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.