Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Alisha - Nightwalkin' (1987)


Random thoughts.

***

Me in 1987: "Wow, my folks will listen to anything from 1957, so long as it brings back memories of their glory days."

Me in 2017: "Wow, I'll listen to anything from 1987, so long as it brings back memories of my glory days."

***

In the song "Glory Days," why does Bruce Springsteen use the word "speedball" instead of "fastball?" Has anyone ever actually heard anyone say "speedball?" I haven't and I grew up in a "baseball family," where we had Major League season tickets and my brother was a high school all-star and played college ball. When I worked at a local newspaper company I sat near the sports reporters and NO ONE ever said "speedball." Is it a Jersey thing? Someone enlighten me.

***

It was a long slide downhill from the brilliantly outré "New York City Serenade" and "Kitty's Back" to the simplicity of the speedball song, don't you think? But then, a man's gotta put food on the table. And girls in the bedroom -- judging from the Boss' recent autobiography.

***

Wait a minute, if "Glory Days" is so bad, then why did the title become part of the cultural lexicon and why did I reflexively quote it at the start of this post? Er, strike that last comment from the record.


***

It's funny how a little thing like the word "speedball" will get on my nerves so bad it ruins my appreciation of an entire song. I can't listen to "Glory Days" without fixating on that word and how it got past Springsteen's "squad" (another stupid, annoying word) because it sounds so pretentious and inauthentic. Wonder if Jon Landau gave him that word?

***

My take on how Landau lobbied to get the word "speedball" in a Springsteen song (for best results, imagine this guy's voice in your head when you read these words): "Hello, Bruce? Pip, pip old chap. Back at my prestigious Ivy League alma mater I had a professor who used that word in a way that was, shall we say, ironic. Why not try it out on your plebeian audience? Hahaha!! Miami Steve?! Fetch me my caviar! Chop chop old boy! You know I can't help Bruce write about the working class without my caviar!"


***

Speaking of little things that tick me off, this album, Nightwalkin', begins with someone going "Psssst!" Fewer things bother me more than when people make stupid noises like that to get people's attention in public. I've noticed mostly miscreants and self-styled "gangstas" do this. I also despise when people can't give you a clear-cut "yes" or "no" and instead grunt out sounds like "uh-huh" or "nuh-huh." Gee, sorry it was too much fucking effort for you to say that fucking word "yes" or "no." No wonder civilization is degenerating by the minute.

***

Imagine if everyone did this. We'd have a society of animal-like humans totally unable to communicate clearly and instead making odd pig-like noises at each other. Come to think of it, if people continue to mostly communicate on their smart phones instead of speak, this is what society will become.

***

I refuse to own a smart phone. I made this decision a long time ago after I heard a woman I know say she wanted her husband get one because otherwise how else would she be able to keep tabs on him all the time? Think about that. Is that what you want? Imagine that awful wife from "Everybody Loves Raymond" stomping around demanding to know your whereabouts 24/7 for eternity. Who would sign up for this? Probably the same sack-less wonders who filled stadiums while the Boss bellowed about "speedballs," that's who.

***

Parents also do this to their kids. What kind of high school kids voluntarily submit to the smart-phone-helicopter-parent treatment? During large portions of high school, my folks had no idea where I was and had no way to reach me. If they had, they'd have been "checking in" constantly -- as would the parents of my various girlfriends. This would have been disastrous to our (ahem) growth into adults. I'm kidding there, but I'm also not kidding. In order to grow up, you need to explore, make mistakes, and learn how to deal with problems you yourself create. Having mommy and daddy standing by (to paraphrase an old Gershwin tune), is a way to keep kids frozen in immaturity. Which is why we're seeing things like "safe spaces" on college campuses today.


***

Full disclosure about those stadium shows: I was one of the many who saw Springsteen on his "Born in the U.S.A." tour, so I'm kind of making fun of myself here. I saw him in DC in 1984. So sue me. But somewhere on this blog I wrote about how I got tickets to see him again in '85, but sold them so I could see Jonathan Richman, who was playing on the same night. You need to know when to move on in life.

***

You might think Nightwalkin' is for dance music aficionados, but Blues Magoos collectors also need to have this album because Peppy Castro co-wrote the title track. I kid you not -- check the credits. Here's the lowdown on that. After the Blues Magoos split into two camps in the late '60s, Castro reconfigured them into group that performed more Latin-oriented music, which reflected his ethnic roots. This led him into dance pop, where he wrote the Top 30 hit "Breaking Away" for his band Balance in 1981. It's only a short hop from "Breaking Away" to the title track of this album.

***

Wonder if Alisha knew the guy writing songs for her was also behind on of the weirdest songs ever to grace a major label album, "Scarecrow's Love Affair?"

***

"Scarecrow's Love Affair" is from the 1968 album Basic Blues Magoos, which is one of my favorite records ever. I spent endless days in my '80s-era college dorm room with friends spinning a ratty old copy of it the turntable. Since that album is from the 1960s and Alisha's Nightwalkin' is from the '80s, you'd think the Blues Magoos record would be rarer. But you'd be wrong. As I mentioned in my last post about Alisha, Nightwalkin' goes for a LOT of money on the used market now. Last I saw, it was selling for around $100 at Discogs.com.

***

Which, of course, is why I'm posting it here, since this is a blog dedicated to rare music. For more details about Alisha, refer to my aforementioned previous post about her, where I wrote about her third and final album, Bounce Back, from 1990, which is something of a freestyle classic.

***

This album isn't as good as Bounce Back or her self-titled first album from 1985. It also wasn't as successful. The singles pulled from those albums at least scraped the Top 50 or Top 60, but this album's only chart hit was "Into My Secret," which got to #97.

***

Maybe it only got to #97 because it opens with someone going "Psssst!" and the rest of the world agrees with me and HATES to have to hear that. Even if it is from 1987 and brings back the glory days. The end.

Related posts:
Alisha - Bounce Back (1990)
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)
Hi-Five - Hi-Five (1990) 
Homework - Homework (1990) 
Ms. Adventures - Ms. Adventures (1990)
The Party - In the Meantime, In Between Time (1991)
The Superiors - Perfect Timing (1990)
Rick Wes - North, South, East, Wes (1990)
Rick Wes - Possession (1991)

Track list:
1. Into My Secret
2. Love You Up
3. Girls Don't Lie
4. Play With Boys
5. Let Your Heart Make Up Your Mind
6. Nightwalkin'
7. I Don't Know What Comes Over Me
8. Do You Dream About Me
9. Save A Little Love
10. Into The Night

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Iveys - Someday We'll Be Known (Demo Tape, 1968)


The Apple Records collection of rare Badfinger material I recently posted went over so big that I thought I'd put out this bootleg, which doesn't seem to be online anymore. It's a collection of pre-Badfinger demos from the days when they were calling themselves the Iveys.

There's almost nothing here that's mindblowing, but if you like this band it's interesting to hear what they were up to before they achieved recognition. The major standout is Pete Ham's "Man Without A Heart," a melancholy ballad with a haunting melody and lyrics that now come off as somewhat disturbing, considering what happened with Ham.

Other catchy tunes include "Turn On Your Lovin' Mood" and "The French Song (Sitting In A Taxi)" which are both by fired bassist Ron Griffiths. To my ears, these songs offer more evidence that Griffiths pop-rockers fit in better with the songs of Ham and Tom Evans than the more American-sounding numbers written by his replacement, Joey Molland. Perhaps if they'd kept Griffiths around their albums wouldn't have sounded as patchwork-ish, since Molland and Ham's songs often sat uncomfortably side-by-side, sounding like they were recorded by different bands.

Tom Evans' "The Leaves" seems like it had potential had it gotten beyond the basic demo/fragment stage. And is that a primitive drum machine I hear in the background on "The Leaves III?"

The concluding number, "For My Sympathy" -- also called "(Call On Me) For My Sympathy") -- was not originally part of this collection, but was tacked on by someone (not me). It's a pleasant enough Kinks-styled tune by Evans and Ham and is totally unrelated to the Joe Tansin song "Sympathy" from Badfinger's 1979 album Airwaves.

There was a longer version of this bootleg that concluded with mono mixes of Iveys songs that were released by Apple. But my version of this bootleg didn't come with them, probably because they eventually got released on various Apple reissue CDs and were removed from this set.
 
Related posts:
Apple Records Extra - Badfinger (Disc One, 2010)
Apple Records Extra - Mary Hopkin, Jackie Lomax (Disc Two, 2010)
The Beatles - Making of Across the Long and Winding Road - CD 1 (1968-70) 

Track list:
1. I Believe (Version 1)    
2. The French Song (On A Taxi)    
3. Harmonizing    
4. Spoken aka "I Hope You Win Something On Bingo..."    
5. Man Without A Heart    
6. The Girl Next Door In The Mini-Skirt    
7. Turn On Your Lovin' Mood    
8. It Takes So Long    
9. Unknown Instrumental    
10. Handsome Malcolm    
11. Hey Baby    
12. The Leaves I    
13. The Leaves II    
14. The Leaves III    
15. The Leaves IV    
16. The Leaves V    
17. The Leaves VI    
18. Mr. Strangeways    
19. I'll Kiss You Goodnight    
20. Sausage & Egg    
21. Handsome Malcolm    
22. Another Day    
23. I Believe (Version 2)    
24. Love Hurts    
25. For My Sympathy

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Apple Records Extra - Mary Hopkin, Jackie Lomax (Disc Two, 2010)


Here's the second disc of the double CD of unreleased and rare music that came as part of the 17-CD box set Fresh From Apple Records. The first one, which I posted about a few days ago, featured a treasure trove of rare Badfinger/Iveys material. This one showcases rarities from Mary Hopkin and the late Jackie Lomax. Hopkin was one of Paul McCartney's Apple signees, while Lomax was a friend of George Harrison's.

Hopkin scored a major hit with "Those Were The Days" (#2 in the U.S. in 1968), so she re-recorded the single in various languages for various foreign markets, much like the Fab Four did with "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand." Four remixes of those re-recordings are here, as are two other foreign versions of her songs and a non-LP B-Side, "Jefferson."

The Lomax material includes the outtake "Going Back To Liverpool," which sounds like it features George Harrison on backing vocals. There are also three mono mixes from his album Is This What You Want?, and the stereo mix of his non-LP "New Day" single from 1969.

I wonder if Kimberly Rew of Katrina and the Waves saw the title "Going Back To Liverpool" on a bootleg or in a book and decided to write his own song around it. Whatever the case, it's Rew's with this title and not the aforementioned Lomax song, that became an alternative radio staple for the Bangles in 1984. The Rew-Lomax connection might be coincidence but, then, more than one composer has been known to see a song title and use it to write their own song.

Related posts:
Apple Records Extra - Badfinger (Disc One, 2010)
The Beatles - Making of Across the Long and Winding Road - CD 1 (1968-70)

Track list:
1. Mary Hopkin - Quelli Erano Giorni ('Those Were The Days' Sung In Italian / 2010 Remix)
2. Mary Hopkin - Que Tiempo Tan Feliz ('Those Were The Days' Sung In Spanish / 2010 Remix)
3. Mary Hopkin - An Jenam Tag ('Those Were The Days' Sung In German / 2010 Remix)
4. Mary Hopkin - Le Temps Des Fleurs ('Those Were The Days' Sung In French / 2010 Remix)
5. Mary Hopkin - Quand Je Te Regarde Vivre ('Let My Name Be Sorrow' Sung In French)
6. Mary Hopkin - Watashi Wo Kanashimi To Yonde ('Let My Name Be Sorrow' Sung In Japanese)
7. Mary Hopkin - Jefferson
8. Jackie Lomax - Going Back To Liverpool
9. Jackie Lomax - Sour Milk Sea (Mono Mix)
10. Jackie Lomax - The Eagle Laughs At You (Mono Mix)
11. Jackie Lomax - Little Yellow Pills (Mono Mix)
12. Jackie Lomax - New Day (Stereo Single Mix)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reader Request - Seeking Traffic 45 Mixes (1969-74)


I'm putting together a collection of mixes and edits that were specific to the 45 records of the rock band Traffic. But I'm missing three of these that were released as promo singles, so I'm putting the word out to see if anyone out there has them. In keeping with the spirit of Traffic, I was thinking maybe this could be a collaborative process.

This idea came about when I realized that most of Traffic's single mixes from 1969 onward hadn't been included as bonus tracks on their CD reissues. Granted, the group's first two albums did include single mixes as bonus tracks, but after that, most have gone missing.

Some of the unique mixes/edits that I own include the unique U.S. 45 stereo remix of "Empty Pages," the mono British single mixes of "Medicated Goo"/"Shanghai Noodle Factory," and the variations of "Walking In The Wind" (the mono edit and the instrumental B-Side). Beyond that, I also have about ten more oddities I plan to include in this collection. Some are from 45s; others are oddities from out-of-print CDs.

Now here's where you come in. Below are listings for the three items I don't have. All are promo 45s that have a mono mix on one side and a stereo mix on the other. I assume someone out there has these. The missing 45s are:


  • "Glad (Part 1)." United Artists 50883 from 1971. Besides having a mono mix, this single also edits down the song from 7 minutes to 2:40. As far as I can tell, there was no regular (i.e. non-promo) release with "Glad (Part 2)" on the flip side so all that exists is the mono/stereo promo single. But I could be wrong. 
  • "Shoot Out At the Fantasy Factory." Island Records ILPS-9224 from 1973. Besides having a mono mix, this single has a 5:10 edit of the song, which runs around 6 minutes on the album.
  • "When the Eagle Flies." Asylum Records ‎E-45102-A from 1974. This is the only one of these three singles that doesn't edit down the song. But it still has a mono mix.


The last two seem especially rare. But I assume there are Traffic collectors and/or diehard Steve Winwood fans who have them. After all, there were dedicated Debbie Gibson collectors who contributed to the rarities sets I put together of her music. So it stands to reason that there would be Winwood diehards who read this blog, since he's been more successful for a much longer period of time.

If you send in a WAV file in relatively good condition, I can clean it up with the audio programs I have. I'm especially interested to find out what they did with the edit of the instrumental "Glad," which I hear used to be used as background music for weather reports on some AM radio stations in the '70s.

For those who bothered to read this to the end (or peruse this quirky post at all), there's a Winwood-related gift below.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Apple Records Extra - Badfinger (Disc One, 2010)


This is the first disc of the double CD of unreleased and rare music that came as part of the 17-CD box set Fresh From Apple Records. The rest of the set was made up of reissues of vintage Apple titles by Badfinger, Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Billy Preston, and others. Those albums are all relatively easy to find, but this because it only came with the box set. For Badfinger fans, its essential listening because of the amount of rare material on it.

I'm going to go on the assumption that anyone who reads this blog already knows who Badfinger is and also knows their tragic, depressing story. So I'm not going to repeat it here. What I will say is that the group had a pretty wide stylistic range as songwriters considering they're usually lumped in with the '70s power pop crowd.

Their early music as the Iveys is pretty credible popsike, while their later material is the stuff of classic songwriting, especially the oft-covered "Without You," which was penned by Pete Ham and Tom Evans. It's sadly ironic that this song would become a hit multiple times over after both Ham and Evans committed suicide.

This set contains twenty rarities. Most of them were unreleased on CD before and what's what is connoted by an asterisk (or two), which you can see below. The liner notes are minimal, so if you want more track details, go here. Titles that don't have asterisks came out on on the first CD reissues of Badfinger's albums which were released in the 1990s and have different bonus tracks than the ones that were released as part of this box set in 2010. Got that?

I'll be presenting the second disc of this set in a few days. But first I'm going to put out a few requests for the readers of this blog. I'll do this in the next post or two, and hopefully, everyone will be as helpful as they were when I raised questions about a Beatles' recording session date in my post about the song "Across the Universe."

Track list:
1. Dear Angie (Mono Mix)**
2. Think About The Good Times (Mono Mix)*
3. No Escaping Your Love (Mono Mix)**
4. Arthur (2010 Stereo Remix)*
5. Storm In A Teacup (Mono Mix)**
6. Yesterday Ain’t Coming Back (Mono Mix)*
7. Love Me Do (Instrumental Version)*
8. Get Down (Previously Unreleased Version)*
9. Money
10. Flying
11. Perfection
12. Suitcase (Censored Lyric Version)
13. Sweet Tuesday Morning*
14. Mean Mean Jemima
15. Loving You
16. Get Away (Previously Unreleased Version)*
17. When I Say (Previously Unreleased Version)*
18. The Winner (Previously Unreleased Version)*
19. I Can Love You (Previously Unreleased Version)*
20. Piano Red (Previously Unreleased Version)*

Tracks 1-6 by the Iveys
* Previously unreleased
** First time on CD/Digital release

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Keisha Jackson - Keisha Jackson (1989)


You want obscure? The debut album by Keisha Jackson is so forgotten that when I went to rip the CD, all the titles came up wrong. What came up were the titles of her second (and last) album. But this is her first. It's not in print and not available for streaming, but you can find used copies pretty cheaply. I found this for a buck at the local Salvation Army store.

Keisha Jackson is the daughter of Millie Jackson, a pioneering R&B/soul singer, who brought a sexual frankness to her music that was way ahead of its time. From what I can tell, this was the bigger of her two releases because it contained song that got to #39 on the R&B chart, "Hot Little Love Affair." Jackson never crossed over to the pop charts and made the Hot 100.

The main reason for that might be that the field was so crowded then with female artists doing variations of what Janet Jackson had done in 1986. This album falls squarely into that category, with arrangements and songs that sound like they take their cue from the Control album. What's missing, though, are the pop hooks from that album. The songs here are nice and they're well-sung. But they're not memorable enough to have been hits, at least not in 1989.

Still, if you like the sound of late '80s music, this album should be a treasure trove of nostalgia, since it's filled with synth and vocal samples, that classic Yamaha DX7 keyboard sound, plus old-style drum machines (I think I hear the Alesis HR-16). Heck, even the lyrical themes are straight out of the past. "Love Triangle?" How '80s! These days the song would probably extol the virtues of "polyamory."

Related posts:
Voggue - Voggue (1981)
Basia - Brave New Hope EP (9-Track Edition, 1990)
The Superiors - Perfect Timing (1990)

Track list:
1. Hot Little Love Affair
2. Do Me Right
3. He's So Jealous
4. U Needa Lover
5. U.B.U.
6. Over You
7. Love Triangle
8. After All This Time
9. Lookin' Out For #1
10. Hit Me (With Your Love)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Opal - Early Recordings Vol. 2 (1984-87)


This is a collection of obscure studio and live recordings by Opal, the Los Angeles-based neo-psychedelic band that was part of the Paisley Underground scene of the 1980s. It's on YouTube for streaming, but this is a high quality version with a bonus track.

Opal was primarily comprised of David Roback on guitar and vocals Kendra Smith on bass and lead vocals, but also included Suki Ewers on keyboards and Keith Mitchell on drums. Both Roback and Smith had deep roots in the Paisley Underground scene. He'd come from the Rain Parade, and she was from Dream Syndicate.

The pair's put together the psychedelic rock band Clay Allison in either late 1983 or early 1984. Clay Allison released on single, "Fell From the Sun"/"All Souls," but when the group changed its name to Opal, that was released under the new name. Roback and Smith also worked together on the 1984 collection of cover songs Rainy Day, where they collaborated on haunting, minimalist versions of Big Star's "Holocaust," the Buffalo Springfield's "Flying On the Ground Is Wrong," and the Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror."

The studio sound they developed there -- Roback's strummed acoustic guitars and Smith's understated vocals -- formed the basis of what they would do in Opal. It was also a precursor to what Roback would later do in Mazzy Star with Hope Sandoval.

It seems hilariously appropriate that Opal never actually released a full album in its day. The group's first LP, Happy Nightmare Baby, came out in late 1987, just after Kendra Smith abruptly quit the group in the middle of a tour. Less than ten years later, Smith would disappear from the music scene (and apparently society itself) entirely, going away off to live in the wilderness.

Sandoval replaced Smith in Opal, and then the group eventually changed its name to Mazzy Star. They gained popularity as the 1990s wore on, and had considerable success with the chart hit "Fade Into You" as well as several albums.

But Opal wouldn't go away, it seems. In 1989, an collection called Early Recordings came out and brought together non-LP B-Sides, demos, and outtakes. In my estimation, it's the swirling, ethereal sound of these recordings that defined Opal's sound and that influenced a generation of future dream pop groups like Beach House and Azure Ray. Happy Nightmare Baby was a good record, but Early Recordings was something else entirely. Roback's spacey soundscapes and Smith's evocative vocals were a unique blend that added up to much more than the sum of their parts.

So it stood to reason that fans would want more and around 2006, a fan put this set together as a follow-up. It's not a legitimate release and as such doesn't have songwriting credits for most of the tracks, but it does do an excellent job of rounding up obscure recordings by this band.

Where are the songs on here from? Some of them might have been slated for a second Opal album that never materialized. The ones that feature singing by Roback instead of Kendra Smith are probably demos. There are also two live cuts here by Clay Allison, which is the first band Roback and Smith put together what Opal were calling themselves in early 1984 when these were recorded. Here is some info on some of  the tracks:

"Sisters of Mercy" is a cover of a Leonard Cohen song that was originally included on his 1967 debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. "Lisa's Funeral" is taken from a live Clay Allison performance at the King Kong Club in Maryland, May 14, 1984.

"Freight Train" is a cut that appeared on Opal's "Fell From the Sun" EP that was released in the UK on Rough Trade in '85. Some copies of Early Recordings include this song as a bonus track, so I assume it was put on Early Recordings Vol. 2 to make sure everyone had it. Unfortunately, it was mastered on Vol. 2 with way too much compression and treble and sounded distorted. So I substituted the clean version from Early Recordings here and it now sounds the way it did on the original EP. It's a cover of an old song by folk-blues singer Elizabeth Cotten that's been done by quite a few performers, but rarely with the wistful pathos Roback and Smith bring to it.

"Little Bit of Rain" is a recording of a popular Fred Neil song that's also been covered by Linda Ronstadt, Karen Dalton, and Martina McBride. Neil included it on his 1965 debut album Bleecker & MacDougal.

"Cherry Jam" is probably a live performance by Clay Allison since it appears on several live bootlegs of theirs (such as the aforementioned King Kong Club show). It interpolates a variation of the riff of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" starting at the 5:16 mark. Finally, the closing track,"Indian Summer," is Opal's loose take on the Doors song from their 1970 effort, Morrison Hotel. It's from a promo 45 released in 1987 -- a split single with Slovenly's "Enormous Critics" on the flip side.

Finally "Hear The Wind Blow" was yet another song that was included as a bonus cut on some versions of Early Recordings but left off others. Since not everyone has it, I tagged it onto the end of this set. It's a haunting Roback-Smith tune that's as indicative of the singular sound of Opal as anything they recorded.

And that's all we know. Although not as strong a collection as Early Recordings, there's enough good material here to make the case that Opal definitely would have had an impressive career had Roback and Smith stayed together.

Related posts:
The Eyes of Mind - Tales of the Turquoise Umbrella (1984)
The Things - Coloured Heaven (1984) 
The Wombats - Zontar Must Die! (1984)
The Crawling Walls - Inner Limits (1985)
Beach House - Rarities (2008-2010)

Track list:
1. My Canyon Memory
2. Sisters Of Mercy
3. Sailing Boats
4. Vespers
5. Lisa's Funeral
6. This Town
7. Freight Train
8. Wintertime
9. Little Bit Of Rain
10. What You've Done
11. Cherry Jam
12. Indian Summer
13. Hear The Wind Blow (Bonus Track)