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.  Allmusic.com'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."