Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Goggles - The Goggles (1971)

The big news about the Goggles is that they released a version of the wistful breakup classic "Don't Say You Don't Remember" before Beverly Bremers, who took the song to #15 in early 1972 (her single came out in '71 and first charted on Dec. 18 of that year, but didn't peak until the next). The Goggles put out their version of the song in March 1971. They went nowhere with it.

There's a good reason for that. The record lacks the majestic sweep that made Bremers' single so memorable. The Goggles' vocal isn't nearly as authoritative and their arrangement (by future ex-Beatle sideman David Spinozza) is too complicated for its own good, lurching between 4/4 and 6/8 time and confusing the flow of the song in the process.

Still that 45 is the biggest legacy left by the Goggles, a Monkees-like made-for-TV band that didn't have success on the small screen or on the record charts. The group was put together by NBC-TV for the anthology series "NBC Children's Theatre." I assume this appearance was meant to be a launching pad for a possible weekly series, but I could be wrong.

Whatever the case, the indie label Audio Fidelity released the music. Needless to say, it's never come out on CD. And it probably won't because the TV special itself seems to have been misplaced and won't be hitting the DVD market anytime soon. More on that later, though.

The music on this ten-song disc is no great shakes, but makes for pleasant listening at least. The presentation is geared toward kids, and the music is the kind of quasi-political folk-pop that was in fashion at the time and being peddled by a lot of one- and two-hit wonders (i.e. the Hillside Singers, Ocean, Friend and a Lover).

I'm making this sound more negative than it actually is. There are a few really good songs here. Besides their would-be hit, the best is probably "Jennifer Rain," a melodic love song co-credited to someone credited as "Pockress" on the label, which may or may not be legendary songwriter Lee Pockriss, who penned hits like "Catch a Falling Star" and the Cuff Links' "Tracy."

The group, by the way, included Spinozza and "Hair" veteran Jessica Harper, who went on to star in Brian DePalma's "Phantom of the Paradise" and act in a bunch of other films, including "Minority Report."

According to various online Web sites, all episodes of "NBC Children's Theatre" are lost and nothing from the show can be found online. So if anyone recorded this, the world is waiting to see it. OK, maybe not the world. Let me try again: If anyone recorded this, a few record collector geeks are waiting to see it. There, that's better.

Ricky Segall and the Segalls - Ricky Segall and the Segalls (1973)
The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. - The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. (1976)

Track list:
1. Super Plastic Elastic Goggles
2. Jennifer Rain
3. The Start of a New Day
4. Go Lightly
5. The Colors of the Mind
6. We All Live On A Rainbow
7. Don't Say You Don't Remember
8. Light Show Man
9. Pretty World
10. Looking at the World Through Goggles

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bob Booker & George Foster Present - When You're In Love the Whole World Is Jewish (1966)

This is the follow-up album to Bob Booker and George Foster's comedy album You Don't Have To Be Jewish, which I posted about yesterday. If you liked that one, you're sure to enjoy this because it's more of the same: Lots of skits that gently poke fun at the customs and traditions of Jewish Americans.

Last time around, I mentioned that I couldn't tell how popular You Don't Have To Be Jewish was, because it doesn't show up in any Billboard charts I can find. Neither does this one, but it does include something that makes me think it outsold its predecessor: A hit single.

The hit was "The Ballad of Irving," Frank Gallop's Jewish-themed parody of Jimmy Dean's #1 1961 hit "Big Bad John." Gallop, who was a radio and TV announcer, took this spoken word song to #34 in the spring of 1966. Not only did it crack the Top 40, but it stayed on the charts for three months. In the ensuing years it was largely forgotten, but it became known to a new generation of pop fans in the 1990s, when it was put on the third volume of the Hey! Look What I Found collections.

The other element of interest here is that this album features a young Valerie Harper, before she became famous for playing the title role in the '70s sitcom "Rhoda." Harper does have too big a role on this album, but she's pretty memorable when she takes a musical turn as part of a neurotic mother-daughter duet on the track "A Call from Greenwich Village."

And not to beat a dead horse, but once again I'm left wondering whether the young Jerry Seinfeld and/or Larry David was influenced by these records. So many of the titles, characters and situations telegraph what we'd be seeing on "Seinfeld" a few decades down the road, especially "The Shoe Repair Shop," which brings to mind several episodes of the show such as "The Mom & Pop Store" and "The Library."

Track list:
1. Would You Believe It?
2. The Hobby
3. My Husband, The Monster
4. The Ballad Of Irving
5. The Shoe Repair Shop
6. Divorce, Kosher Style
7. Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea
8. Things Might Have Been Different
9. A Call From Greenwich Village
10. The Great Bank Robbery
11. Discussion In The Airplane
12. Miami Beach
13. Schtick
14. The Traveler
15. The Panhandler
16. The Cemetery
17. The Kidnapping
18. The Bar Mitzvah
19. When You're In Love The Whole World Is Jewish

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bob Booker & George Foster Present - You Don't Have to Be Jewish (1965)

How about some comedy for Tuesday? This album was put out by the duo who produced and wrote skits for Vaughn Meader's mega-successful comedy album The First Family, which satirized the Kennedys. But poking fun at the Kennedys became a lot less funny after Nov. 22, 1963, so Bob Booker and George Foster turned to ethnic humor, specifically Jewish humor.

This LP, which was their first try at the genre, fit in with the then-recent trend of self-consciously Jewish comedy that flourished in the early '60s with performers Allan Sherman, Mort Sahl, and Woody Allen. This album, like the First Family album, except instead of scenarios featuring the President and the First Lady you get vignettes featuring Jewish mothers and daughters, Jewish women out to lunch...and still more Jewish mothers. Speaking of which, comedienne Betty Walker does a great Jewish mother.

It's also pretty dated. But listening to the various scenes you can hear the seeds of the kind of wry, ironic humor Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld brought to "Seinfeld" a few generations later. In fact, with some characters, like Uncle Leo and Jerry's mother, "Seinfeld" satirized these kinds of satirical characters, which is what made it so funny.

Providing voices are actors who are largely forgotten today. I can't find any evidence this record ever charted. But it must have been somewhat successful, because it spawned a sequel, When You're In Love the Whole World Is Jewish. More about that one soon...

Track list:
1. A Call From Long Island
2. Home From The Office
3. The Reading Of The Will
4. The Diamond
5. Quickies: The Astronaut/The School/The Confession
6. The Jury
7. The Presidents
8. The Cocktail Party
9. Final Discussion
10. More Quickies: Cry For Help/Panic/Two Husbands
11. The Convicts
12. The Housewarming
13. The Luncheon
14. Still More Quickies: The Storm/The Newspaper Reporter/The Home Remedy
15. Conversation In The Hotel Lobby
16. The Agony And The Ecstasy
17. My Son, The Captain
18. Secret Agent, James Bondstein
19. Enough Already With The Quickies: Dinner/The Elevator/Classified Ad, Israeli Style
20. Goldstein

Monday, June 27, 2016

Friends - Friends (1973)

In the last post, I discussed musician-turned-producer Michael Lloyd and his work with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and on various soundtracks. Friends is a short-lived group he was a member of in between those two things. They play mellow power pop, a genre in which Lloyd seemed to specialize.

That last post looked at the first album by his group Cotton, Lloyd & Christian. This group is pretty similar. It features two of those musicians, Darryl Cotton and Michael Lloyd, but in place of Chris Christian is Steve Kipner. Now there's an interesting character in the pop pantheon.

Kipner was part of the group Tin Tin and co-wrote their big hit "Toast and Marmalade for Tea." About ten years later he co-wrote Olivia Newton-John's #1 smash "Physical." Eighteen years after that he co-wrote Christina Aguilera's breakout hit "Genie in a Bottle." Talk about an impressive songwriting resume. The guy was involved with pop music during several eras and had hit songs in all of 'em.

The original songs on the Friends album were co-written by all the band members. Most of them are co-sung as well, and the light, California-styled harmonies are a highlight. The opening cut, "Glamour Girl" -- a mash note to a model -- is emblematic of the group's approach, mixing and matching Eagles-styled lead guitar with Beach Boys harmonies.

I'm assuming Kipner is the one behind "Would You Laugh" because it sounds like him singing and also reminds me of "Toast and Marmalade." That also sounds like him on "You Are My Music," the closing number.

There's also a cover of the Easybeats' "Good Times" that's retitled "Gonna Have A Good Time" and with the lyrics of the second verse altered, removing the references to '50s songs. It's a nice cover and I know Paul McCartney was said to love this song, but it's never done it for me.

Funny enough, that's my only gripe about this record, which is no great shakes, but definitely sets up a pleasant, atmospheric tone that's specific to the '70s. As far as I can tell, there was no single released from this album and it was this group's only effort. It didn't sell and definitely didn't come out on CD. Apparently the public didn't want to make friends with Friends. Maybe it was those white suits they wore on the cover.

Cotton, Lloyd & Christian - The Pom Pom Girls Soundtrack (1976)

Track list:
1. Glamour Girl
2. She Knows
3. Would You Laugh
4. (Won't You) Reach Out
5. Applecart
6. Gonna Have A Good Time
7. Deep River Blues
8. Catch Me, I'm Falling
9. I've Known You So Long
10. Moonshine
11. You Are My Music

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cotton, Lloyd & Christian - The Pom Pom Girls Soundtrack (1976)

I've always enjoyed watching those '70s-era "teensploitation" flicks put out by Crown International Pictures. They were a bit before my time, but I got to know them a decade later when the USA Network ran them as part of their "Up All Nite" programming block, which was hosted by Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear.

One of the movies that stood out was "The Pom Pom Girls." Part of the reason I took notice of it is because the title didn't really fit the subject. It's more about two guys on the make than it is about pom pom girls. The filmmaker must have realized this and at decided to intersperse scenes of cheerleader tryouts throughout the movie. Unfortunately, they have nothing to do with the actual plot. Nice try, though.

But I digress. The main reason this movie stayed in my mind was its soundtrack. The mellow, sentimental mood it sets runs totally counter to the hedonistic, juvenile tone of the movie itself. The juxtaposition makes the film seem more complex than it really is. When the songs play you start to think "Gee there might be some real depth to the characters here." But remove the music and you get a pretty one-dimensional teen flick.

Who, then, was the mystery man who devised this brilliantly subversive melange of moods? Why it's none other than Michael Lloyd. Lloyd not only served as the film's musical director, but he also supplied its soundtrack as one-third of the pop-rock trio Cotton, Lloyd & Christian. Fans of '60s music should know of Lloyd from his former life, which was as a member of one of the greatest psychedelic acts ever, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.

Ah ha. Now this all makes sense. Of course Lloyd would use sensitive music to underscore harsh dialogue in a movie. That's pretty much what he did in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, where he and Shaun Harris would weave sweet melodies to serve as backdrops for the BIZARRE lyrics of the band's resident weirdo, Bob Markley. (For those who don't know, Markley was arguably the strangest guy ever in pop music -- and that's saying something. You can learn about him by reading Tim Forster's definitive account of his life and work, which originally ran in Shindig! magazine. But be careful. A little knowledge about Markley can truly be a dangerous thing.)

Once again, I digress. Many years after viewing "The Pom Pom Girls" I was able to dig up its soundtrack. It turns out the soundtrack is actually the debut LP by Cotton, Lloyd & Christian with a different title. The LP apparently didn't sell first time around in 1975, so they repackaged it the next year.

The trio did have a minor hit with their cover of Peter & Gordon's "I Go To Pieces," which got to #66 in Sept. 1975. Its lilting, wistful sound is indicative of the album, which is sort of easy listening-meets-power pop. Speaking of cover versions, the LP features a great one of the Supremes' "Baby Love," which I think should have been a big Adult Contemporary smash.

Cotton, Lloyd & Christian -- whose ranks also included Darryl Cotton and Chris Christian -- went on to make a second album I've never heard. If anyone has it, you know where to reach me. A little over a decade later, Michael Lloyd went on to supervise the music on one of the biggest soundtracks of all time, "Dirty Dancing." He's also produced a lot of hits by a lot of acts, including Lou Rawls, Shaun Cassidy, and Belinda Carlisle.

Friends - Friends (1973)
Andy Adams & Egg Cream - Egg Cream (1977) 

Track list:
1. Don't Play With the One Who Loves You
2. I Go To Pieces
3. Robot Man
4. I Can Sing, I Can Dance
5. Tommy Medley
6. You're Gonna Find Love
7. Baby Love
8. Mr. Rock 'N' Roll
9. Love Me Away
10. You've Given Me Sunshine

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cheetah - Rock & Roll Women (1981)

Hey! Ever heard the Australian band Cheetah?! They only released one album in 1981! But it kicks ass! It rawks! It was on Atlantic Records! Same as Led Zeppelin! Yeah! Zep kicks ass! Totally!

Cheetah played hard rock! Yessss! The album was called “Rock & Roll Women!” That’s cuz the band had two hott chick singers! Man, they were red hot! I mean they were steaming! They had huge, lion’s manes of hair! And huge boobs! Yeah! Very endowed in the brestal area! Totally!

They were also sisters! Sisters are hott! Sisters rawk! Especially when they appear on album covers in hott clothes! Their names were Lyndsay and Chrissie! Those are hott names!! Not like Arlene! Ew! Or Phyllis! Gag! Those are names for tired old bats! Like your mom’s friends! They’re wenches! Totally!

Anyway, Lyndsay and Chrissie sung every song in overdrive! That’s prolly how they had sex too!! Har har har! They played the red-hot-mama role to the hilt! Remember when women played that role in the 1970s and 1980s?! Some people said that was a one-dimensional, oppressive role! Well, you know, fuck those kind of people! Cuz that was a hott role! Totally!

Cheetah was produced by the guys who produced AC/DC! Vanda and Young! Yeah! Yesss! AC/DC rawks! They kick ass! Totally!

Not only did AC/DC’s producers, like, produce, but they also wrote all the songs! They came up with a kick-ass rocker called “Bang Bang!” No, it’s not that wimpy Sonny & Cher toon! Fuck those California stiffs! This toon kicks ass! It was their single! On the chorus, the girls sing “Bang, bang, shot full of love!” Get it?! Har har har! That’s hott! MTV used to play the video! It showed the sisters humping the microphones during the guitar solo! Wonder what their mom thought?! Oh, never mind! I know what she thought! She thought it was hott! Totally!

Other kewl songs are “My Man,” “Spend the Night,” and “Suffering Love!” Vanda and Young definitely knew how to write hott songs for hott women! Songs about partying! And going hog-wild! Songs that rawked! No jazzy Joni Mitchell crap! No artsy Tori Amos junk! No poetic Jewel bullshit for Cheetah! Cuz they know how to rawk! Totally!

But wait! One thing sucks! Cheetah only got to make one LP! And it's never come out on CD! Damn! That sux! Wonder why?! Maybe cuz no one bought it! Har har har! Well, Cheetah may be, like, totally unknown, but you know what?! After all these years their album still rawks! And the cover is still hott! Totally!

Track list:
1. Bang Bang
2. Suffering Love
3. Spend the Night
4. Rock 'n' Roll Woman
5. Scars of Love
6. My Man
7. N.I.T.E.
8. Come & Get It
9. Let the Love Begin
10. I'm Yours

Friday, June 24, 2016

Andy Adams & Egg Cream - Egg Cream (1977)

I know next to nothing about this one. It was being shared privately by some music friends of mine and I noticed it's not on the Web or out on CD, so I thought I'd post it.

The album is '70s-era power pop along the lines of the Raspberries, Emitt Rhodes, or the artists who appeared on the old Rhino "D.I.Y." CDs Come Out and Play and Shake It Up. It's all well-played, energetic, and a lot of fun to listen to. Speaking of the Raspberries, the song "I Wanna Be With You" isn't a cover of their song of the same name, but an original.

The single from this LP was the opening track, "Can I Stay," which is pretty good, but lacks a catchy chorus. For my money, the best choice for a single would have been the one disco-tinged track, "I Think It's Time We Met," which is definitely hook-filled, even if it's not very representative of the album. I also like "Maybe Tonite," which has the kind of light "bounce" that seems specific to this era and this genre.

There was likely some connection to the 4 Seasons here, because in researching this release, I found an advertisement for it in Billboard in which Frankie Valli was quoted as saying "I'm looking forward to recording many of his songs."

I can't find any evidence that ever happened, but maybe someone who actually knows about this release can school me (and the readers here) as to the details about all this.

Track list:
1. Can I Stay
2. Never Wanted To
3. Maybe Tonite
4. I Wanna Be With You
5. Dark Nite Blue Lite Ladies
6. I Think It's Time We Met
7. Woman
8. My Destruction
9. Until the End
10. Good Strong Hearted Band

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Janie Grant Meets Diane Ray - 32 Classic Cuts (1961-64)

This is a collection that someone requested back in March when I posted a similar CD to this one, Donna Lynn Meets Robin Clark. Like that disc, this one brings together singles by two female singers from the early '60s who had some chart success, but not nearly enough to put them in the Connie Francis/Shelley Fabares superstar category.

The disc is definitely a homebrew creation since it's very obviously been sourced from old 45 records. The sound quality is not very good, but I don't want to be critical because whoever put this together deserves major props for doing rips of all those rare old 45 records -- and compiling it to begin with.

I took the liberty of replacing some of the rougher-sounding cuts with higher-quality MP3s. I also corrected some of the song titles that were inaccurate and added release dates and songwriter information in the track tags.

Finally, I changed the cover artwork so it now includes a picture of Janie Grant, who was one of the first female singer-songwriters of the rock era. Grant wrote her first and biggest single, the wistful "Triangle" which got to #29 in the early part of 1961. She had two other chart hits: The self-penned "Romeo" (#75, 1961) and "That Greasy Kid Stuff" (#74, 1962). These hits were all on the New York City-based Caprice Records, which was also the label of James Ray and the Angels.

Diane Ray is truly a one-hit wonder, having only ever charted with "Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard," which topped out at #31 in late 1963. But as with Grant, she has a lot of entertaining sides that weren't hits. First and foremost is "Tied Up With Mary," which today signifies something different than it did when it was released in '64. Hehe. That record, by the way, came out on the Mercury label like all her other singles.

Neither of these artists ever made an album. So this compendium of 45 sides is as good as it's going to get, unless someone digs up master tapes and gives them the deluxe treatment. This collection offers a window into the pre-Beatles '60s that the history books often overlook -- and while doing so it serves up some catchy tunes as well.


Track list:
1. Janie Grant - Triangle
2. Janie Grant - Tell Me, Mama
3. Janie Grant - Romeo
4. Janie Grant - She's Going Steady With You
5. Janie Grant - That Greasy Kid Stuff
6. Janie Grant - Trying To Forget You
7. Janie Grant - Roller Coaster
8. Janie Grant - Oh Johnny
9. Janie Grant - Oh My Love
10. Janie Grant - Peggy Got Engaged
11. Janie Grant - Two Is Company And Three's A Crowd
12. Janie Grant - I Wonder Who's Kissing Him Now
13. Janie Grant - Unhappy Birthday
14. Janie Grant - Whose Heart Are You Breaking Now
15. Janie Grant - That Kind Of Boy
16. Janie Grant - Priceless Possession
17. Janie Grant - Too Young For Me
18. Janie Grant - Ribbons And Roses
19. Janie Grant - My Heart, Your Heart
20. Janie Grant - And That Reminds Me Of You
21. Diane Ray - Please Don't Talk To The Lifeguard
22. Diane Ray - That's All I Want From You
23. Diane Ray - Happy Happy Birthday Baby
24. Diane Ray - That Boy's Gonna Be Mine
25. Diane Ray - Snowman
26. Diane Ray - My Summer Love (Is Heading For An Early Fall)
27. Diane Ray - Just So Bobby Can See
28. Diane Ray - No Arms Can Ever Hold You
29. Diane Ray - Tied Up With Mary
30. Diane Ray - Slow Dancing With Don
31. Diane Ray - Where Is the Boy
32. Diane Ray - You'd Be So Proud Of Me

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Eyes of Mind - Tales of the Turquoise Umbrella (1984)

I have to admit I don't know much about this record. Like the other Voxx Records I posted in the last few days, this one came in the mail during the period when I was reviewing records for my college newspaper. I don't think there was an information sheet included, but I do know that the guy behind the Teenage Opera album, Mark Wirtz, is credited as producer.

From what I've been able to dig up, this group was probably part of the Paisley Underground -- the Los Angeles-based psychedelic revival movement from the '80s. They were co-founded by drummer Troy Howell, who had originally been with the Three O'Clock, a band that might just be the ultimate example of a Paisley Underground act.

They released this six-song extended play album on Voxx in '84. But that same year, a full-length version of it was released in France on the Closer Records label. On that edition, the E.P.'s six songs were scrunched onto the first side with five other songs being put on the second. I assume those five songs remain unreleased in the U.S., since this has never come out on CD.

As for the music itself, it sounds a bit like the Three O'Clock, with spacey, '60s-inspired melodies, fey vocals (an observation, not an insult), and lots of groovy percussion, just like the Strawberry Alarm Clock would have done. It's also super cool they brought Wirtz on board, especially since it would be nearly twenty years until his '60s-era Teenage Opera was fully released on CD. So overall, it's a pretty good effort, both song-wise and sound-wise. Anyone got those five extra songs that came out on the French edition?

The Things - Coloured Heaven (1984) 
The Wombats - Zontar Must Die! (1984)
The Crawling Walls - Inner Limits (1985)

Track list:
1. Dream Life
2. Alice
3. With You Again
4. She Only Knows
5. Time
6. Yesterday Is Gone

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Crawling Walls - Inner Limits (1985)

Here's another album from the Voxx Records label. Where the previous Voxx group I posted, the Wombats, took their cue from some of the tougher British Invasion bands, this group revived the sound and feel of the Seeds, the Sir Douglas Quinter, and the Blues Magoos. That means lots of organ, two-chord progressions, and silly-serious lyrics.

The group came by its Tex-Mex fixation honestly: They hailed from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place where it's legally required for kids to take their piano lessons on Farfisa organs. (I'm kidding of course.)

Like the Seeds, this group's songs sound pretty samey, but if you like the sound they make that won't matter much. The driving force of the group was a guy named Bob Fountain, who sang, played keyboards, and wrote the songs. At the time the band was formed, he was a graduate student; he went on to become a professor of mathematics. Addendum: Bob just wrote in and said that for a full history of the band, check out their Web site; for more songs, go to their YouTube channel.

As far as I can tell, this album has never come out on CD. This is a vinyl rip I did from the copy I received in the mail from Voxx way back in '85. Unlike the Wombats album I posted about last time, I don't think I reviewed this one for my college paper. That's because in early 1985 I was temporarily removed from the reviewer's seat when the editor decided the music I wrote about was "too weird." Imagine that.

The Things - Coloured Heaven (1984) 
The Wombats - Zontar Must Die! (1984)

Track list:
1. Fly Tonight
2. Inner Limits
3. The Brain That Wouldn't Fry
4. She's So Wild
5. Go-Go '85
6. One Last Kiss
7. Day Glow
8. Tell Me Why
9. Run Inside
10. Falling Away
11. Bittersweet Days

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Wombats - Zontar Must Die! (1984)

Before listening to this rip, the first thing you need to know is that THIS IS THE WAY THE RECORD ORIGINALLY SOUNDED!!

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I pride myself on doing super-clean rips of LPs. My goal is to accurately capture the sonics of the original vinyl. In this case, the album had a deliberately low-fi, grungy sound, with very little bass but lots of treble and distortion.

Moreover, some tracks on this album don't start cold, but begin with the buzzing of an amplifier. This isn't sloppy editing on my part. This is the way the record was! So keep all this in mind when you listen.


Whew. Now that that's out of the way, here is some info on the Wombats. These Wombats were a garage rock band that recorded for the Voxx label in the '80s. They're not the same group as the Liverpool trio from the 2000s who recorded for Bright Antenna and 14th Floor Records. 

Zontar Must Die! looks like it's the only full-length LP recorded by this group. Whatever the case, it's one hell of an effort -- one of the best records that the Voxx Records label ever put out. Voxx, by the way, was a subsidiary of Bomp Records and it put out a whole bunch of cool records during the '80s. I wrote about one of 'em, Coloured Heaven by the Things, and will feature more Voxx stuff soon.

As for the music on this album, a lot of the songs are Beatle-ish and Stones-ish '60s rockers that get absolutely hammered by the band. They're recorded "authentically" you might say, since they sound as if the band placed an old tape recorder in the middle of the room and just pressed "record" when the mood struck.

It rocks like crazy and delivers a true "grunge" sound that's a zillion times heavier than the grunge bands that came later. One song, "What Can I Do," was released as a single four years earlier in 1980, and it made enough of a buzz in indie circles that Trouser Press magazine named it one of the that year's best independent singles in its America Underground column. (A scan of that column is included here, along with high-quality scans of all the artwork.)

I reviewed this for my college paper. I loved it. In the days of Phil Collins and Hall & Oates, people thought I was insane. But I stand by my 1984 review and still say this is a fantastic record -- even though I know next to nothing about this band. (And I would prefer to keep it that way. Their music speaks for itself. Some things need to remain a mystery.)

One final thing: The LP cover is a still from an episode of "The Twilight Zone" e called "Ring-A-Ding Girl." For two decades I wondered where they got the image, then one day in 2005 I caught a rerun of that episode and was pretty amused to see the album cover suddenly materialize on the screen. Come to think of it, the experience was like something out of..."The Twilight Zone." Click here and you can see it too.

Track list:
1. Split In Two    
2. Decision Of Fate    
3. Real Relaxing    
4. Insecure    
5. In A Minute    
6. Ask Her    
7. Here's Another Reason
8. Express Or Implied    
9. What Can I Do    
10. Bye Bye Baby    
11. Give It A Number    
12. Tallahassee Lassie

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)

Here's the second collection of Debbie Gibson demos. Like the first one, this was privately pressed in a very limited quantity and was only in print briefly. But this one is even harder to find. So once again, I'll extend thanks again to the anonymous donor who contributed this. This one was ripped at a higher quality bitrate than the first volume, but some of the beginning and endings of each tune are a bit rough. Plus, there's no artwork.

(Update: A helpful reader wrote in and supplied the artwork. Thanks!)

Still, beggars can't be choosers and I shouldn't be looking gift horses in the mouth (I'm sure other cliches apply here as well). This disc is insanely rare, and I've never seen it for sale anywhere at anytime.

A lot of the music is pretty great, too. But no artwork means no liner notes and that means I don't know the recording dates for each track. That makes it difficult to assess what's what, since you can't tell at what stage of her career Gibson recorded each song. Still, there are some definite standouts, so I'll discuss them.

First and foremost is "Ton of Bricks," a song Gibson gave to the teen group the Party for their 1990 debut album. The group -- which is best known for its hit cover of the Dokken song "In My Dreams" from its second album (which I posted here) -- originally did "Ton of Bricks" as a somewhat ponderous, downbeat dance track. Here, Gibson presents it as a sort of neo-'50s rocker and it's a zillion times better. Never liked the tune much before, but hearing this recording changed that.

Speaking of the '50s, "Joey" is a similarly successful retro effort, recalling Madonna's 1986 hit "True Blue" stylistically. At the complete other end of the musical spectrum is "Speed  of Light," a fast-paced foray into '80s freestyle dance music. Japanese singer Reimy did a version of this song on her 1988 album Smooth Talk, and it seems to be the first song Gibson placed with an outside artist. But it also would have fit right in on Gibson's first album -- and would have been a better fit than some of the lesser cuts, like "Red Hot" or "Play the Field."

Another early-sounding demo is "Broken Record Machine," which is catchy as heck, but hard to place musically. It's a boppy dance tune, but it's in a major key, so it's not quite freestyle or '80s dance. Maybe Miami Sound Machine was an influence?

"Touch" is the sort of mid-tempo pop-rock tune that made Gibson's second album, Electric Youth, her best effort. This song sounds like it's from around that period and is arguably better than even some of the songs from that album. If there's a contender for a the top "should have been released" track, this one is it.

The demo of "Silence Speaks (A Thousand Words)" isn't all that different than the version that appeared on Electric Youth. It's just a lot less glossy, which makes it sound a bit more sincere -- and makes you wonder if Gibson's songs might have been received better in an era where professional-sounding production was less of a priority.

Finally, there are several ballads here. They don't move me as much as the fast songs but I'm still acclimating to this new influx of Gibson music, so -- who knows? -- they might become favorites in the future. The chorus of "Love's Starting Again" and vocal on "Heart and Soul" are definitely welcome additions to Gibson's catalog, though.

In all, the Memory Lane CDs are actually better than I thought they'd be, with scads of songs that were worthy of release in their day. And once again, if anyone has the artwork to this one and wants to submit it, feel free to get in touch.

Debbie Gibson - 'Out of the Blue'-Era 7-Inch Singles: A's and B's (1987-88)
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)

Track list:
1. Love's Starting Again
2. Joey
3. Speed of Light
4. Broken Record Machine
5. On and On
6. When I Look at You
7. Heart and Soul
8. Touch
9. Eating to Be Social
10. Silence Speaks (A Thousand Words)
11. Ton of Bricks
12. Everything
13. Behind the Eyes
14. Some People

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)

It's not an exaggeration to say that Debbie Gibson's Memory Lane CDs are impossible to find. These two collections of her demo recordings have been out of print for over a decade and are not available anywhere -- not on eBay, not on, and not through Gibson, who originally sold them herself on her old Web site.

Most rare music shows up somewhere every once in a while. Not these CDs. In fact, there's so little information on them online that when I did searches for Memory Lane, I was directed back to this very blog, since I'd previously mentioned them.

But here's some good news about all this. I was able to procure the music on both CDs thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. This is the first volume.

The Memory Lane CDs bring together over 30 of Gibson's home recordings. She put them out herself in 2004 and 2005 on her own Golden Egg label and from what I gather, they were only on sale for a very brief time period. Since the disc on the first volume is labeled "Special Collector's Edition," I assume that means they were pressed in a limited run.

This first volume features demos that span the years 1983 to 1999. Lots of songs are first-rate, especially "What U Mean 2 Me" and "What If?" both of which sound like they could have been hits. Only one track ever ended up on an official album and that's "Who Loves Ya Baby?" which was the leadoff cut on Electric Youth. "'Til You Come Back Again" is probably the second most familiar track because Gibson performed it live at some of her shows in 1989.

There are also some amusing tracks from when Gibson was a young teen. The best one is probably the boppy lead-off cut, "Settle the Score," which was recorded way back in 1983 and shows that Gibson's musical style was already pretty much formed when she was 13. A lot of the collection is made up piano ballads that put Gibson's Billy Joel/Elton John influences on full display -- something that wasn't always evident from her albums.

I can understand why people who don't know Gibson's music well wondering why there is all this fuss over a teen idol from yesteryear. But Gibson was actually a very sophisticated songwriter who got saddled with a teen image she never could completely shake. To make my point further, I'm going to reprint something I wrote in an earlier post because it's a pretty good assessment of her talents (if I do say so myself):

"She's actually a far sharper writer (and better performer) than those who dismiss her as a mere bubblegum act would have you believe. Had she come along ten years later, she'd have been able to forge a major career from her initial dance hits the way Britney, Christina, Justin, and others did. But the '80s were not a kind era for teen pop stars. As in earlier eras, they got 18 months in the spotlight if they were lucky."

This rip of Memory Lane Volume 1 isn't high quality, but considering how obscure it is, I don't consider that a big deal. On the plus side, I dug up the album art, which includes liner notes where Gibson writes a few words about each tune. Because of that, I was able to tag the tracks properly, marking the year in which each one was recorded.

Unfortunately, I've had no luck finding any of the CD art for Volume 2. I don't even have a decent sized cover image. Does anyone have any of that artwork? If so, please get in touch. I'll leave this post up a few days before I chime in with words about Volume 2, because I'd like to have the whole shebang before I do.

Debbie Gibson - 'Out of the Blue'-Era 7-Inch Singles: A's and B's (1987-88)
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)

Track list:
1. Settle The Score   
2. Dance   
3. Be My Guy   
4. Who Loves Ya Baby?   
5. Shy   
6. Spotlight   
7. 'Til You Come Back Again   
8. What U Mean 2 Me   
9. Keyhole   
10. Back Of My Mind   
11. Different Time   
12. That Way   
13. What If?   
14. Run To Her   
15. Any Other Man   
16. Daniel   
17. Taken By You   
18. Feels So Right   
19. Until You're All Mine

Monday, June 13, 2016

Ms. Adventures - Ms. Adventures (1990)

Unlike almost every post I've even done, you can find this one online if you really look. But can you find it @320 with high-quality scans? No you can't. So here it is.

Ms. Adventures was a vert short-lived teenage dance pop vocal group made up of three sisters from Texas: Charity, Kindra, and Amy Morriss (left to right in the above photo). They were signed to the Atco label, where they made one album that was overseen by a variety of producers and songwriters who were hot back then. The biggest names include Arthur Baker (Hall & Oates, New Order) and Eliott Wolff (who wrote Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" and "Cold Hearted").

On top of all that, the sisters could definitely sing and one of them, Amy, co-wrote three songs here (Kindra also gets credit on one). Unfortunately, their success was limited, which is a shame because the sound of this record was pretty good. The scored a minor hit with "Undeniable," which was written and produced by the aforementioned Baker along with Lotti Golden (credited as "Lottie"), a cult '60s artist-turned-hip hop pioneer.

You think this combo would have been a recipe for success, but "Undeniable" only got to #73 nationally, making its chart debut Sept. 1, 1990 and staying on the chart for nine weeks. Maybe the song was a bit too generic-sounding to get any bigger, but it did get under your skin once you heard it.

I personally think the more upbeat and sassy "If the Shoe Fits" or "Mr. Heartbreak" would have been better choices for singles, but I've had over two decades to come up with that idea. I guess back then they chose whatever the marketing people and/or producers preferred. The ballad "As Long As I'm With You" was also released as a single but -- from what I can tell -- only came out as a promo CD single.

Early '90 teen pop is not for everyone and most of you already know if you like this album or not. It's filled with sunny-day, fresh-faced, 1990s-teen tunes in the vein of early Debbie Gibson, the Cover Girls, and Sweet Sensation. As my previous posts show, I have a thing for this music and this era. I consider it the calm before the alternative rock storm blew in -- sort of the '90s equivalent to the pre-Beatles 1960s. Not all of it is great, but if you like the vibe of it, there are definitely a lot of lost gems to be rediscovered.

Early '90s teen pop blowout!!
Alisha - Bounce Back (1990)
Hi-Five - Hi-Five (1990) 
Homework - Homework (1990)
The Party - In the Meantime, In Between Time (1991)
Rick Wes - North, South, East, Wes (1990)
The Superiors - Perfect Timing (1990) 

Track list:
1. Undeniable
2. If the Shoe Fits
3. Everybody Else's Lover
4. As Long As I'm With You
5. Games
6. Heat of the Night
7. Mr. Heartbreak
8. Heaven
9. Don't Lead Me On
10. All Dressed Up

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bobby and the Midnites - Featuring Bob Weir (1981)

Here is another one of the myriad of obscure "side project" releases by Grateful Dead members. Like most of these endeavors, this one has some good stuff, some great stuff, and some lame material.

Bobby and the Midnites was an early '80s band led by Dead singer-guitarist Bob Weir when the Dead weren't touring. They released two albums. This is the first of them. Since the Dead had all but ceased making records at this point, this is where all Bob Weir's new material went. If you ever wondered whether Weir composed any new songs in between 1980s "Lost Sailor" and 1987's "Hell in a Bucket," the answer is yes he did. This album contains the first batch of 'em.

In the book "Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left To Know About the World's Greatest Jam Band," the author makes an important point about all this. He says that if the Dead's members hadn't gotten solo album deals and instead given their best songs to the band, you'd have a group with one of the greatest studio legacies ever. I tend to agree.

Imagine, if you would, the Beatles doing what the Dead did. What if Paul McCartney had struck a solo album deal in 1968 and kept band songs like "Hey Jude," "Get Back," and "Let It Be" for himself? That wouldn't have been to good for the motherband would it? And while there is nothing on this album that's as great as those tunes, both "Haze" and "Too Many Losers" would have been welcome additions to any Dead release or live show.

Those songs might not sound Dead-ish to some, but neither did a lot of Weir's 1980s material, like "Victim or the Crime," yet they still worked in the context of the Dead. When the Dead all played on something, it became "Dead music." Speaking of which, the late Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland is on this album and was part of this Weir side project, at least at this point.

So, let's add this clean rip from original vinyl to our growing compendium of half-forgotten Dead-related material (see below). Much of this music might have seemed trivial at the time it came out, but it's now part of history and has taken on added importance since Jerry Garcia's passing. And if you like this kind of thing, it's always fun to discover new old music from this era.

Other Grateful Dead -related posts:
Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)
Keith & Donna - Keith & Donna (1975)
Diga Rhythm Band - Diga (1976)
Robert Hunter - Jack O' Roses (1980)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Tom Constanten - Grateful Dreams (2000)

Grateful Dead posts:
The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa (Original Mix, 1969)
The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (1976 Shows, Released 2007) 

Track list:
1. Haze
2. Too Many Losers
3. Far Away
4. Book of Rules
5. Me, Without You
6. Josephine
7. (I Want To) Fly Away
8. Carry Me
9. Festival

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rob Hegel - Hegel (1980)

Never released on CD and never circulated on the Web before, Rob Hegel's 1980 album has become something of a cult item over the years. That's because of the inclusion of one song, the strange-but-catchy "Tommy, Judy and Me,"  which was a minor hit in the summer of 1980.

"Tommy, Judy and Me" (which was titled "Tommy, Judy & Me" on the 45), has inspired a bunch of blog posts and articles over the past few years for a variety of reasons. First, the song itself is pretty idiosyncratic. It has a verse that includes spoken word segments that leads into a rousing chorus to create an unforgettable mix of the bizarre and the commercial.

Then there are the lyrics. The song has a plot, and with this plot it's almost like Hegel invented the '80s teen movie, but rolled the characters and plot into a pop song. As the Lost in the Grooves blog post says, Hegel comes up with the archetypes of characters we'd soon be seeing on the big screen: The tough, sexy chick, the "cool" dude who is really a lying creep, and the sexless nerd who gets the girl in the end.

And speaking of lyrics, the song's second verse predicts the rash of school shootings that would happen in America ten years later or so. What's more, these few lines have absolutely nothing to do with the song's theme itself, which is...teenage sex. It's almost as if Rob Hegel sensed the violent undercurrent in teen culture then and decided to reference it for the sake of authenticity. If this was his idea, it worked.

In all, the song made for a pretty great single. But it was one that was understandably passed on (or outright banned) by radio stations because of its sexual lyrics. The tune only managed to get to #109 on the Bubbling Under chart, although it was said to be big in several major markets, including New York.

Who was Rob Hegel? Hegel was a songwriter for Don Kirshner in the 1970s and he worked on albums like one I previously posted, The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. In fact, one song from that LP, "When It Hit Me (The Hurricane Song)," was remade by Hegel for this album (but without the parenthetical in the title).

After this LP, Hegel went on to write Air Supply's 1985 Top 30 hit "Just As I Am" with former Lou Reed collaborator Dick Wagner. That's significant, because this album blends those two sides of Hegel: The snappy bubblegum new wave of "Tommy, Judy and Me" and the weepy balladeering of Air Supply.

It's not always a comfortable fit, because the ballads seem like they come from a different galaxy than the faster tunes. Unlike (say) the Cars or Blondie, the slow songs don't really blend with the fast ones here. Still, the songs all work in their own way, if not as a group of tunes, and it's not a bad album at all.

As for the 45 of "Tommy, Judy & Me:" It has a different mix than the album version, so I included it here as an extra track. The single mix brings the vocal to the fore and doesn't include some of the echoes on the drums that the album version has. The ending is also edited.

Hegel still writes songs. (Addendum: He just commented in the comments section.) You can check out his newest work on his Web site, including the original demo of "Tommy, Judy and Me." As for this LP, its been out-of-print since forever, and people should really be hearing it -- if only to give "Tommy, Judy and Me" the classic pop song status it deserves.

Related: The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. - The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. (1976)

Track list:
1. Tommy, Judy and Me
2. Give Me More
3. We're Lovers After All
4. If I Cared About You
5. Heartless
6. Out Of My Mind
7. You Wonder
8. I Want You
9. When It Hit Me
10. To Get What My Heart's Demanding
11. Tommy, Judy & Me (Single Mix)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ricky Segall and the Segalls - Ricky Segall and the Segalls (1973)

Ricky Seagall was the Cousin Oliver of "The Partridge Family." He was a little kid the producers (or someone) brought in during the final season to try and revitalize the aging series. In both cases, it didn't work. Both "The Brady Bunch" and "The Partridge Family" died the death almost immediately after these younger kids came on board.

One major difference between Cousin Oliver (i.e. Robbie Rist) and Ricky was that Ricky got to sing on his show. He also got to make an album -- which featured the songs he sang on TV. Actually, his dad Rick Seagall made an album and Ricky sings on it. Dad Rick wrote all the songs and Partridge Family producer Wes Farrell produces.

This will be easier if I chop it up into easy-to-digest tidbits of info. So here goes:

1). This LP has never come out on CD. For whatever reason, no one has decided to give this the "deluxe" treatment with rare photos, remastered sound, and bonus tracks. Heck, why not? Everything other pop LP of little consequence seems to be reissued. Till then, I guess this vinyl rip I did (made from a previously sealed copy) will have to suffice.

2). Seagall was born in 1969, making him four years old when this was recorded. I found it pretty impressive that a kid that young could learn all these songs and remember all the words. After all, it's unlikely he could refer to a lyric sheet. Most kids who are four aren't reading yet.

3). You'd probably guess that listening to a kid that age sing a whole album would be annoying. And it is. But what's even more annoying are the post-hippie platitudes that infest the songs of Rick Seagall (the dad). Lyrics like "There's a whole wide human race just loving you" sound just as phony and over-reaching coming out of the mouth of a kid as they did when groups like Brotherhood of Man or Ocean sang them.

4). That said, some of the tunes are catchy, especially "Say, Hey, Willie," which achieved some popularity when it was featured on the fourth and final season of the show.

5). I own that season of "The Partridge Family" on DVD. I was thinking maybe I'd go through it and see if there were any unreleased songs or alternate versions I could add here as bonus tracks.

6). I quickly thought the better of that. If I'm gonna go through any final season it'll be my DVD of the last "Brady Bunch" one. Wow Jan was hot at that point in time. I think I read in Barry Williams' book that Christopher Knight (i.e. Peter Brady) got to date her. As Napoleon Dymanite might say: "Lucky!" But I digress.

7). Speaking of dating, I wonder if Ricky's dad didn't unwittingly serve as the ultimate wingman by making this record with him. Can you imagine being in your twenties and telling women you were the cute little kid who sang these songs? I assume the general response would be "WOW! I LOVED you as a kid!" followed by a hug, etc. Then again, he might have been teased to high heaven in school, so never mind.

8). "Sooner Or Later" is not the Grass Roots song. It's the one that goes "You can do it!" If you're reading this, you probably remember it from the series and it was probably buried in your subconscious for decades. Looks like I just unburied it. You're welcome.

9). "When I Grow Up" is not the Beach Boys song. However, the Wrecking Crew does play on this album. As I've written before, I'm not fan of the Wrecking Crew. I think they made stiff, robot-like, antiseptic-sounding backing tracks. They were precise but passionless (unlike, say, Motown's Funk Brothers who played with not only skill but heart). The Wrecking Crew also influenced a studio style that made a lot of '70s music boring. Perhaps having to play on this album was God's punishment for them.

10). "Mr. President" is not the same song as Paula Webb's "Please, Mr. President," which got to #60 in 1975. But it might have influenced that song since both tunes are done by child performers and both feature kids asking the president to help their impoverished families (even though the Webb tune is a spoken word recitation). Wonder whatever happened to Paula Webb? Maybe if she cut a full album I can post that too someday. My motto is: "If no one else cares about it I'm on it!"

Related posts:
The Brady Bunch - The Kids from the Brady Bunch (1972)
Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick - Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick (1973)
The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. - The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. (1976)

Track list:
1. Say, Hey, Willie
2. Just Loving You
3. Mr. President
4. Bicycle Song
5. When I Grow Up
6. What Kind of Noise Do You Make
7. Sooner Or Later
8. What Would You Like To Be
9. All I Want To Ask Santa Claus
10. A Little Bit of Love

Monday, June 6, 2016

Silverspring - You Get What You Take (1980)

Never released on CD and heard online for the first time here, Washington, D.C.'s Silverspring is important group because they were early pioneers of the Americana genre. Other rock acts might have used fiddles first (the Band comes to mind), but Silverspring had a full-time fiddle player and mixed rock, Cajun, and country sounds.

What's more, they may well have been an influence on Mary Chapin Carpenter, whose own music reflects some of the sounds on this album, their first and only release. Carpenter, as most people know, started her career in the D.C. area with an album called Hometown Girl that's not too removed from this record.

What about this record, then? Silverspring pressed this independently own Hitt Avenue Records label. Guess they couldn't get a recording contract making the same sounds that the aforementioned Carpenter, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and others made almost a decade later.

To compound the irony, this album is about 80 percent great, especially the tune "Bayou Baby," which sounds like it could have been a hit for (wait for it!) someone like Mary Chapin Carpenter in the '90s.  Bassist Sal DeRaffele composed most of the songs and unless my research is totally off, it looks like he didn't participate much in music after this group disbanded.

The group, by the way, was named after a town just outside the D.C. city limits, Silver Spring, which I'm guessing is where some of them lived. It looks like the band was liked by critics, judging by this favorable write-up from that ran in the Washington Post in July, 1980. It's amusing to read that now and see that the word "Americana" was right on the tip of the writer's pen, only the name of the genre hadn't been coined yet. I also found another praiseworthy article on the group from the University of South Carolina's student newspaper, but the vertical layout makes it hard to read.

Other than that, Silverspring became a local footnote, overshadowed by more famous contemporaries like Root Boy Slim and the Nighthawks. That roots music scene (as it was called then) was in turn overshadowed itself by the '80s harDCore punk scene (Minor Threat, Government Issue). So consider this post a way to un-footnote Silverspring and give them a few paragraphs in the story of Washington, D.C. music. As always, @320/48 with HQ scans.

More vinyl-only D.C. music:
The Nighthawks - The Nighthawks (1980)
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983) 
Obscure Baltimore music:
Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Various Artists - Music Monthly Music Vol. 1 (1999)
Red Tape - Red Tape (1986)
Growing Up Different - A+B=C (1985)
Various Artists - Baltimore's Teen Beat A Go Go (1966)

Track list:
1. Mary Mary
2. Twenty Flight Rock
3. Bayou Baby
4. Dry Your Eyes
5. She's Yours, She's Mine
6. Sweet Freedom
7. Sweet Louise
8. Bonton Roulet
9. Lone Ranger
10. Wheel of Fortune

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Various Artists - Baltimore's Teen Beat A Go Go (1966)

Over the past week we've covered Baltimore's rock music from the 1970s and 1980s. This collection gives us a look at the town's garage band scene during the 1960s.

Not a lot is known about these acts. Most of them didn't release any 45 records. They songs on this album because they'd placed in a battle of the bands contest held by the president of the record company that put out this LP, Dome Records. It's not a bad collection. The final track, which was the only song released as a single as far as I can tell, has become something of a cult favorite.

Only 500 copies of this album were said to be pressed, so the original became a collector's item when the '60s garage band revival kicked in sometime in the 1980s. The release date of the original album has been referenced as being both 1966 and 1967 online. But a Billboard mention from their July 2, 1966 issue shows that this is was definitely a '66 release.

This post wraps up Vintage Baltimore Music Week. I wish I'd kept more local stuff from my youth. Maybe at the next record show held in the area I can re-buy some of it if I find it.

Related posts:
Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Various Artists - Music Monthly Music Vol. 1 (1999)
Red Tape - Red Tape (1986)
Growing Up Different - A+B=C (1985)

Track list:
1. 24 Karat Five – Get You
2. The Night Walkers – The Night Walker
3. The Beggars – Night Of Pleasure
4. The Fabulous Monarch – Memories Of The Past
5. The Impacts LTD – This Love So Real
6. The Del Prix – She’ll Be Mine
7. The Road Runners – She’s Gone
8. The Executioners – My Diana
9. The Amoebas – Look At The Moon
10. Bobby J. & Generations – Lost In Time
11. The Week-Enders – Rampage
12. The Vendors – My Rose-Ann
13. The Rysing Suns – A Third Hour On 40 11th St.
14. The Chadwicks – Only Way To Do It
15. The Destinations - Shame Shame
16. Joey Charles - The Rub

Friday, June 3, 2016

Growing Up Different - A+B=C (1985)

Vintage Baltimore Music Week continues with Growing Up Different, a band that was founded by two members of Facedancer, a Baltimore band that was popular in the mid-Atlantic in the late '70s (their song "Red Shoes" was a staple on local radio for decades). The big news I have regarding this EP is that I was able to successfully pin a release date on it. claims it's from 1983, but I knew that wasn't true. I've also seen 1984 listed as the release date.

But while researching this now-obscure synth pop group, I came across a Washington Post article from May 1, 1985 that said this EP was due to be release that month. So that definitively means this came out in '85. Mystery solved! (Well, it was a mystery to me, anyway.) Unlike most of my posts, this one has been online before. But it's no longer available, so here it is again -- with a bonus track, no less.

As for this record, it was the brainchild of Facedancer's Scott McGinn and Billy Trainor, as well as keyboardist/singer D.J. Long. As some have said, this was considered ersatz new wave at the time, since these guys were AOR musicians who were changing their style to suit the times. That doesn't matter much now. What matters more is that this band had the sound of the early '80s down pat, but by the time they put this release out the pop landscape had already changed and synth-pop was, like, so 1982.

That said, this EP has got a neat early '80s electronic vibe, reminiscent of the first releases by Berlin, Our Daughter's Wedding, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, and other groups of that ilk. What this group needed to take them over the top, though, was to get a number on the radio, like "Sex (I'm A...)," "Lawnchairs," and "Enola Gay." 

The dreamy "Life on the Moon" was definitely their best shot at a hit. It sounds more up-to-date than the rest of the tracks, and it's really well-written, what with its heartbreaking lyrics and myriad of musical hooks. But back then very few acts from Baltimore broke nationally, so none of this was in the cards.

Still, it's not a bad release and it probably deserved more recognition than it got. Their sound might have been dated when it came to the national scene, but in the blue collar, heavy metal-loving town of Baltimore it was positively cutting-edge. I can't think of another Baltimore group like this from that era. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, check out the movie "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" for a taste of what mid-Atlantic culture was like back then.

The track I tagged onto the end of this EP is a song the band placed on the third compilation of local music that the Baltimore radio station 98 Rock put out, The 98 Rock Album, Volume III.

Related posts:
Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Various Artists - Music Monthly Music Vol. 1 (1999)
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)
Red Tape - Red Tape (1986)

Track list
1. Watching In The Moonlight
2. Jade
3. Stare Back In Silence
4. Falling From The Shaking Of Trees
5. Life On The Moon
6. Never In A Million Years (Bonus Track)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Red Tape - Red Tape (1986)

With this post, I can tell you that you will absolutely, unequivocally not find this album anywhere else on the Web or, for that matter, in any record stores.

Why? Because the Red Tape album was a self-pressed effort by a Baltimore prog-rock band from the 1980s that few people know about. Red Tape was around from about 1985 through 1987 and this is their only album.

The reason I remember this group is that when I was editor of the school newspaper at the Baltimore college I attended, one of the music writers came in raving about this group and wrote favorable -- if somewhat incoherent -- review of their LP and live show (a scan of which is included here along with high-quality artwork). Decades after that review, I chanced upon a copy of the LP at a Baltimore record show. I've been looking for a reason to do a rip, and since I designated this Vintage Baltimore Music Week, the time had come.

It's not a bad record, actually if you take to this style of music. It's progressive rock with a post-punk sensibility. So you get musical passages that sound like they're influenced by Rush and King Crimson, but song titles like "Anorexia" and "Sick Boy," which could only have happened after British rockers in '77 left their mark.

The blend of prog and post-punk does, however, reflect the sensibility of another rock band -- one that was huge in Baltimore but not so well known anywhere else: Crack the Sky. That group was likely a major influence on Red Tape. In Baltimore music circles back then, you couldn't talk about rock music without Crack the Sky's name coming up. They were played incessantly on the big rock station, 98 Rock, and their albums were always out front in the local record store chain, Record & Tape Traders. (If all this sounds odd to people outside Baltimore, just Google the band and the word "Baltimore" and check out the articles that come up. There's fascinating story there about regional music).

Back to the Red Tape album: One of the more unique elements here is the arrangements, specifically the keyboards. The songs feature a lot of Yamaha DX7, an instrument that's definitely not associated with prog rock. For those who don't know about such things (i.e. most normal people), the DX7 was a trendy keyboard made in the '80s  which produced a bell-like timbres. It was used in countless commercial pop songs and the intro to Whitney Houston's #1 hit "Saving All My Love For You" is probably its most famous moment.

The actual sound of the album itself might be its biggest drawback. It's somewhat sonically constricted and lacks bass -- which is pretty much what a lot of homebrew releases sounded like during this time period. In other words, if what you're hearing sounds weird, it's them not me. My rip is an exact replica of the LP's sound.

The group, by the way, released this on their own Tazz Records label, and had it pressed in Canada. At least I'm assuming that's the case because this is the only recording listed under Tazz Records over at Discogs.

Three more points and then I'm out. First, the reviewer's prediction that this band would be huge was clearly incorrect. So I guess maybe I should apologize for letting him do this review. However, I'd like to make the point that had the band stuck it out, they just might have clicked when the '90s jam band scene got rolling. Some of this stuff isn't so far removed from the Dave Matthews Band, for instance.

And finally, Red Tape's designation as a "Baltimore band" is significant beyond the aforementioned Crack the Sky connection. Like a lot of artists from the town, they made music their own way on their own terms. So prog wasn't the hip thing in 1986? So what! They played it anyway. For years local bands like this toiled in obscurity. But they set a precedent. Eventually, Baltimore became an indie music hub and artists like Beach House, Animal Collective, and Dan Deacon found fame and success carrying on that tradition of idiosyncrasy in the Internet age when a larger segment of the population was open to new and different sounds.

So I guess in the end, my reviewer was right in his own way. Only it wasn't Red Tape who made it big. It was the Baltimore music aesthetic they helped foster that became popular.

Related posts:
Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)
Various Artists - Music Monthly Music Vol. 1 (1999)

Track list:
1. Fuse
2. Data Set
3. Anorexia
4. Daffy Fudd
5. Passenger
6. I Know
7. Answer
8. Thirteen
9. Sick Boy
10. Dudley

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Various Artists - Music Monthly Music Vol. 1 (1999)

Vintage Baltimore Music Week continues with a CD that gave the world the first-ever track by future rock megastars Good Charlotte. Since this release came out in Jan. 1999, it had to have preceded Good Charlotte's own first release, Another EP, which was also from that year. So it's pretty positive that this was the first Good Charlotte most people would have heard outside of concert venues.

At the time, the pop-punk band were some kids just out of high school from the little-known Maryland town of Waldorf. How did they end up on this disc with musicians who were older and -- at the time -- more popular?

They ended up here because of a woman named Susie Mudd, who died in 2012 and was the editor and publisher of a Maryland magazine called Music Monthly, which put out this CD. Through that publication, Mudd ceaselessly championed local acts, often before anyone else had even heard of them. Since Good Charlotte is here, Mudd must have green-lighted that decision since she was in charge. Mudd deserves praise for her decades of work, as does her longtime Music Monthly cohort Mark Bounds, who wrote the liner notes for the nifty booklet included with this CD (and included here in scanned form).

The Good Charlotte track, "Can't Go On," shows their sound was almost fully formed at this stage. It's never appeared anywhere else as far as I know, and this CD has become so obscure that it's not even listed in The fact that their song is mistakenly referred to as "Can't Let" Go" in the booklet (see right) probably adds to the obscurity factor. By the way, brothers Joel and Benji Madden were still using the last name Combs at this point. Fans should know why they switched to using the name Madden, so I won't retell that story here.

Beyond Good Charlotte, there are a lot of cool sounds here. By 1999, Baltimore was coming onto its own and the wide variety of styles and assured musicianship foreshadow what would be coming soon (i.e. Beach House, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, All Time Low).

The once-popular Once Hush delivers a muscular power ballad, "Things Left Behind," while New Left brings the alternative noise with the pummeling "Three Days Dead." At the complete other end of the musical spectrum is the Richard Walton Group, which checks in with the sunshine-infused power pop of "Look at Yourself." Walton, who is still a fixture on the local scene, was also a member of Boink, whose dreamy "Oasis" is one of the best things on here.

Marge Calhoun's countrified, rockabilly-eqsue "Time Will Tell" shows why she was once a popular local live draw as does the anthemic "Buying America" by former Crack the Sky bassist Carey Zeigler. The collection is rounded out by some tasty guitar instrumentals like Tobias Hurwitz's "Plugged" and Bob Sherman's "Chicken Fish," the latter of which is much better than its title. In all, an excellent sampling of a scene that was just about ready to explode. R.I.P. Susie Mudd.

Related posts:
Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)

Track list:
1. Carey Ziegler - Buying America
2. Marge Calhoun - Time Will Tell
3. Tobias Hurwitz - Plugged
4. Once Hush - Things Left Behind
5. Rezin - Fence
6. Skypup - Decision
7. The Richard Walton Group - Look at Yourself
8. Lynus - Danielle
9. Utopian Down Slide - Rings
10. Ben Sherman - Chickenfish
11. New Left - 3 Days Dead
12. Boink - Oasis
13. Holyfield - And You Don't Stop
14. Chris Alastair - Ghost in Love
15. The Persuaders - Out All Nite
16. Bob Margolis - Go Steevo
17. Big Neon Glitter - Pure Love
18. State of Affairz - Surrender Your Love
19. Good Charlotte - Can't Go On
20. Steve Gellman - Autumn's Love Song