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!