Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trouser Press - Issue #70 (February 1982)


The last time I posted a complete issue of the legendary rock mag Trouser Press it went over especially well. In fact, it proved far more popular than some of my music posts.

So here's another one. Like the time before, I chose this one because it was small issue and therefore easy to scan. Not only is it a mere 52 pages, but this was the first issue published after the mag had shrunk down to a new, more compact size (a change likely brought on by the early '80s recession).

Trouser Press #70 is interesting because it includes their "best of" album and singles lists for 1981, a great year for post punk if there ever was one. There's are articles on future hitmakers OMD and future cult favorites Mission of Burma. The cover story had new wavers Devo and the late author William S. Burroughs match wits and ideas was an inspired concept. This is the kind of thing that made this magazine so unique. Who else would think to do it?

Not listed in the below table of contents are all the reviews of old LPs and singles, which are especially enlightening because you get to read them without the taint of a modern writer's hindsight. So you can see what they though about Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure," Genesis' ABACAB, and U2's October at the time of their release.

Finally, the listing below that says "Growing Up With Paulie" is an excerpt from a book by Paul McCartney's brother Mike McGear, "The Macs: Mike McCartney's Family Album." It contains some interesting insights into how Paul and Mike got their father to agree to let Paul be a musician as well as some other factoids. This is all the more fascinating to me because I've never seen this book anywhere.

Now if I just had an intern to help me scan the other hundred or so issues of Trouser Press -- not to mention my back issues of Creem and Rock Scene. Someone really needs to do this. These mags are now part of history and really should be easily accessible online.

Related: Trouser Press - Issue #67 (November, 1981)

Contents:
1. Top LPs of the Year
2. Tacky Trouser Awards
3. Class Progress Report
4. Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark
5. Mission of Burma
6. Lulu
7. Devo/Burroughs
8. Growing Up With Paulie
9. Blue Oyster Cult

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Louise Goffin - This Is the Place (1988)


Louise Goffin's third album -- and her last for over a decade -- finds her giving pop stardom one last try in a big way and with a bigger record company, Warner Bros. Records. Gone are the loud guitars, shouted vocals, and rock arrangements of her first two LPs on Asylum Records. In their place are glossy production values courtesy of the British production team of Swain-Jolley (aka Tony Swain and Steve Jolley). This duo had worked their magic on Spandau Ballet ("True") and Bananarama ("Cruel Summer") among others. Why not Louise Goffin?

Why not? Well, for one thing, the duo's star was fading and they were on the verge of splitting up by the time Goffin got to them. Swain went on to produce Kim Wilde's Close, which also came out in 1988. Meanwhile, other beneficiaries of the Swain-Jolley sound had moved on, such as Bananarana, who found bigger success with another trendy UK production team, Stock-Aiken-Waterman.

The other reason this record didn't click is that the lone single pulled from it, "Bridge of Sighs," was a bad choice for a single. Let me digress for a second to make the observation that there is a difference between a great song and a great single. "Bridge of Sighs" might have been a great song, but it wasn't a great single. It was just too pensive and slow-moving for the American Top 40.

The album's opening cut "In the Mood," on the other hand, sounds like it would have sounded great on radio. It's got a catchy riff, gorgeous double-tracked harmonies, and lyrics that are commercial yet artsy enough to sound like they're worthy of a short story. This is one of the best songs Goffin ever wrote. What were they thinking not putting this out as a 45?! Even the spoken word interludes are beguiling.

Speaking of things beguiling, the album's cover and sleeve shots show the always-appealing Goffin at her absolute hottest. You think that alone would have moved some units, but the record descended into obscurity pretty quickly. Turns out the jacket shots were taken by one Matti Klatt. If you Google Ms. (or is it Mr.?) Klatt, you'll find s/he is best known as a photographer of the erotic arts (i.e. porn). And to that I say: The record company at the time, Warner Bros., might not have known a good single when they heard it, but at least they knew how to get a good cover image. So there's that.

Rock snobs will dismiss this album as pop product, but I think out of all of Goffin's early LPs it's her best. It shows a huge leap in her songwriting and singing ability, with some numbers ("Ghosts on the High Street" and the aforementioned "Bridge of Sighs") staking out the art song territory for which the Blue Nile would become known and loved. And dig the nod to her folks' classic hit "Locomotion" at the end of "Banging on a Brand New Drum."

All that was missing was an audience. Goffin would finally get that when she teamed up with Mama Carole for a version of King's "Where You Lead," which became the theme song for the hit TV show "Gilmore Girls." After years of obscurity, all of a sudden Louise Goffin's voice was being broadcast to millions week after week. But some of us were digging her sound long before that.

This rip is from a mint vinyl copy of the album. (The used CD version now goes for hundreds of dollars, which is ironic, because you couldn't give this album away in '88.) As for the rip, there are some odd sound artifacts that pop up in the side channels. These are not errors, but sounds that are parts of the original recording. Also, the abrupt intro to "So Many Summers Gone" is the way it's supposed to be and not a flaw in the the rip or the editing thereof.

The differing amounts of blank space at the end of each of the tracks are reflective of what was on the album, not an oversight in editing. Most of the songs Goffin's second and third albums don't have the standard gap of silence, but segue (or almost segue) into one another. And as for jacket scans, well, did you really think after all I wrote above that they wouldn't be large and of super-high quality? Priorities, people!

Related:
Louise Goffin - Kid Blue (1979)
Louise Goffin - Louise Goffin (1981)

Track list:
1. In the Mood
2. Banging On a Brand New Drum
3. 5th of July
4. Deep Kiss
5. Bridge of Sighs
6. Send a Message
7. So Many Summers Gone
8. Carnival
9. All It Takes
10. Ghosts on the High Street

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Louise Goffin - Louise Goffin (1981)



To answer the musical question I posed last time around, the sophomore jinx did not strike on Louise Goffin's second album. Most of the ten songs on this self-titled effort are as good, if not better, than the ones on her first LP.

The first important thing about the record is the fact that Stevie Nicks contributed a song of hers that you couldn't get anywhere else at the time, "If You Ever Did Believe." Nicks also sang backing vocals on the track. The Fleetwood Mac songstress herself didn't record the tune herself until some 17 years later, when she placed it on the soundtrack of the 1998 romantic comedy "Practical Magic." Three years after that, in 2001, Nicks finally put her recording of the song on an album of her own, Trouble in Shangri-La.

The second significant factor is that dad Gerry Goffin collaborated with Louise on two songs here, the retro-styled ballad "Baby, Come 'Round to Me" and rocking closing number "Might As Well Pass By." All of which leads to the question: Why didn't mom Carole King lend a hand? Well, I think I have just the answer.

***
    Setting: The King/Goffin household.
    Time period: Louise's teen years.
    Time of day: Dinnertime.

    Carole: Louise, didn't I tell you to finish your broccoli?
    Louise: Mother, please! I told you I can't stand that vile weed.
    Carole: Honey, if you can't respect my parenting, then I refuse to contribute to your music.
    Louise: Fine! I'm going to my room to listen to Springsteen.
    Carole: I'll bet Bruce ate all his veggies. Look at how muscular and sexy he is.
    Louise: Ew! Gross! Moms aren't supposed to say that kind of thing. You're weirding me out!
    Carole: Well, if you just ate your broccoli like Bruce, none of this would have even come up.
     
    OK, OK, so I could possibly be making all that up. But I did bring the Boss into it for a reason: By 1981 Springsteen had broken through to the masses in a big way and his influence is pervasive on this album. Not just in the music, but in the way Goffin has traded in her sexy clothes for more streetwise garb. Yes, the front cover looks new wave-ish, but she's donning denim and leather on the back.

    The most Springsteen-ish (Springsteenian?) cut is the mid-tempo "Dog Town," which has a streetwise lyric and one hell of a grand chorus. Also, remember the guitar/organ hook on Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" from '84? Well, Goffin pretty much invents it here three years earlier on another Bruce-like tune, "Johnny Can't Make Her." Then there's "Rockin' On the Strand," a big-sounding "meet me on the street"-themed number, which might have been the best choice for a single.

    Instead, the single was the album's lone cover tune, a version of the semi-obscure 1959 hit "I've Had It," which the New York group the Bell Notes took to #6. Goffin deserves lots of praise for dusting off this half-forgotten song, which I've always thought was a distant influence on the Ramones (particularly the bridge of "Chain Saw"). But anyone following the pop charts back then should have known it wasn't single material, at least not in this version. Goffin's raucous take on the song was way too punk-ish for chart action in 1981, a year in which MOR ruled.

    Like its predecessor Kid Blue, Louise Goffin hit the cutout bins soon after it was released and was quickly forgotten despite getting some positive reviews. It appeared briefly on CD, and is presented here in a rip from mint vinyl which restores the full fidelity of the original LP.

    As for Goffin herself, lack of success seemed to put a halt to her record-making career. At the time, she was the youngest artist on the Asylum label and hopes were high for her. She ended up leaving the label and laying low for a little over a half decade. But before the decade was out, Goffin would return with a new label and a sound that was fashioned for her by a bigwig British production duo...

    Related post: Louise Goffin - Kid Blue (1979).

    Track list:
    1. I've Had It
    2. Dog Town
    3. Runaway Boy
    4. If You Ever Did Believe
    5. Dizzy, You're a Dreamer
    6. Geisha Girl
    7. Baby Come 'Round To Me
    8. Johnny Can't Make Her
    9. Rockin' on the Strand
    10. Might As Well Pass By

    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Louise Goffin - Kid Blue (1979)


    When Louise Goffin emerged in the late '70s, she had a lot going for her: Songwriting talent, guitar playing ability, parents in the music industry (Carole King and Gerry Goffin), and a seasoned producer/collaborator in veteran session musician Danny Kortchmar. Plus, she was (and still is) really, really hot. Admit it -- this matters, for both men and women.

    Unfortunately, Goffin had a few things going against her, too. First off, the late '70s/early '80s was not a time period that audiences were friendly to teenage women in music. This wasn't the case in the early '60s when Goffin's mother wrote and sang her initial hits, and it wouldn't be the case in 1987 when Debbie Gibson and Tiffany broke through. And it's definitely not that way now. Unfortunately, Goffin came along at the wrong time.

    On top of that, this was a period where kids who had parents in the industry were looked upon as non-authentic. Despite the ephemeral success of artists like Julian Lennon, it took Wilson-Phillips to permanently change all that.

    Finally, Goffin's early singing style just didn't work. It sounded like "Hollywood Rock," as if she learned her vocal mannerisms from a professional singing coach who considered the Broadway musical "Hair" real rock'n'roll. She had a fine voice, and it would be put to greater use later on, but her early singing just didn't have enough nuance and subtlety.

    All that said, Kid Blue isn't a bad debut at all, especially for a 19-year-old. The minor-key title track rocks convincingly and is arguably the best cut on here. "Red Lite Fever," which she co-wrote with Kortchmar, has a menacing late-period Eagles quality. Goffin penned all the tracks on side two by herself. The best of these is probably the somewhat jazz-tinged  ballad "Long Distance," which shows real maturity and points in the direction of her sophisticated third album. The worst is the forced-sounding (non-charting) single "Jimmy and the Tough Kids," a prime example of the "Hollywood rock" I mentioned earlier.

    Then there are the two cover songs, which showed Goffin to be ahead of her time. First is the Beatles "All I've Got To Do." In the period just before John Lennon was murdered, it was not considered cool among teenagers to like the Fab Four. Although nowadays people find this hard to fathom (and have argued with me about this), I was actually in high school then and know this to be true. So Goffin deserves credit for recognizing this song as a great one before it became cool one year later to worship all things Lennon.

    Second is her rendition of the the old Shangri La's hit "Remember (Walking in the Sand)." Goffin released this as her second single and it became her only Hot 100 hit, clocking in at #43 in August of 1979. Six month later, Aerosmith came out with their own cover of this song and took it to #67 in early 1980. So, once again, Goffin was ahead of her time, if only by months.

    Kid Blue didn't shake up the charts and became something of an obscurity. It came out briefly on CD, but the vinyl has always sounded far better. This is my own rip, which presents the album with its original full dynamic range. It's also got high-quality scans, and believe me when I say that has nothing to do with the fact that Goffin looks extremely fine on the inner sleeve. Honest (cough, cough).

    Despite her relative lack of commercial success, Louise Goffin would return with a sophomore LP in little over a year's time. Would the sophomore jinx strike? Stay tuned...

    Track list:
    1. Kid Blue
    2. All I've Got To Do
    3. Hurt By Love
    4. Red Lite Fever
    5. Remember (Walking in the Sand)
    6. Jimmy and the Tough Kids
    7. Angels Ain't For Keeping
    8. Long Distance
    9. Trapeze
    10. Singing Out Alone

    Sunday, April 24, 2016

    Various Artists - High School Caesar (1994)


    This is a collection of late '50s rockers put out by the Buffalo Bop label. The label was based out of Germany and mostly concentrated on rockabilly collections. Virtually all of the tunes here are forgotten indie label one-offs and most are originals, save the occasional Chuck Berry cover. Lots of neat photos of the performers in the package too. Or would teens have said "swell photos" back in the '50s?

    Related post: Various Artists - Teenage Favorites (1994).

    Track list:
    1. Reggie Perkins - High School Caesar    
    2. The Night Hawks - Jitterbug Joe    
    3. The Jays - Panic Stricken    
    4. Ronnie Allen - High School Love    
    5. Jerry Parsons - Undecided    
    6. Lee Dresser - Thinkin' 'Bout Your Love    
    7. Bill James And The Hex-O-Tones - School's Out    
    8. Earl Reed - Dring Wine    
    9. Eddie McKinney - Teen Town Hop    
    10. Bob Callaway - What's The Matter With Me    
    11. Donald King & Four Juniors & The Five Jays - I Love My Baby    
    12. Walt Benton - Summer School Blues    
    13. Ron Berry - Remember Me    
    14. Sonny Stafford - Record Hop Blues    
    15. Frank Triolo - Pretty Little Woman    
    16. Jack Rodgers - Take Me Back    
    17. The Moonlighters - Rock.A.Bayou Baby    
    18. The Raiders - Hocus Pocus    
    19. Bob Alexander - Treehouse    
    20. Danny & The Galaxies - If You Want To Be My Baby    
    21. Jack Day - Little Joe    
    22. Jerry Siefert - Dirty White Bucks    
    23. Melvin Blake & The Star Rockers - Judy    
    24. Jerry Fuller - Mother Goose At The Bandstand    
    25. Larry Kirk - Been Cheated    
    26. Rufus Brown - Sweet Little Sixteen    
    27. Skeet Richardson - To My Baby    
    28. Jim Shaw - Rockin Bobbin Teenager    
    29. Jerry Siefert - Never Baby Never    
    30. Charlie Gore - Sock Hop

    Friday, April 22, 2016

    DeFranco Family Featuring Tony DeFranco - Heartbeat - It's A Lovebeat (1973)


    I had this album when I was a kid. Unlike my Beatles albums, which I kept, this one ended up lost or in the trash. So when I saw an inexpensive sealed copy at a record show, I had to get it and hear it once again. The verdict? Not bad, but not great either. Although compilations of this group have been released, the full album has never come out on CD. So I decided to do a rip and some high-quality scans.

    The album spawned two hit songs, "Heartbeat - It's a Lovebeat," which got to #3 in late 1973, and "Abra-Ca-Dabra" which hit #32 in early 1974. The first of these is the better one. It might be cloying and a copy of the Jackson 5, but it sure is catchy. And for those who care about such things, the group was billed on the label (and in the Billboard books) as "DeFranco Family" not "The DeFranco Family," which is why my post's title is preposition-less. Just letting you all know.

    The record stayed in my mind over the years because one of the tracks, "Gorilla," was covered by the '70s power pop band the Rubinoos on a 1975 multi-artist album from Beserkley Records called Beserkley Chartbusters. I bought that album because it had some Jonathan Richman songs you couldn't get anywhere else at the time and was surprised to find "Gorilla" covered. I prefer the Rubinoos more muscular remake, but the slower, more mellow original here has its charms.

    DeFranco Family group made the Hot 100 one final time in the spring of 1974 with a bouncy cover of the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me." That song was included on an LP of the same name. Anyone have that and wanna do a rip? I'd like to hear it.

    Track list:
    1. Heartbeat - It's A Lovebeat
    2. I'm With You
    3. Same Kinda Love
    4. I Wanted To Tell You
    5. Sweet Sweet Loretta
    6. Abra-Ca-Dabra
    7. Come A Little Closer
    8. Love Is Bigger Than Baseball
    9. Gorilla
    10. I Love Everything You Do

    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)


    The Washington D.C. punk scene of the 1980s is highly-regarded for good reason. The area had a lot of talent, and a lot of the musical groups from that area are still talked about.

    One group that seems to be at least semi-forgotten is Young Caucasians. They were quintet who made made two albums in the mid-1980s. But before those albums, they dropped this mini-album on their own WASP label (Caucasians... WASPS... get it?!). Addendum: That irony was unintentional. The label was named for its founder -- see comment below.

    The group had a somewhat punky guitar-and-organ-driven sound that worked because of their energy and attack. They were a hot local attraction for a while, playing venues like the fabled 9:30 Club. They also got reviewed in one of the final issues of Trouser Press magazine -- the December 1983/January 1984 double issue that also featured a review of the Beastie Boys' "Cooky Puss" single in the same section.

    And here's a fun bit of trivia: The reviewer was John Leland, who is now a New York Times writer. Leland gave Young Caucasians a positive review and panned the Beasties. Leland singled out lead singer Matt Hahn's vocals for being "honest and direct" and called the group's music "traditional without being dated."

    The songs were all co-written by one Andy Kaulkin, who went on to head up the ANTI label, home to Tom Waits, Michael Franti, the late Merle Haggard and others.

    Should Mr. Kaulkin chance upon this blog entry, hopefully he won't be too annoyed that his early music is being unearthed. Maybe instead, he'll dig the high fidelity of this vinyl rip as well as the nice-looking scans of the LP jacket and aforementioned Trouser Press review.

    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)

    Track list:
    1. Ready Steady
    2. It's Quite Strange
    3. Act Away
    4. Something Between Us
    5. Natalie
    6. Had It Made
    7. Little Sister Says

    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    The Lonesome Rhodes - Sandy & Donna (1967)


    Memphis, Tennessee sisters Sandy and Donna Rhodes aren't well known, but they released a first-rate album in 1967 under the moniker the Lonesome Rhodes that should have been more popular than it was. The duo mixed folk and country on their lone LP release, which was produced by Chet Atkins. Despite having a name producer and a pair of antastic voices, they didn't have much success outside of country circles. None of their singles hit the pop charts and their album quickly faded into obscurity and never officially came out on CD.

    Scroll ahead some thirty years and I myself might have ignored this group had it not been for the cool-looking colored-vinyl foreign pressing of this album I chanced across. (See image at right.) Boy do I miss the days before the vinyl revival, when you could get super-rare, high-quality stuff like this for bargain prices. But I digress.

    The album really impressed me. One of the sisters, Sandy, wrote almost all of the songs and virtually all of 'em are catchy in that special mid-'60s sort of way. The duo's two-part harmonies come off like a female version of the Everly Brothers, and work especially well on one of the cover songs, "I Wanna Be Free," which is best known in its version(s) by the Monkees.

    AllMusic tells me that in 1973 Sandy Rhodes went onto release a solo album under the name Sandra Rhodes. It combined country and Southern soul, and became a cult favorite. It's the only album she released and this is the only Lonesome Rhodes release. But the sisters apparently continued to sing together throughout the years doing studio session work.

    Colored vinyl has a reputation for being noisy sounding. But my pressing of this album was reasonably quiet -- something you all will notice when listening to this rip, which sounds fab if I do say so myself. I also made scans of the discs and cover -- the back of which has liner notes by the late Skeeter Davis. I'd have liked to include the group's non-LP singles, but didn't have 'em all. Does anyone out there have anything more from this group?

    Track list:
    1. The Last Thing On My Mind
    2. I Can't Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree
    3. Fully Prepared
    4. Love Is
    5. Make Like The Wind (And Blow)
    6. Your Overpowerin' Love
    7. I Wanna Be Free
    8. Not This Time
    9. The Least You Could Have Done
    10. Nothin' But Heartaches Here
    11. It's Rainin' Anyway
    12. Blowin' In The Wind

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    The Move - The BBC Sessions (1994)


    Out-of-print and now selling for high prices on the used market, the Move's BBC sessions were a revelation to second- and third-generation fans when they were finally released in the early 1990s. This Birmingham, UK quinter could convincingly cranks out music in almost any style and still come off well. The group showed some of this skill on side two of their 1970 LP Shazam, but it's on full display in these BBC recordings which date from 1967-68.

    I'm going on the assumption here that anyone interested in this already knows the original material inside and out, so I don't have to drone on about what a first-rate composer Roy Wood was, what a great voice the late Carl Wayne had, and what a "cracking" band this group was -- to use an expression the Brits like.

    So instead, I'll prattle on about details people might not know. First and foremost, the opening song isn't called "You'd Better Believe Me," as it appears on virtually every version of this package. The correct title is "You Better Believe It Baby" (with no comma before the word "Baby"). Despite whatever composer credits various CDs might have had, this song was originally performed, written and released by soul singer Joe Tex on Dial Records in 1966. Dig the original here.

    Then there's "Morning Dew." When you play the CD, all sorts of odd names appear in the writing credits. I have no idea what that's about, but I do know the actual composer of this apocalypse-themed song was Canadian folk singer-songwriter Bonnie Dobson. Fred Neil debuted it in 1964, and the Grateful Dead made it their own with some 257 performances of it.

    "Stop, Get a Hold of Myself" was originally done by Gladys Knight and the Pips and was written by Van McCoy. So now if anyone ever asks you what the Move and "The Hustle" have in common, you have answer. (Actually McCoy wrote a lot of great tunes, notably the Chad & Jeremy hit "Before and After.")

    Most people know who originally did the other covers here, such as Jerry Lee Lewis ("It'll Be Me"), Eddie Cochran ("Weekend"), and Erma Franklin/Janis Joplin ("Piece of My Heart"). "The Christian Life" (titled here as "Christian Life") is a Louvin Brothers tune, but the Move probably heard it on the Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers LP.

    Since the release of this collection, more Move BBC recordings have come to light. But these are the initial batch of what was put forth in the '90s and to these ears, this sounds like band that so magical that they could perhaps, er, walk on water.

    Track list:
    1. You'd Better Believe Me -- aka "You Better Believe It Baby"
    2. Night of Fear
    3. Stop, Get a Hold of Myself
    4. Kilroy Was Here
    5. Walk Upon the Water
    6. I Can Hear the Grass Grow
    7. Morning Dew
    8. Flowers in the Rain
    9. So You Want to be a Rock & Roll Star
    10. Stephanie Knows Who
    11. Cherry Blossom Clinic
    12. Hey Grandma
    13. Fire Brigade
    14. Weekend
    15. It'll Be Me
    16. Useless Information
    17. Kentucky Woman
    18. Higher and Higher -- aka "(Your Love Is Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"
    19. Long Black Veil
    20. Wild Tiger Woman
    21. Piece of My Heart
    22. Blackberry Way
    23. Going Back
    24. California Girls
    25. Christian Life

    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    NRBQ - RC Cola and a Moon Pie (1986)


    What do you call a reissue album that's not quite a reissue? You call it RC Cola and a Moon Pie, which is the title of a 1986 NRBQ album that served as a "sort of" re-release of the band's hard-to-find 1973* album Workshop. It's "sort of" a re-release because it's not as cut-and-dried as just being Workshop with a new title and re-arranged song order.

    While RC Cola and a Moon Pie did offer eight of the twelve songs from Workshop, not all of them are exactly the way you find them on Workshop. The album also omits four songs from Workshop and replaces them with four others: Two outtakes, a single, and a song from 1972's Scraps given a makeover. Add 'em all together and there are seven songs and/or mixes specific to this LP, which has never come out on CD. Because of that, I decided  rip it (or is the correct phrase "recorded it") from my own pristine vinyl copy.

    Here's a rundown of each song on RC Cola and a Moon Pie, that explains what's old and what was on Workshop and what's new:

    • "Mona" and "RC Cola and a Moon Pie" -- Same as Workshop versions. By the way, despite the familiar titles, these are originals. "Mona" isn't the Bo Diddley number, but one by 'Q bassist Joey Spampinato, while "RC Cola" isn't the old Big Bill Lester tune, but one penned by keyboardist Terry Adams.
    • "C'mon If You're Comin'" -- Same as on Workshop but with the drum intro edited out. This is the Al Anderson-sung version, not to be confused with the acoustic rendition NRBQ did of this song on their first LP.
    • "Ratch-I-Tatch" -- A Terry Adams outtake new to this release. It features a jazzy shuffle and lots of Whole Wheat Horns. (If you have to ask "What are 'Whole Wheat Horns?'" you're in the wrong place!)
    •  "Deaf, Dumb and Blind" -- The Spampinato song from Workshop, but presented on this album in a remixed form. It also runs at a slightly faster speed.
    • "Louisville" -- A short Adams instrumental that's new to this release.
    • "Sourpuss" -- Not on Workshop. This is a song by the band's original guitarist, the late Steve Ferguson. It's from a super-rare non-LP 45 the band put out on the Select-O-Hit label after Kama Sutra Records dropped them (Fergie had briefly rejoined at this point). Its B-Side was a song called "Rumors" that remains non-LP because it's unfortunately not included here. This single has been called the "Holy Grail" for 'Q collectors. Does anyone have it and want to do a rip of the B-Side?
    • "Miss Moses" and "I Got a Little Secret" -- Same as on Workshop.
    • "Get That Gasoline Blues" -- From Workshop, but with Adams' final spoken-word line edited out: "Hey, Bud -- could you check the oil?" This always sounded to me like it was inspired by Nervous Norvus' closing line in "Transfusion." Wonder why they removed it? Or did I just answer my own question -- haha? And by the way, this is a different version than the one NRBQ would release as a single in 1974, which became their only Hot 100 hit, climbing to #70 in 1974. (If anyone wants to be a stickler about such matters, though, they also hit the Bubbling Under chart with "Stomp," which got to #122 in 1969).
    • "Don't Knock at My Door" -- This Spampinato number is not exactly from Scraps, as the back on this release states. This is a remixed version that's sped up slightly. But more importantly, the lead vocal by original singer Frank Gadler has been replaced by a new one by Joey Spampinato.
    • "Four Million B.C." -- Same as on Workshop, where it's also the closing track.

    The question then becomes, what about the four songs from Workshop they left off? Three were covers: "Blues Stay Away From Me" (originally by the country act Delmore Brothers); "Just to Hold My Hand" (a Top 30 hit in '57 for Clyde McPhatter), and the do wop classic "Hearts of Stone" (originally by the Jewels, but a bigger hit for the Charms and the Fontaine Sisters).

    The fourth missing song is  Adams' pensive, jazzy "Misunderstanding," which seems to be about dissatisfaction with what the modern world has become and is one of the best things the band ever did. It's easy to see why the group would replace cover songs with originals, but why replace "Misunderstanding" with something as lightweight as "Ratch-I-Tatch?" Then again, if it made sense and was all neat and logical, it wouldn't NRBQ, a band that pretty much defined eccentricity.

    Track list:
    1. Mona
    2. RC Cola And A Moon Pie
    3. C'mon If You're Comin'
    4. Ratch-I-Tatch
    5. Deaf, Dumb And Blind
    6. Louisville
    7. Sourpuss
    8. Miss Moses
    9. I Got A Little Secret
    10. Get That Gasoline Blues
    11. Don't Knock At My Door
    12. Four Million B.C.

    * I've seen Workshop listed online as being from 1972 and 1973. The back cover of RC Cola states the recording sessions were from mid- to late-1972, so it might seem logical the LP came out in late '72. But I'm going with a 1973 release date because the album is reviewed in the March 24, 1973 issue of Billboard (look under "Also Recommended") and it's doubtful they'd wait three months to review an LP.

    Friday, April 15, 2016

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

    "The Kids From C.A.P.E.R." was a Saturday morning comedy TV series that was geared -- not surprisingly -- toward kids. It ran from Sept. 11, 1976 to Nov. 20, 1976, then resumed from April 9, 1977, to Sept. 3, 1977. The show loosely parodied the "teen crimefighter" concept that was then popular, with each of the lead characters a sort of hero. C.A.P.E.R. stands for Civilian Authority For The Protection Of Everybody Regardless.

    As with "The Monkees," at least one song was featured in each episode. An album also came out featuring eleven of those songs. This is the album. It's a nice collection of '70s-oriented pop rock that's never been put out on CD.

    There's actually a pretty big Web site devoted solely to this show that covers all the bases, so there's no point in me going on more about it here. But I will do some explaining about this rip.

    First off, if you've listened to these songs on the Web, you've probably heard them at the incorrect speed. For some reason, the versions other people ripped from vinyl play slightly too fast. This rip is at the correct speed. I also ripped it from super-clean vinyl, so it's got no pops or ticks.

    Secondly, if you happened to download a rip of this LP from another blog in the past year, that was my rip. Before I had my own blog, I'd post my stuff in comment sections of blogs like Twilight Zone. But even if you got this previously, you should grab it again because this time around I included tag info and high-quality cover and label scans.

    Close listening will reveal that tracks #6 and #8 are in mono. This is the way it was on the original album, not an error with the rip or the MP3 files. Why were they mixing in mono in 1976? I assume because these songs were mixed first and foremost for television, and TV was mono back in the '70s. They probably just put the best mixes on disc, and two of 'em happened to be mono.

    The opening number was the single. It didn't chart. The second song in, "Tit For Tat," was penned by pop songsmiths Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield and is arguably the best cut on here. Sedaka was probably involved because his old Brill Building pal Don Kirshner served as executive producer and brought him into the fold. Kirshner definitely knew a catchy tune when he heard one. 

    Track list:
    1. When It Hit Me (The Hurricane Song)
    2. Tit For Tat
    3. I Wanna Love You
    4. Fun In The Jungle
    5. Say It
    6. Like A Hero In The Movies
    7. Rockets And Stars
    8. Lullabye Girl
    9. Everybody Loves Her
    10. Ridin' A Rainbow
    11. Wrap Up All My Dreams

    Thursday, April 14, 2016

    The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - Jerome Moross' Frankie & Johnny (1996)


    In an effort to keep this blog as wildly eclectic as possible, I thought I'd throw in some classical music. I was never that big a fan of the genre unless a woman I liked said she listened to it (i.e. the woman I married). In that case, I'd play up my cursory knowledge of it. You gotta do what you gotta do, people.

    Seriously, this rather obscure "tall story for orchestra," as its called, should appeal to a wider audience than just classical music fans because of its connection to the pop world. It recasts a quintessentially American tale -- the "Frankie and Johnny" story of revenge and jealousy -- and puts it in a classical setting. Not surprisingly, the piece was composed by an American, the late Jerome Moross.

    "Frankie and Johnny" is one of those folk legends that ended up a subject in popular music -- much like the story of Stagger Lee. It started as a traditional song back in the 1800s, but as most pop fans know, it worked its way into the rock era. Both Elvis and the Greenbriar Boys had hits with different takes on it, and its influence was so pervasive that it figured in a section of Greil Marcus' award-winning rock book "Mystery Train."

    The Frankie and Johnny tale is also was referenced in one of Laura Nyro's most powerful songs, "Tom Cat Goodbye." Nyro's vocals were always somewhat operatic and when I first caught Moross' orchestral work on a classical music station in the '90s, I immediately thought of the Nyro song, which is what made me research Moross..

    The main piece here, "Frankie and Johnny," runs almost twenty minutes and moves through several instrumental movements before getting to the vocal sections, some of which repeat lyrics that worked their way into the aforementioned pop hits. When the vocal section arrives, it's pretty powerful -- considering this is a somewhat highfalutin take on a very gritty, very American story.

    Then again, a lot of operas re-told "low culture" stories, but they drew on old European folk tales instead of American ones. So Moross' "Frankie and Johnny" sounds a bit exotic for an ironic reason: Because its story is so un-exotic to our ears.

    Moross lived from 1913 to 1983. He also wrote music for stage productions, films, and old radio shows. Conductor JoAnn Falletta and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra do right by him here. It's hard to imagine "Frankie and Johnny" being any more authoritative.

    The three closing pieces showcase Alexa Still on flute and have gorgeous pastoral vibe. I actually prefer this to the more famous European classical music that influenced it because it seems more melodic and less mathematical. Then again, what do I know about all this? I might just be trying to look impressive with my "knowledge" of things I know little about. You never know.

    Track list:
    1. Frankie and Johnny
    2. Biguine
    3. Concerto for Flute -- Allegro
    4. Concerto for Flute -- Andante
    5. Concerto for Flute --Vivace

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    The Pat Travers Band - BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert (1980)


    Peanut butter and jelly. Parades and the Fourth of July. Drive-ins and B-movies. There are some things in life that work better in pairs. Add to this the guitar duo of Pat Travers and Pat Thrall, who were only together a few years as part of the Pat Travers Band, but left an indelible impression on anyone who heard them together.

    This rarity features the fearsome twosome on the first nine of its tracks, which were recorded Aug. 23, 1980 at the Reading Festival in England. And do they ever play well. Their guitar harmonies dramatically improve the lead guitar riff of "Rock'n'Roll Susie" and their juxtaposition of styles is one of the things that makes "Snortin' Whiskey" a genre classic. About those styles: That's the more metal-oriented Thrall you hear on the left channel and the blues-influenced Travers on the right. 

    Consider this an unofficial follow-up to Live! Go For What You Know from 1979, the album where Travers and Thrall really knocked the socks off guitar fans. For the record, the Travers-Thrall team were on two studio albums that bookended that one, Heat in the Street from 1978 and Crash and Burn from 1980.

    After Thrall and drummer Tommy Aldridge left the Travers fold in late 1980, some of the magic disappeared from Travers' music. Still, he made two good-to-very-good albums (Radio Active and Black Pearl) that are worth checking out.

    In my last post, I mentioned how I often scoffed at classic rock when I was a teenager. But Travers is an artist I never dismissed. His music was so to-the-point, so muscular, and (funny enough) so melodically rich, it drew you in. He built on what another one of my favorite bands, the Allman Brothers, did. But he added a bigger dose of British hard rock to the mix.

    The additional four songs on this set capture the Travers band in their original trio form playing the BBC's Sight and Sound show July 29, 1977. And it rocks. Of course.

    Track list:
    1. Rock 'n' Roll Susie
    2. Your Love Can't Be Right
    3. Life in London
    4. Born Under a Bad Sign
    5. Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)
    6. Snortin' Whiskey
    7. Hooked On Music
    8. Hammerhead
    9. It Makes No Difference
    10. It Ain't What It Seems
    11. Gettin' Betta
    12. You Don't Love Me
    13. Makin' Magic

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    Trouser Press - Issue #67 (Nov. 1981)


    And now for something completely different. Last time around, I mentioned that I was thinking of commemorating my 100th post with an old rock magazine. Well, I made good on that for this post -- my 101st.

    Back when I was in high school, Trouser Press was my favorite rock magazine. It started as a British rock mag, but morphed into an authority on all things punk and new wave. Always ahead of the curve, it alerted the youth of American about what artists were going to be big before they hit the radio.

    I have a funny personal story about this that might serve as an allegory as to why this magazine was so important to a generation of music fans.

    When I wrote for my high school music paper, I used Trouser Press as a guide as to what music to cover. This didn't fly in suburban Maryland, where kids were ten years behind the times, still obsessing over stale '70s rock clear into the '80s. Our editorial board was made up of cheerleaders, and more than once they ended up yelling at me because I wrote about "music no one had ever heard of!"

    And then MTV came to our sleepy little suburb. All of a sudden, all of those "weird" acts I'd been pushing, like the Go-Go's, the Pretenders, and the Clash, were on everyone's TV...and on the charts. And the kids in school were wondering how exactly I had predicted the future. Better still, those cheerleader-editors shuffled up to me more than once and apologetically asked "How did you know?!" (Twenty years later, I bumped into one of them in a restaurant and this was the first thing she brought up.)

    Well, I didn't predict the future. I just knew which magazine to read. And it came in handy later on, too. When I grew up and became a real writer, I was able to bring a sense of history to my articles by drawing on my catalog of old Trouser Presses for background info on all sorts of artists.

    So why did I pick the Nov. 1981 issue to post? Several reasons. First, I have three copies of it, and I figured if I damaged one while scanning it, I wouldn't be all that bothered. (Sidenote: I have at least one copy of every Trouser Press except a couple of early ones.)

    But the main reason I chose this issue is that it has a long interview with Roy Wood, and I'm a huge fan of his music. The article is one of the best I've read and I figured it might appeal to other Woody fanatics. There are also reviews of pivotal albums by the Go-Go's, Delta 5, the Au Pairs, and Lene Lovich, all of which influenced my musical tastes. Also interesting is an interview with the Cure before they became famous in the U.S.

    The Pretenders cover story is no great shakes, sad to say, and there was a hilarious letter to the editor a few issues later castigating them for it. Maybe if this goes over well, I'll post that issue too.

    I also chose this issue because it's somewhat small, so scanning it wasn't too time-consuming. Starting mid-1981, the mag got smaller because there was a recession and apparently fewer people were buying advertisements.

    And speaking of advertising, this issue has an ad that was a big hit with the high school friends of mine who were into the punk/new wave scene. It's for an obscure group called the Hendersons and their single, "Baby Happy." The graphic (shown at right) shows an adult couple with the heads of actual babies pasted on. This was pretty cool then. Considering now the designer created this without the help of Photoshop (which hadn't been invented yet) it's even cooler now.

    This is the place where I usually do a track listing. Since that doesn't apply, I'll do a table of contents instead. Of course, there's also one inside the actual mag, which is scanned in high quality and -- ironically enough -- ended up being just around the size of average album rip.

    Related posts (sort of):
    Sylvain Sylvain - Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops
    Various Artists - 415 Music

    Articles:
    1. The Cure
    2. Kraftwerk
    3. The Tubes
    4. Bill Nelson
    5. The Pretenders
    6. Roy Wood
    7. Patti Smith Scrapbook

    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Various Artists - Bigtop Soul Cellar (1999)


    This entry marks my 100th post. For a while, I wondered what to do to mark the occasion.

    At first, I was thinking of doing something controversial or out-of-the-box -- like scanning an entire vintage rock mag, which I still might do someday. But then I realized that one of my all-time favorite Northern Soul collections was out of print and selling on the used market for very high prices. It's also nowhere to be found online.

    So I decided to post about that particular set, which is called Bigtop Soul Cellar and subtitled 30 Northern Sixties And Classy Soul Sides. Bigtop was a New York City company best known for releasing Del Shannon's #1 hit "Runaway." (For all you grammar fanatics, "Bigtop" is spelled as one word and not two on the record label. So even though the way I'm spelling it here might look incorrect, it isn't.)

    As I've written before, in my world '60s soul is tops. Since the genre was singles-oriented, I prefer multi-artist collections. So a collection like this one is nirvana for me. If you're into this sort of thing, it's something you'll play endlessly because nearly every tune is great. It pulls together the creme de la creme of soul sides put out by the Bigtop label.

    First and foremost for me is Gerri Granger's kinetic "Breakdown." True, it might be one of many rewrites of Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" but boy does it cook. Then there are the numbers by Lou Johnson, who was the in-house demo singer for Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The songs he does here by that team (some of which were minor hits) are both immaculately composed and sung.

    Speaking of minor hits, the Dynamics' "Misery" got to #44 in 1963 and was then immortalized in a weird way when the Who's original manager Peter Meaden rewrote it as "Zoot Suit" for the band's first single (as the High Numbers). The original writers, George Stratton and Anthony Wilson got no credit; hope they at least made some money.

    I could go on more, about the dramatic-but-right Azie Mortimer cut, the fab V.I.P.'s track (#117 in 1964), and the catchy songs by the Volumes. But part of the fun of old music is discovering what's exciting about it for yourself. So go discover.

    Related posts:
    Various Artists - Indie Soul of the '60s;
    Various Artists - Northern Soul Girls Rock! Disc 4.

    Track list:
    1. Lou Johnson - Unsatisfied    
    2. The Volumes - I Just Can't Help Myself    
    3. Bobbie Smith - Walk On Into My Heart    
    4. JoAnn Courcy - I Got The Power    
    5. Don & Juan - Are You Putting Me On The Shelf    
    6. Lou Johnson - Magic Potion    
    7. Spencer Sterling - Jilted    
    8. The Volumes - Maintain Your Cool    
    9. The Dynamics - Misery    
    10. Gerri Granger - Stick Close    
    11. Lou Johnson - Wouldn't That Be Something    
    12. Don & Juan - What I Really Meant To Say    
    13. Buddy & Stacy - A Thing Called Jealousy    
    14. The Dynamics - And That's A Natural Fact    
    15. Bobbie Smith and the Dream Girls - Wanted    
    16. The Volumes - I Got Love    
    17. Lou Johnson - You Better Let Him Go    
    18. The V.I.P.'s - You Pulled A Fast One    
    19. The Johnny Gibson Trio - Beachcomber    
    20. Gerri Granger - Breakdown    
    21. The Volumes - One Way Lover    
    22. Lou Johnson - If I Never Get To Love You    
    23. Azie Mortimer - Lips    
    24. Buddy & Stacy - Angel    
    25. The Dynamics - I Wanna Know    
    26. The Volumes - Gotta Give Her Love    
    27. Bobbie Smith & The Dreamgirls - Now He's Gone    
    28. Sarah Cooke - Please Don't Go    
    29. Lou Johnson - Reach Out For Me    
    30. Lou Johnson - Magic Potion (Instrumental)

    Sunday, April 10, 2016

    Ivy - Apartment Life (Original Mix, 1997)


    One of my favorite albums of the '90s was the sophomore effort by the alternative pop band Ivy, Apartment Life. Unfortunately for me, when I go to listen to the most popular songs from this CD on YouTube, I find people are listening to the remixed versions from the second edition of the album.

    Ugh. This is not good. I think the original version of the album has the better mixes. It's those first-edition mixes, after all, that most people heard on the TV show "Felicity" (full soundtrack here) where the general public was introduced to Ivy.

    Why the remixing? What apparently happened was that Atlantic Records originally put out the album, but when it died a thousand deaths they dropped the band. In stepped Sony, who agreed to re-release the CD on their 550 Music imprint on condition that some songs get sonic makeovers. They also altered the album's graphics, changing the cover image of lead singer Dominique Durand snapping a camera (above) to one of the group sitting around a table looking bored.

    This time the album didn't die a thousand deaths. It only died 500 or so.

    Seriously speaking, the remodeled Apartment Life also didn't sell and Ivy also got dropped by Sony/500 Music. They eventually signed with an indie label, but by that time few people cared because they were all going crazy over bandleader Adam Schlesinger's other group, Fountains of Wayne. I've never understood how that band could possibly be more popular than Ivy. But then again, I've spent my life liking music that nobody else ever seems to like, so  I'll admit my tastes have always been a little skewed.

    People's opinion notwithstanding, Ivy was a great band and Apartment Life is where they hit their stride. Most of the songs are super catchy and several were picked for singles but didn't click. The best is probably the moody song I linked above, "I've Got a Feeling." This is an original song, not that yelping Fab Four track from Let It Be, nor the brilliant Holland-Dozier-Holland tune. It's to Ivy's credit that they took such an overused title yet made something new out of it, conjuring an entire world with that swirling melody and funky-but-laid-back rhythm. There's also the rocking story-song "I Get the Message," and the gorgeous "This is the Day," which was used in the film "There's Something About Mary."

    My guess is that Ivy's music didn't catch on because it came off too European for mass consumption thanks to the exotic-sounding lead vocals by the Paris-born Durand. True, the American public once went for this sort of thing. But the public isn't what it used to be. As DeeDee Ramone once memorably said in an interview with Trouser Press magazine "The public are a bunch of morons."

    The average American can no longer process the type of subtle singing Durand made her stock-in-trade. That's because Americans are no longer the thoughtful people they were in the '60s when they sent the similar-sounding Astrud Gilberto to the top of the charts. Americans are now products of reality TV and a dumbed-down school system. As such, to get their attention, you have to hit them over the head with loud, flashy "gimmicks" or very basic concepts as if they were 4-year-olds. While '90s singers such as Britney Spears were able to capitalize on this, it left little room for the emotionally complex music of Ivy.

    Enjoy this, because there won't be another singer like Durand anytime soon and neither pop music nor American society will be going back to 1997 anytime soon.

    Track list:
    1. The Best Thing
    2. I've Got a Feeling
    3. This is the Day
    4. Never Do That Again
    5. I Get the Message
    6. Baker
    7. You Don't Know Anything
    8. Ba Ba Ba
    9. Get Out of the City
    10. These Are the Things About You
    11. Quick, Painless and Easy
    12. Back in Our Town

    Saturday, April 9, 2016

    Bobby And I - Bobby And I (1969)


    Never issued on CD and almost completely ignored by the kind of people who care about this sort of thing, the lone album by Bobby and I is supper club pop-psych. It's the kind of clean cut late '60s music that adults would have considered "far out" but the kids would have ignored.

    Which they obviously did, since any information on this obscure record is difficult to find. Here's what we do know: The band's name is a play on gender-specific names. The "Bobby" is the woman, Bobby Burch. That "I" of the pair was Ken Fishler, who wrote or co-wrote several of the songs here (one with Bobby). The highfalutin chord progressions of Fishler's tunes show the evidence of such songwriters as Jimmy Webb and Joni Mitchell, whose "Michael From Mountains" is covered here.

    That's one of several covers. They also do versions of Jonathan King's "Everyone's Gone to the Moon," the Chiffons' "Sweet Talkin' Guy," Little Anthony and the Imperials' "Hurt So Bad," and surprisingly enough, Charlie Rich's "Mohair Sam." My favorite is their version of the Chiffons tune, but my tastes tend to lean towards girl groups anyway. The upbeat, jazzy "Hurt So Bad" is amusing, even if the treatment totally misses the emotional point of the song (they sound more bemused than hurt).

    They make up for that with the intensity they bring to the originals, the best of which is probably the nostalgic "Catching The Time In Your Hand (Jan's Waltz)." Another noteworthy number is "5:09," which is a critique of proto-Yuppie culture along the lines of the Association's "Time For Livin'" and Ray Stevens' "Mr. Businessman" and works equally as well as those songs. (That's not a criticism; I enjoy both those tunes.)

    There is some confusion as to whether this LP came out in 1968 or 1969. I'm going with 1969. Although the album wasn't mentioned in any issue of Billboard --  which is always a good way to determine a date on an LP -- the album with the serial number immediately following it was. That was Houston Fearless' self-titled debut (Imperial LP-12421) and it was featured in the "New Album Releases" section of the May 3, 1969 issue of Billboard. So this album probably came out a few weeks before that.

    Someday this album will one day undoubtedly be rediscovered by the annoying, politically correct bearded-hipster-liner-notes-Broolyn-Pitchfork crowd. So enjoy it now before they ruin it for everyone with pretentious analogies and inaccurate comparisons to acts like She & Him.

    Track list:
    1. Love Is For The Sharing
    2. 5:09
    3. Michael From Mountains
    4. Everyone's Gone To The Moon
    5. Hurt So Bad
    6. Ben Lomand Lament
    7. Catching The Time In Your Hand (Jan's Waltz)
    8. The Traffic Song
    9. Afternoon Sky
    10. Mohair Sam
    11. Sweet Talkin' Guy
    12. Best Of Both Worlds

    Friday, April 8, 2016

    The Brady Bunch - The Kids from the Brady Bunch (1972)


    Yes, more Brady Bunch.

    This is the third album by the Brady Bunch kids and has most of their most popular songs, like "It's A Sunshine Day" and "Keep On." Some of this material came out on a "best of" CD released in the early 1990s, but the album itself has never been reissued. Come to think of it, no full Brady Bunch LP has ever been reissued on CD as far as I can tell. If anyone out there has any of the others, come forward. After all, every Partridge Family album got the deluxe reissue treatment and they didn't even have a member as hot as Jan in the final season.

    Track list:
    1. Love Me Do
    2. It's A Sunshine Day
    3. Keep On
    4. Ben
    5. Playin' The Field
    6. Candy (Sugar Shoppe)
    7. In No Hurry
    8. Saturday In The Park
    9. Merry-Go-Round
    10. You Need That Rock 'N Roll
    11. Drummer Man

    Thursday, April 7, 2016

    Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick - Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick (1973)


    This one has been going for sky-high prices on the used market lately. Needless to say, it's never come out on CD. Rather than do my usual long-winded spiel on what's good or bad about this album (which came out on the Paramount Records label), I'll leave this one for y'all to judge. Have fun.

    Track list:
    1. Spread a Little Love Around
    2. Little Bird (Sing Your Song)
    3. Hang On Baby
    4. Ben
    5. Over and Over
    6. Just Singin’ Alone
    7. Road to Love
    8. Tell Me Who You Love
    9. There is Nothing More to Say
    10. Good for Each Other

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    The Fifth Estate - Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead (1967)


    Here we go again. Same old question. Was the Fifth Estate a one-hit wonder? They're best known for their remake of the "The Wizard of Oz" song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead," which peaked at #11 in June, 1967, but they also hit the Bubbling Under chart in March, 1968 with the "Do Drop Inn," which got to #122.

    The Fifth Estate was a Connecticut-based five-piece band that recorded for the short-lived Jubilee label. In covering "Ding Dong!" in the spring of 1967, they had the right idea at the right time since pop music was simultaneously going through a 1940s nostalgia period (New Vaudeville Band, "When I'm Sixty-Four," etc.) and getting increasingly surreal (you don't need examples for this, do you?).

    That one inspired move was pretty much their sole claim to fame, besides hitting the Bubbling Under chart with a song by the team of Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner ("Happy Together," "She'd Rather Be With Me"). Their lone album mixes originals and covers and is pretty much your typical mid-'60s pop rock fare: A little garage band attitude mixed with some pop smarts.

    The covers of "I'm A Believer" and "In the Midnight Hour" (here titled "Midnight Hour") aren't so interesting, but there are a few genuinely great originals here. First and foremost is "Tomorrow Is My Turn," a Rolling Stone-like rocker with some unforgettable hooks and a fantastic vocal performance. "Kisses for Breakfast," despite its silly title and lyrics, cops a similar groove and is equally as catchy.

    The album itself has never appeared on CD, although several collections by this band have been released. I added on the mono single mix of "Ding Dong!" and the aforementioned "Do Drop Inn," but there's also a bunch of other non-LP stuff by this group floating around. I'd recommend getting the collections for a clearer picture of what this band was.

    Track list:
    1. Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead
    2. Kisses For Breakfast
    3. I’m A Believer
    4. Tomorrow Is My Turn
    5. It’s Waiting There For You
    6. That’s Love
    7. Heigh-Ho
    8. The Goofin’ Song
    9. No. 1 Hippie On The Village Scene
    10. Midnight Hour
    11. Rub-A-Dub
    12. Birds & Bees
    13. Lost Generation

    Bonus tracks:
    14. Do Drop Inn (Non-LP Single)
    15. Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead (Mono Single Mix)

    Tuesday, April 5, 2016

    The Belmonts - The Best of the Belmonts (1962-63)


    Carlo Mastrangelo, who was a founding member of the legendary do wop group the Belmonts, died yesterday, April 4, 2016. As a tribute, here is a 1994 collection featuring original versions of all the Belmonts singles on Sabina Records, a label they co-founded with manager Pete Bennett. Most of the songs are in stereo. The set also includes a few rarities.

    This period of the Belmonts' history took place right after lead singer Dion DiMucci left and Mastrangelo replaced him on lead vocals. Rounding out the lineup were original Belmonts Fred Milano and Angelo D'Aleo (D'Aleo isn't in some of the publicity photos and videos because he was in the Armed Forces, but there were originally four Belmonts including Dion).

    Along with Dion, this Bronx-based vocal group helped define do wop music. I previously posted a Belmonts rarities collection, Lost Treasures, and there's more historical info on that page if you're interested. You know Carlo's voice even if you think you don't. He's the one that sang that classic introductory line on first Belmonts hit, "I Wonder Why," from 1958.

    For the record, the Belmonts '60s hits sans Dion were: "Tell Me Why" (#18, 1961); "Don't Get Around Much Anymore (#57, 1961); I Need Some One (SIC) (#78, 1961); Come On Little Angel (#25, 1962); Diddle-Dee-Dum (What Happens When Your Love Has Gone) (#53, 1962); and Ann-Marie (#86, 1963).

    The only charting single that's missing from this collection is their cover of Robert & Johnny's "We Belong Together," which Bubbled Under at #108 in 1961. That's probably because it came out on Laurie Records, before the Belmonts started Sabina Records. Speaking of the Bubbling Under chart, Carlo himself scored his only solo hit on it with "Baby Doll," which got to #108 in March 1963. It's not a bad record and it apparently was really big in the New York area.

    RIP Carlo Mastrangelo.

    Related posts:
    The Belmonts - Lost Treasures (1995)
    The Passions - Just to Be With You (1958-63; 1992 Collection)

    Track list:
    1. Tell Me Why
    2. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
    3. I Don't Know How To Cry
    4. Diddle-Dee-Dum
    5. Hombre
    6. Coma Coma Baby
    7. Time To Dreams
    8. Searching For A New Love
    9. Have You Heard?
    10. I Got A Woman
    11. That American Dance
    12. Why?
    13. How About Me?
    14. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
    15. More Important Things To Do
    16. I Need Someone
    17. Tweedlee Dee
    18. Summertime Time
    19. I Confess
    20. Ann-Marie
    21. Come On Little Angel   
    22. Go On Back
    23. Walk On Boy
    24. This Love Of Mine
    25. Farewell

    Monday, April 4, 2016

    Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith & Micky Dolenz - Monkey Solo Recordings (1965-66)


    First off: Before everybody gets all worked up, I know the name "Monkees" is spelled with the letter "e" twice at the end. This is a bootleg and that's the way they spelled it, probably for reasons of legality. Second off: I have no idea why they titled it Monkey Solo Records and not Pre-Monkee Solo Recordings since this solely focuses on music Jones, Nesmith, and Dolenz released before the group formed. Last off: Peter Tork ain't on this and it's not my doing. Again, this is an old collection featuring pre-Monkees releases and I guess ol' Pete just didn't drop any records back when the others were scuffling.

    What this set does offer is everything the trio of Jones, Nesmith, and Dolenz put out on vinyl before they were hired to do "The Monkees" TV series in 1966. And it's not bad. If you make a "best-of" playlist you can create sort of a proto version of The Monkees Present.

    During this early era, Jones put out three singles and an album, all on the Colpix label. Out of those three singles, two of the songs were non-LP tracks. Fans of "The Donna Reed Show's" Paul Petersen should be interested to know that Jones covered Petersen's hit "My Dad" (#6, 1962) which was also on the Colpix label. Several of the Jones tunes are pretty good approximations of Herman's Hermits' style, especially the jaunty "What Are We Going To Do?"

    Nesmith's early sides, especially "Just a Little Love," ares interesting in that they show his country-rock style was pretty much fully formed before the Monkees were even formed. Almost all the elements he would later bring to the group are there: A melodic, melancholy ballad ("Just a Little Love"), a message song ("The New Recruit"), a spoken word novelty with a message ("What Seems To Be the Trouble, Officer?"), plus some rock (the b-sides).

    Dolenz, meanwhile, sounds like he's working towards perfecting the James Brown-styled rave-ups he'd later do with the Monkees. All that's missing is Tork, but since there wasn't much Tork on Monkee records, it kind of makes sense this way. Songwriting info is included inside.

    Track list:
    David Jones / Colpix 45 #CP-764, 1965
    1. Dream Girl*
    2. Take Me to Paradise

    David Jones / Colpix 45 #CP-784, 1965
    3. What Are We Going to Do?*
    4. This Bouquet*

    David Jones / Colpix 45 #CP-793, 1965
    5. The Girl From Chelsea
    6. Theme For a New Love (I Saw You Only Once)*

    *The above single sides marked with an asterisk * were also included on the "David Jones" LP. The rest of the LP is as follows:

    David Jones / Colpix LP #CP-493, 1965
    7. Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner
    8. Put Me Amongst the Girls
    9. Any Old Iron
    10. It Ain't Me Babe
    11. Face Up To It
    12. Baby It's Me
    13. My Dad

    Mike Nesmith / Edan 45 #1001, 1965
    14. Just a Little Love
    15. Curson Terrace - This side was billed as "Mike & Tony"

    Michael Blessing / Colpix 45 #CP-787, 1965
    16. The New Recruit
    17. A Journey with Michael Blessing

    Michael Blessing / Colpix 45 #CP-792, 1966
    18. Until It's Time For You to Go
    19. What Seems To Be The Trouble, Officer

    Micky Dolenz / Challenge 45 #59353, 1967
    20. Don't Do It

    Micky Dolenz / Challenge 45 #59372, 1967
    21. Huff Puff
    Both B-Sides for the Dolenz singles were by other artists.

    Friday, April 1, 2016

    Steely Dan - Aja (Dave Dexter, Jr. Mix, 1977)


    One of the lesser-known chapters in Steely Dan's history involves band member Walter Becker's disgust with the group's "kitchen clean" sound. Becker's annoyance at the perfectionist soundscapes pioneered by co-leader Donald Fagen and producer Gary Katz came to a head during the sessions for Aja, when Becker almost pulled off a coup that could have wrecked the album's famous sonic sheen.

    First a bit of background. Becker has made a lot of noise over the years about being a jazz fanatic, but from all accounts, the music he really loved growing up was early Beatles. Specifically, he took to the massive, blurry, reverberated sound of their American albums. He wanted this for Steely Dan, yet time and again he was rebuffed by Fagen and Katz.

    Then one day Becker hit upon a great idea. He couldn't get Fagen or Katz to accept any of his mixes, but what if he could get the man behind the Beatles American sound, Dave Dexter, Jr. himself, to remix the Dan's tracks? Dexter's forte was morphing the crisp, clear sound of the Beatles' British recordings into a muddy makeover for American audiences. According to sources, such audiences rejected clear sound as being "too elitist."

    A few phone calls later and Becker had Dexter at the recording console rubbing his hands together, mad-scientist style. Becker felt that Dan had become "too prissy" and Dexter was just the ticket back to "rock cred," according to his younger brother, Billy Becker. "Walt liked it that when 'She's a Woman' went from its British release to its American one, it went from state-of-the-art Abbey Road sonics to coming off like it was recorded in a dank, filthy basement in suburban New Jersey. Or possibly even upstate New York."

    At this point, Dexter was "living large," according to Donald Fagen's younger brother Billy Fagen: "He'd worked with Sinatra. He'd had authority over the Fabs. By the 1970s, he could call his own shots. I'll never forget that he had a sound lab staffed by former models who wore lingerie under their lab coats. He called them 'The Dexterinos.'" (See image at right.)

    (Editor's note: Several Steely Dan scholars claim that Dexter's bevy of babes were not, in fact, called "The Dexterinos" but instead known as "The Sexy Dexys.")

    In keeping with a tradition he'd established at Capitol Records, Dexter also altered the track lineup. In this case, he removed the song "Home at Last," which he said "went nowhere." In its place he substituted the rare Dan cut "Sail the Waterway."

    Dexter "worked like a pig" on the tapes, say sources. According to a restaurant critic in charge of serving Dexter's dinners, he "doused them with echo, splashed them in reverb, and drizzled them with delay." It was, according to some, a true labor of love.

    But when Donald Fagen heard the finished product, he was consumed with hate. As the Dexter mix came reverberating (heh) over the studio monitors, an enraged Fagen took the knife he was using to butter a blueberry bagel and lunged at Dexter. Luckily, it was only a plastic butter knife. It broke into two when the notoriously un-athletic Fagen missed his target, hitting the studio's mixing board instead. Nevertheless, this fateful day would find its way into rock lore.

    "That's where the Eagles got that 'steely knives' line from," admits Billy Henley, younger brother of the Eagles' Don. "They changed it from 'plastic knives' because, well, who uses plastic knives anyway? Kids in the school cafeteria?"

    (Editor's note: Several Steely Dan scholars have actually attributed this quote to Billy Frey, younger brother of the Eagles' late guitarist Glenn.)

    Still, wheels were in motion and some copies of the "Dexterized Aja" were pressed. These had a red cover -- as opposed to a black one -- and sported a sticker that advertised the Dexter remix. According to sources, the cover's color was altered to "keep in line with other Dexter-inspired graphic design changes, like the botched semaphore lettering on the U.S. edition of the Beatles' Help! and the unsightly color used on the Rubber Soul logo on the U.S. version."

    This edition of Aja has become hard to find since a furious Fagen ordered all copies of it destroyed. Workers at ABC Records were called in to do weekend overtime to press up more copies of the record in its black sleeve. But some workers were lazy and simply pasted the black sleeves over the red ones. In the ensuing years, rabid Dan fans have been steaming the covers off the regular black edition of the cover to see if they have a rare red jacket underneath. According to the Center for Disease Control, this is why Steely Dan fans are twenty times more likely to suffer third-degree burns than fans of groups like Uriah Heep, the Four Tops, or the Go-Go's.

    Even though Aja was a runaway hit, Becker's "betrayal of the standards of sound quality" was not forgotten. In fact, it was referenced in the lyrics of the title track of Steely Dan's next album, Gaucho, which is thought by Dan scholars to be a message from Fagen to Becker: "Just when I say 'Boy we can't miss, You are golden' Then you do this," the song began.

    Soon after, the duo parted ways. A few weeks after the Dexterized Aja hit stores, Walter Becker's girlfriend turned up dead. Coincidence? Some think not. In the audiophile community, "horror" is the word most commonly used about the whole affair. "Dexter committed an act so unspeakable that no one has spoken about it since," says a moderator at the Steve Hoffman Forums who wished to remain anonymous.

    Still, in recent years critics specializing in vintage rock have begun to revise their opinions about the mix. "The Dexterized Aja is the only real Aja," says Billy Unterberger, younger brother of famed rock historian Richie. "It's got a live feel the original mix lacks," opines William Thomas John Bob Dave Biff "Billy" Erlewine, younger brother of AllMusic Guide senior citizen editor Stephen Thomas Robert John Jeff Mutt "Tom" Erlewine.

    This rare rip of the rare mix comes courtesy of Dave Dexter, Jr.'s son, Billy Dexter, Jr., and should restore Aja to all its true Dexterized glory. According to rock critic Billy Loder (younger brother of rock critic Kurt): "The pleasure, dear listener, is all yours."

    Track list:
    1. Black Cow (Dexterized)
    2. Aja (Dexterized)
    3. Deacon Blues (Dexterized)
    4. Peg (Dexterized)
    5. Sail the Waterway (Dexterized)
    6. I Got the News (Dexterized)
    7. Josie (Dexterized)