The Big 5-0

Monday, November 20, 2006

:: George Shearing Quintet - September Song ::

:: Louis Prima - The Lip ::

George Shearing's 2nd release of 1956 ultimately gave me an interesting way to celebrate my 50th birthday.

I acquired this record sometime within the last year, and when I listened to it, I recognized it as one of many sounds I spent my early years with. Shearing's distinctive "piano and vibes played in unison " vibe is as comforting as bacon and eggs on Sunday morning, and 100,000 times more classy, and healthy!

This album (like myself) came out about a year or so before *stereo* became a (household) word, and nobody complained. This particular copy of this record sounds fucking great. "They don't make 'em like that anymore, kids." The delicious sounds flow flawlessly and easily forth from the Big Speaker Cabinet, and, with a sip of martini, the unsubspecting victim is henceforth zapped into a state of deliciously meditative euphoria.

But be warned: Unless you happen to be lounging on a bearskin rug in front of a warm fire with that Special Someone , you could easily overdose on this shit, so be careful. It does make for great "quiet party" background music, however. Creates a mooooooooooood.

On the other hand, a blind selection from the "black hole of records I haven't listened to yet" pile, produces another slab from the same period. Same label, same gorgeous mono, same kind of wonderfully preserved thing from the distant past like a gift from the God of all that is vinyl, and it is good. Different vibe, same reminder of where I came from.


Scout Niblett

Friday, November 17, 2006

:: Scout Niblett - Miss My Lion ::

This Songs-Ohia / Scout Niblett split 7-inch was my introduction to both artists, and upon hearing it, I instantly fell for both of them. Each provides a song of love and misery from the perspective of a male or female lion. Though these songs have appeared on other releases of each artist, the best versions are arguably found on this little piece of out-of-print vinyl. Songs-Ohia’s Jason Molina shares a duet with Jim and Jennie & the Pine Tops’ Jennie Benford on “Lioness,” an achingly gorgeous song about a lion who’d rather have his heart savagely ripped out and eaten by his lover than exist alone and without her. Oh, how I’d love for you to hear this haunting recording for yourselves and watch as little goose-pimples pop up on your skin, but unfortunately there are moments in the song that are too hot for my $600 software recording-thingy to handle and it’s coming out all distorted. Fuck.

The flip, Scout Niblett’s “Miss My Lion,” is the demo version of a song that was later to appear on her debut LP, Sweet Heart Fever. Whereas the version on the LP is still very affecting, this version is flat-out ferocious. She’s absorbed the whole quiet/loud/quiet songbook protocol and added in a few roars and fang flashes, producing a hot slice of chick angst. I think I’ll record my own version, called “Miss My Penguin,” an ode to a 3-foot ceramic penguin that I prominently displayed in my living room before a crazy ex-girlfriend decided to “accidentally” smash it to pieces. Who wants to be on my record’s flipside with “The Penguiness?”


Spank The Nun

Thursday, November 16, 2006

:: Primeval Unknown - The Word ::

:: Krewmen - The Hell Train ::

:: Half Life - Crawling ::

:: Popealopes - Violet ::

Some albums hold indelible memories. This is one of those albums for me, and I didn't even own a real copy of it until about a year ago. I used to play softball when I lived in the East Bay, and after most games we'd go collect the free pizza we always got a coupon for from Round Table whilst making short work of several pitchers of beer. That's the whole point of adult slow pitch softball leagues, if you didn't know. Sometimes after these beer and pizza orgies, my teammate Paul and I would hit a record store, drunk. One time we both decided to pick up something random and weird. He picked up this little beauty, and I...well, I picked up The Cavedogs' "Joy-Rides For Shut-Ins." Heck, it seemed like it would be punk, but it turned out to be absolutely great power pop. I made Paul make me a cassette dub of this, which I probably still have somewhere -- it's on one of those real heavy Maxell tapes that was sort of a soft plastic with a buffed texture to it. Like I said, indelible.

So this is a bargain-priced label sampler for Skyclad, and I am pretty darn sure that other than Jigsaw Seen and Only Ones, I've never heard any other songs by any of these bands. A common thread that runs through most of the tracks is a certain griminess, almost like a musical sleaziness. There are a few exceptions, which is one reason I've included the Popealopes song, a sort of shoegazey, Creation Recordsish track in which you can hear the death rattles of 80's drum production. The Krewmen song is one of my favorite songs ever, and I have very little tolerance for modern rockabilly. Skyclad is long gone, and I've (maybe foolishly) never sought out any of the albums these songs are culled from, but this comp is a great slice of late 80's/early 90's independent rock. Too bad they ruined the coulda-been-hot cover art by making the nun look like Tim Curry after a lobotomy.


Less Baxter

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

:: My Fisherman, My Laddie O ::

:: The Green Mountain Boys ::

:: Sinner Man ::

Les Baxter was known as the father of Exotica. He was an innovative arranger who combined various elements of world music with conventional instrumental pop. His records from the 50s set the mood for countless bachelor pad parties, and he helped launch the careers of Yma Sumac, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman.

So what's up with this? The more sceptical among us might assume Baxter was merely cashing in on the folk revival of the early 60s, and they might be right. According to the liner notes, this is the album Les Baxter always wanted to make, and in a way that makes sense. Instead of presenting folk music from such far-flung cultures as Zimbabwe (African Jazz), or Polynesia (Quiet Village), we're treated this time to... Iowa or somesuch place. How exotic is that?

Actually I have to wonder just how much involvement Les Baxter had in the making of this record. If he did have a hand in the instrumental and vocal arrangements, you have to hand it to him for not adding strings and horns and kettle drums to the mix. What you get is a cross between The New Main Street Singers, and The Folksmen (for you Christopher Guest fans) and I mean that in a good way.

Taking a page from the Albert Grossman book of "How To Assemble A Hit Folk Group", Baxter somehow got these nine musicians together to record as Les Baxter's Balladeers. The group was comprised of many West Coast folk luminaries including:

Terrea Lea (featured on "My Fisherman"), co-owner of a West Hollywood coffee house called The Garret where she performed throughout the 60s.

Phil Campos (featured on "Sinner Man"), who went on to form the sunshine pop group The Forum.

Ernie Sheldon (featured on his own composition, "Green Mountain Boys") was a member of the Limelighters and was a songwriter of note.

Paul Potash went on to membership in the New Christy Minstrels.

Paul Hansen, who remembered playing with the Balladeers in "up-scale clubs in Las Vegas", and hated it so much, he never wanted to see Vegas again.

Last but most certainly not least, Jerry Yester was a member of the Modern Folk Quartet, produced The Association, Tim Buckley and Tom Waits, was a later day member of The Lovin' Spoonful and was married to wild woman/folkie babe Judy Henske with whom he recorded one of the strangest psych/folk albums of all time, "Farewell Aldebaran". Not bad.


Discpan Hands: You're Soaking In It

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

:: She Males - Love Crawl ::

:: Pagan Babies - Dirty Knees/F.Y.I.P. ::

:: The Balls - Niner Thousand ::

:: Tons of Nuns - What's It Gonna Be ::

Discpan Hands was an LP compilation of Philadelphia area bands put out by Rave Records back in 1987 in a pressing of 1000. Tony and I saw a used copy of it a few months ago in a record store in Tucson, AZ, and I highly recommended it to him, but he elected to get a Minnesota-region compilation instead. Something to do with it having some rarity by a band called “The Replacements.” Some people, go figure.

The tracks on this record were provided by a good chunk of Philly’s hardcore scene at the time, though I guess a few of the tracks could be classified as pop – the one by The Balls kicks my ass every time. Two Pagan Babies songs appear here that would show up as different versions on their debut LP, Next, the following year. Look for Pagan Babies’ output to be released on cd at some point in the near future.


Not Hawking Shoes

Monday, November 13, 2006

:: Tusen Och En Natt ::

A while back, I put up a flexi by Gunnar Wiklund where he sang in German about how you should buy certain ladies' shoes. I think I misidentified him as being Norwegian, so along with corrections about that, I received some comments that I really should hear his other stuff. So I've kept an eye out for his stuff, and just recently came across this -- a 1966 single in his native Swedish. I've been listening to a lot of Bob Hund and Totalt Jävla Mörker, bands that sing in the same native tongue and who I am sure were heavily influenced by Gunnar, so this is a natural choice for me right now.

I was going to put up the whole 45, but frankly this record isn't in nearly as good a shape as the cover is. So you get the one track that played relatively nicely, a slightly overmoody reading of "Strangers In The Night." He's smoother than a lutefisk milkshake, and when you are that smooth, you get your own plane. Check it.


Music For One Occassion

Friday, November 10, 2006

:: Beer Drinkin' Music ::

Yes, I post a lot of old country music. Sue me. Hey, did anyone watch the country music awards show the other night? Me either. I can't stand the shit that passes for country these days. Happy music for happy people in cowboy hats driving their kids to soccer games in SUVs. Fuck that shit. Of course I didn't like country music back when most of the records I now dig were released either, so maybe 30 years from now... I'll be dead!

One thing I like about the old stuff is that there's usually an element of sadness running through it that I can relate to, even if I've never driven a truck for a living. On any given Friday like today, I can certainly relate to Ray Sanders' request for a little Beer Drinkin' Music. Right the fuck on. Care to join me?


Turn The Other Sheik

Thursday, November 09, 2006

:: 4/4 Medley With Drums ::

:: Slow Chifti - Floor & Veil Work ::

:: Floor Work (no Tempo) / Slow To Fast Balady, 4/4 Finale ::

In the fifties and sixties, the exotic culture of the Mid-East was considered stylish and hip in the U.S. and A. Arab-themed nightclubs and restaurants were popular in major cities, and its cuisine, music and dance were embraced by the American public. Once transplanted to American soil, the music styles of the various Middle-Eastern countries were blended together into a unique Arab-American style of music that became known as “belly dance music.”

Eddie Kochak, a Brooklyn-born musician of Middle Eastern descent, was one of the more prominent figures in this music scene. He started out by studying percussion for eight years under big band drummer, Henry Adler. He followed that up by serving in the Army during World War II and playing for troops while touring with the USO. Once back in the States, he played the nightclub circuit, eventually teaming up with Hakki Obadia, a composer and violinist from Baghdad. Together, they recorded numerous LPs, transforming traditional Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies into an “Amer-Abic” sound that was more accessible to the American mainstream. Obadia is credited as violinist, conductor and arranger on this Strictly Belly Dancing, Vol. 3 album.

Each side of this 1976 LP contains a full belly dance routine. I’ve broken it up and posted a few selections from the first side. Compact disc copies of all six of Kochak’s “Strictly Belly Dancing” series have become recently available for purchase directly from Kochak himself on his website, where you can also obtain your very own pair of finger cymbals.


Burning Ear Hairs

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

:: Burning Circuits ::

Wow. Talk about something ending up being a lot less cool than its cover art. When I was a kid, I always remember seeing pulp novels like John Carter of Mars or Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, and inevitably any time I'd pick one up, the dramatic and vivid artwork on the outside would kick the ass of the story contained within. This is much like this, except it's not even as cool as that.

Michael Urbaniak did some jazz, jazz fusion, and as he was "always looking to the future" as the liner notes here say, was very interested in making electronic music. He was an excellent violinist, as well. Why then would he make rigidly funky electronic music that sounds like Herbie Hancock's "Rock-It" sodomizing "She Blinded Me With Science" on Falco's Persian rug? I have no idea, but if there was ever breakdancing music for nerds, this would be it. I've spared you the long version, which is over six minutes long. I know by typing that last sentence that in approximately 6-10 months, someone will stumble across this post and request not only that I put the short version back up, but that I also post the long version. Does. Not. Compute.


I'm A Patriot, Yes I Am

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

:: Uncle Sam (I'm A Patriot) ::

Harlan Howard was not necessarily known as a singer or performer, but during the 60s, he was considered one of Country's finest song writers. His contributions are far too numerous and significant to get into here, but let's just say that even if you don't much care for Country music, you probably like a few Harlan Howard songs without even knowing who wrote them.

Howard recorded his own songs throughout his career, but never strove for stardom, leaving that to his wife Jan, who did have a successful singing career. Harlan had a hit in the early 70s with "Sunday Morning Christian", which pointed out the hypocrisy of people who do unkind things to their fellow man during the week, then sing "louder than the rest" in church on Sunday.

On "Uncle Sam (I'm A Patriot)" Harlan came out swingin' for the working men and women of the U.S. and A. who, although they complained about where their taxes went, were ready and willing to do whatever their country asked of them. Has that mentality survived in the ensuing 35 years despite the fact that the factories have closed and the jobs shipped overseas, leaving working folks with fewer options than ever? Probably. Red state, blue state. Whatever. Have you voted today?


Memories Of Torrance

Monday, November 06, 2006

:: Kids Of Torrance High - I'll Never Fall in Love Again ::

Way back in 1970, while I was still sloshing around in my father’s nutsack, the students of Torrance High were kind enough to record their Spring “Pops” concert and encase it inside this pretty puke-colored album cover. I’d actually picked this up with the intention of handing it over to everyone’s favorite Torrance resident, Record Robot Mike, during one of our Torrance backyard barbeque summer get-togethers, but as usual - I forgot. This weekend, in flipping through the ever-increasing stack of stuff I haven’t listened to yet, I came across it and popped it on the turntable. Tucked between mind-numbing selections from Music Man and My Fair Lady by the Torrance High School Orchestra was this vocal trio doing a nice little rendition of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” I’d heard The Carpenters version of this song many times before, and just assumed it was one of their original songs. But five minutes ago, I looked it up to find that it’s a Burt Bacharach tune, and both Bobbie Gentry and Dionne Warwick had hits with it. Oh, there’s so many new things to learn when investigating the wonderful world of music, folks.

Last week a few readers requested one more song from The New World of Leonard Nimoy. Here ya go: Time to Get it Together


Yes, Yes, Oui Oui

Friday, November 03, 2006

:: Maid In Paris, Le Zip File ::

Ooh, this is the sort of article where I get to use the word "chanteuse." Actually, this is going to be very brief, but long on music. So you sickos who just read the posts and don't listen to the tunes won't have much to chew on here. So yeah, Francoise was a very cute French chick who sang sort of normal pop fare, and she still performs to this day. This album, which I can't find a date for, but must be from the end of the sixties or the beginning of the seventies, contains one side of songs in English, and one in French. I can't decide what's foxier, her little accent when she sings the songs in English or her custard-smooth coo in her native language. Some of these songs have appeared on CD compilations, some evidently have not. It's an interesting mix of stuff, and the very last track even has some psych-fuzz guitars. Bon appetit.

P.S. If you dig this sort of thing, you should regularly check out Blow Up Doll, a fine place indeed.


A Lot More Insanity

Thursday, November 02, 2006

:: Section 8 - The Age of Rock ::

It's hard enough for most working musicians to make any kind of real money without crummy radio stations waving a carrot in front of them called "Rock to Riches". Another one of those battle of the bands type things where local bands (Los Angeles in this case) eventually compete on a national level for a grand prize of $25,000.00 in "sound equipment" (1980 dollars) and a contract with Atlantic Records. I don't know who won this competition, but I can only hope it was the All Sports Band.

More than likely it wasn't Section 8. They weren't bad, but they were no Loverboy either. No doubt named after the much loved low income housing subsidy (or the military discharge that Klinger was always trying to get; I know because I had a band where this was one of my friend's ideas for our name - Ed.), they came off like a novelty act more than anything else. Although goofy, "The Age of Rock" sports some fine musicianship and by the time they start telling you about "today's music", well, hilarity ensues?

The music on this album was judged and produced by KLOS' "Uncle" Joe Benson, who's still spinning Bob Seger and 38 Special records on the venerable classic rock warhorse to this day.


What's So Funny?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

:: Peace Message ::

A while ago, I did a piece about Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, who was like this old dude, who befriended John & Yoko back when they were doing bed-ins for peace. For some reason I remembered this bootleg record which belonged to my wife before I confiscated all her records some 30 years ago. Most of the LP is the typical Let It Be outtakes, only these came out before the official release. Of course there are ridiculous amounts of hours of these sessions currently available, and much of it is uninspired. I'm ignoring all that though and focusing instead on this narrative thing staring a very talkative John Lennon & the irrepressible Yoko Ono. When I listened to it recently, it struck me as being an earnest, alternate point of view about a situation that is eerily similar to the kind of situation we find ourselves in today. They're naive, yes, but charmingly so. So sure of themselves, even if they're not sure what they're sure about. Lennon, viewed as a Messiah by a large number of people, using his pulpit to full advantage, with this strange, strong woman always at his side. Go John & Yoko, go!

Here are some snippets from the track that I think would make for some dandy song titles:

That's Your Flag
Get Your Sheets Out
Don't Believe That Jazz
Make Your Parents Hip To That
Hype From The Old Days
A Very Big Child
That's About It, Init?