Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)


In celebration of Debbie Gibson's 46th (!!) birthday, Aug. 31, I'm putting out yet another set of her rare material -- the fifth such collection on this blog. As I've mentioned previously, I think Gibson is a much better songwriter than she gets credit for. She's enjoying something of a career revival these days with the impending airing of her much-publicized Hallmark TV movie "Summer of Dreams," which can be seen this Saturday, Sept. 3, 7 p.m., on the Hallmark Channel. But I think she deserved the long-lasting musical success that a lot of far less talented performers got that came along after her star faded.

I put together this collection myself, like I did with the Alternate Electric Youth set. As its title implies, it features all the rare tracks recorded by Debbie Gibson during the '90s. This wasn't her most commercially successful period, but she still wrote a lot of great music, some of which was hidden away.

Before getting into the track lineup, let's discuss what's not included. I left out all the songs from the 1994 soundtrack of the revival of the musical "Grease," because that would have meant including half the CD -- which is easily available anyway. Also, I didn't include remixes (with one exception) because, again, that would have meant including too many tracks.

Instead, I brought together all Gibson's non-LP B-Side tunes, plus songs from foreign edition CDs and multi-artist albums. For bonus tracks, I threw in two edits of her songs that I did myself. Info about what's what is below and also in the MP3 tags.

There is one more Gibson collection I'd like to put together in the future, and I'm calling on readers of this blog to possibly help. I'd like to create a collection of all the songs Gibson wrote for others but didn't perform herself. The problem is that I can't find any CDs by an Australian singer named JoBeth Taylor, who apparently recorded five Gibson songs. Do any of you Australians know anything about her? Some of you chimed in with info on my post about the Aussie band Cheetah, so maybe you all can help with this.

Related posts:
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)

Track list:
1. Without You
A Japanese-only single released Nov. 1, 1990. According to Wikipedia, Gibson wrote the lyrics herself, with music written by a Japanese singer-songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita. But I find it hard to believe she didn't have at least something to do with the music because it's similar to several of her other numbers, especially "Helplessly in Love" from Electric Youth.

2. So Close to Forever
The B-Side to the single "Anything is Possible." Released Nov. 13, 1990. This one showcases Gibson alone at the piano and looks ahead to the Think With Your Heart album from 1995.

3. Anything Is Possible (Remix Edit)
Released on UK picture disc and the German version of the 7-inch single (Atlantic ‎A7735P) in 1991. There are a lot of Gibson remixes, but this one is rare enough that I thought it warranted inclusion.

4. The Most Beautiful Love Song
The B-Side of "One Hand, One Heart," which was released as a CD promo single in the US in early 1991 and as a single Japan May 25, 1991. This one could easily have been on the second side of Anything Is Possible but was left off for whatever reason.

5. Sleigh Ride
From A Very Special Christmas 2, released Oct. 20, 1992, this is a cover of the Leroy Anderson-Mitchell Parrish Christmas standard. It's also an updated take on the Ronettes' arrangement of the song. Still, she rock the hell out of it. Gibson's enthusiasm is so infectious you wonder why she didn't ever try a whole album of holiday songs -- A Very Debbie Christmas or something.

6. Love Or Lust
The B-Side of the "Losin' Myself" single released Jan. 1993. It was also the B-Side of "Shock Your Mama" which came out in March 1993. This song was easily good enough to be on the album.

7. Eyes of the Child
A Japanese-only single released March 10, 1993. It was also included on the Japanese edition of the Body, Mind, Soul CD. This one is interesting in that it presents Gibson in an a cappella setting -- and it sounds like she recorded many of the background voices herself. If so, that's pretty damned impressive. The song is retro '50s-styled ballad that would never have fit on the mother-CD, but is pretty great nonetheless.

8. Call Yourself A Lover
A bonus cut on the Japanese edition of  Think With Your Heart from 1995. This probably didn't make the album because its horn-driven arrangement is too stylistically different from the piano-based sound that dominates the album. That's a shame, because it's a great song with a powerful, catchy chorus.

9. You Know Me
Another bonus cut from the Japanese edition of  Think With Your Heart. As with the last track, this might have been left off because it doesn't fit in. In this case, it's a little too groove-oriented for that album. Wonder if it was an outtake from Body, Mind, Soul?

10. People
A cover of a song from the 1964 musical "Funny Girl," made famous by Barbra Streisand. It's from the early, limited edition of the Deborah CD, which was released in 1996 to fans club members.

11. Don't Rain On My Parade
Another cover from "Funny Girl," also found only on the limited edition Deborah CD. Both this tune and the previous one show why Gibson was so successful in musical theater. She can really let 'er rip and doesn't lose any of the nuances of her vocal style when she turns her voice up to eleven. Pretty impressive.

12. Light the World (Duet With Peabo Bryson)
A Japanese single from 1999 released on the Portazul label (CODY-1723). This duet version is track two of the four-track single.

Bonus tracks:
13. (Get On Back To) The Basics of Love
Like a lot of songs on Anything Is Possible, I found "Reverse Psychology" to be over-written. I heard a different, better song buried within all the rap sections and various choruses. So I removed the raps, made all the choruses consistent, did some restructuring, and created a new song from the old. I do a lot of edits of songs I think could be structured better. Some people have called this "disrespectful" and/or "sacrilege." I don't care. This is how I wanted to hear it.

14. This So-Called Miracle (New Single Edit)
The original single edit of the tour-de-force closing number from Anything Is Possible didn't do it justice. It kept one verse then piled on endless choruses. I tried to improve on that. I used the first verse, the first chorus, part of the second verse, the best of the two "out-choruses," and part of the coda/fade to create a new, improved single edit. (For those who care about such things, I also slightly altered the pre-chorus and "corrected" the uneven bar structure that I think marred the song's flow.) And I brought it all in at around 4:00. Ironically, that's shorter than the real single mix which leaves out more of the song.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trouser Press - Issue #84 (April 1983)


Another day, another Trouser Press post. This issue came out a year or so after the last one I wrote about, and a year before the magazine closed up shop. You can see the format changes the editors had put in place that were designed to lure in young readers being raised on of MTV, which was rapidly changing the music industry at that point.

The main alteration came in the front of the mag, which now had chart listings and a whole bunch of short articles on new acts. They had been slotting mini-stories up front since about 1980, but these new ones were more like capsule reviews than full articles.

Then there's the coverage itself. Trouser Press needed to sell issues, so it had to cover bands that were trendy. Unfortunately, it was no longer 1977 or even 1981, when punk and new wave were all the rage. Teenybopper music was dominant in 1983. So that meant an in-depth feature on Duran Duran -- a group Trouser Press had covered years earlier, except back then their audience was made up of British fans of the New Romantic movement, not American middle schoolers.

The changing musical landscape and ongoing recession are what apparently pushed the people behind the magazine to shut it down in 1984. That was probably a mistake, because by 1986 the indie scene would be thriving and the economy would be humming along. I'd have loved to see this magazine herald acts like Husker Du and the Replacements, both of whom got some early coverage in TP. But I digress.

Other interesting articles include a mock "greatest hits" package for the Clash and an interview with Rank & File, which included a then-unknown Alejandro Escovedo. Beatles fans should check out the feature on Trio, which has an interview with Fab Four compatriot (and Revolver cover designer) Klaus Voorman, who managed the German electronic act.

Finally, there's the flexi-disc. What's a flexi-disc? It was a plastic record given away in issues around this time, so the mag could let readers hear new music. I happened to have the one for this issue, which is the Call's "The Walls Came Down," an early MTV staple. Not only did I scan the disc so you could see it (see right), but I did a rip of it, so everyone could hear what flexis sounded like. Unlike all my other rips, this one isn't cleaned-up. In fact, I went in the opposite direction and included some audio vérité. So the MP3 file starts with the sound of the stylus being placed on the actual record and ends with the rumbling of the out-groove. How's that for realism? I wanted it to be authentic, plus I wanted y'all to have the total Trouser Press flexi-disc experience!

Related posts:
Trouser Press - Issue #67 (Nov. 1981)
Trouser Press - Issue #70 (February 1982)
Trouser Press - Issue #71 (March 1982)

Contents:
1. Divinyls
2. Modern English
3. Material
4. Swollen Monkeys
5. Doll By Doll
6. Clash
7. Duran Duran
8. Rank & File
9. Trio

Monday, August 29, 2016

Re-Up: The Style Council - Introducing: The Style Council (Vinyl Edition, 1983)


This is an update of a post I did back in April. I was unhappy with the quality of the vinyl rip I did, so I made a better one. In between April and now, I discovered various tricks and techniques to make rips sound better, so why not put them to use? While I was at it, I also upped the quality of the album art scans. So, if you got this already you might want to download it again -- it'll be a much better experience, especially with headphones. Below is my original post from April.

***

I have some bad news and some good news for anyone who bought The Complete Adventures of the Style Council.

The bad news is that the box set isn't actually "complete." It doesn't collect up everything done by the eclectic pop band Paul Weller founded in the '80s after he disbanded the Jam. But the good news is that I've done rips of some of the missing cuts here, and they're all in excellent quality.

Some of these lost tracks can be found on the mini-LP Introducing: the Style Council, a record designed to -- you guessed it! -- introduce American audiences to the group. These kinds of mini-albums were everywhere in the new wave and post-new wave era. They were a way for U.S. record companies to get new music to the public at a consumer-friendly price. The Pretenders, the Clash, Scandal, the Jam, and Cheap Trick all had E.P.s in the U.S., as did scads of other less famous acts, like SVT, Wide Boy Awake, Let's Active, Young Caucasians, Tommy Keene, and the Bluebells.

Introducing: The Style Council collected up the group's first few British singles, added in some odds and ends, and featured two exclusive club mixes of two songs, "Long Hot Summer" and "Money-Go-Round." These mixes never made it onto the box set.

Beyond that, Introducing also features songs that will be rare to fans who bought all the albums but didn't want to splurge for the box. It has an early, acoustic version of "Headstart for Happiness" and an early, piano-based arrangement of  "The Paris Match" with Weller, not Tracy Thorn, singing lead.

In all, this mini-LP is a pretty great collection of formative sounds by a group that was under-appreciated in its time. Back then, no one knew what this group was going to evolve into and the experimental flavor of these songs was exciting. (Except if you were a hardcore Jam fan who couldn't get over Weller splitting up that group. In that case, this music was like poison. But I digress.)

***

During this early period of the Style Council, there were three other stray tracks that were never put on any LP, much less the box set. I ripped these from my own copies of the records and tacked them on as bonus tracks. None of them are major finds, but if they were gonna put out a box set that's titled Complete, they should have included 'em.

First up are two tracks from the four-song 1983 UK EP À Paris. The first is a shorter edit of "Long Hot Summer." This is the edit that was also on the UK and German 7-Inch single. The version on Introducing: The Style Council is from the 12-Inch single and runs about two minutes longer.

The second song is "Party Chambers." Most Style Council fans know the vocal version of the song, because it was released as the flip of the group's first single, "Speak Like a Child," and was included on the box set and the Here's Some That Got Away collection. But the version on À Paris is completely different. It's a jazzy instrumental and a different recording -- not just a mix of the song without its lead vocal.

Conversely, the third bonus track is, in fact, a mix of a song without its lead vocal. It's vocal-less the B-Side of the band's fourth single, "A Solid Bond In Your Heart." That single had an additional B-Side, "It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands," which did make it onto the box set so I didn't include it here.

***

Beyond all this, what missing from the Complete Adventures CD (and all CD releases of these songs) are the sparkling high end frequencies you got on vinyl. That, in my opinion, is one of the elements that helped define this band's sound. There were zingy acoustic guitars, splashy cymbals, and buzzy synths. This rip, which was made from mint vinyl, should showcase those lost frequencies -- as well as several of the group's lost tracks -- loud and clear. Finally, they didn't call themselves the Style Council for nothing. They definitely had a sense of style. Dig the sleeve art of this EP and their early 45s (see right), which look great in high-quality scans.

Track list:
1. Long Hot Summer
2. Headstart for Happiness
3. Speak Like a Child
4. Long Hot Summer (Club Mix)
5. The Paris Match
6. Mick's Up
7. Money-Go-Round (Club Mix)

Bonus tracks:
All of these cuts are titled here the way they were titled on the records. "Party Chambers" was not connoted as an instrumental; "Long Hot Summer" wasn't designated as a single edit; and "Solid Bond" didn't have the word "Instrumental" in parenthesis.
8. Long Hot Summer
The shorter 7-Inch single edit.
9. Party Chambers
The instrumental take of the song. From the À Paris EP.
10. A Solid Bond In Your Heart Instrumental
The backing track without the vocal. B-Side of the "A Solid Bond in Your Heart" single. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trouser Press - Issue #71 (March 1982)


Here's another in my series of old Trouser Press magazine scans. This one should especially interest Genesis fans, since it has an "Autodiscography" about them. Autodiscographies were an inspired idea invented by this magazine. They were autobiographical interviews, but instead of having artists discuss their lives, the artists would speak on their album releases. This one is six pages long and it's pretty revealing.

It was also mildly controversial at the time. After it was published, readers wrote letters criticizing some remarks the band members had made about departed guitarist Steve Hackett. They also took issue with the group's attitude towards some of its older music, specifically Tony Banks calling the lyrics of "Supper's Ready" "faintly metaphysical bullshit." Maybe in the future I'll do scans of the issues with those letters.

Of course, if you're not a fan of Genesis, none of this will matter much. But there are other reasons this issue was a favorite of mine. One is the interview with King Crimson, where Robert Fripp is his usual eccentric self, this time making cryptic comments about...um...chocolate cake. The Joy Division article is pretty great too, even if the writer made the mistaken claim that New Order would never escape that band's shadow: Within a half decade, New Order's dance music had attracted a new audience of young American fans who had little idea who Ian Curtis even was.

The issue also has reviews of Depeche Mode's Speak & Spell, the Cars' Shake It Up, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' I Love Rock-n-Roll, and the dB's Repercussion. The last of these inspired me to buy the album, making me a lifelong dB's fan.

Oh, and there's also an interview with a pre-fame U2, who come off as annoyingly sanctimonious as they would after they acquired zillions of fans. Give them points for consistency, I guess. This was never my thing but if it's yours, go right ahead and enjoy the article...and photos of the bass player (whose name I forget) with a ridiculous-looking blonde perm.

Related posts:
Trouser Press - Issue #67 (November, 1981)
Trouser Press - Issue #70 (February, 1982)
Trouser Press - Issue #84 (April, 1983)

Contents:
1. Roky Erickson
2. Jack Green
3. Tymon Dogg
4. Genesis
5. King Crimson
6. U2
7. Joy Division

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tony Kosinec - Bad Girl Songs (1970)


This is the second and final album singer-songwriter Tony Kosinec released on Columbia Records. He'd put out more, but they'd be on different labels and in the future.

From what I can gather, Kosinec was a New York-based musician and judging from his music, he was sort of a proto-Billy Joel or more lightweight James Taylor. As with Taylor, Peter Asher produced this album.

However, unlike with Taylor, the album didn't yield any hits. The jaunty, old-timey "48 DeSoto" was the single, but it didn't chart despite its Beach Boys-inspired chorus. Still, like a lot of the tunes here, it's pretty catchy.

This album was reissued briefly on CD in Japan in 1995, but is now out-of-print. Kosinec seems to have gotten into scoring works for film and television later on.

Track list:
1. The World Still
2. I Use Her
3. Bad Girls
4. Come and Go
5. Medley: It's Raining/Car, Car, Car
6. '48 Desoto
7. Gemini at Pains
8. Me and My Friends
9. Dinner Time
10. Wheatfield
11. The Sun Wants Me to Love You
12. My Cat Ain't Comin' Back

Friday, August 26, 2016

Gerard McMahon - No Looking Back (1983)


I first became aware of Gerard McMahon when I heard a fantastic song he did, "Hello Hello," and noticed it was featured in not one but two trashy '80s comedies I liked: "Gorp" and "Hardbodies." After doing some research, I also discovered that this power pop-ish gem was never included on any of the British-American rockers albums or singles. Bummer.

But "Hello Hello" left such an impression that when I chanced upon this album at a record show, I snapped it up immediately. I assumed there would be more first-rate power pop on it. I wasn't disappointed. Besides that, it was also selling for around $1 and the disc looked unplayed. How could I pass it up?

It's also never come out on CD and is long out of print. Because of the obscurity factor, I'm able to present it here as a high-quality rip complete with large-scale scans of the artwork.

The whole album is good, but there are two stand-out tunes that deserve to be singled out for praise. The first is the slow shuffle "I Wouldn't Take It From You," which recalls Huey Lewis and the News' hit "If This Is It." Except...that song was from 1985 and this one came out two years earlier.

The other great tune here -- and I mean really, really great tune -- is the rocker "No Sweat (It's Alright)." This song is an upbeat-teenage-fun-in-the-sun anthem that would have made a great late-'80s pop-metal hit, but really transcends any time period or genre because it's so catchy. See if you don't raise your fist instinctively when you hear this chorus. I'd say more, but I've lost all perspective on the song, since I'm playing it over and over while writing this post. That should be all the recommendation you need. Had Cheap Trick done this tune, it'd be considered a rock classic.

My references to the late-'80s and Huey Lewis' 1985 hit are not by accident. One of the most interesting aspects of this album is how ahead of its time it sounds. McMahon and co-producer Michael Ostin get an electronically-influenced rock sound that became the hit sound of the late 1980s. In 1983, when this was released, people were still fumbling toward this idea, but these guy have it down.

A few days ago, I posted about a Scott Baio album (also from 1983) and complained about the lame songwriting on it. This album is everything that album should have been: Catchy, upbeat, radio-friendly, teen-oriented, futuristic, and eminently listenable. Baio and producer Michael Lloyd should have asked McMahon if he could some songs for them. To which McMahon would have probably replied: "No Sweat (It's Alright)!"

Track list:
1. Count On Me
2. I Wouldn't Take It From You
3. No Looking Back
4. She's The Woman
5. Talking 'Bout Girls
6. (You're) Wearing My Heart Out
7. No Sweat (It's Alright)
8. When She Was Mine
9. Nickel Charm Jack
10. So Many Nights

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Charles Fox - Love, American Style (1973)


Continuing our recent run of TV-related postings, here is the soundtrack to the once-risqué television show "Love, American Style," which aired from 1969 to 1974.

It's never been released on CD and has never circulated on the Web as far as I know. The album's 1973 release date might look a little odd, because you'd assume it would have come out closer to the show's late '60s beginnings. But it is correct and can be verified by Billboard magazine's June 2, 1973 announcement that a soundtrack album was in the works.

The composer, Charles Fox, wrote music for a lot of TV show and movies. He's probably best known to pop fans for writing and arranging the instrumental, non-Association numbers on the soundtrack to "Goodbye, Columbus." That album mixed and matched vocal and instrumental cuts, but this album divides them out by side.

The first side has all the vocal tracks. And although no official LP credit is given they probably feature the Ron Hicklin Singers -- i.e. the brothers John and Tom Bahler, who sang lead on Partridge Family songs before it was discovered David Cassidy could sing. The second side is made up of instrumentals.

All of it is very evocative of its era and you're likely to be left humming all these songs after you hear them just once. And, by the way, this is billed as "Charles Fox - Love, American Style" as opposed to "Love, American Style -- Original Soundtrack" to reflect the way it's written out on the record label. The album had one of those old orange Capitol labels and they billed it as if it was simply a Charles Fox album with that title, so that's what I did here.

And that, friends, is pretty much all I know about "Love, American Style." The reason for that is that when it aired I was really young and I got sent to bed as soon as it came on. It was supposedly way too "adult" for the kids. So I can't explain much about how the music for this series related to any of the plots of the episodes. I did like the the theme song, though, and I like this soundtrack because it's all performed in that style. Now all's I have to do is watch the show.

Track list:
1. Love, American Style
2. Where Did I Go
3. New World Song
4. Lovely One
5. To Make Love Grow
6. About Her
7. Remember
8. The Brass Bed
9. Long Ago Yesterday
10. So Little Time

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Scott Baio - The Boys Are Out Tonight (1983)


This is actor/teen idol Scott Baio's second and final album. It was a follow-up to his more publicized debut album from 1982. Around this time, Baio was at the height of his popularity, playing Chachi Arcola on "Happy Days" and starring in the teen-oriented sex comedy "Zapped!"

Why post Baio's second album but not his first? Because I happened to have it. Years ago, I bought it as a joke-present for my ex-wife because she used to kid me about looking like him in high school. (Ironically enough, she looked a bit like Joanie Cunningham, but let's not get off-topic here.)

Baio has been in the news lately because of his support for presidential candidate Donald Trump, so I thought I'd revisit this album. Turns out it's never been put on CD not has it been ripped and put on the Web. So I made my own rip, which (as always) I can guarantee you will sound sharper and better than any remastered CD that comes out.

As for the album itself, well, that's another story. I'm sad to report that it's no great shakes. It's not bad per se, just bland.

This was a bummer because I wanted this album to be good. I bought it as a gift, after all, plus, I consider "Zapped!" to be a teen movie classic. I also admire Baio for taking an unpopular political stance and braving all the inevitable hate that came his way.

Why doesn't this LP work? It's not Baio's singing. Like Alyssa Milano he's not great, but by no means is he bad. Blame for this album's failure should be placed at the feet of producer Michael Lloyd, the former West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band member-turned-producer/record exec. I've written about Lloyd on this blog because of his involvement in the group Friends and the soundtrack for "The Pom Pom Girls."

Lloyd's production sounds good, but his lame song song selection drags the whole project downs. Not are the tunes uninspired, but even their titles are derivative (a pet peeve of mine). "Some Girls," which was this LP's single, isn't the Rolling Stones song and "Don't Talk" isn't the Beach Boys number. Both "Can't You See That She's Mine" and "Shakin' All Over" are covers, but they're not given particularly inspired arrangements.

Music by television actors is often hit-or-miss. Actors are often too busy to spend a lot of time on their records. Not everyone can be as consistently good as Ricky Nelson or the Monkees. Maybe in this case neither the producer or artist had any idea of what would sell in 1983. Music was changing rapidly at that point, what with MTV and the new British Invasion making their influences felt. But a great song is still a great song, no matter what the style. They should have found some for this album.

Track list:
1. I'll Take You Back
2. Fingerprints
3. See How Love Goes
4. Some Girls
5. The Boys Are Out Tonight
6. Can't You See That She's Mine
7. Shakin' All Over
8. Heartbreaker
9. Don't Talk
10. She's Trouble

Monday, August 22, 2016

Alyssa Milano - Do You See Me? (1992)


In keeping with my (unintentional) theme of featuring women artists in the past week, here is the fourth and final CD by TV star Alyssa Milano.

People don't remember it now, but back in the Reagan-Bush I era, teenage TV star Milano made albums. There's a good reason why people don't recall this: It's because they probably never knew it in the first place. None of Milano's CDs ever got released in the English-speaking world.

Instead they came out in countries like Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea (some where also released in South African and France). All of Milano's records came out on the Tokyo-based Canyon International label (a division of the Pony Canyon company). These albums were hits in Japan, which is the only country where they seem to have charted. But that apparently wasn't enough to get them released domestically. The only CD of hers I was ever able to locate is her fourth one, Do You See Me? which came out just as the TV show she was on, "Who's the Boss?" was ending its run.

It's not a bad CD, especially if you're partial to early '90s dance pop. Milano isn't a great singer, but she's definitely a good enough vocalist to bring these electronic grooves to life. If there's a problem with her singing, it's that she's too laid back, but that might have been by design. Not everyone can be Whitney or Mariah.

On the plus side, the actual sound of Milano's voice is much more appealing than some singers who scaled the heights of pop stardom, like Paula Abdul and Britney Spears -- both of whom clearly have issues with pitch and intonation. When Milano is given first-rate material the results can be surprisingly great.

A good example of that is the jazzy-funky tropical number "Somewhere in Jamaica," which sounds like it could have been an adult contemporary hit. Super catchy. Several of the other songs work almost as well, especially the upbeat dance numbers "Puppet On A String" and "Everything You Do," the latter of which was co-written by her father, Tom Milano, who chimes in with a few songs here.

So, file this one with all the other obscure '90s teen pop I post here, like the Party, Rick Wes, and Alisha. It'll be a blast from the past if you like this sound, or if you're nostalgic for the time period where people said things like "awesome," "dope," and "eat my shorts!"

More awesome and dope early '90s teen pop obscurities:
Alisha - Bounce Back (1990)
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991)
Hi-Five - Hi-Five (1990) 
Homework - Homework (1990) 
Ms. Adventures - Ms. Adventures (1990)
The Party - In the Meantime, In Between Time (1991)
Rick Wes - North, South, East, Wes (1990)
The Superiors - Perfect Timing (1990)

Track list:
1. Do You See Me?
2. Talk To Me
3. One Last Dance
4. Puppet On A String
5. Somewhere In Jamaica
6. Waiting For Your Love
7. If Only
8. Everything You Do

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Grey-Star - Telephone Sex (1983)


Consider this a follow-up to the posts about Madonna I recently wrote.

I'm a fan of Madonna's music, especially her early work, and for years I've defended her against her detractors. The main argument against her seems to be something like "She used her sex appeal to make it." While there's truth in that, it also only tells part of the story. It's like saying the Beatles made it because Paul McCartney was cute.

Sex appeal sells, but it won't get you very far in and of itself. Because if sex was the reason people bought records by female artists, this obscure album would have outsold everything Madonna ever did since it's steeped in sexuality.

The female lead singer of this band, the late Ruby Starr, not only dressed much sexier than Madonna, but was more ahead of her time when it came to bringing overt sexuality to the mainstream. While Madonna was waxing sentimental (and cutesy) about how everyone should take a "Holiday," Starr was singing about sex on the phone and letting it all hang out on her album covers.

And yet odds are most of you reading this have never heard of Starr or her '80s band Grey-Star (named as such because she led the band with co-lead singer Mike Grey). This is their second album, which was the follow-up to an even more obscure self-titled 1981 effort I've never actually seen.

Most of it is actually pretty good music: A melange of hard rock and synth pop that recalls Pat Benatar with more guttural power or Patty Smyth during her days with the band Scandal. I could live without the cover of Dobie Gray's "The 'In' Crowd" (annoyingly retitled "In Crowd" here), but their cover of "Baby It's You" is pretty good, even if it is a cover of a cover (sounds to me like they're copying the 1969 remake by Smith, not the Shirelles original).

The original songs fare better, especially if you're nostalgic about anything '80s. Play them while driving and you'll feel like you're cruising for babes with John Cusack or Emilio Estevez in some lost Reagan Era teen flick. The title track was probably an attempt to pen a song similar to Suzanne Fellini's "Love On the Phone," which was a minor hit in 1980, but became a major topic of conversation because of its subject matter.

But none of Grey-Starr's songs really clicked with the public. Good songs aren't always commercial songs and a powerful voice doesn't necessarily translate into a voice that reaches the public over radio airwaves. Also, having good arrangements doesn't mean those arrangements make for the type of original sound that grabs the attention of casual listeners or redefines a genre (see my Madonna posts for more on this).

All of this is a shame because Starr was a pretty great singer who had been releasing albums since the early '70s. The most popular she ever got, though, was her backing vocal on Black Oak Arkansas' cover of LaVern Baker's "Jim Dandy," which hit the Top 30 in 1973. Telephone Sex was Grey-Star's second and last album. If I can find the first, I'll post that too. But I'll bet there's not "Holiday" on it. Or even a "Lucky Star."

Related:
Suzanne Fellini - Suzanne Fellini (1980)
Cristina - Cristina (1980)
Cristina - Sleep It Off (1984)

Track list:
1. Meet Me At the Same Time
2. Baby It's You
3. Telephone Sex
4. In Crowd
5. All Over Now
6. Killing Time
7. Hurting You
8. Downtown
9. You Don't Even Know
10. Magic

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lesley Gore - Boys, Boys, Boys (Mono Mix, 1964)


And now for an important message: This is NOT the recent reissue of Lesley Gore's third album, Boys, Boys, Boys! I don't put out anything on this blog that's easily available to the public. Instead, this is my own rip of the mono mix. It's the third in a series I've done of Gore's mono LPs, none of which have ever come out on CD in that form.

As with the mono mix of California Nights and most My Town, My Guy, and Me (except for one song), there are no major differences between the mono and stereo mixes of this LP. But as with the other mono mixes, it hangs together better and sounds more in-your-face since less reverb is used.

As I've written in my previous blog entries on the late Lesley Gore, I think she was one hell of a singer. Her third album, which is a concept LP of sorts, also shows her budding songwriting ability: She wrote the sassy, bossa nova-ish "Leave Me Alone" and co-wrote the ballad "I'm Coolin', No Foolin'."

I was surprised to learn that both the hits on this album were co-written by Mark Barkan. I associate Barkin with popsike music, since he wrote and performed the ultra-fab, sorta-trippy 1967 single "A Great Day for the Clown," which is featured on the fifteenth volume of Fading Yellow. What a great tune.

One of his numbers here, "That's the Way Boys Are," is just as fab. The public apparently thought so too, because they sent it to #12 when it was released as a single in early 1964. Barkan's other song here, the drippy ballad "I Don't Wanna Be a Loser," is somewhat less appealing. Once again, the public must have agreed, because it only got to #37, making it the first Gore 45 to miss the Top 20.

The song had a unique 45 mix that's not on either the mono or stereo versions of this LP. For the 45, they nixed the double-tracked vocal and went with Gore singing solo. I'm not sure why Mercury Records and/or producer Quincy Jones did this, because all Gore's previous singles had her double-tracked, even the ballad "You Don't Own Me," to which "I Don't Wanna Be A Loser" is a sort of follow-up.

(Addendum: The mix of "You Don't Own Me" on the mono Golden Hits does have a single-tracked vocal. But the "original 45s" people are touting on YouTube all have the standard double-tracking. Anyone know the story on this? I have the 45, but it's in a huge box in a closet and it's way to difficult to find.)

The single-tracked 45 version has now become a rarity. As far as I can tell, it hasn't been released on any CD. It's not on the five-CD box set from 1994, It's My Party, which is odd because that box has practically everything else.

But happily, I have this now-rare mix on my old mono vinyl copy of The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore, so I appended it to the end of this album as a bonus track. Astute listeners will note that it runs at a slightly faster speed than the Boys, Boys, Boys version. That's not a mistake on my part; that's the way it was on the Golden Hits LP. I assume that's because they got the mix from the mono 45, which was probably sped up to make it peppier. This is a subject I've discussed in previous posts and won't drone on about here.

In all, Boys, Boys, Boys is a pretty good LP and was arguably Gore's strongest album to date. It's also ahead of its time in that it projected a somewhat downbeat worldview -- not something done much in the commercial pop world in 1964.

There is a subversive aspect to this album, which may or may not have been intentional. Although it's called Boys, Boys, Boys, the thrust of most of the songs is anti-boy. Several of the songs deal with not wanting boys around at all -- notably the two Gore had a hand in writing. Was this the first overt signal from Gore regarding her sexuality?

When I interviewed Gore, she told me she wasn't clear on her sexuality until after she graduated college, so all of this might have all been unconscious. Then again, I also spotted a girl's name -- Clare -- in the middle of all the boy's names listed on the front cover. You can see this in high-quality scan I included here (it's at the very top of the cover). Or was Clare once a male name?

Am I putting way too much thought into all this? If so, that actually makes a good case as to why this album -- and the subtext implicit in its songs and packaging -- remains fascinating more than a half-century later.

Related:
Lesley Gore - My Town, My Guy and Me (Mono Mix, 1965)
Lesley Gore - California Nights (Mono Mix, 1967)

Track list:
1. That's the Way Boys Are
2. Boys
3. It's Gotta Be You
4. Something Wonderful
5. You Name It
6. Danny
7. I Don't Wanna Be A Loser
8. That's the Way the Ball Bounces
9. Leave Me Alone
10. Don't Call Me
11. I'll Make It Up To You
12. I'm Coolin', No Foolin'
13. I Don't Wanna Be A Loser (Original 45 Mix)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Madonna - The Madonna Anthology 2 (1981-85)


Here's the second volume from the Madonna Anthology series. This one has rarities spanning the period just before her first album to just after her second.

Before getting into what's here, I want to mention one change I made to this volume. I replaced the poor-sounding "Alternate Long Vinyl Version" of "Burning Up" with a precise, high-quality rip that I made myself from my own mint vinyl copy of Madonna's first LP.

The "Alternate Long Vinyl Version" is the sought-after mix that ran 4:48 that was on the first pressing of the Madonna LP from 1983. This early version was produced by Reggie Lucas in a standard R&B style. Madonna was reportedly unhappy with it. (But funny enough, it recalls Patti Labelle's Top 20 hit "New Attitude," which came out over a year later.) Lucas' mix was replaced on later pressings and on the CD with a shorter, punchier, more guitar-oriented one done by "Jellybean" Benitez. This is the one used in the original video, and it's become the standard mix.

Speaking of "Burning Up," this CD also contains a rock-oriented demo of the tune recorded a year earlier earlier. As I mentioned in my last post, Madonna's first recorded music was rock, not R&B, and it's interesting to hear her gradually change her style during course of her early recordings.

The "Stay" on this volume isn't the song of the same name that ended up on the Like A Virgin album. Madonna wrote both "Stays' herself, but this one isn't the boppy shuffle we all know, but a futuristic-sounding dance track. The chorus has some similarities to the released version but there aren't even any shared lyrics between the songs. This "Stay" sounds more like the dreamy Euro-disco done by acts like Angel Moon in the late 1990s, proving again that Madonna was way ahead of her time.

There are also four demo versions of songs intended for Madonna's first album. Three of 'em were recorded for that LP and used on it ("Borderline," "I Know It," and "Physical Attraction") while the other, "Ain't No Big Deal," was given a studio treatment, but held in the can until it came out as the B-Side of "True Blue" in 1986.

The live cuts show that Madonna developing her distinctive early vocal style. They're sometimes shaky, but then most people aren't letter-perfect live singers like Paul McCartney or Celine Dion. And, besides, at least Madonna actually sang live -- something her imitators tended not to do.

Sprinkled in with the live cuts is Madonna's performance of "Like A Virgin" at MTV's first-ever Video Music Awards, held Sept. 14, 1984. This is the performance where she wore a wedding dress and rolled around on stage. It seems cute in the age of Miley Cyrus, but it was positively scandalous then. It was also a Beatles-on-the-Ed-Sullivan-Show moment for the '80s generation: A historic musical performance that altered the course of popular music.

As I said in my last post, Madonna should release this stuff on a box set similar to Bruce Springsteen's Tracks. There are no embarrassing closet skeletons here -- quite the opposite, in fact. If nothing else, the alternate "Stay" should come out, if only to prove that she had the sound of dance music circa 1999 down in 1981.
 
Related posts:
Madonna - The Madonna Anthology (1979-81):

Track list:
1. Everybody [Pre-'Madonna' Demo - 1981]
2. Burning Up [Pre-'Madonna' Demo - 1981]
3. Don't You Know [Pre-'Madonna' Demo - 1981]
4. Stay [Pre-'Madonna' Demo - 1981]
5. Laugh To Keep From Crying [Pre-'Madonna' Demo - 1981]
6. Everybody [Live - Haoui Montaug's No Entiendes 1982]
7. Ain't No Big Deal ['Madonna' Demo - 1982]
8. Borderline ['Madonna' Demo - 1982]
9. I Know It [Demo]
10. Physical Attraction [Demo]
11. Burning Up [Alternate Long Vinyl Version]
12. Everybody [Live - Uncle Sam's 1983]
13. Physical Attraction [Live - Uncle Sam's 1983]
14. Like A Virgin [Live - MTV VMAs 1984]
15. Over And Over [Live - 'Virgin' Tour]
16. Material Girl [Live - 'Virgin' Tour]

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Madonna - The Madonna Anthology (1979-81)


In celebration of Madonna's birthday, I thought I'd put up this collection of songs she wrote and/or recorded before she signed with a record company. It's a revealing look at the first stirrings of a performer and songwriter who'd go on to become one of the most influential artists in the world.

Contrary to what most people would expect, most of these songs aren't dance-pop, but grungy-sounding rock tracks. They're sort of Madonna's "Hamburg Tapes," so to speak. The talent, energy, and ambition are there; it just needed to be focused.

What sharpened Madonna artistic vision was her decision to move from away from rock music and into the dance realm, which is something that can be tracked on a song-by-song, year-by-year basis with this set. The first music she made with the New York City bands the Breakfast Club and Emmy verges on punk rock. But after a while with Emmy, her pop side started to emerge. On cuts like "No Time for Love" and "Bells Ringing" you can hear her find her voice.

If all of this sounds unfamiliar, it won't be soon. According to a recent article in the UK's Daily Mail, a documentary about the pre-fame Madonna titled "Emmy and the Breakfast Club" is in the works, although they don't give a release date.

Back when Madonna exploded onto the pop scene in 1984, what made her stand out from a purely musical perspective was the way she blended rock sensibilities with dance floor rhythms. The genres of dance music and R&B had become impersonal and faceless when they started to get electronic in the late 1970s. But Madonna's rock attitude and a quirky singing style made almost everyone change their tune.

By taking this approach, she not only helped expand the genres, but she also helped push dance music and R&B into the mainstream. She also pushed rock onto the sidelines in the process. (Rap also continued to push rock out of the mainstream, but Madonna got there first.)

Not everyone liked what they heard. But as soon as you heard it, they sure knew it was Madonna. Her voice became like Jerry Garcia's guitar, the Beach Boys' harmonies, or the Bee Gees' falsettos: Instantly identifiable and completely evocative of its era.

That said, most of the early band songs here are no great shakes. Things only start to pick up on the so-called "Gotham Demos" -- which are colloquially named as such because they were recorded at New York's Gotham Sound Studios in '81. The best tracks recorded at Gotham, "Take Me (I Want You)," is pure pop bliss. The song is actually pretty similar to the Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know" (from 1979) which would become a hit for Tracy Ullman in 1984.

Then there's "Crimes of Passion," which was recorded later than these demos and sounds like it could easily have any been an album cut or possibly even a hit single. Ironically, it also sounds a bit like some of those Madonna-soundalikes '80s hits that filled the airwaves a half decade later, like Regina's "Baby Love" from '86 or Elisa Fiorello and Jellybean's “Who Found Who” from '87. Anyone who spent their teen years listening to Madonna or Like a Virgin should immediately take to this song.

This collection also shows how Madonna found her style as a songwriter. But since there are no writing credits there's no way to tell what she wrote herself or what songs were collaborations.

Only three tracks have definitive writer's credits: She penned "Burning Up" (which made the first LP) and "Crimes of Passion," while Bray wrote "Ain't No Big Deal," which eventually came out as the B-Side of "True Blue" in 1986 -- some five years after it was first recorded. Since Madonna wrote some of her best early songs alone ("Lucky Star," "Think of Me") it's not unthinkable that she's the composer of most of these songs.

I'm a Madonna fan like I'm a Bruce Springsteen fan: I'm partial to only their first few albums. But what I like I really like. Funny enough, I like their second albums the best. Whatever you think of these artists, it's still interesting to hear how they worked to achieve the sound that eventually captured the interest of the world.

Springsteen gave us the Tracks box set as a way to chart his artistic development. Madonna should do likewise and release these songs. Unlike the early work of some other artists, nothing here is embarrassing. In fact, the power of the rock numbers gives her credibility when it comes to that style.

Of course, we probably won't ever get a box set like that from Madonna. Some artists sing "Don't Look Back." Others actually live it.

Track list:
1. The Breakfast Club - On the Ground
2. The Breakfast Club - Shine a Light
3. The Breakfast Club - Little Boy Lost
4. Emmy - Simon Says
5. Emmy - Hot House Flower
6. Emmy - Nobody's Fool
7. Emmy - Burning Up
8. Emmy - Are You Ready For It
9. Emmy - Love For Tender
10. Emmy - No Time For Love
11. Emmy - Remembering Your Touch
12. Emmy- Bells Ringing
13. Emmy - Drowning
14. Emmy - Love On the Run
15. Emmy - Get Up
16. Emmy - Society Boy (High Society)
17. Emmy - Take Me (I Want You)
18. Madonna - Crimes Of Passion
19. Madonna - Ain't No Big Deal

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Astrud Gilberto - Astrud Gilberto Now (1972)


Out of all the artists I've posted about, the one I've gotten requests to do more of is Astrud Gilberto. The problem is that most of her albums are in print, and I don't like to post things that are in print unless I can offer a variation on them (like an alternate mix or mono pressing).

I was able to post an odds'n'ends collection of her rarities I put together myself, because none of the songs can be found on LP or CD. Now it looks like this album, her tenth, has fallen out of print and isn't downloadable anywhere. So we can enjoy it until someone inevitably reissues it.

And as much as I've gone on record saying I despise deluxe reissues, this is one album that deserves the treatment. It's the first album on which Gilberto served as her own producer and it's the first for which she contributes her own songs. Since she became a singer by accident, who'd have thought she'd turn out to be a songwriter as well?

But a songwriter she is and a damned god one. Gilberto writes Latin songs with memorable pop hooks. This suits her style much better than the pop songs she'd been doing up bossa nova style for most of her late-'60s albums

The self-penned opener here, "Zigy Zigy Za," is one of the best things Gilberto ever recorded: Rhythmically exciting, deceptively simple, and catchy as all get out. Listen once and you'll never forget it.

She checks in with three other songs as well. "Gingele" has the same playful spirit as "Zigy Zigy Za" and is almost as good. Same goes for the boppy "Take It Easy My Brother Charlie." Her fourth and final song, "Where Have You Been?" is a pensive ballad with some Latin overtones. While not as exciting as her upbeat tunes, it's still pretty good.

Brazilian composer/pianist Eumir Deodato serves as arranger here and gives Gilberto her most authentically Latin sounding record and her most rhythmic. There's a more adventurous spirit on this album and it's probably because Gilberto recorded it for a new label, the jazz-oriented Perception Records.

By this point, Gilberto had left her longtime label Verve Records. Verve had put out all her previous efforts except for her previous album, which was a collaboration with sax player Stanley Turrentine. Gilberto didn't stay long with Perception, though. This is her only album on that label.

In fact, this LP marks her last as a regular recording artist -- meaning a musicians who put out one album a year or so. After this record, she waited four years to put out another, and that was a disco album. She recorded more or less sporadically after that, but continued to be popular on stage and would pop up occasionally on other people's records -- like Michael Franks' Passionfruit from '83, where she can be heard on the gorgeous "Amazon."

Related:
Astrud Gilberto - Rarities (1966-72)
Basia - Brave New Hope EP (9-Track Edition, 1990)

Track list:
1. Zigy Zigy Za
2. Make Love To Me
3. Baiao
4. Touching You
5. Gingele
6. Take It Easy My Brother Charlie
7. Where Have You Been?
8. General Da Banda
9. Bridges
10. Daybreak

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - The Dylan-Cash Sessions (1969)



Once in a while I'll post music I don't like simply because it's rare. This is such a time.

Someone gave me this Bob Dylan-Johnny Cash bootleg as a present. It seems as though almost none of it came out on Dylan's Bootleg Series CDs.

I originally wrote up a post criticizing the way Dylan fans will listen to anything he recorded. And then I remembered that I'd posted a Beach Boys bootleg and did "Surf Music Month" because when it comes to that style of music, I'll listen to anything that was recorded.

So, I'll zip it and keep the negative comments to myself. Some people like to listen to outtakes of "One Too Many Mornings," while others (ahem) think the Beach Boys' self-titled 1985 album is an unheralded work of great art. Takes all kinds.

Track listing:
1. One Too Many Mornings    
2. Good Ol' Mountain Dew    
3. I Still Miss Someone    
4. Careless Love    
5. Matchbox    
6. That's Alright Mama    
7. Big River    
8. Girl Of The North Country    
9. I Walk The Line    
10. You Are My Sunshine    
11. Ring Of Fire    
12. Guess Things Happen That Way    
13. Just A Closer Walk With Thee    
14. Blue Yodel #1    
15. Blue Yodel #2    
16. I Threw It All Away    
17. Living The Blues    
18. Girl Of The North Country    
19. Nashville Skyline Rag    
20. I Threw It All Away    
21. Peggy Day    
22. Country Pie    
23. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Joy - Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite (1977)


Never released on CD and long out-of-print, this is a one-off reunion album for Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, the leaders of the San Francisco-area band Joy of Cooking. The pair were among the first women to lead a major label rock group, and if you don't know their story, I'd recommend reading this very comprehensive article first.

From 1970-73, Joy of Cooking released three albums and scored a minor hit with "Brownsville," a cover of an old blues tune. Since those LPs have been reissued on CD, I'm not posting them here.

However, I am posting albums that are out-of-print. Earlier in the year I blogged about Toni Brown's two little-known solo albums (see links below). And now that I found a clean copy of this reunion LP, I've decided to do a rip and post about it.

Although it features Brown and Garthwaite, it's far from a Joy of Cooking album which is probably why they renamed themselves The Joy for the occasion. Instead of the other band members, this album has session players and high-profile guests, like Elvin Bishop and Taj Mahal. (Check the high-quality scan of the back cover for the full rundown of who played on this LP.)

Brown and Garthwaite had already done a duo project with their 1973 duo album Cross Country (which has also been reissued on CD). But for that album they played with Nashville session players and turned in a set of all-original songs.

This one has a mix of covers and originals. Here, the duo take on some songs by famous songwriters (Van Morrison's "Come Running") and a few by not-so-famous ones (Judy Mayhan's "Wrap the World"). Some fare better than others and overall the LP isn't as good as any of the Joy of Cooking albums.

They left room for six originals. That might not be as many as on the old Joy of Cooking LPs, but when they're good they're really good. Coming in first is Brown's "You Don't Owe Me Spring," an ethereal jazz-influenced Smokey Robinson-like number that might just be the best thing she ever wrote. And sang. Positively gorgeous.

Coming in a close second is Garthwaite's gospel-influenced "Steal Away," which boasts some great chord changes and a big, anthemic chorus. Joy of Cooking never had much success in the singles department, but with a few tweaks, this might have had hit potential.

Speaking of tweaks, Brown and Garthwaite made a bunch of 'em to their sound. Between the last Joy of Cooking album and this one, both had released solo album that found them moving into different areas like jazz and country. This album brings out the jazz side and has a much glossier sound than their previous earthy group efforts. That's likely due to the precision of the session players.

A remake of "Beginning Tomorrow," which was originally from the third Joy of Cooking album, shows how they tidied up their sound. This adult contemporary take of this pensive ballad was more upbeat and breezy than the original. It was also released as a promotional single, but must not have generated much interest because it doesn't seem to have turned up as a regular old 45.

The single that was actually pulled from this album was Brown's "Morning Man," her ode to an early-hours disc jockey. It was an odd choice for a 45 in 1977, since it's basically a blues song with eccentric lyrics. It also didn't chart.

Besides some live reunion shows, this would be all she wrote for Joy of Cooking. The group put out an after-the-fact odds'n'ends collection titled Back To Your Heart in 2008. If you like this band, it's definitely worth getting.

Related posts:
Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974)
Toni Brown - Toni Brown (1979).

Track list:
1. Come Running
2. You Don't Owe Me Spring
3. On the Natch
4. Feel Like Heaven
5. Till Your Back Ain't Got No Bone
6. Morning Man
7. Snow
8. Beginning Tomorrow
9. Steal Away
10. Wrap the World

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Grateful Dead - Days Between: The Final Album That Never Was (1992-95)


This Tuesday, Aug. 9 marks the twenty-first anniversary of the death of Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist, chief songwriter, and creative force behind the Grateful Dead. For the occasion, I'm posting a genuine rarity.

This is the actual "mock album" that the author of the book "Grateful Dead FAQ" proposed in Chapter 35. The chapter is titled "Days Between: The Final Dead Album That Never Was," so that's what this album is called.

In that book, the author explains how he'd been listening to 1990s-era set lists when it struck him that the band had debuted enough new songs during that time period to fill an album. The last studio album, Built To Last, had come out in 1989, but what if there had been one more? With that in mind, the author came up with the concept of piecing together a new final Dead album using these songs. And it's not bad.

Garcia's creativity was said to have dried up by this point, but the quality of some of these songs shows that claim isn't true. In fact, several of the songs, like "Days Between" and "Lazy River Road" are better than the songs he'd contributed to Built To Last.

The chapter goes into detail about each song and also explains why the Dead didn't have it in them to successfully execute them in the studio. There's no point in me just repeating what's in this chapter, especially when can get the book on sale very cheaply (go here).

"Grateful Dead FAQ," by the way, isn't another "band bio," but a gigantic reference book filled with a lot of new insights and original ideas. It has the only full-length book chapters on lesser-known members Pigpen, Tom Constanten, and Donna Jean Godchaux, and offers the only long-form, comprehensive analysis of the band's recorded oeuvre. The ideas for other Dead rarities on this blog came from this book -- specifically the chapter on why there are two Aoxomoxoas. And the chapter about how a small town reacted when Deadheads "invaded" is a scream.

Other Grateful Dead posts:
The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa (Original Mix, 1969)
The Grateful Dead - Anthem of the Sun (1971 Remix)
The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (2007) 

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. Liberty
2. So Many Roads
3. Corinna
4. Days Between
5. Eternity
6. Childhood's End
7. Easy Answers
8. Wave to the Wind
9. Samba in the Rain
10. If the Shoe Fits
11. Way to Go Home
12. Lazy River Road

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Back Porch Majority - The Willy Nilly Wonder of Illusion (1967)


The Back Porch Majority was a side project of New Christy Minstrels founder Randy Sparks. The group performed in the sort of old-timey Vaudeville-influenced folk music style that was in vogue at the time. A lot of groups did one-off songs with this sound: The Monkees with "Never Tell a Woman Yes," the Lovin' Spoonful with "Lovin' You," and the Mama's and the Papa's with "Words of Love."

But the Back Porch Majority performed in this style all the time. and, frankly, a whole LP of it can be tiresome. The songs on this record are passable for the most part, but they're done in a stilted "professional folk" style that's very much of its era. Some of the more humorous cuts do have an energetic spark, though, like the cleverly titled "Meet Me Down in the Bath House, Honey in Rome on a Saturday Night."

It might sound dated now, but people apparently ate this stuff up back then. According to Wikipedia, the group was asked to perform at the White House. They also released a total of seven albums. This is the fifth. It's long out of print and hasn't come out on CD or been reissued in any other form.

So why am I posting this one? Because it's the only one you can find easily. It was their most popular album, because it's got their lone hit on it, "Second-Hand Man." It wasn't a very big it. In fact, it topped out at #104 on the Bubbling Under chart in 1967. Funny enough, after making its debut March 19, it stayed on that chart for six weeks, which is a long time to not quite hit the Top 100.

The song that closes the album, "Southtown U.S.A." was a hit, but not for this group. The Dixiebelles took it to #15 in March of 1964. It was the follow-up to their Top Ten hit "(Down At) Papa Joe's."

Track list:
1. Camp Street Hooligans
2. Second-Hand Man
3. Meet Me Down in the Bath House, Honey in Rome on a Saturday Night
4. Richard Cory
5. In the Ocean of Time
6. This Little Light of Mine
7. Slippery Sal and Dirty Dan, the Oyster Man
8. Jack the Ripper
9. Goodtime Joe
10. Southtown U.S.A.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Pussycats - Mrrr...Mrrr...Mrrr... (1966)


I first discovered the '60s-era Norwegian band the Pussycats around fifteen years ago when one of their songs, "You May See, - Me," was being circulated on file sharing sites as part of a whole bunch of tunes marked "Garage-Psych-Bubblegum." Does anyone else remember this mega-batch of songs? This was in the early days of MP3s, and people were doing rips of obscure singles.

"You May See, - Me" is a fantastic tune: Moody, melodic, and with great chord changes and an unforgettable piano hook. It's also the best thing on the Pussycats' second and best LP, Mrrr...Mrrr...Mrrr.... There are a handful of other good tunes, though, and it's definitely a worth checking out. What's especially interesting is hearing how a band from far away absorbed the pop sounds coming from American and the UK in the '60s.

A note needs to be made about the punctuation used in the LP and song titles. Maybe it was something to do with the translation between languages, but several of these tunes contain ellipses, and "You May See, - Me" has both a comma and a dash in its title for reasons unknown. Or maybe the band was just really into odd punctuation. But the way you see all of this written is the way it appeared on the record label and jacket.

This is the 1995 reissue edition of this rare LP. The first dozen tracks made up the album. Tracks 13-18 are from demos recorded the year before, while 19-11 are from 45 releases. The last tune is from (presumably) a 45 or flexidisc given away with an issue of a music mag, Pop Revyen, which probably was published in Norway.

Track list:
1. Why Have We To Wait
2. Song
3. Take A Plane
4. They Say...
5. Regrets...
6. I'm Going Home
7. You May See, - Me
8. The Craftsman
9. Can't You Hear...
10. True True Lovin'
11. Love Her
12. Travellin'
13. Cottonfields
14. Around And Around
15. The Last Time
16. Say You're Mine
17. Long Tall Sally
18. Please Don't Feel Too Bad
19. A Night Of Life
20. Rain
21. Vanja Maria
22. Death Is Coming
23. Smile At Me

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955; 1998 UK Remaster)


This is a blog that specialized in obscure, out-of-print music, so it's a bit out of character to post one of the most famous and important albums of all time. Except that this version -- the 1998 UK remaster -- is hard to come by.

How hard to come by? $1000 worth of hard to come by. It was part of the 1998 British box set The Capitol Masters that's now out of print and goes for more than a grand on the used market.

But this is the CD remaster to get because it's the only one that accurately captures the sound of the original pressing, which was "dry" with no reverb added. Both the 1991 and 1998 American remasters, those have after-the-fact digital reverb applied to the mix. And while, yes, you can always track down the original vinyl, good luck trying to find a mint copy.

People who aren't particular about sound might not find the differences between these CDs such a big deal. But for those who care, you can tell the difference easily when you listen on headphones. The album was recorded in mono, so the music should seem as if it's coming from above your head when you're wearing headphones. And on this British edition it does.

But on the American editions, you hear a bit of a stereo "spread" in each channel because of the reverb. The reverb effect itself is in stereo, so it widens the aural impression of the music. This was probably done to make the CD seem more lively (like what they did with those early Beatles albums), but in this case it also blurs the sonics.

Plus, besides that, if producer Voyle Gilmore had wanted an echo-y sound on this album, he'd have used those famous reverb rooms in the Capitol Tower where this was recorded. As it stands, he didn't.

Judging from the comments and emails I get, the readers of this blog are a very musically literature bunch. So I won't patronize you all but going on about why this is one of the most important albums of all time and why any serious pop music fan should hear it. It's Sinatra with Nelson Riddle doing exquisite renditions of sixteen first-rate ballads. It doesn't get much better than this.

Track list:
1. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
2. Mood Indigo
3. Glad To Be Unhappy
4. I Get Along Without You Very Well
5. Deep In A Dream
6. I See Your Face Before Me
7. Can't We Be Friends
8. When Your Lover Has Gone
9. What Is This Thing Called Love
10. Last Night When We Were Young
11. I'll Be Around
12. Ill Wind
13. It Never Entered My Mind
14. Dancing On the Ceiling
15. I'll Never Be the Same
16. This Love Of Mine

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Official 20th Anniversary Monkees Convention Booklet (1986)


What were you doing thirty years ago today? I was in Philadelphia, PA at the Official 20th Anniversary Monkees Convention, which rocked the house at the Sheraton Society-Hill Hotel Friday-Sunday, Aug. 1-3.

This is the booklet that was given out to all the attendees. It's been hidden away in my old copy of Headquarters all these years, so I thought I'd share it. The booklet is interesting for several reasons. First, the essays are pretty defensive about the Monkees being artistically valid. No one talks that way anymore, but back then this was still a thing.

But secondly, it contains a complete schedule of events, which is good because I frankly don't remember much of what went on. You can find out what went on by reading it. Here are some things I do remember:

  • The convention was a much bigger deal than expected. Six months before, MTV ran a marathon of "The Monkees" TV show and then started airing the show twice a day, creating a new generation of younger Monkees fans. As such the band and the convention had a whole new audience. I remember the teenage girls who showed up being particularly enthusiastic when...
  • Peter Tork spoke. According to the schedule, he spoke on Saturday at 11 a.m. But the booklet also says Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones held talks. I have one small recollection of Micky and no remembrance of Davy. How could I have forgotten that?
  •  Someone played the then-unreleased mystery song "All of Your Toys." Before they played it, they repeatedly told everyone to "turn off any recording devices." I remember wondering who would bootleg an old song by recording it in an echo-laden auditorium filled with noisy people? But I guess stranger things have happened. Anyway, I thought the song as being underwhelming.
  • There was a screening of the Monkees' 1968 film "Head." I think the showing was at midnight. Whatever the case, they also showed the original trailer, which was a big deal at the time. 
  • Photographer Henry Diltz showed up. This is the only memory I have of Micky speaking: He spotted Diltz in the audience and called out his name. I wanted to speak to Diltz about some of his photos of the Lovin' Spoonful and such, but he seemed very busy and only stayed for a short while.
  • There was a record show at the hotel. I picked up an original, mint copy of Genesis' Trespass with the gatefold cover, which I foolishly sold a few years later during the Bush I recession when I needed money. I also bought some rare Monkees records, but the only specific record I remember buying was the Genesis one.
  • A Monkees cover band played. According to the booklet, they were called the Characters. Do I remember any songs they played? Nope. But I recall when the lead singer/guitarist started to play the riff to "Oh My My" then stopped saying "I'd love to play it but that's all I know of it!" Pretty amusing.
  • Some of the biggest attractions were the videocassettes of old Monkees shows and TV appearances that people were playing on VCRs. Crowds gathered around tables to watch a young Davy Jones perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Very few people had this stuff back then. I remember thinking if only there was a way to cue them up whenever you wanted, wouldn't that be neat? Of course, you can do that now. Isn't the future cool?
  • Looking through the booklet now, I realized I got a girl's phone number. She wrote it down in the "autographs" section. I didn't include that in the scan. I'm pretty sure I also never called her. Wonder what would happen if I dialed the number now, thirty years later? Sounds like the plot to Neil Simon play.
  • The entire convention culminated in a live show by the Monkees. I was a bit disappointed that it was pretty much the same show I'd seen in Baltimore a week earlier. Who knew that little ad libs and such were pre-written? Not me. There was also a huge traffic backup in the parking lot when we were leaving and my Dodge Charger oveheated, as it tended to do.
  • The people who put the convention together came out with a book a few years later co-written with Monkees stand-in and songwriter Bill Chadwick ("Zor and Zam," "French Song"). It's called "The Monkees: A Manufactured Image" and is definitely worth picking up, since it has a treasure trove of collector's info unavailable anywhere else.

Well, I guess I can sign off now that I've just about gone over every irrelevant detail of my time at the 1986 Monkees convention. Rather than make me think about the Monkees, this post made me ponder the nature of memory itself. Why do we remember some things and not others? Why do we recall seemingly insignificant details, but not so-called important things. I probably learned about this in college psychology class...but probably forgot it all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Various Artists - Pebbles Volume 4: Summer Means Fun! (Original Vinyl Version, 1979)


This past July was Surf Music month on this blog. And with yesterday's post, I officially ended it. Well, looks like that was a bit premature. With this post, I'm reviving it for one more day. And there's a good reason for that.

It's because I learned that the original, out-of-print vinyl edition of Pebbles, Volume 4: Summer Means Fun! is not in circulation anywhere in its original form. So I'm seeking to rectify that. The LP is an essential listening experience for any serious fan of surf music -- or for '60s pop in general, for that matter. Back in its day, this album was the first collection to widely disseminate a lot of now-classic obscure surf records. Sure, we all know names like the Super Stocks and Sharon Marie now, but in the pre-Internet days, non-LP rarities like this were very hard to come by. And that went double for anyone who lived on the East Coast.

Pebbles, Volume 4: Summer Means Fun! is such an important release that I assume it had to be out there, which is why I didn't post it earlier. To my dismay, I found it is out there, but what's circulating is a very substandard facsimile of the original vinyl. The "fake Pebbles" (as well call it from here on it) uses MP3s from a variety of CD sources. This is not good. Not only does this ruin the integrity of the original sound, but some of the remastered MP3s are the wrong ones entirely.

The original edition of this LP had the mono single version of the Super Stocks' "Hot Rod High." The fake Pebbles has a stereo mix with an edit that omits the first part of the guitar solo. The original edition had Fantastic Baggys' "Anywhere the Girls Are" in its mono 45 mix. The fake one has the stereo mix done for a '90s reissue. The original edition had the 60-second version of Jan & Dean's "Coke Commercial;" the fake has a longer, different version.

There's more. The original album had the Survivors' "Pamela Jean" as it appeared on the 45, with the first second of the intro lopped off. The fake one "corrects" that. And, finally, the original LP had an unreleased track by Welsh rocker Dave Edmunds; the fake replaces it with one from the Honeys. And beyond all that, the overall sound of the other tracks is different.

Because of all this, I felt the need to present the original Pebbles, Volume 4 as it was heard in its day. Not only is this an accurate representation of the original LP, but it's got detailed info on the songs in the tags, plus a nice large scan of the back cover. The back cover is important because it features detailed (and humorous) liner notes written by the late rock critic Nigel Strange, who put this classic album together.

Besides being an influential release, this album was personally important to me in my youth. I still remember the hot Saturday in June of 1987 that I chanced upon a used copy of it in a now-defunct Baltimore record store called Record Collections. I was already a surf music fan, but this album inspired me to dig deeper into the genre. And beyond that, it set the mood for what would be one of the great summers of my life.

Needless to say, this record was continuously on my turntable after I discovered it. It was also my preferred cruising music. I still have the ragged cassette dub that I used to play in my old Dodge Charger. Here's hoping it'll also serve you all just as well when the weather's warm, the surf's up, and the girls are on the beach.

Track list:
1. Bruce & Terry - Summer Means Fun   
2. The Fantastic Baggys - Anywhere The Girls Are   
3. The Four Speeds - R.P.M.   
4. Jan & Dean - (bonus track)   
5. The California Suns - Masked Grandma   
6. The Dantes - Top Down Time   
7. The Pyramids - Custom Caravan   
8. The Rivieras - California Sun '65   
9. The Trashmen - New Generation   
10. The Survivors - Pamela Jean   
11. Gary Usher - Sacramento   
12. Sharon Marie - Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby   
13. The Knights - Hot Rod High   
14. The Wheel Men - School Is A/Gas   
15. Lloyd Thaxton - Image Of A Surfer   
16. The City Surfers - Beach Ball   
17. Dave Edmunds - London's A Lonely Town   
18. The Ragamuffins - The Fun We Had