
GUEST ARTISTS:  Mitchell Froom (keyboards, co-producer)
FACT SHEET:  THE BIG HEAT is Stan Ridgway's first album; originally released as a nine-song album, it was re-released in 1993 with the additional bonus tracks included.  The album yielded the #4 UK hit single "Camouflage".  Stan Ridgway was formerly the lead singer for the band Wall of Voodoo.  "Nadine" is a Chuck Berry cover.

Friday, December 6, 2013


YEAR:  1961
LABEL:  Chess
IMPRESSIONS:  This is one of my favourite Moms Mabley albums.  Pretty much every Moms Mabley album is the same:  hilarious!  So it's a little difficult to choose one from the other and say anything relevant about it other than Moms does her stand-up routine in front of a live audience and is hysterically funny.  Perhaps this album she's a little funnier so I chose it to post about; in fact, the recent documentary "WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY" uses quite a few clips from this album.  But really it's to refresh everyone's memory about this groundbreaking (an adjective Mabley actually deserves) comedian who was the most successful female comic on the planet during her heyday.  With her dentures out and her housecoat and floppy hat on, Moms Mabley is one of those people who could truly read the phone book and be funny.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  There are no tracks as such but merely side a and side b so all of 'em.
FACT SHEET:  AT THE "UN" is Moms Mabley's second album (perhaps) and was recorded live at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


YEAR:  1973
LABEL:  Atlantic
TRACK LISTING:  (Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party,  Make Up Your Mind,  Back to Get Ya,  Struttin' with My Baby,  Don't Try To Hide It,  Southside Shuffle,  Hold Your Loving,  Start All Over Again,  Give It To Me
IMPRESSIONS:  It's been a while but we're heading back to the 1970s living room in Maple Surple with the wood paneling and the lime green bean bag chair of my kiddiehood when my mother used to blast rock records while she was cleaning or else just dancing around.  Consequently, I heard this J. Geils Band album many, many times while growing up.  It's a little bit grungy and a little bit naughty with straight-ahead rockin' guitar and rollin' piano combined with a large soupcon of the blues and a hint of retro fifties style (this WAS the era when "HAPPY DAYS" was a big TV hit).  The album starts off with a barnstorming cover "(Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party" which commences the joint to jumpin' and things stay pretty much on the same high-energy level of fun throughout the spinning of the entire clear red vinyl record.  Wickedly risqué (in the early 70s) was "Don't Try To Hide It" with it's chorus of "I see your heiney, it's nice and shiny, don't try to hide it, you know I'll find it"!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  (Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party,  Make Up Your Mind,  Back To Get Ya,  Don't Try To Hide It,  Give It To Me
FACT SHEET:  BLOODSHOT is the J. Geils Band's fourth album.  It went to number 10 on the Billboard charts; the highest ranking of a J. Geils Band album until the 1981 success of the multi-platinum "FREEZE FRAME" album.  I frankly prefer BLOODSHOT.  The album was recorded in New York City's Hit Factory and produced by Bill Szymczyk.  The band consists of J. Geils (guitar), Peter Wolf (vocals), Stephen Bladd (percussion, drums, vocals), Danny Klein (bass), Seth Justmas (keyboards, vocals), Magic Dick (harmonica, trumpet) and Mike Hunt (saxophone).  Are these last two names for real?!?!  The album was pressed on red vinyl instead of the usual black. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


YEAR:  1968
LABEL:  Diplomat/Tinkerbell
TRACK LISTING:  Snoopy's Christmas,  The Little Shepherd,  Christmas Candy,  Mary Christmas,  The Snowflake Song,  Jingle the Christmas Mouse,  The Christmas Tree,  Mr. Reindeer,  Donner and Blitzen,  Jack Frost's Christmas
IMPRESSIONS:  This is the other children's Christmas record my grandmother bought me while we were food shopping at the Holiday supermarket in the mid-1970s.  The first one I talked about in yesterday's post.  I don't have much to add to what I mentioned in the other "SNOOPY'S CHRISTMAS" post other than that this album is perhaps more lively than the other one and also features a wider variety of song styles; the Peppermint Kandy Kids album has many songs which sounds similar to one another while this album is musically more distinct with each song and features many memorable characters.  My favourite of these is "Jingle the Christmas Mouse" but there's also "Mary Christmas" and the delightfully bonkers "Donner and Blitzen" song which sounds like Carmen Miranda fell into a jazz improv group!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Snoopy's Christmas,  Christmas Candy,  Mary Christmas,  The Snowflake Song,  Jingle the Christmas Mouse,  Donner and Blitzen
FACT SHEET:  SNOOPY'S CHRISTMAS is a children's Christmas record which most sources site as being released on Diplomat Records in 1968; my copy of the LP was on Tinkerbell Records released sometime in the early to mid-1970s.  Both of these labels, however, were subsidiaries of Peter Pan Records and the studio musicians/singers can most properly be called "The Peter Pan Singers".  The cover art on my copy of the LP (pictured above) was by Howie Post.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


YEAR:  1972
LABEL:  Peter Pan Records
TRACK LISTING:  Snoopy's Christmas,  Santa Claus For President (And Christmas All Year Round),  Children of the World Unite Tonight,  Who Stole the Mistletoe? (The Nose Knows),  We Wish You A Merry Christmas,  Jingle Bell Rock,  Travelin' Man,  Christmas Eve In Sloopyville,  Superstar,  The Happiest Time of the Year
IMPRESSIONS:  Once again we delve into the Christmas kiddie wayback machine and look at one of those Peter Pan Christmas records I had as a kid.  Just like "The Bunny Hoppers" Christmas LP "THE CHIPMUNK SONG" I posted about a couple years ago, this and another "SNOOPY'S CHRISTMAS" children's record were purchased by my grandmother when we were food shopping at the surely long-defunct Holiday supermarket.  Clocking in at under 24 minutes, this is a shorty but a goody which I played endlessly when I was growing up.  The Peppermint Kandy Kids, of course, were whatever studio musicians and singers Peter Pan Records were using that week and they cover the Royal Guardsmen's earlier hit single "Snoopy's Christmas" which gave it's name to this album.  However, it appears Peter Pan Records were only allowed to use the Peanuts character names in the eponymous title track as, wherever else they appear, the names are changed. F'rinstance, in "Who Stole the Mistletoe", Charlie Brown's name is changed to "Harley" and Schroeder's to "Roeder" - and the very title of "Christmas Eve In Sloopyville" shows Snoopy's name change as well.
I always liked the hushed, almost-spooky atmosphere of "Children of the World, Unite Tonight"; the picture I always got in my mind's eye was of a Currier & Ives frosted window pane in the dark of night with a lone candle burning as a child's face looks out hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa's sleigh. Hilariously, this rather subdued version of "Children of the World, Unite Tonight" has a raucous, faster counterpart on the aforementioned "Bunny Hoppers" Christmas record; the song title is exactly the same but the song itself is totally different.  Then there's, what to me always sounded like, the faux-Peggy Lee style vocal on "Travelin' Man" with the added lounge-singer whistling bridge!  "Superstar" obviously mirrors the time of the record's release (1972) when "JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR" was very popular; just substitute Santa as the eponymous superstar of the song and you have a hippy idea transformed by the extremely straight, white-bread style of the Peppermint Kandy Kids singers!  The album also includes a version of "JINGLE BELL ROCK" which is a cover of the exact song you think it is but then there's the inclusion of "WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS" which is definitely not the song you think it is at all!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Snoopy's Christmas,  Children of the World Unite Tonight,  Who Stole the Mistletoe? (The Nose Knows),  We Wish You A Merry Christmas,  Travelin' Man
FACT SHEET:  SNOOPY'S CHRISTMAS is a children's Christmas record released by Peter Pan Records in 1972.  The "Santa/Snoopy/Red Baron/Whatever It Is" figure seen on the cover is actually a gatefold cutout Christmas decoration which had a perforated edge so kiddies could tear it off and hang it on the wall; once you did this, however, the image still appeared underneath so the album cover looks identical with or without it.  The album cover art was drawn by the legendary kid's records cover artist George Peed.  In 1977, Peter Pan Records re-recorded the entire album with different versions of each of the songs linked together as a story; this version is actually available on iTunes and is godawful!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


YEAR:  2010
LABEL:  Nonesuch
TRACK LISTING:  Peace Behind the Bridge,  Trouble In Your Mind,  Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine,  Hit 'Em Up Style,  Cornbread and Butterbeans,  Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig),  Why Don't You Do Right?,  Cindy Gal,  Kissin' and Cussin',  Sandy Boys,  Reynadine,  Trampled Rose
BONUS TRACKS:  Memphis Shakedown,  City of Refuge
IMPRESSIONS:  I've always been a fan of folk music and old 78 recordings such as those featured in Harry Smith's "ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC" etc.  That's probably why this album was such a joy to me.  Oftentimes, when modern performers attempt to do old blues songs or jug band stomps or country blues, the results can sound dead or academic; but here, the Carolina Chocolate Drops recordings sound alive and authentic as this music should.  After all, this music shouldn't be considered a museum piece (as often happens) but instead should be just as enjoyable as any other music one listens to today.  And that's where the Carolina Chocolate Drops triumph over their competitors; the music sounds fresh and vital and not at all like some dusty music archeologist's attempts to catalogue lost folk tunes.  This album is just a solidly great listen; an almost perfect album in every way.  The song selections are pretty flawless; country blues and jug band hootenannies ("Trouble In Your Mind", "Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine") with new compositions "Kissin' and Cussin'"), modern covers, instrumentals and even British folk music.  We're used to hearing Peggy Lee's big band version of "Why Don't You Do Right?" but here the exquisite voice of Rhiannon Giddens renders it into a melancholy blues.  There is murder ballad-stuff here as well as a hilariously incongruous but still tasty cover of Blu Cantrell's hit from about a decade ago "Hit 'Em Up Style" which somehow works.  Rhiannon also provides us with an a cappella rendition of the Brit-folk standard "Reynadine" which I'm familiar with in versions by Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch all the way through to the Folktellers' version "Mr. Fox" on their "CHILLERS" album.  A superb collection of country blues.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Peace Behind the Bridge,  Trouble In Your Mind,  Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine,  Hit 'Em Up Style,  Cornbread and Butterbeans,  Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig),  Why Don't You Do Right?,  Kissin' and Cussin',  Reynadine,  Trampled Rose
FACT SHEET:  GENUINE NEGRO JIG is the Carolina Chocolate Drops' fourth album.  The group at this time consisted of the trio of vocalist Rhiannon Giddens, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dom Flemons and percussionist/banjoist Sule Greg Wilson with occasional guest appearances by Justin Robinson.  The Carolina Chocolate Drops are one of the few existing African-American string bands whose stated purpose is to celebrate and bring attention to the history of string band music from the North and South Carolina Piedmont region which they learned at the feet of respected old-time fiddler Joe Thompson.  In Giddens' words:  "it seems that two things get left out of the history books. One, that there was string band music in the Piedmont, period. (And that) black folk was such a huge part of string tradition."  Critically acclaimed, (The 9513 described the album as "an album of feistily complex, yet endearingly soulful songs that have ages of history behind them and a bright future as well.") the album was number 9 on Roots magazine's "Top 10 Albums of the Year" and was the first all-black group to appear at the Grand Ole Opry.  "Peace Behind the Bridge" is an Etta Baker song.  "Trouble In Your Mind" is a cover of a song originally done by Frank Blevins and the Tar Heel Rattlers.  "Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine" is a Papa Charlie Jackson song.  "Hit 'Em Up Style" is a cover of a Blu Cantrell song.  "Cornbread and Butterbeans" was originally recorded by the Carolina Sunshine Trio.  "Why Don't You Do Right?" was recorded by multiple artists including most famously Peggy Lee.  "Reynadine" is a traditional folk ballad; the version here was learned from a recording by Annie Briggs.  "Trampled Rose" is a Tom Waits cover.  In 2010, GENUINE NEGRO JIG won the Grammy Award for "Best Traditional Folk Album" and the Penguin Award for "Album of the Year".

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


YEAR:  1971
LABEL:  Warner Bros.
TRACK LISTING:  Wild Night,  (Straight To Your Heart) Like a Cannonball,  Old Old Woodstock,  Starting A New Life,  You're My Woman,  Tupelo Honey,  I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative),  When That Evening Sun Goes Down,  Moonshine Whiskey
IMPRESSIONS:  This album is the musical equivalent of kicking off your shoes and sprawling out in a hammock during a pleasant summer day.  Much more laid back and less experimental than some of Van's other albums (and some people downgrade this album on that account), TUPELO HONEY finds the artist pausing to take stock of himself and his career.  Originally conceived as a country album, Morrison eventually changed his mind and ditched half the songs which were very country and added some older songs he had "lying around".  However, the album still sounds very, very country and is especially indicative of the era when everyone seemed to be enamored of making albums which sounded like The Band.  TUPELO HONEY is a nostalgic, sepia-tinted evocation of Morrison's home in Woodstock, New York which he viewed as an idyllic refuge until the 1969 concert and 1970 concert film turned it into a tourist mecca and he decided he needed to move out.  He relocated to California (where his then-wife Janet Planet had relatives) and it is there he recorded this album.  The song "Old Old Woodstock" immediately followed with "Starting a New Life" lays out this scenario quite clearly.  Besides being a paean to relaxing country home life and the sound of the Band, the album is also an extremely romantic one with Van providing loving tributes to his wife:  the impossibly perfect love song embodied in the title track as well as such romantic longings as "You're My Woman" (which Van wrote sitting at the piano in the recording studio) and "I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative)" ("roo" means "to woo").  However, this is not completely a quiet album; the lead-off track is the seminal rocker "Wild Night" featuring Ronnie Montrose on guitar and there is the honky tonk, rolling piano tune of "When the Evening Sun Goes Down" as well as the final track "Moonshine Whiskey" (which Morrison has said was written for "Janis Joplin or something") which alternates between a slow 6/8 time as a fast 4/4.  Morrison himself has expressed some disappointment with the album stating that it doesn't feel fresh owing to his use of a lot of older songs he hadn't yet recorded.  As if songs had a sell-by date.  Whether a song is good or bad has no relation to when it was written and, while Van may have had the songs laying around for a while, they were brand new to everyone else.  TUPELO HONEY may not be groundbreaking stuff but it obviously wasn't intended to be; the album succeeds in its intentions.  My acquisition of this album goes back to the late 80s-early 90s camping trips we all went on with my late friend Cindy and her husband Rob; this and Van Morrison's greatest hits were recurring soundtracks and always remind me of those times.  It is, indeed, the perfect album for reminiscing.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Wild Night,  Old Old Woodstock,  You're My Woman,  Tupelo Honey,  I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative),  When That Evening Sun Goes Down
GUEST ARTISTS:  Ronnie Montrose (guitar)
FACT SHEET:  TUPELO HONEY is Van Morrison's fifth album.  It went to #27 on the Billboard album charts and has been certified gold.   

Sunday, September 1, 2013


YEAR:  1976
LABEL:  Epic
TRACK LISTING:  More Than a Feeling,  Peace of Mind,  Foreplay/Long Time,  Rock & Roll Band,  Smokin',  Hitch a Ride,  Something About You,  Let Me Take You Home Tonight
IMPRESSIONS:  Surely one of the most quintessential albums of the 1970s!  As Wikipedia so aptly says, the album "sold mightily" and became one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time and almost the entire thing plays constantly on classic rock radio to this day.  Something of a surprise to the record label as well as the band members themselves, the phenomenal success led to record labels trying to copy Boston's sound in order to make the cash registers ring.  Somewhat unfairly, the resulting "corporate rock" genre was laid at the band's door but they were only ever interested in making their music.  Subsequent knock-down, drag-out tussles with their record company over control of their future led to the band's stagnation as it was unable to release more albums for years.  But one of classic rock's bedrock albums still stands as something of a monument of the 1970s and something of a comet flashing across the sky of those UFOs on the cover.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  More Than a Feeling,  Peace of Mind,  Foreplay/Long Time,  Rock & Roll Band,  Smokin,  Hitch a Ride,  Let Me Take You Home Tonight
FACT SHEET:  BOSTON is Boston's first album and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and has been certified diamond.  It is the second highest-selling debut album of all-time behind Guns N Roses' "APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION".  Boston consisted of Tom Scholz (guitars, bass, songwriting), Brad Delp (vocals, acoustic guitar), Sib Hashian (drums), Jim Masdea (drums on "Rock & Roll Band"), Barry Goudreau (rhythm guitars), Fran Sheehan (bass guitar on "Foreplay" and "Let Me Take You Home Tonight").  Scholz wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album years before and plays most of the instruments as well as recording and engineering all the tracks.  Album opener "More Than A Feeling" is about daydreaming and was inspired by the break-up of a school-time romance.  The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" was popular at the time and inspired Scholz in his misery; in fact, unconsciously the chord progression from "Walk Away Renee" appears in the song right after the line "I see my Mary Ann walking away".  Famously, Nirvana would appropriate the main riff of the song for their own "Smells Like Teen Spirit" years later.          

Saturday, August 31, 2013


YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  Reprise
TRACK LISTING:  Come Fly With Me,  I've Got a Crush On You,  I've Got You Under My Skin,  The Shadow of Your Smile,  Street of Dreams,  One For My Baby (and One More For the Road),  Fly Me To the Moon,  One O'clock Jump,  The Tea Break,  You Make Me Feel So Young,  All of Me,  The September of My Years,  Luck Be A Lady,  Get Me To the Church On Time,  It Was A Very Good Year,  Don't Worry 'Bout Me,  Makin' Whoopee,  Where or When,  Angel Eyes,  My Kind of Town,  A Few Last Words,  My Kind of Town (Reprise)
IMPRESSIONS:  I can't hear a live Sinatra album without thinking of my friend Paul.  Paul's family was a Sinatra household and on more than one occasion, I can remember a road trip during which a Sinatra concert was played on the car stereo -- particularly this one New Year's Eve in the late 1980s.  However, I don't think it was this one.  So this album doesn't really have anything to do with this story, does it?  Other than I always think of my friend Paul whenever I hear a live Sinatra album and this one is Ol' Blue Eyes' first live album.  It's usually considered to be a quintessential snapshot of this era of Frankie and who am I to argue?  Produced by the very young Quincy Jones and backed by the sublime Count Basie and his orchestra, Sinatra here is celebrating (?!) his recent 50th birthday and is full of mischief; particularly in his decision to do what amounts to almost 12 minutes of standup comedy in the middle of his concert!  While some of the jokes are a little wheezy, Frankie is rather funny with his delivery and brio.  But then it's the music which is the most important part of a live concert album and here we have some of the pinnacle of 60's era ring-a-ding-ding Sinatra on display.  Of particular note is the inclusion of more than a few of the slow, melancholy Sinatra songs I love so much and I appreciate their inclusion in his set quite a lot, actually.  Without them, the whole thing would seem rather flippant but the sad ballads really anchor the performance and give it a surprising depth amongst the clinks of cocktail glasses in the Sands casino.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Come Fly With Me,  I've Got a Crush On You,  I've Got You Under My Skin,  One For My Baby (and One More For the Road),  Fly Me To the Moon,  The Tea Break,  You Make Me Feel So Young,  The September of My Years,  It Was A Very Good Year,  Don't Worry 'Bout Me,  Where or When,  Angel Eyes
GUEST ARTISTS:  Count Basie (piano),  Quincy Jones (producer/arranger)
FACT SHEET:  SINATRA AT THE SANDS is Frank Sinatra's first live album.  It was recorded live in the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The album was certified gold.  "Luck Be A Lady" did not appear on the original LP but was only included as a bonus track on the 1998 cd reissue; subsequent cd releases do not feature the track either.         

Friday, August 30, 2013


YEAR:  2000
LABEL:  Manteca
TRACK LISTING:  On Entre O.K. On Sort K.O.,  Mpata Ezangi Mokengeli,  Bolingo Ya Bougie,  Luvumbu Ndoki,  Koun Koue! Edo Aboyi Ngai,  Kinsiona,  Azda,  Liberte,  Nalingaka Yo Yo Te,  Laissez Pazzez,  Attention Na Sida
IMPRESSIONS:  Loathe as I am to include "best ofs" on this blog, Franco is something of a special case.  From the time he started recording as a teenager in the 1950s until his death in 1989, Franco recorded some 84 albums and there are something like 150 if you include compilations etc.  In fact, on this very blog I've already posted one of them (which you can go read if you click the "Franco" link at the bottom of this post) and, franc-ly (sorry) this album only differs from that because it's a single disc and that other one has 4 cds in it; and even THAT barely scratches the surface of Franco's best work.  But I will use any opportunity to talk up Franco since his music is some of my favourite of all time and he needs to be better known in this country.  As previously eluded to, this cd is woefully inadequate as an overview of Franco's colossal career but it does contain some of my favourite Franco songs.  Also, this is the first actual Franco cd I ever heard thanks to friend Roxor who mailed it to me in the early noughties.  Roxor had previously sent me a cassette tape of the 1999 career retrospective episode of the Afropop Worldwide radio programme which caused me to fall in love with Franco's music.  Not only did he send me several more Franco cds but also the superb and indispensable Franco biography "CONGO COLOSSUS" which sent me on my way to becoming a ravening Francophile!  "THE VERY BEST OF THE RUMBA GIANT OF ZAIRE" is a short but happy collection of some of le maître's best tracks and would make a great starting point for anyone new to Franco's music.  It spans his entire career from his first big hit "On Entre O.K., On Sort K.O." (which translates into "You enter OK, you leave K.O.'ed" from Franco's powerful music!) and ends with the 80s anti-AIDS epic "Attention Na Sida".  Due to this fact (and the brief nature of a single cd), this album doesn't flow as well as other compilations and the greatly-varied styles of the songs here may be bewildering to some; however as a brief sampler I suppose it serves as a musical appetizer for the much richer main course to be found in the wealth of Franco's output (now happily more readily available on things like iTunes and amazon).  It would be very simple to put "all of 'em" as my favourite tracks from this cd, but I'm going to be scrupulously frugal and force myself to only choose several.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  On Entre O.K. On Sort K.O.,  Koun Koue! Edo Aboya Ngai,  Kinsiona,  Azda,  Liberte,  Nalingaka Yo Yo Te,  Laissez Passez,  Attention Na Sida
FACT SHEET:  THE VERY BEST OF THE RUMBA GIANT OF ZAIRE is a compilation from 2000.  As something of a primer for Franco's soukous sound for the uninitiated, I'll leave it to Robert Christgau from his 2001 Village Voice review:  "First a melodic section following the contours of a lyric that with Franco is almost always in Lingala--a tonal pidgin, originally the patois of the Congo docks, that serves as a kind of working-class West African Swahili--is varied and repeated vocally and instrumentally. And then comes the sebene, soukous's signature selling point, which has been credited to both Franco and one of his mentors, long-repatriated Belgian-born guitarist-producer Bill Alexandre, but which predates both and only flowered in its countless variegations after Zaiko launched their '70s youth movement. The sebene is an "improvisational episode" or "groove" in which three guitarists repeat short phrases off which the lead player improvises, generally remaining close enough to the source riffs to reinforce them and break them down simultaneously. Eventually younger players like Kanda Bongo Man shucked the verse to play nothing but sebene--"speed soukous." The intricate rush of the sebene is what you hear in your head when you recall what soukous sounds like."  ***(all ownership of this quote reside with the original copyright holders credited i.e. Robert Christgau from the Village Voice dated July 1, 2001 and is used here for review purposes.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013


YEAR:  1975
LABEL:  Warner Bros.
TRACK LISTING:  Eulogy,  Shortage of White People,  New Niggers,  Cocaine,  Just Us,  Mudbone - Intro,  Mudbone - Little Feets,  When Your Woman Leaves You,  The Goodnight Kiss,  Women Are Beautiful,  Our Text For Today
IMPRESSIONS:  I led a sheltered life.  For some reason (most probably due to the naughty nature of the albums), I never heard an actual Richard Pryor album until my friend Cheeks gave me some cerpts tapes containing them.  And this was probably the first I got.  I know it's the one we got the most "catch-phrases" from.  And it was only when I recently got the new cd box set of Richard Pryor's 6 Warner Bros. albums from 1974-1983 and listened to these classic comedy gems which I hadn't heard for at least 15 years that all the memories came flooding back to me.  Not only did I suddenly remember where the hell I got some of those old catch-phrases from ("Goddamn baby, I love you but shit!") but also received another of those vivid sensory flashbacks discussed in the previous post.  Memories of those early early cerpts tapes that I would receive from Cheeks which alternated stuff like Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" song with Richard Pryor's "Mudbone" -- and all of this taped onto a Kmart cassette tape from his old wobbly-turntabled record player with the noticeable hum hinting that there must've been some shady wiring going on in that thing.  As familiar and well-loved as all this material is to me, I never even knew the names of the albums they were taken from until I got the new box set!  I wonder if Richard would be surprised that listening to his comedy albums would conjure up such a warm and fuzzy glow?
FACT SHEET:  . . .IS IT SOMETHING I SAID? is Richard Pryor's fourth album and his first under his new contract with Warner Bros. records.  The album cover was conceived by Richard Pryor.  The album made #1 on the Billboard R&B album chart and won the Grammy award for Best Comedy Recording in 1976.  This is the first appearance on record of Pryor's "Mudbone" character.  "Just Us" is credited on the album label as having been "stolen from Paul Mooney".  The album was recorded almost right down the road from me at the now-defunct Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ.   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


YEAR:  1970
LABEL:  Fantasy Records
TRACK LISTING:  Ramble Tamble,  Before You Accuse Me,  Travelin' Band,  Ooby Dooby,  Lookin' Out My Back Door,  Run Through the Jungle,  Up Around the Bend,  My Baby Left Me,  Who'll Stop the Rain,  I Heard It Through the Grapevine,  Long As I Can See the Light
BONUS TRACKS:  Travelin' Band (Remake Take),  Up Around the Bend (Live in Amsterdam, September 10, 1971),  Born On the Bayou (Jam with Booker T at Fantasy Studios)
IMPRESSIONS:  I've never been what you'd call a CCR fan; however this album was a very strong presence during my very young years and I always get very nostalgic about it.  In fact, it's one of those album which conjures very strong sensory recall when I merely see the album cover or hear the songs within.  When the album came out I was only 4 years old but I can remember very strongly COSMO'S FACTORY playing in the living room of our old house in Maple Surple.  Music playing loudly in our living room was an almost-constant occurrence in my childhood.  In this particular instance, it was a warm summer day and the front door was open revealing through the screen door the very green grass of our front yard and the strip of green next to the sidewalk.  It was also, I recall, raining very heavily so the atmosphere was very much like a sultry, humid bayou caught in a summer downpour.  I cannot hear "Lookin' Out My Back Door" (even though it was my front door), without immediately flashing on this scene from my very early childhood.  Of course, the humid, rainy day also flashes back to me when I hear "Run Through the Jungle" or "Who'll Stop the Rain" as well.  The record played often over the years during my seventies childhood on Linwood Avenue but these vivid memories always cling to this album like a swamp vine to a weeping willow tree.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Before You Accuse Me,  Travelin' Band,  Lookin' Out My Back Door,  Run Through the Jungle,  Up Around the Bend,  Who'll Stop the Rain,  I Heard It Through the Grapevine,  Long As I Can See the Light
GUEST ARTISTS:  Booker T. (on "Born On the Bayou")
FACT SHEET:  COSMO'S FACTORY is the fifth album by Creedence Clearwater Revival which consisted of John Fogerty (lead guitar, piano, saxophone, harmonica, vocals, songwriter, producer, arranger . . . yeah), Tom Fogerty (rhythm guitar), Stu Cook (bass) and Doug Clifford (drums).  The album cover was designed and photographed by Bob Fogerty.  The album has been certified four time platimun with sales over four million copies.  The title of the album comes from the rehearsal room during CCR's early career.  John Fogerty insisted that the band practice every day and the rehearsal room was often so full of cigarette smoke that drummer Doug "Cosmo" Clifford started to refer to the rehearsal space as "the factory".  Early pressings of the album featured an earlier mix of "Travelin' Band" with John Fogerty's first guitar solo mixed behind the horn section as well as "Before You Accuse Me" featuring a three-second audio dropout in the left stereo channel; both these takes were restored to the 40th anniversary cd release of the album.  COSMO'S FACTORY topped the album charts in six countries.  The first double-sided single "Travelin' Band/Who'll Stop the Rain" hit #2 on the Billboard Top 100 followed by the double A-sided single "Run Through the Jungle/Up Around the Bend" which reached #4 and # 2 respectively and "Lookin' Out My Back Door b/w/ Long As I Can See the Light" reached #2.  All songs were written by John Fogerty except "Before You Accuse Me" which was written by Ellas McDaniel, the Roy Orbison cover "Ooby Dooby" written by Wade Moore & Dick Penner, "My Baby Left Me" written by Arthur Crudup and the Motown classic "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.  In the Coen Brothers film "THE BIG LEBOWSKI", it is a cassette of "COSMO'S FACTORY" that "The Dude" has in his car stereo.   

Saturday, May 18, 2013


YEAR:  1968
LABEL:  Decca
TRACK LISTING:  We're the Banana Splits,  I'm Gonna Find A Cave,  This Spot,  Doin' the Banana Split,  Toy Piano Melody,  Soul,  The Tra La La Song (One Banana Two Banana),  Wait Til Tomorrow,  You're the Lovin' End,  In New Orleans,  Two Ton Tessie,  Don't Go Away -- Go-Go Girl
IMPRESSIONS:  In the interest of documentary truthfulness, this record actually belonged to my father.  Yep, that's right.  But he was a hippy so what can I say.  Naturally, as a kid I watched reruns of "THE BANANA SPLITS" show on UHF (it was on channel 48, I seem to recall) and loved the silliness -- even if I only saw it on my black & white TV for years.  The sound of the album (as were the songs featured on the TV show) have that bubblegum pop sixties flavour of the songs that were being written for the Monkees.  Hardly a surprise there since I'll bet more than a couple songwriters wrote for both.  And the shocking thing is that one or two of the songs (notably the surprisingly wistful "Wait Til Tomorrow") stand up as legitimate songs that any artist of the time would've been happy to record.  Mostly though, the songs are silly fun most suitable for a children's Saturday morning programme.  It is also recommended that you only listen to this album while wearing white go-go boots.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  I'm Gonna Find A Cave,  This Spot,  Doin' the Banana Split,  Toy Piano Melody,  Soul,  The Tra La La Song (One Banana Two Banana),  Wait Til Tomorrow,  Two Ton Tessie,  Don't Go Away -- Go-Go Girl
FACT SHEET:  WE'RE THE BANANA SPLITS was the only album released by the session musicians who were masquerading as the Banana Splits.  Apparently the vinyl copy I own is the earliest pressing with a darker green cover and no copyright notice on the front cover; later pressings had a lighter green cover with a copyright notice in the bottom left corner.  The Banana Splits, of course, were a band of four musical animals:  Fleegle (the beagle), Bingo (the gorilla), Drooper (the lion) and Snorky (the elephant) who were played by actors in animal suits a la Disneyland.  Apparently vocals on "Doin' the Banana Split" were provided by Barry White (!), "Two Ton Tessie" by Gene Pitney and "You're the Lovin' End" by Al Kooper.  "We're the Banana Splits" was originally intended to be the TV show's theme song but the television executives and advertiser thought "The Tra La La Song" was catchier and the latter was chosen to open the show.     

Friday, May 17, 2013


YEAR:  1971
TRACK LISTING:  20th Century Man,  Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues,  Holiday,  Skin & Bone,  Alcohol,  Complicated Life,  Here Come the People In Grey,  Have A Cuppa Tea,  Holloway Jail,  Oklahoma U.S.A.,  Uncle Son,  Muswell Hillbilly
BONUS TRACKS:  Mountain Woman,  Kentucky Moon
IMPRESSIONS:  Described by Ben Eisen as probably the Kinks' last "great" album of their golden age, MUSWELL HILLBILLIES is relatively unknown compared to such other famous Kinks albums as SOMETHING ELSE, VILLAGE GREEN..., ARTHUR..., LOLA AND... etc.  After the phenomenal success of "Lola", this album seems more laid-back and less flashy.  It does share something in common with most of the previous Kinks albums in that it's something of a concept album if only obliquely; the subject matter of all the songs seems to be about working class lives.  The album is also, as Stephen Thomas Erlewine points out, "...a skewed, distinctly British, cabaret take on Americana..." with a pronounced bluesy, sometimes New Orleans feel combined with British music hall stylings Kinks fans are familiar with.  Apparently the album was also recorded using ten year old microphones in order to play up the "antique" feel and sound of it.  And "Holiday" must be Adam Sandler's favourite song?  While the album does illustrate the struggles of modern life, it never leaves its protagonists defeated.  I like that. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  20th Century Man,  Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues,  Skin & Bone,  Alcohol,  Complicated Life,  Here Come the People In Grey,  Have A Cuppa Tea,  Holloway Jail,  Oklahoma U.S.A.,  Kentucky Moon
FACT SHEET:  MUSWELL HILLBILLIES is the Kinks' ninth album.  This is the first album the Kinks released on RCA records after leaving their previous record label Pye.  Muswell Hill is a section of North London in which Ray & Dave Davies grew up.  The cover photo was taken at the Archway Tavern two miles from Muswell Hill.  The album only went to #48 in the US and didn't chart in the UK making it a significant failure after the success of "Lola".  However, critically it was a success winning "Stereo Review" magazine's "Album of the Year" in 1972 and called by "Rolling Stone" magazine Ray Davies' "signature statement" as a songwriter.'s Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls MUSWELL HILLBILLIES " of the Kinks' best albums."

Friday, May 3, 2013


YEAR:  1973
LABEL:  Motown
TRACK LISTING:  Too High,  Visions,  Living For the City,  Golden Lady,  Higher Ground,  Jesus Children of America,  All In Love Is Fair,  Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing,  He's Misstra Know-It-All
IMPRESSIONS:  Landmark album of his "classic period".  Ridiculously impressive.  Ridiculously prolific.  Ridiculously talented.  In just nine songs, Stevie runs the gamut of themes and subjects from love songs to politics and from hardcore funk to easy listening ballads.  During this period, Stevie would dominate the charts as well as the Grammy Awards with classic album after classic album.  And this album was almost his last.  Only three days after INNERVISIONS' release, Wonder was involved in a car accident when a car driven by his friend crashed into the back of a logging truck; a log smashed through the windshield and hit Stevie directly in the forehead.  The singer was in a coma for four days.  Only when friend and tour director Ira Tucker sang "Higher Ground" loudly into Stevie's ear did the singer begin to tap his fingers to the beat and begin to come around.  The cover painting has always been very strange to me since it practically foretells the car accident that would occur three days after the album's release; we see Stevie inside a shape with an opening that could be viewed as resembling a car windshield with another shape emerging from his forehead which also recalls the log which hit him in the exact same place. 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Too High,  Visions,  Living For the City,  Higher Ground,  Jesus Children of America,  All In Love Is Fair,  Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing
FACT SHEET:  INNERVISIONS is Stevie Wonder's sixteenth album.  The album won Grammy Awards for "Album of the Year" and "Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording" and "Living For the City" won the Grammy Award for "Best R&B Song".

Thursday, May 2, 2013


YEAR:  196?
LABEL:  Vocalion
TRACK LISTING:  Jack and the Beanstalk,  The Tick Tock Shop,  The Raggleytaggletown Singers,  The Ugly Duckling,  Chicken Licken,  Sleeping Beauty
IMPRESSIONS:  Frank Luther has a really nice way with a children's story.  And how can an album utilizing the words "rainy day" fail to catch my interest.  I've found several Frank Luther recordings and they're all great listens.  Luther has some sort of simpatico with children (and even the adult listener); there is just something in his voice which is not only reassuring to children but also places himself on the same level as the children who are listening to him tell his stories.  Luther never talks down to his listeners.  Children hate that.  Frank Luther tells a story with such enthusiasm as if he's just learned of something really interesting and can't wait to share it with you.  If you have kids or know some, give 'em a couple Frank Luther records.  I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Come on now . . . once you follow along with Frank Luther you've got to go along to the end.  All of 'em.
FACT SHEET:  It's impossible to determine an accurate discography of Frank Luther's records.  Even the date of "STORIES FOR RAINY DAYS" is uncertain although the best guest places it sometime in the early 1960's probably.  He started out as a country music singer and a big band vocalist but in the mid-30's he happened to record a couple 78s of nursery rhymes at Decca Records and suddenly he was a children's record phenomenon.  His children's records began to sell enormous amounts and pediatricians and child psychologists endorsed his recordings.  Decca at one point claimed in 1946 that 85% of all children's records sold in the English-speaking world were Frank Luther's. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


YEAR:  1966
LABEL:  Columbia/Capitol/EMI Gold
TRACK LISTING:  Singin' In the Rain,  April Showers,  Pennies From Heaven,  Isn't This A Lovely Day,  Stormy Weather,  Soon It's Going To Rain,  Here's That Rainy Day,  Gentle Rain,  Everytime It Rains,  Where Do You Go,  February Brings the Rain,  Rain Rain (Don't Go Away)
IMPRESSIONS:  Biff Bailey strikes again!  Here we have Roy Castle's concept album; an album of songs about rain.  I just love the cover photo of a vaguely overcast day with Roy gazing wistfully upward and the earth-toned colour scheme of greens and browns.  The original title of the album was "SONGS FOR A RAINY DAY" (which I kinda prefer) and right there you know it's gotta hit a chord with me.  The song stylings are gentle jazz arrangements with Roy singing in a comfortable, breezy, laid-back style that would make Dean Martin proud.  There is even a nice variety of song styles from ballads to big, jazzy belters and swingin' sixties lounge music (and even a couple bossa novas).  This also isn't just some album of fluff; Castle is accompanied by some of the best British jazzmen of the era.  So if it's your day off and the rain is coming down all afternoon, put this album on (if you can FIND it, that is) as you settle down with a hot cup of coffee (or tea) and I guarantee a wonderful way to pass a rainy half hour.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Pennies From Heaven,  Isn't This A Lovely Day,  Stormy Weather,  Soon It's Going To Rain,  Here's That Rainy Day,  Gentle Rain,  Everytime It Rains,  February Brings the Rain,  Rain Rain (Don't Go Away)
FACT SHEET:  I believe ISN'T THIS A LOVELY DAY is Roy Castle's third album.  The album is arranged by Victor Graham and features Gordon Beck on piano, Jeff Clyne on bass, Leon Calvert on flugelhorn, Al Newman on saxophone, Ike Isaacs on guitar and Ray Swinfield on flute.  The album was originally released in 1966 as "SONGS FOR A RAINY DAY". 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


YEAR:  1958
LABEL:  Capitol
TRACK LISTING:  The Very Thought of You,  But Beautiful,  Impossible,  I Wish I Knew the Way To Your Heart (Notorious),  I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five and Ten Cent Store),  Magnificent Obsession,  My Heart Tells Me,  Paradise,  This Is All I Ask,  Cherie I Love You,  Making Believe You're Here,  Cherchez La Femme,  For All We Know,  The More I See You
BONUS TRACKS:  Don't Blame Me,  There Is No Greater Love
IMPRESSIONS:  Mellow, mellow, mellow.  This is the mellowest of mellow Nat King Cole; an album designed to be listened to by young lovers cuddled up on a couch in front of a roaring fire.  As allmusic's Scott Yanow rightly points out "...there is no piano playing or (sic) any hint of his jazz-oriented past..." on this album.  This, in fact, is a quintessential example of the 1950's LP; a vocalist standing in front of a microphone while a lush orchestra (heavy on the strings) wafts around him.  And this album packs in some of the King's best balladeering:  the gorgeous title track a magnificent opening salvo.  And besides that, I love the cover photograph of Nat in his dapper hat!
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  The Very Thought of You,  But Beautiful,  Impossible,  I Wish I Knew the Way To Your Heart (Notorious),  I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five and Ten Cent Store),  Magnificent Obsession,  Cherie I Love You,  For All We Know,  The More I See You
FACT SHEET:  THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU is Nat King Cole's ninth album (if you're counting 12" albums).  The album was arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins.  In addition to the two bonus tracks I have listed, apparently the 2007 CD reissue also included two more bonus tracks ("A Farewell To Arms" and "Happy New Year") which do not appear on my copy.  All four bonus tracks were recorded at the same sessions as this album. 

Monday, April 22, 2013


YEAR:  1982
LABEL:  Mercury
TRACK LISTING:  Subdivisions,  The Analog Kid,  Chemistry,  Digital Man,  The Weapon,  New World Man,  Losing It,  Countdown
IMPRESSIONS:  They could've made MOVING PICTURES PART 2 but they didn't.  Instead, they embraced early 80's technology with synthesizers taking a more central role (to the chagrin of Mr. Alex Lifeson).  The songs got were kept shorter (relatively speaking) and the lyrics were more concise.  And the album opens with probably my favourite Rush song ever.  As a high school student on the outskirts of popularity with self-esteem just south of a worm's navel, "Subdivisions" had (and still has) a tremendously-powerful connection with me personally.  And hey, the rest of the album and half bad neither!  The three members of Rush were self-confessed fans of the Police and you can certainly hear their influence on SIGNALS (hey, that's the second Police-influenced album in a row here!). 
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Subdivisions,  The Analog Kid,  The Weapon,  New World Man,  Losing It,  Countdown
GUEST ARTISTS:  Ben Mink (violins)
FACT SHEET:  SIGNALS is Rush's ninth album.  Troy Hickman named his super-hero characters "The Analog Kid" and "Digital Man" in the comic book "COMMON GROUNDS" after the two songs from this album.  All lyrics were written by Neil Peart except for "Chemistry" which features lyrics by Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson; this is the last time to date Lee and Lifeson have contributed to the lyrics of any Rush song.   

Sunday, April 21, 2013


YEAR:  1986
LABEL:  Columbia
TRACK LISTING:  Running On Ice,  This Is the Time,  A Matter of Trust,  Modern Woman,  Baby Grand,  Big Man On Mulberry Street,  Temptation,  Code of Silence,  Getting Closer
IMPRESSIONS:  This was a huge album in my life at the time and it never fails to remind me of countless road trips with my friend Paul.  It features one of Billy's greatest ballads in "This Is the Time" and a couple of my favourite duets with "Code of Silence" and "Baby Grand".  Then there's the distinctive tinkling-icicle piano intro on the Police-inspired opener "Running on Ice", the drum-bashing hit single "A Matter of Trust" (which is one of my mother's favourites), the big-band sound of the "MOONLIGHTING"-inspired song "Big Man on Mulberry Street" and the "RUTHLESS PEOPLE" soundtrack denizen "Modern Woman".  This is a major "waning-days of Rustler" album and I never get tired of hearing it.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Running On Ice,  This Is the Time,  A Matter of Trust,  Modern Woman,  Baby Grand,  Big Man On Mulberry Street,  Code of Silence
GUEST ARTISTS:  Ray Charles (vocals on "Baby Grand"),  Cyndi Lauper (vocals on "Code of Silence"), Steve Winwood (vocals and Hammond organ on "Getting Closer"),  Ron Carter (acoustic bass on "Big Man On Mulberry Street"),  Michael Brecker (baritone saxophone on "Big Man On Mulberry Street")
FACT SHEET:  THE BRIDGE is Billy Joel's tenth album.  "Running On Ice" was heavily influenced by the Police.  "Big Man On Mulberry Street" was inspired by the television show "MOONLIGHTING".  The album cover painting is by Brad Holland.    

Saturday, April 20, 2013


YEAR:  1955
LABEL:  Folkways
TRACK LISTING:  Barrack-Room Scandal,  Reincarnation,  Brooklyn Brooklyn!,  Barbados,  Brown Skin Girl,  29 Port of Spain,  Labor Day,  Where Jonah Gone
IMPRESSIONS:  What we might consider more of an EP than an LP today, Lord Invader's album "CALYPSO" just barely tops 21 minutes.  However, those are some seminal minutes. The first time I heard the name Lord Invader was when Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio introduced a live version of "Zombie Jamboree" by saying it was by "Lord Invader and the 12 Penetrators".  Sadly, that song was actually first recorded by Lord Intruder and later covered by Lord Invader.  Be that as it may, Whoopi Goldberg taught Doogie Howser how to sing "Brown Skin Girl" in "CLARA'S HEART" so that's some cultural cache for Lord Invader, innit?  "CALYPSO" is an album almost evenly divided between Lord Invader's ties to the Caribbean ("Barrack-Room Scandal", "29 Port of Spain", "Barbados") and his frequent trips to the United States ("Brooklyn Brooklyn!" and "Labor Day").  I just love Lord Invader's raspy vocals and I can see why folkies like the Kingston Trio took him as one of their inspirations.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All dem.  Yah mon!
GUEST ARTISTS:  The Trinidad Caribbean Orchestra
FACT SHEET:  Who knows what number album this was for Lord Invader?!?  The album was recorded during one of Lord Invader's frequent trips to the U.S.   Lord Invader was born Rupert Westmore Grant in 1914 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.  Grant was given this name by his tailor who told the ambitious singer that he should call himself "The Lord Invader" so that "when you go up to the city you be invadin' the capital".  While in Trinidad, American comedian Morey Amsterdam (of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" fame) heard Invader perform "Rum and Coca-Cola" and brought the song back to the U.S. where it would become a hit by the Andrews Sisters.  Grant sued Amsterdam in 1945 for plagiarism and the case (which Grant would eventually win) dragged on for years.  The Trinidad Caribbean Orchestra consists of clarinet, piano, guitar, steel drum, and percussion.  The album was recorded by Moses Asch for Smithsonian Folkways Records in New York. 

Friday, April 19, 2013


YEAR:  1963
LABEL:  Roulette
TRACK LISTING:  Snowbound, I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You,  What's Good About Goodbye?,  Stella By Starlight,  Look To Your Heart,  Oh You Crazy Moon,  Blah Blah Blah,  I Remember You,  I Fall In Love Too Easily,  Glad To Be Unhappy,  Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
IMPRESSIONS:  I first heard several of these songs on a packed cd called SARAH VAUGHAN:  THE ROULETTE YEARS (an extremely worthy compilation though probably out of print since I bought it circa 1990).  However, it wasn't until I heard the title track on one of those Christmas jazz compilation cds about a decade ago that I began actively searching for this album.  Naturally, the album was not available on cd and, for the most part, it's still not available . . . although it is.  Basically, if you search for it you'll find it on a (basically also out-of-print) "Two-On-One" cd pairing it with the equally delectable album "THE LONELY HOURS"; quite a natural and perfect pairing.  As the original liner notes for the vinyl LP aptly state:  "The wind blows cold outside, the night is clear and the moonlight plays tricks on the pure, white surface of the deep driven snow.  It's a night for the warmth of a fireplace and the warmth of love.  A night for flickering shadows and dreamy thoughts.  A night that finds you . . . snowbound."  There is very much that kind of feel about this album; look at the wonderful album cover art and you'll know immediately what the album sounds like.  Kicking off with the perfect album opener, the title track "Snowbound" conjures an almost visceral feeling of piling snowdrifts as one peers out a wintery window with the firelight flickering in the background and the cool, blue light cascading in through said windowpane.  You can almost hear that peculiar enveloping sound of a heavy snowfall which affects sounds like a warm blanket.  If that makes any sense.  If  you've ever noticed, there's a stillness which accompanies falling snow and the title track effortlessly conjures that up as one can almost see the snowflakes settling.  That's quite a lot to say about just one song on the album but the rest of the programme is no less evocative.  From the hit song featured in the classic 40's ghost film "THE UNINVITED" ("Stella By Starlight") to the relatively unknown Gershwin brothers tune ("Blah, Blah, Blah") and from Sassy's masterful rendering of the classic "I Remember You" even to the welcome inclusion of a moon song ("Oh, You Crazy Moon"); this is one my favourite Sarah Vaughan albums as well one of the most thematically satisfying.  As the original liner notes continue:  "When you're snowbound, there's not much you can do.  You can feel the warmth of that fireplace, cuddle close to that certain someone and . . . be touched by the voice of Sarah Vaughan."
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Snowbound,  I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You,  Stella By Starlight,  Oh You Crazy Moon,  Blah Blah Blah,  I Remember You,  I Fall In Love Too Easily,  Glad To Be Unhappy,  Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
BONUS TRACKS:  On the cd I managed to track down, the album is paired with the similar Roulette release "THE LONELY HOURS" which I will no doubt post here one day.
FACT SHEET:  SNOWBOUND is (likely) Sarah Vaughan's 24th album.  It is arranged and conducted by Don Costa.  The album emerged from the Divine One's short but productive few years with the Roulette label.'s John Bush rightly calls the album "an overlooked gem from Sarah Vaughan's Roulette years" and it is indeed puzzling why this album is so difficult to come by and isn't readily available.  The album is generally given high marks and Bush continues with the observation:  "Despite the peaceful atmosphere and strolling tempo, Vaughan hardly treats the material as a cinch for her voice; all of these 11 songs find her searching for different ways to present timeworn standards. The opening title track is one of the warmest, most romantic songs on the LP, Vaughan plumbing the depths of her alto and nearly perfecting her humming vibrato."

Monday, March 25, 2013


YEAR:  1974
LABEL:  MCA/Rocket
TRACK LISTING:  The Bitch Is Back,  Pinky,  Grimsby,  Dixie Lily,  Solar Prestige a Gammon,  You're So Static,  I've Seen the Saucers,  Stinker,  Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me,  Ticking
BONUS TRACKS:  Pinball Wizard,  Sick City,  Cold Highway,  Step Into Christmas
IMPRESSIONS:  Happy 66th birthday, Sir Elton!  Sandwiched as it between between the monumental "GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD" and the much-loved "CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY", "CARIBOU" may seem like they're lesser cousin.  And in a way it is.  However, it is still a fantastic album filled with some of my favourite Elton songs.  Recorded apparently in a mere nine days under pressure from the record label, "CARIBOU" features my favourite Elton song of all time:  "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" as well as the boffo hit single "The Bitch Is Back".  However, it also features some of Elton's strongest deep album cuts:  "Pinky" which is simply one of Elton's best ballads (and least known), the "random-shooting-in-a-bar" epic album closer "Ticking" (which is one of my dad's favourites) and even the delightfully silly throwaway (but catchy) nonsense of "Solar Prestige a Gammon".  However, it also contains some of Elton's more forgettable songs:  "Grimsby", "Dixie Lily" and "Stinker" among them.  Naturally, when pumping out an album in 9 days at the insistence of your record label, there's bound to be some filler.  But then, that's why God invented the skip button.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  The Bitch Is Back,  Pinky,  Solar Prestige a Gammon,  Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me,  Ticking,  Pinball Wizard,  Step Into Christmas
GUEST ARTISTS:  Bruce Johnston (backing vocals on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me),  Carl Wilson (backing vocals on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me"),  Dusty Springfield (additional backing vocals),  Toni Tennille (additional backing vocals),  Tower of Power (brass/horn section),  Daryl Dragon (arranger)
FACT SHEET:  CARIBOU is Elton John's eighth album.  The title of the album derived from it having been mostly recorded at the Caribou Ranch recording studio.  The album was produced by Gus Dudgeon.  "Pinball Wizard" is a cover of the Who song written by Pete Townshend.  Elton's band consists of Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums and Ray Cooper on percussion. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


YEAR:  1972
TRACK LISTING:  I'm Stone In Love With You,  If You Don't Watch Out,  You and Me,  It's Too Late,  Children of the Night,  You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),  Break Up To Make Up,  Peek-A-Boo,  You're Right As Rain,  Pieces
IMPRESSIONS:  No, they're not the Impressions, they're the Stylistics, silly!  This is the only actual album (that's not a "greatest hits" collection) by the Stylistics that I own and I think it's well worth owning.  While critic Robert Christgau gives the album a B+ and thinks its not quite as good as the Stylistics' eponymous debut album, I think their sophomore effort is a classic early seventies soul album by the smooth-as-velvet Stylistics.  Just passing the 37 minute mark, ROUND 2 is sweet, soulful and satisfying.  While it's not a masterpiece, it is something akin to a perfect little listening experience that hangs around just long enough without overstaying its welcome; add a couple more songs of the same quality and the ears would begin to tire.  As it stands, however, ROUND 2 kicks out four hit singles ("I'm Stone In Love With You", "You'll Never Get To Heaven [If You Break My Heart]", "Break Up To Make Up" and {not-so-hit single}"Peek-A-Boo") as well as the exquisite ballad "You're Right As Rain" and a nice cover of Carole King's "Too Late" given a soul makeover.  Album tracks like the bouncy, Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions-sounding "If You Don't Watch Out", "You and Me" (which sounds like early-era Supremes) and "Pieces" (which sounds like later-era Supremes or Temptations) are very pleasant as is the album's obvious (by it's trumpeting appearance on the album cover) 7 minute epic "Children of the Night" (no, it's sadly not about vampires).  Also you've gotta love an album cover that looks so militant encasing an album which is filled with the sweetest soothing soul.  It's just a damn fine listen all around.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  All of 'em. . .ain't if funny how these half hour albums seem to contain nary any filler whereas modern-day 75 minute albums . . . well . . .
FACT SHEET:  ROUND 2 is the Stylistics' second album.  The producer was Thom Bell and was recorded at Philadelphia's Sigma Sound Studios.  "It's Too Late" was written by Carole King and Toni Stern.  "You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart" was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.   

Friday, March 22, 2013


YEAR:  1963
LABEL:  Parlophone
TRACK LISTING:  I Saw Her Standing There,  Misery,  Anna (Go To Him),  Chains,  Boys,  Ask Me Why,  Please Please Me,  Love Me Do,  P.S. I Love You,  Baby It's You,  Do You Want To Know A Secret,  A Taste of Honey,  There's A Place,  Twist and Shout
IMPRESSIONS:  50 years ago today, the Beatles first album was released and we've now had a half century of Beatlemania!  The importance of this album's released has been talked about and examined enough by others so that I need not really go into it here.  If you're reading this music blog at all, you don't need the likes of me to tell you why the first Beatles album is important.  Surely this album must be considered one of the "big bangs" in music history.  There would of course be much better Beatles albums but no other can stand as the first.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  I Saw Her Standing There,  Chains,  Ask Me Why,  Please Please Me,  Love Me Do,  P.S. I Love You,  Baby It's You,  Twist and Shout
FACT SHEET:  PLEASE PLEASE ME is the Beatles' first album.  The album was quickly rushed out by their record label to capitalise on the band's singles-chart success; at the time the usual routine was to release an album only after enough hit singles existed to fill it.  It would mainly be the influence of the Beatles later in their career which would change the music industry from focussing on songs to emphasizing albums.  Eight of the fourteen songs on the album are composed by John Lennon & Paul McCartney with the remainder being covers.  In order to fill the album, George Martin essentially had the Beatles record their live song list.  The album was released in the U.S. on Vee-Jay Records as "INTRODUCING THE BEATLES" in 1964 and later on Capitol Records as "THE EARLY BEATLES"; it would not be issued as "PLEASE PLEASE ME" until it appeared on compact disc.  The cover photo is by Angus McBean and features the Beatles looking down the stairwell of EMI's London headquarters in Manchester Square.  In 1969, the Beatles asked McBean to recreate the cover photo for their "GET BACK" album but the photo would actually appear on their greatest hits collection "1967-1970".  In 2013, to mark the 50th anniversary of the album, a selection of modern-day artists re-recorded the entire album in one day (the time it took to record the original 50 years earlier) and the tracks were broadcast on BBC Radio 2 (with a "making of" documentary airing on BBC television).