Monday, February 29, 2016

The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa (Original Mix, 1969)


The Grateful Dead's third studio album, Aoxomoxoa, was first released in a way different mix than is commonly heard on the CD today. The mix most people are familiar with is actually a remix from 1971. Not only is the mix of the original LP different, but the editing differs as well, because entire sections of songs were removed in some cases.

Unlike with the Dead's second album, Anthem of the Sun, which was also remixed in 1971, the remodeled Aoxomoxoa is very different from the original. You could write a whole chapter on the differences between the two mixes. In fact, someone did. The subject makes up the entirety of Chapter 13 of the book "Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History," which is the only tome to critically assess the band's recorded legacy in detail.

Rather than regurgitate (i.e. steal) the information for this blog entry, I'll direct you to the Amazon link to the book, which you can get on sale pretty cheaply.

As for this mix, remember when I mentioned a few weeks back that some albums from the 1960s are best listened to while setting the mood in the room with colored lights? Well, that goes double for this one. Maybe even triple.

Other Grateful Dead posts:
The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (2007)
The Grateful Dead - Days Between: The Final Album That Never Was (1992-95)

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) 
Bobby and the Midnites - Featuring Bob Weir (1981)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Tom Constanten - Grateful Dreams (2000)

Track list:
1. St. Stephen
2. Dupree's Diamond Blues
3. Rosemary
4. Doin' That Rag
5. Mountains of the Moon
6. China Cat Sunflower
7. What's Become of the Baby
8. Cosmic Charlie

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Noreen Corcoran - Complete Singles (1963-64)


Don't get too excited, people. "Complete singles," in this case means a mere five songs. That's the total number of tunes Noreen Corcoran cut on her three 45 records. How can there be five songs when singles had two sides? We'll get to that in a second. First, some background.

Noreen Corcoran, who passed away Jan. 15, was a child star of the late 1950s and early '60s best known for her role as teenager Kelly Gregg on the sitcom "Bachelor Father." This once-obscure black-and-white TV show experienced a brief resurgence of popularity during the years before Corcoran died because Antenna TV rebroadcast the episodes.

The show starred John Forsythe in the role of a playboy who unexpectedly ends up caring for his niece. Despite some seriously dated elements, the show's basic theme resonated decades later because the conflicts and misunderstandings between teens and adults remain pretty much eternal.

Corcoran definitely had star presence, so someone must have decided she should go to way of Ricky Nelson, Shelley Fabares, Johnny Crawford, and others and catapult her TV stardom into pop stardom as well. Unfortunately, none of the three Corcoran singles that Vee Jay Records put out even dented the pop charts. Corcoran's recording career was over within a matter of months. But it yielded some great tracks while it lasted.

The first Corcoran single was the rather silly "Love of Mike," released in June, 1963. It's a love song, but Corcoran intones the lyric in a mock-dramatic voice that makes you wonder if it's meant as a a pop music parody or actual pop music itself. The Diamonds did this sort of thing as well. Disc jockeys and the public didn't take to the record, perhaps because they were left wondering whether Corcoran was  the next Shelley Fabares or Linda Laurie (look it up). 

Its flip was a modern update of Doris Day's signature hit from 1952, "A Guy Is a Guy." Here, Corcoran lays the comedy on even heavier, employing whimsical vocal intonations and interjecting goofy spoken word phrases. It's actually pretty entertaining and she definitely has the voice to pull it off. But it makes you wonder if she initially approached the concept of recording a single as something of a novelty affair -- or if there was a vocal coach suggesting as much.

Whatever the case, Corcoran couldn't have turned in a more perfect vocal on her second single, the blissfully melodic immaculately produced "Love Kitten," which came out in November, 1963. Written and produced by Nino Tempo, it's a drastic reworking of a song he'd cut with his sister April Stevens for a (non-charting) single in 1961. But where Stevens played it sexy, Corcoran does it up perky. And it works better this way, especially surrounded by Tempo's boppy Phil Spector-inspired arrangement. In all, a first-rate single that should have been a hit.

The flip side, "Why Can't a Boy and Girl Just Stay in Love," is equally as Spectoresque, which is no surprise because Spector himself co-wrote the song along with Tempo (who took credit under his real surname, Lotempio). The song works almost as well, but it's hard to top "Love Kitten," which is one of the great unknown girl group-styled singles of its era.

"Love Kitten" may have been Corcoran's best crack at a hit single, but timing is everything and a big reason it didn't catch on might have been because it frantic cheeriness was at odds with the mood of the country as it was mourning a recently-assassinated president the month it came out. Its lyrics were also pretty sexually suggestive for the time. But that's not unexpected since Tempo originally wrote it as a followup to Stevens' breathy "Teach Me Tiger," a sex kittenish song that was considered positively scandalous in its day.

That leaves one more song, "Dreamin' Of You," which Vee Jay put out in April, 1964 to little response. Since this was also written and produced by Tempo, it was probably left over from the sessions that produced the previous single. This especially seems the case since it didn't even get a proper B-Side. Vee Jay used the previously-released A-Side "Love of Mike" instead. A-ha! The mystery of Noreen Corcoran's five-song discography is solved!

"Dreamin' Of You" is a rather, um, dreamy ballad, that's once again done up with Phil Spector-like touches such as big, reverberated drum sounds and lots of castanets. If you're a girl group fan, you're probably wondering whether "Dreamin' Of You" is a mellow version of the fantastically catchy, kazoo-fueled song of the same name that the Dimples released as the B-Side to their 1964 Cameo Records single "Please Don't Be Angry With Me." It's not. And it's unfortunately not nearly as catchy that Dimples tune either.

Music-wise, that's all she wrote for Noreen Corcoran. Since Corcoran up and left acting by 1966, we can probably assume she walked away from recording as well, since it was offering her fewer rewards popularity-wise or financially. But she definitely could sing and at least one of her records can be classified as a genre classic. All of her tracks are presented here in high quality with label shots and additional photos.

R.I.P. Noreen. And Antenna TV, if you're reading, let's get "Bachelor Father" back on the air again, at least for a while.

Related posts:
Vinnie Monte - Just One Of The Guys (1958-64)
Ron Holden - Love You So (1960)
Janie Grant Meets Diane Ray - 32 Classic Cuts (1961-64)
Donna Lynn Meets Robin Clark (1961-65)

Track list:
1. Love of Mike

2. A Guy Is a Guy
3. Love Kitten
4. Why Can't a Boy and Girl Just Stay in Love
5. Dreamin' of You


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wing And A Prayer Fife And Drum Corps - Babyface (1976)


I'll admit it: This is ridiculous even for me, and I'm a big fan of disco music. Still, the Wing And A Prayer Fife And Drum Corps' debut album has dropped into obscurity because it was never officially issued on CD. 

That's surprising, because at one point, this New York City-based studio ensemble's hit cover of the standard "Baby Face" was mega-popular. Although it only hit #14 nationally, it stayed on the chart for twenty weeks and was played so much on radio in the New York area, you'd have thought it was a #1 hit.

The concept behind this album was to cover a bunch of old standards and newer pop hits and do them up disco style. For a while, this was A Thing on the pop charts. This group might have gotten the idea from the Ritchie Family, who hit #11 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1975 with a disco-fied rendition of "Brazil" (covered by many, notably Frank Sinatra on Come Fly With Me). Also, in early 1976, the Salsoul Orchestra took their rendition of Jimmy Dorsey's "Tangerine" to #18.

Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps' Babyface album (spelled as one word, where as the single was spelled as two) is actually pretty amusing to hear. Not only does the ensemble shoehorn standards into a disco beat, they also take on show tunes -- including Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" from "West Side Story." The instrumental elements of this album seem to be the focus, but the vocals are pretty good, if a bit faceless (which was the style at the time). They're provided by Linda November, Vivian Cherry, Arlene Martell, and Helen Miles.

Best of all, you can annoy your uptight "Beatle collector" buddies with this album by playing them the disco-fueled...wait for it..."Eleanor Rigby!" Yes, they made a disco romp out of one of the most somber tunes in the entire Fab Four catalog. I have no idea why they did this, but if one of the people behind this album just wanted to needle a "Beatle scholar" or two for the fun of it, well, I'm laughing right along.

The Babyface LP got to #47 on the charts and was successful enough to warrant a follow-up, Babyface Strikes Back, in 1977. I've never seen this LP, but according to online info, they delved even further into the abyss of ludicrousness with covers of "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man," "On the Good Ship Lollipop" and a "Disco Disney" medley. If anyone has ever come across this album, you know where to reach me.

Track list:
1. Just An Old Fashioned Medley:
    a. Swanee
    b. Toot! Toot! Tootsie! (Good-Bye)   
    c. Oh! You Beautiful Doll   
    d. The Best Things In Life Are Fre   
    e. Blue Skies   
    f. I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover   
2. Eleanor Rigby
3. I Hear A Symphony
4. Show Medley:
    a. There's No Business Like Show Business   
    b. Hooray For Hollywood   
    c. Give My Regards To Broadway  
    d. Somewhere
5. Charleston
6. Those Were The Days
7. Baby Face

Friday, February 26, 2016

Harriet Schock - Hollywood Town (1974)


Never released on CD and never circulated online before, Harriet Schock's debut LP, Hollywood Town, is about as classic a slice of '70s singer-songwriter pop as there is.

The album is filled with thoughtful ballads (like the title track), orchestrated mid-tempo Carole King-styled piano tunes ("Straight Man"), and a few songs that other artists saw success with. The most notorious of those is the Grammy Award-nominated kiss-off tune "Ain't No Away to Treat A Lady," which Anne Murray took to #8 on the pop charts and #1 on the adult contemporary chart in 1975. But there's also the upbeat love song "That's The Way it Is With You," which was done by the Partridge Family and holds the distinction of being the last song on their last album, Bulletin Board.

Schock's singer-songwriter routine also puts equal emphasis on both halves of that phrase. Besides being a first-rate writer, she's also an excellent singer, with a clear, soulful voice that boasts some serious range. If there's any drawback to Hollywood Town (besides the fact that it dropped into obscurity), it's that it's too short. The ten songs here only run around thirty minutes.

Schock had more music in her, though. After releasing this album, she came out with two more, both of which were also issued on 20th Century Records. They include She's Low Clouds and You Don't Know What You're In For. Shock went on to work with former Beach Boys producer Nik Venet in the 1990s.

This clean 320/48 rip was done from a previously-sealed copy of the LP and includes high-quality scans as well. If you like this, be sure to check out a similar forgotten treasure, Lindy Stevens' Pure Devotion here.

Track list:
1. Hollywood Town
2. Standin' in the Way of Music
3. You Took the Words Out of My Mouth
4. Straight Man
5. That's the Way It Is With You
6. Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady
7. Hold Me
8. The Day
9. Let 'Em Love
10. Could It Be

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Hubbels - Introducing The Hubbels (1969)


I'm starting to learn that when you have a music blog, putting anything that says "1960s" on it is like when a woman puts "casual sex" in a dating profile. In other words, people will swarm to it no matter how bad the quality, much like men will go for easy action no matter how hideous the woman.

And so this leads us to the Hubbels. As much as I'd like to post more '80s dance music or '70s singer-songwriter stuff, no one is gonna care. But people will care about this '60s release, even though the quality of the music is stunningly mediocre and the rip (which was passed down to me) is pretty lousy quality-wise as well.

For various reasons, '60s music holds a special place in the hearts of rock fans. That's not going to change. So even if the songs by this indie duo aren't so hot, they're done in that ever-popular pop-folk style and recorded on what sounds like an old eight-track machine. As such, lovers of the era's sound should feel right at home with this album.

The Hubbels, by the way, were Robert Hubbel and Mary Ann Frazell who were from, respectively, New York and Ohio. They released this one album on the Audio Fidelity label, then disappeared. The closing track from this album, the godawful "Hippy Dippy Funky Monkey Double Bubble Sitar Man," was a single, but flopped. No surprise there.

However, the Hubbels enjoyed something of a mini-revival when someone decided to take that track and put it on the similarly awful collection Soft Sounds for Gentle People Presents...He and She. This album has been compared to the Mama's & the Papa's. In my world, that's not a compliment.

Related posts:
Chad & Jeremy - Yesterday's Gone (Mono Mix, 1964)
The Cyrkle - Neon (Original Vinyl Stereo Edition, 1967)
Bobby Paris - Let Me Show You The Way (1968)
Stephen Monahan - Stephen Monahan (Mono Mix, 1968)
Tony's Tygers - Little By Little (1968)

Track list:
1. Candlelight
2. Misty Morning
3. Cotton Candy Dream
4. Dream Mover
5. Sunrise Is Setting
6. Now Is Forever
7. You Keep Me Hangin’ On
8. City Women
9. Brother Wrong
10. Hippy Dippy Funky Monkey Double Bubble Sitar Man

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Voggue - Voggue (1981)


Hm...I pride myself on being eclectic, so what kind of music has this blog not touched upon yet. I know: Disco!

Here's a Canadian duo that emerged during the last days of disco. That would be the summer of 1981, before MTV took hold and made dance music cool again, but only if it was British. But I digress.

Voggue was made up of singers Chantal Condor (aka Chantal Chamandy) and Angela Songui and the group is best known for the song "Dancin' the Night Away" topped out on the American pop charts at #109. I'm using the phrase "topped out" ironically since the single only hit the Bubbling Under chart for one week on Aug. 22, 1981. However, the song had legs and ended up becoming a #1 U.S. dance hit which -- according to my Bubbling Under chart book -- topped that chart for three weeks.

And that's pretty much all she wrote. The pair dropped a second album in 1983, but I've never seen a copy. Nor have I seen the single of "Dancin' the Night Away," which has a cool non-LP song called "Roller Boogie," which some people have thankfully put out on YouTube.

As for this album, it has a lot of cleanly-produced grooves that sort of predict what Madonna would do in a few years, except with softer, more anonymous-sounding vocals. To some, that migh be a good thing. Speaking of Madonna, several songs here use a similar 6/8 shuffle beat that she employed on her #1 hit "True Blue." This beat must gave been in (ahem) vogue then because it was used on hits like "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross and "Murphy's Law" by Cheri.

Voggue is not the deepest record you'll ever listen to, but it's extremely well done for what it is. It's a shame there's no online video of the group actually performing, but something of the sort is bound to turn up sooner or later, right?

Track list:
1. Love Buzz
2. Here We Are
3. Movin' Up
4. Go For It
5. Dancin' the Night Away
6. Without Your Love
7. Back Again

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Breathe - All That Jazz (1987)


I have to admit, I never paid this band any mind back in the late '80s when their music was pouring out of every radio in America. My mind was occupied with rock acts like Husker Du and the Replacements, old psychedelic music like the Blues Magoos, the Leaves, and Love, or dance pop like Prince and Bananarama.

But, funny enough, hearing Breathe brings back memories of the 1980s more than any of those artists ever could. Why is this?

Here's why: I've found that it's not the stuff you were paying attention to that ever really brings back the feeling of the old days, because you've retained clear-cut memories of it and as such it's always been current to you to some degree. But it's the music (or TV shows, or whatever) that were humming in the background that suddenly make you remember people, places, and things you otherwise would have forgotten. Since you haven't thought one iota about them in decades, they unexpectedly transport you back to the good ol' days.

Coming across the music of Breathe a while back, I was unexpectedly hit with a wave of nostalgia, hence this post. Breathe released the first of their two albums in late 1987. Despite what you might have read elsewhere on the Web, this CD is most likely not from 1988, because it has a copyright date of 1987 (as the artwork included with this high-quality rip will show). So I'm going with that date here instead of the "April, 1988" date on Wikipedia.

Also since Breathe's first U.S. hit, "Hands to Heaven," first charted on April 16, 1988, you have to assume the album was out a bit before that, especially in the UK. "Hands to Heaven" was an ethereal-sounding ballad that was the group's biggest hit. It got to #2 on the U.S. pop charts and stayed in the Hot 100 for a whopping 29 weeks.

Their second hit was another ballad, "How Can I Fall," which topped out at #3 in the fall of 1988. Their third and final hit from the album was the jauntier shuffle "Don't Tell Me Lies," which got to #10.

Like a lot of commercially-oriented pop albums, the hits are the best thing here. Still, it all sounds pretty good, and it's guaranteed to remind you of the era of "Empty Nest," Michael Dukakis, bran muffins, early Tom Hanks, shoulder padding on women's clothing, "The Wonder Years," Baby on Board auto decals, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and those big red glasses Yuppies all used to wear.

Track list:
1. Jonah
2. All That Jazz
3. Monday Morning Blues
4. Hands to Heaven
5. All This I Should Have Known
6. Any Trick
7. Liberties of Love
8. Won't You Come Back?
9. For Love or Money
10. How Can I Fall?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Humble Pie - The Scrubbers Sessions (1997)


Recorded in late 1974 and early 1975, The Scrubbers Sessions is something of a "great lost Humble Pie" album, but with one caveat. It's not really so great.

The twenty songs show the UK hard rock group at their end of their tether, to repeat a phrase band leader Steve Marriott once used in an interview when describing this period of the group's history. These recordings were made by Tim Hinkley, a keyboardist who was something of an additional member of the band for the period in between the release of their albums Thunderbox and Street Rats.

While this now out-of-print CD doesn't measure up to either of those albums (especially Street Rats, which is pretty underrated), it does provide a crucial service, by serving up some classic Steve Marriott vocals. There was no other voice like Marriott's and it's always enjoyable to hear him in his prime (or near his prime), even if the songs he's singing aren't up to the level of "Hot 'n' Nasty," "Natural Born Bugie," or "Beckton Dumps" (a personal Pie favorite).

Track list:
1. The Shake
2. I Need a Star in My Life
3. Lend Us a Quid    
4. Send Me Some Lovin'
5. She Moves Me Man    
6. Street Rat
7. Captain Goatcabin's Balancing Stallions
8. High and Happy
9. Be My Baby
10. It's All Over
11. Bluegrass Interval  
12. Don't Take But a Few Minutes
13. Louisiana Blues
14. You're a Heartbreaker
15. Mona
16. Cocaine    
17. I'll Find You    
18. Lord Let Me Hold Out
19. Hambone
20. Signed Sealed 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Princeton University Tigressions - Try It Like This (1989)


About a month ago, I posted a rip I made from a cassette tape recorded by one of Princeton University's all-girls a cappella groups, the Tigerlilies, in 1991. If you liked that one, here's another -- and this one dates back even further, going all the way back to the late 1980s.

Judging from the group's Web site, the Princeton University Tigressions' Try It Like This was their third release. It's so old they don't even have a photo of it. Nor do they have a listing of songs. If anyone from the modern-day incarnation of this group is reading, feel free to take all that from here.

Because this is a pretty high-quality dub of the cassette. It'd be nicer if I'd had this on CD, but my guess is that it never came out in that form. Cassettes were the medium of choice back in the era of "Family Ties," big red eyeglasses, and bran muffins. (Digression: Can anyone tell me why bran was so popular back in the '80s? It seemed like bran was in everything back then. Did Yuppies as a group suffer from digestive issues?)

This recording is a bit less humorous than the one I'd posted by the Tigerlilies. The Tigressions seemed to specialize more in pensive songs like Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," Todd Rundgren's "Pretending to Care," and the Jimmy Van Heusen-Johnny Burke standard "Here's That Rainy Day."

It's also pretty cool that they dug up some obscurities, like the Free Design's "Canada in Springtime." "Da Who Dores," by the way, is the title they gave to their cover of "Welcome Christmas," the song from the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" soundtrack.

They also do two original numbers. The opening and closing tunes here were either co-written or written by one of the group's members who also did arrangements for a few of the other tunes.

As I said regarding the Tigerlilies tape, a cappella singing has grown in popularity since the release of the "Pitch Perfect" movies. So maybe more people will take to this today than they did back in the early 1990s when I played this tape to people and got blank stares in response. Either way, dig that vintage Dolby sound! Does anyone even remember what that was anymore?

Related: The Princeton University Tigerlilies - Femmes Fatales (1991)

Track list:
1. Try It Like This
2. You Go To My Head
3. The Boy From New York City
4. Here's That Rainy Day
5. Cat's in the Cradle
6. Canada in Springtime
7. Pretending to Care
8. Java Jive
9. They Can't Take That Away From Me
10. Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
11. Da Who Dores
12. Someone Else's Story
13. Lullaby in Rhythm
14. Look Into Your Heart

Friday, February 19, 2016

Various Artists - Teenage Favorites (1994)


This is a collection of hard-to-find late 1950s and early 1960s pop singles put together by the Buffalo Bop label. The label, which was based out of Germany, mostly concentrated on rockabilly collections, so this is an anomaly in their discography. Not only is it pop, but at least two songs here ("Pretty Blue Eyes" by Steve Lawrence and "Oh Julie" by the Crescendos) actually made the charts.

I don't want to write too much about this stuff because part of the enjoyment I got from it was the surprise of discovering it. A few notes, though: That's a young Bruce Johnston (of Beach Boys fame) singing lead on the Rituals' "Gone." And Donnie Owens, who sings the wistful closing number "Stormy" also had a hit with the classic '50s ballad "Need You," which got to #25 in 1958.

Track list:
1. The Wonders - Cuttin' Out  
2. The R-Dells - You Say    
3. David Box - Little Lonely Summer Girl    
4. Steve Lawrence - Pretty Blue Eyes    
5. Milo Liggett - Gold And Silver    
6. Tommy Lam - Blue Willow    
7. Chip Fisher - Poor Me    
8. Bobby Doyle - Hot Seat    
9. Canadian Sweethearts - No Help Wanted    
10. Johnny Cameron - Fantasy    
11. Bobby Boston - Lazy Daisy    
12. The Crescendos - Oh! Julie    
13. Johnny Duffett - Just Give Me Your Heart    
14. Kris Jensen - Big As I Can Dream    
15. The Rituals - Gone    
16. Bobby Comstock - Just A Piece Of Paper    
17. Tony Orlando - The Lonliest    
18. The Barker Brothers - Hey Little Mama    
19. Ricky Scott - I Didn't Mean It    
20. Joe Melson - Heartbreaker    
21. Marci - Suddenly We're Strangers    
22. Billy Dolton - Girls    
23. Don French - Lonely Saturday Night    
24. Jerry Naylor - Stop Your Crying    
25. Dale Wright - My Heart    
26. Mickey Denton - Steady Kind    
27. Lee Denson - Devil Doll    
28. The Skee Brothers - Big Deal    
29. Al & The Echoes - Baby Remember Me    
30. Don Cole - Sweet Lovin' Honey    
31. Woody Thorne - Teenager In Love    
32. Gary Criss - Our Favorite Melodies    
33. Donnie Owens - Stormy

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Who - Magic Bus (US Vinyl, 1974)


I'll admit it: This was a bad idea.

Not the release of this album (although many would claim just that). No, the issue here is my decision to create an accurate rip of the Who's fourth American album so I could experience it just as I had in high school. I already had the LP, of course. Although this album was initially released in 1968 on Decca Records, the version I had (and still have) is the 1974 reissue that came out first on Track Records/MCA Records and was later reissued on MCA alone.

Having this LP was apparently not enough for me. I needed to have an MP3 version of it, too. That way I could hear it while driving around and such.

My feeling was that the various Who reissues I'd bought never captured the way the band sounded when I listened to them heavily in my youth. I kept thinking the highfalutin CD remixes were lame and maybe the old, reprocessed stereo sound had some benefits after all.

It didn't. Reprocessed stereo (or "fake stereo") is just as bad an idea now as it was then. While editing this album down to workable MP3s I felt like my ears were going to fall off because of all the harsh sounding bass-on-the-left/treble-on-the-right mixes. Now I remember why we all welcomed CDs and their cleaner sound.

All told, I did at least accomplish my goal. I got an accurate rip of the album. And I can (and sometimes do) play it in my car. And all the while I think it's amazing I liked this album so much as a teenager considering how it sounds. Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can't go home again. Let me add my own two cents to that: "You can't go back to reprocessed stereo again."

***

Unrelated addendum: Even back in high school I wondered why this makeshift collection repeated songs from earlier Who albums when the band had enough non-LP tunes to fill an album and then some. No one at Decca Records thought that "I'm a Boy," "Substitute," "Dogs," or "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" were worthy of inclusion? There were also b-sides like "I've Been Away" and the alternate "Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand." And, hey, what about "In the City?" If it was good enough for the Jam, well...

Track list:
1. Disguises (Fake Stereo -- bass on left treble on right)
2. Run Run Run (Stereo -- from the Happy Jack/A Quick One LP)
3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Fake Stereo -- bass on left treble on right)
4. I Can't Reach You (Stereo -- from the The Who Sell Out LP)
5. Our Love Was, Is (Stereo -- from the The Who Sell Out LP)
6. Call Me Lightning (Fake Stereo -- bass on left treble on right)
7. Magic Bus (U.S. Stereo Mix -- different than the one on Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy)
8. Someone's Coming (Fake Stereo -- but with the treble moving around in spots)
9. Doctor, Doctor (Fake Stereo -- bass on left treble on right)
10. Bucket T (Fake Stereo -- bass on left treble on right)
11. Pictures of Lily (Fake Stereo -- bass on left treble on right, but not as differentiated)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Jaded feat. Tina Yothers - Confessions (2000)


Tl/dr: This is a really good album. Everything else will be an expansion on that basic opinion.

Jaded was an alternative rock group fronted by former child star Tina Yothers, best known for playing the youngest daughter, Jennifer, on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties." For whatever reason, people had problems with her leaving acting and going into rock music. She was apparently so harassed by wayward "fans" that she even saved a recording of a nasty phone call and made it a hidden track on this album (it's track #12).

Today, with former child stars all over the place, this controversy seems a bit ridiculous. Not only that, but you could consider what Yothers did here as a prototype for what fellow former blonde, female child star Taylor Momsen is doing now with the alternative group she's fronting, the Pretty Reckless.

Jaded, which Yothers led with her brother Cory Yothers, is much less aggressive an ensemble than that band. But, for my money, their songs are better -- more melodic and less reliant on "shocking" lyrics. On Jaded's lone album, Confessions, virtually all of the tunes have at least one ear-grabbing musical hook and sometimes more.

This is also a homegrown effort, not a glossy big-money Hollywood affair. Unlike a lot of child stars who go pop, Yothers didn't drag in a bunch of high-priced songwriter/producers. All the songs here were co-written by Yothers herself, guitarist Michael Anderson, and her brother Cory Yothers, who also produced.

Cory Yothers' kitchen-sink production is also what makes this album work. The band has been characterized as having "goth" elements, but I don't hear much of that. What Yothers does is balance out the guitars with hip hop and rap beats as well as some pure pop elements like sampled horns. I'd call this music "post-Alanis rock" because it uses her Jagged Little Pill as a jumping-off point.

There's no information I can find that tells if a single was released. But since "Set Me Free" shows up a lot on YouTube, that was probably the song they were pushing. It's a good song, but others are equally good, if not better, including the soulful "First Time," the jazz-inflected "My Turn," and the angsty "Only One." One of my favorites is "Disappointed," which taps into the same low-key, groove Gwen Stefani used five years down the road on "Cool," although its subject matter is completely different.

I hesitate to say this, but I wonder if one major reason Momsen's career took off and Yothers' didn't is that the former has no problem "putting it all out there" while Yothers actually shied away from being sexy. That's exemplified by the fact that Yothers chopped off her signature blonde mane of hair and dyed it black around the time this CD came out. (I was a fan of the teenage Jennifer Keaton's classic '80s perm -- so sue me.)

There's also one other reason this album might not have caught on: It was released a bit too late to ride the alternative rock wave. By 2000, dance pop and hip hop had come into favor again. Whatever the case, the music here has held up and this CD is definitely a lost gem.

P.S. -- The name of this group is Jaded, not Jaded feat. Tina Yothers. But since few people seemed to find this post when I titled it Jaded, I thought I'd add in Yothers' name to name it more click-worthy.

Track list:
1. Intro    
2. Only One    
3. Fallin'    
4. First Time    
5. Hush    
6. My Turn    
7. Black And White    
8. Disappoint You    
9. Set Me Free    
10. Dreamin'    
11. Waiting    
12. Untitled
13. Feelzgood    
14. Ring    
15. It's Allright

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Seeds - Future (Mono Mix, 1967)


To conclude Mono Week, we'll wrap up with a record that's one of the weirder albums of 1967. And that's saying something.

The Seeds' Future is ostensibly a psychedelic album, but it's infused with the band's quirky two-chord garage band ethos. Stranger still, it sort of works. Most of the time, anyway. While not a great album, it does have a good number of catchy and/or clever songs.

Its big drawback in being a period piece actually works in its favor today because it unwittingly evokes the feel of late '60s culture. It does that not just in its ridiculousness and naivete but also in its sense of discovery and openness to new possibilities. The spoken word introduction by band leader Sky Saxon, for example, could not have been done in any other era -- unless it was intended ironically.

(Digression: When a friend gave this album to me when we were in college in the 1980s, he mentioned that the best way to listen to psychedelic music was to light the room with colored bulbs. To this day, I have a "light tree" in my living room with blue, yellow, and red lights in it in case I need to set the mood for a record like this. All of which is a long way of saying that this music has a way of influencing people. Or at least influencing me.)

This mono mix has never been released on CD. Several songs from it came out on a reissue CD from a few years ago, but the whole album in mono is not in print. I wish I could point out the stereo vs. mono differences like I did elsewhere on this blog, but I haven't owned the stereo version of this album in ages. If there are Seeds-heads out there who knows this stuff, enlighten us.

Track list:
1. Introduction
2. March Of The Flower Children
3. Travel With Your Mind
4. Out Of The Question
5. Painted Doll
6. Flower Lady & Her Assistant
7. Now A Man
8. A Thousand Shadows
9. Two Fingers Pointing On You
10. Where Is The Entrance Way To Play
11. Six Dreams
12. Fallin'

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Association - Renaissance (Mono Mix, 1967)


Continuing Mono Week, here is my own personal rip of the Association's second album, Renaissance. The mono mix is the version of this album that I bought back in college and the one with which I'm most familiar.

What's different about it? A few of the fade-outs are longer (like the one on the opening cut) and some of the background vocals are less prominent (like on the second song, "Memories of You")

But most importantly, two tracks appear in different form than on the stereo mix, namely "Looking Glass" and "No Fair at All." On this mono edition, those songs are somewhat bare-boned, vocally-speaking. The stereo mix of the album used new editions of these songs meant for their 45 release that had additional vocal parts. Both of these songs also run at a faster speed on the mono mix.

This is my favorite Association album. It's got a distinct feel of its own that's removed from the rest of their work -- probably because it had no major hits on it and is therefore not associated in my mind with oldies radio. That doesn't mean it's their best album. It's just the one I prefer.

I'll refrain from posting more info on this, like the chart positions of the singles, because there's already lot of writing about this group. If you want to know more, I'd encourage you to do some research and dig deeper. They have lots albums worth getting.

Track list:
1. I'm The One
2. Memories of You
3. All Is Mine
4. Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies
5. Angeline
6. Songs in the Wind
7. You May Think
8. Looking Glass
9. Come to Me
10. No Fair At All
11. You Hear Me Call Your Name
12. Another Time, Another Place

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Laura Nyro - More Than a New Discovery (Mono Mix, 1967)


For our third installment of Mono Week, we have Laura Nyro's debut album. It was released on at least three labels (Verve Folkways, Verve Forecast, and Columbia Records), but there is only one way to hear it. And since this is Mono Week, you can probably guess what that way is.

The original mono mix can be found on the first issue of this album, the Verve Folkways pressing FT 3020. The album was later issued in mono on Verve Forecast, but that mix added reverb. By the time Columbia Records re-reissued this album as The First Songs a few years later, it was rendered nearly unlistenable by the massive amount of reverb they piled on the reverb that had already been added.

On top of that, Columbia altered the running order of the songs. Why? Who knows. It wasn't for the better and it's a shame that it's this revised version of the album most Nyro fans know. It's simply not as good. Even as a Nyro fanatic who saw her live back in the day I never took to this album. Then came the Sunday in November of 2001 I chanced upon the original mono mix for a dollar at a record show. I played it obsessively. It's that good.

People complain about Dave Dexter, Jr.'s tampering with the Beatles sound by using too much reverberation, but I'd argue that what Columbia did with Nyro's reissue is worse. Not only is the sound lousier (at least Dexter added some punch to the Beatles' mixes) but unlike with the Fab Four, the original mix of Nyro's first album isn't even commercially available.

So consider this a way of making it non-commercially available -- complete with high-quality cover and label scans.

Also included is a  bonus cut: The mono 45 version of "Stoney End," released on 45 as the b-side to "Wedding Bell Blues," Nyro's debut single. For the single, the record company had her alter the opening lines, fearing the "good book Jesus" reference would offend listeners. Rather than just "punch in" a new opening, Laura re-sang the entire vocal, so this 45 is also technically an alternate vocal take.

Related posts:
Norma Tanega - Walkin' My Cat Named Dog (Mono Mix, 1966)
Lindy Stevens - Pure Devotion (1972)
Lucy Simon - Lucy Simon (1975)

Track list:
1. Goodbye Joe
2. Billy's Blues
3. And When I Die
4. Stoney End
5. Lazy Susan
6. Hands Off The Man
7. Wedding Bell Blues
8. Buy And Sell
9. He's A Runner
10. Blowin' Away
11. I Never Meant To Hurt You
12. California Shoe-Shine Boys

Bonus cut:
13. Stoney End (Mono 45 Version with Alternate Lyric and Vocal Track)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Leaves - Hey Joe (Mono Mix, 1966)


Mono week continues with the debut album by the California folk-rock group the Leaves. I'll keep this short and sweet because I'm sure fans of '60s music already know their history and I don't have to explain much about them. Anyway, about this album...

The stereo mix: Sounds like a polite little rinky-dink band even the moms and dads could love. The mono mix: Comes off like a powerful group that could blow your doors down. This rip has some surface noise, but that actually sort of adds to the atmosphere. The group's non-LP 45 sides are tagged on to the end as well.

Track list:
1. Dr. Stone
2. Just a Memory
3. Get Out of My Life Woman
4. Girl From the East
5. He Was a Friend of Mine
6. Hey Joe
7. Words
8. Back on the Avenue
9. War of Distortion
10. Tobacco Road
11. Goodbye My Love
12. Too Many People

Bonus Tracks:
13. Be With You (The B-side of the first edition of the "Hey Joe" single)
14. You Better Move On (Non-LP A-Side)
15. A Different Story (B-Side of "You Better Move On")
16. Love Minus Zero (The B-Side of "Too Many People")
17. Funny Little World (The B-Side of both the "Be With You" 45 and the second-edition of the "Hey Joe" single. It was also the A-side of a single backed with "Girl From the East")

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lesley Gore - California Nights (Mono Mix, 1967)


Since my previous post featuring the mono mix of Lesley Gore's My Town, My Guy and Me seemed to go over well, I thought I'd offer some more mono Lesley Gore. In fact, I'll take it a step further: Each day this week I'll post a mono mix of something. I declare this...MONO WEEK!

California Nights is probably the late singer's second best album. As I mentioned, I think My Town, My Guy and Me is her best.

In both cases, these albums work because most (if not all) the songs presented are specific to Gore, as opposed to her versions of overly-covered tune like "Young Love" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," which mar the otherwise fine Sings All About Love. That LP, by the way, was released in between My Town and California Nights and I may put it out in mono too if I can find a better copy or digitally clean up the one I have.

The differences between the California Nights mono mix and its stereo counterpart are much like the ones I mentioned in the My Town, My Guy and Me post. In this mono mix, the vocal double tracking is sometimes different (like on the second verse of "California Nights"), the reverb on the vocals is sometimes heavier ("Lilacs and Violets"), and the EQ setting aren't quite the same (there seems to be less bass throughout, especially on "Off and Running").

I'm not one of these people to drone on about "glorious mono mixes" of '60s albums because I like the separation between channels you get with the stereo recordings of that era. But some of the songs really do hang together better in mono, meaning rhythm track and vocal track sound like they're both of one piece, not like they're floating in different galaxies because of the stereo spread.

"What exactly does he mean by that?" Here are some examples. Note the way the entrance of the rhythm section of the title track (at the 40-second mark) and "Love Goes on Forever" (at 23 seconds in) are much smoother in mono -- and therefore more tied to the vocal. Also, those reverberated drum explosions producers Quincy Jones and Bob Crewe were so fond of (on "I'm Going Out..." and "The Bubble Broke") fit in with the tracks better here.

***

This album has what I've long considered to be Lesley Gore's most powerful lead vocal. But it's powerful because of a mistake, oddly enough, and it happens during the bridge of the album's closing track, "Cry Like A Baby," which was first cut by Aretha Franklin (and written by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson and Jo "Joshie" Armstead).

When Gore hits the bridge of this song, she's pushed to the upper limits of her range and starts wailing off-key -- something that rarely happened with her. But here, as the notes get higher and higher, she gets so caught up in the moment that her self-expression comes first, perfect pitch be damned. I'm glad producer Quincy Jones left this in. The emotion of her singing transcends technical flaws. She might not have the chops of Aretha, but I contend that she puts across the desperate feeling of the lyric better.

This is the kind of realistic, human element that the use of Auto-Tune has removed from today's music. And it's been one of my favorite moments on any record since I bought this LP on a blazing hot summer day in July of 1987. (For $1!. Those were the days!!)

Back in 2009 when my music writing career was at its peak, I spoke to Gore several times about writing a book with her that would look back at her life and her music. For a variety of reasons (some hers, some mine), that never came to pass. I got the feeling, though, that if I'd pushed a little harder she'd have agreed to a collaboration. Considering she had just over a half decade to live, I wish I'd have been more persistent. She should have told her story -- and told it with someone who knew enough about her music to do that story justice. Live and learn.

Related post: Lesley Gore - My Town, My Guy and Me (Mono Mix, 1965)

Track list:
1. California Nights.
2. Treat Me Like a Lady
3. Bad
4. I'm Going Out (The Same Way I Came In)
5. Maybe Now
6. Love Goes on Forever
7. Off and Running
8. Lilacs and Violets
9. The Bubble Broke
10. Cry Like A Baby

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991)


Continuing our theme of obscure early '90s teen pop performers, here is the lone full CD by Chris Cuevas. Cuevas was managed by Debbie Gibson's mother Diane Gibson, who also served as executive producer on it. It also contained a song written by the younger Gibson, "Hip Hop," which became a Top 20 dance hit for Cuevas in 1991.

In early 1992, one of his self-penned songs from the album, the ballad "You Are The One," got to #58 on the pop charts. Another ballad from the CD, "Someday," showcased Debbie Gibson on co-lead vocals, but was not billed as such on the back cover. Maybe the Gibsons didn't want to steal Cuevas' thunder, but whatever their motive, the move couldn't have helped sales. (Gibson's voice also pops up for a few seconds in the middle of "Hip Hop," where she can be heard singing background and throwing in a few ad libs, like "What's up, C?")

This album came out on the same label to which Gibson was signed, Atlantic Records, under the Gibson Management label imprint. Had it been released a few years earlier, when teen pop singers reigned, it might have done better and there might have been a follow-up.

But by 1992, the type of frothy pop that Cuevas wrote and performed was already out of style because grunge and alternative rock were beginning to dominate the charts. So when the album didn't set the world alight, the record company probably showed him the door.

That's not a surprise. Even established pop acts like New Kids on the Block, Tommy Page, and Gibson herself couldn't really succeed in the new pop environment of the '90s. As for this album, it's similar to the work of the aforementioned Page: Lots of bouncy dance pop and wistful ballads sung with a wispy male voice. If you like upbeat synth-dance Page tracks like "Turn On the Radio" (in my opinion a great hit-single-that-never-was) you're sure to take to Cuevas songs like "Don't Break Up With Me."

In all, it's definitely evocative of a forgotten mini-era in music: The lost period in which pop acts started to fall by the wayside as guitar music dominated the radio for one last go-round. The alternative crowd might have won the battle, but they lost the war once Britney, Christina, and company emerged in the late '90s.

Track list:
1. I Need You
2. Give Our Love a Chance
3. Somehow, Someway
4. Another Way
5. Hip Hop
6. Someday
7. Don't Break Up With Me
8. One Time
9. Dance Party
10. Positive Motion
11. About You
12. You Are the One

Friday, February 5, 2016

Alisha - Bounce Back (1990)


It bothers me that Alisha didn't get to make more albums. In all, she released three albums of freestyle dance music/dance pop, and all are first-rate. Granted, they didn't sell and this, her third effort, was the only one to get into Billboard's Top 200 albums chart.

Still, dance music is a singles-oriented medium and each of Alisha's albums contained a big dance chart hit, all of which now seem like genre classics. In '85 when she was 14, she tore up the dance chart with "All Night Passion" and "Baby Talk," the latter a #1 hit on that chart. 1988 saw her chart again with "Let Your Heart Make Up Your Mind."

With this album, Alisha took the title track to #10 on the dance chart. It's a cover of a 1987 song by the Los Angeles duo Fire on Blonde. On half of that duo, Michael Jay, produced this album and his decision to have Alisha rerecord the song was a good one.

As with virtually everything she sang, she nails "Bounce Back" with an authority that belies her age (only 19 at the time). And this, friends, is what makes Alisha stand out from the scads of '80s singers who are now half-forgotten. When she lays into a song, she puts everything into it. On this album, her voice had really matured and it's easy to imagine her becoming a success on the level of Celine Dion (who she resembles on her ballads) if she'd had the right breaks.

Unlike a lot of modern day singers, Alisha doesn't overdo the dramatics and pile on loads of melisma and ad libbing. Because of that, her songs come off as less dated, even when they have instruments that tie them to the time period in which she recorded them (i.e. the Yahama DX7 in the ballad "Don't Let Our Love Go").

All of Alisha's albums are now out-of-print. She's probably amused that her rare second release, Nightwalkin,' now sells for insane prices on eBay and Amazon.com. It's less amusing when you're actually looking to buy the album. Oh well.

Related posts:
Alisha - Nightwalkin' (1986)
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. Wrong Number
2. Everything You Do
3. You've Really Gotten to Me
4. Love Will Talk
5. (Ain't No) Better Love
6. Bounce Back
7. Rescue Me
8. Kiss Me Quick
9. Don't Let Our Love Go
10. I Need Forever

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Homework - Homework (1990)


Another day, another forgotten production by New Kids on the Block mainman Maurice Starr. For background on Mr. Starr, see my previous post on Rick Wes, or this one on the Superiors.

This time around, Starr took a Boston area band under his wing called Homework. The media buzz about  this band back in the day was largely because their bass player was David Knight. Who's he, you ask? He's the brother of New Kids on the Block singers Jordan and Jonathan Knight and at the time of this album's release they were among the most famous people in the world.

Sadly, their brother David's band didn't achieve a fraction of the New Kids' success. One of their singles, "That Girl,"seemed a likely contender for chart action but that didn't happen.

There is a good (or bad) reason for that, according to band member Rafael Dias, who posted a video of the band performing the song on YouTube. According to his comment under the video, Starr was battling with the record company over control of the band's promotion. When they couldn't agree on who would do what, the record company stopped promoting the group.

They should have thought twice about that, because it's one of Starr's better efforts, with a bunch of first-rate ballads, namely "Special Kind of Lady" and "Be My Lady." Lead vocalists Shawn Meadows and Melvin Sutton both have impressive voices, and the aforementioned David Knight does a good job on the one song he gets to sing (and rap on), "Only You (Can Make It Better)."

As mentioned in the Rick Wes post, Starr and the New Kids helped invent the neo soul genre and never got any credit for it. A lot of this music fits into that category. In all, not a brilliant album, but one that has some unexpectedly great moments. And for those who care about who sang what and how the band looked, high-quality scans are included here.

Track list:
1. Homework
2. Special Kind Of Lady
3. You Know 
4. Give It What You Got (For Love)
5. All For You
6. That Girl
7. Only You (Can Make It Better)
8. Be My Lady
9. My World 
10. Living In Your World

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rick Wes - North, South, East, Wes (1990)

 

You know what makes for a really boring music blog? When every post is based around the idea of "This is such a great album...if only the public could hear it."

This post is the opposite of that. Ric Wes' debut album, ridiculously titled North, South, East, Wes, is not a particularly good album. And it's no major loss that it never attracted the teenybopper audience it was intended for when it came out.

So why write about it? There are a few reasons. For one thing, it's an interesting cultural artifact from an era when teen-oriented entertainment was far more squeaky clean, even though at the time, people didn't think so. North, South, East, Wes might position its main character as a potential teen heartthrob, but he's way more Bobby Sherman than Justin Bieber.

Second -- and most importantly -- this album shows what happens when a musical Svengali gets too big for his britches and thinks he can make a star out of anyone. In this case, the Svengali was New Kids on the Block mastermind Maurice Starr and his "anyone" was a kid he met backstage at a concert, whom he dubbed "Rick Wes."

Starr made it clear in an Orlando Sun-Sentinel article from July 1990 that Wes had no experience singing. He considered that a positive. "That was perfect," he was quoted as saying. "I could mold him."

Perhaps Starr needed to do a bit more molding. Wes' singing lacks presence and isn't always on-pitch. And his stage show left a lot to be desired (more on this later). Even the backing vocalists seem off here. The trio of black female singer that called itself Lady Soul came off more like satire than the real thing. (And what's with that moniker? Didn't anyone know it was associated with Aretha?)

I've written about Starr on this blog before, and will again because I own a lot of rare Starr-related CDs. Starr might have dropped the ball here, but he was actually a much better composer and producer than critics of the New Kids would have you believe. I consider his work on the group's 1990 blockbuster album Step By Step to be both first-rate and somewhat innovative. Not only did he write a passel of eminently hummable songs, but he and the group unwittingly helped invent the neo-soul genre with their Stylistics and Chi-Lites retreads.

Unfortunately for Starr, his compositional skills didn't translate too well to the Wes concept, which he envisioned a blend of Elvis and modern dance music. It ended up just as awkward as it sounds.  The songs are simply weak or ill-conceived. It is amusing, though, to try and spot the influence of '50s songs buried among the now-dated Alesis drum machine sounds. My favorite is the quote from Dee Clark's #20 hit from 1959, "Hey Little Girl," which pops up in the title track.

But picking out influences from old '50s songs was probably not the preferred pastime of the prepubescent female audience that Starr and Wes were courting here. So despite a big promotional push, the album died an almost instant death. Within months you could find it in the cutout bins.

Wait, let me modify that thought. It might have been the big promotional push that killed this record. Starr's overly-candid interviews with reporters about Wes' lack of experience were guaranteed to stoke skepticism among reviewers. And Wes' appearances on the then-popular TV show "Dance Party U.S.A." couldn't have helped matters. Clearly unprepared to perform, he poorly mimed his songs while "strumming" an acoustic guitar he clearly had no idea how to play. This is where I first encountered Wes and (I'll admit) where my somewhat morbid fascination with him began.

As it stands, this album has been out of print now for a quarter century. That's almost the amount of time that had lapsed between the advent of Elvis and his would-be second coming, Ric Wes. Yet I've never forgotten it. In fact, I've possibly given it more thought than a lot of albums I own that are legitimately great.

Maybe there's a reason that twenty-five years after its release, I'm still thinking about this CD. Maybe we all see a little of ourselves in Rick Wes. After all, who hasn't at some point been offered a chance to live out a dream, only to see the dream come crashing down? At least Wes got to make two CDs (his second will be featured on this blog soon), tour a bit, and actually hear the screams of teenage girls, short-lived thought they might have been. Hell, that's more than most of his critics ever accomplished. And, in fact, it's more than most of us will ever get to do. In that sense, people's derision of Wes (which is easy to find on the Web) might just be misdirected self-loathing.

Wow, who'd have thought this, of all posts, would end on a pensive philosophical note?

More dope early '90s teen pop sounds:
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 - Possession (1991)

Track list:
1. The North, South, East, Wes Show Intro
2. North, South, East, West
3. Angel Boy
4. Don'tchu Wanna Rock
5. Bad, Bad, Bad, Little Girl
6. You Gotta Be Fair
7. Shoulder To Cry On
8. Dance Everybody
9. One Lonely Night
10. Good Night

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Party - In the Meantime, In Between Time (1991)


If it's not evident by now, I have a thing for late '80s and early '90s teen dance music. This stuff is pretty enjoyable if you give it a chance. Or maybe you had to be there. Either way, this week I'm going to post nothing but music from this era. And here's another helping.

The Party was an early '90s teenybopper pop act that evolved out of the All-New Mickey Mouse Club TV show, which ran from 1989 through 1995. These days, the program is best known as the training ground for future pop sensations Britney Spears, Justin Timberland, and Christina Aguilera. But before any of those artists even made a CD, the Party had already released a bunch of records and scored several hits.

Their self-titled debut, which came out in 1990, is a first-rate dance pop album that should have been bigger. It spawned two minor hits with the songs "Summer Vacation" (#72 in July, 1990) and "I Found Love" (#79 in Nov., 1990). But it was this album, their second, that had their biggest hit. Oddly enough, it was a cover of a heavy metal power ballad, Dokken's "In My Dreams," which the Party took to #33 in 1991.

It's pretty ironic their biggest song came from this CD, because the disc itself has become pretty rare these days. I'm glad I bought it for $2.99 when it could easily be found in cutout bins in the early 1990s.

The album, however, isn't nearly as good as their first. It wasn't meant to be any kind of masterpiece, though. As its title implies, it's a makeshift effort to mark time between albums (their next one, Free, would come out in '92). As such, it collects up odds and ends, like the single remix of the non-charting "That's Why" and its non-CD flip side "Adult Decision." Since the running time here is short, it would have been nice if they'd also included the single remixes of songs like "Summer Vacation" and "I Found Love," which are now next-to-impossible to find. But you can't have everything.

There are also a bunch of cover tunes. These tracks might not give the original artists a run for their money, but give these teens credit at least hipping a new generation to the songs of Nick Lowe, the Waitresses, Jim Stafford, and the Who.

The CD itself came with some "extras," like photos of the group and an entry form for a sweepstakes, both of which have been included as high-quality scans here. According to the "official rules" of the sweepstakes, the deadline for entry was Dec. 15, 1991, so it looks like all of us are too late to enter. Darn! Some readers might not have even been born by that deadline. Has it really been that long? Yipes!

Track list:
1. In My Dreams
2. Private Affair
3. Sugar Is Sweet (Remix)
4. I Gotcha
5. Adult Decision (Remix)
6. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?
7. I Know What Boys Like
8. Spiders and Snakes
9. That's Why (Power Mix)
10. My Generation

Monday, February 1, 2016

Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)


The response to my last Debbie Gibson collection was so underwhelming that I decided there is only one solution: More Debbie Gibson! Some people like "more cowbell." Well, I like "more Debbie Gibson."

Where that last post covered the rarities associated with her second album, Electric Youth, this one is all about the 12-inch single releases of songs from her first LP, Out of the Blue, from 1987. In all there were four 12-inchers featuring various mixes of dance hits from that album. In chronological order they were "Only In My Dreams" (which preceded the first LP), "Shake Your Love," "Out of the Blue," and "Staying Together."

Serious fans of The Gibber know that in between those last two songs a fourth single came out, "Foolish Beat," which turned out to be her first #1 hit. But that was a ballad, so it ain't represented here.

In all, you get an hour and twenty minutes worth of dance grooves, including extended mixes, remixes, drum-and-vocal tracks, and the occasional "dub" version. These mixes were played regularly in clubs and on the Saturday night dance shows that Top 40 stations used to broadcast. If you remember any of them, odds are you haven't heard them in nearly three decades. Almost none of these mixes ever made it to CD and virtually all are specific to the 12-inch vinyl on which they were first pressed.

Why do I like this stuff so much? Well, first because as '80s dance music goes, it's pretty good. Gibson's early work had a Latin "freestyle" edge to it, yet her melodic skills as a composer brought a pop sensibility to her songs. Beyond the grooves, there are hooks galore.

Also interesting are the production touches, which were once considered cutting edge but now seem rather quaint. My favorite was (and still is) that voice sample in the "Only In My Dreams" extended club mix that has her voice intoning "dreams...DREAMS...dreams" at various pitches.

There may also be an element of nostalgia here. OK, there definitely is an element of nostalgia. I can get into '60s stuff I've never heard and find it "new," since I have no recollection of it. But virtually all of these mixes have memories attached to them, whether they're from college dorm rooms or dances, local clubs my friends and I frequented, or nights out on the town where we had the car radio blasting.

Looking back now, Gibson's chirpy, upbeat take on dance music was very representative of its era -- whether she meant it to be or not. Some people look back to the days of the drive-ins and "Help Me, Rhonda" as their own era of innocent fun. This was our era. And it still sounds good to me now -- even an hour and twenty minutes of it, which I'm sure will drive most of you to madness. Hehe.

Related post: Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989).

Track list:

Only In My Dreams 12" (1986):
1. Only In My Dreams (Extended Club Mix-Vocal)
2. Only In My Dreams (Percapella Vocal)
3. Only In My Dreams (Dreamix)
4. Only In My Dreams (Hearthrob Beats)

Shake Your Love 12" (1987):
1. Shake Your Love (Vocal Club Mix)
2. Shake Your Love (Bonus Beats)
3. Shake Your Love (Vocal LP Version)
4. Shake Your Love (Bad Dubb Version)
5. Shake Your Love (Vocal Bass Apella)
6. Shake Your Love (Shake the House Version)

Out of the Blue 12" (1987):
1. Out Of The Blue (Club Mix)
2. Out of the Blue (Bonus Beats)
3. Out of the Blue (Drumapella)
4. Out of the Blue (Dub Version)

Staying Together 12" (1988):
1. Staying Together (Remix)
2. Staying Together (Dub Version)
3. Staying Together (Bonus Beats)