Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#482 – Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes

you shoudl hear the stuff we cut...
My Portuguese is not very good; in fact it’s practically nonexistent outside of a few words picked up from Sepultura and Soulfly albums. However it’s fairly easy to translate the name of the band, and subsequently the album, into English as Is Mutants. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I put this disc in. The majority of the World Music albums I’ve listened to for the blog have been interesting while a few others have made me question their inclusion. I’ve done three World Music Weeks for the blog but none of the others has had an album as different as this one. After listening to this I’m still not sure what category it fits into as this is one of the strangest albums I’ve ever heard. And I own, and like, Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music.” I guess it’s fitting that I didn’t review this as part of a theme week then since it clearly stands on its own. The band decided that combining 60’s psychedelic influences (The Beatles, The Mamas and The Papas most notably) with traditional Brazilian music and a healthy dash of weird was the way to go. As the book so helpfully notes there’s a literal coffee break in the album’s opening track. Yes, the band drinks coffee, complete with clinking spoons, while the song stops and then starts up again. “Senhor F” has a strong Beatles influence even if I can’t decide which song it sounds like. It’s clearly in the vocals. “Bat Macumba” is called “the samba “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the book. “Baby,” the only song with a lyric in English and that’s just the word baby, is called “an erotic “Eleanor Rigby.” “Trem Fantasma,” goes for about 90 seconds of vocal harmony and a driving beat before it turns on the weird, I gave it a second listen but I think my computer had had enough and refused to play the song all the way through again, or maybe I’d accidently unplugged my headphones. “Tempo No Tempo (Once I Had A Thought)” (although the second part of the title is not on the album but shows up in the credits of the media player) sounds like a dream. “Ave Genghis Khan” starts out traditionally enough before the drugs kick in and it goes all over the place from there including some operatic vocals over psychedelic swirls and some Vince Guardaldi-esque piano before returning to the song structure and then it just stops. Even on the second listen I wasn’t sure if the album had ended or this mirrored the break in the opening track. I had to search for this one for a long time. I wasn’t sure I would find a copy but Princeton Record Exchange came through with a new one for $14.99. I’d seen other albums by the group (they reformed in 2006 and began touring recording again after a long hiatus) but until that rip had been unable to find this one. After listening to this a couple of times I’m still not sure what to make of this album. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

#483 – Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking

mom, dad, I'm bringing the band over...
I’ve encountered many coincidences while working on this blog. Usually it involves reading a review for an album I haven't been able to find and then finding that album. The latest involves Sandy Denny who was vocalist for Fairport Convention. For some reason I came across her name in a Wikipedia article mentioning she is the only guest vocalist to appear on a Led Zeppelin album (on “The Battle Of Evermore" if you didn’t know) which I mentioned in the last Fairport Convention review. For some reason I clicked the link and read about Denny’s untimely death, the details of which I did not know previously (she had suffered a head injury after a fall). The next album I reviewed was “Scott 4” by Scott Walker whose review in the book is preceded by the one for “Liege And Leif” by Fairport Convention. So when I went over to the rack I was surprised to find “Unhalfbricking” as the next title up for review. Presumably I bought it on the same trip to Princeton Record Exchange as “Scott 4” but this one was $7.99. This is apparently the UK “bonus tracks” version which probably accounts for its $20.99 list price. I went back and reread my review of “Liege And Leaf” and I’m pretty sure I liked but was not blown away by it. By the midway point of “A Sailor’s Life” I knew I liked this album more. Richard Thompson’s solo turns into a duel with fiddler Dave Swarbrick, who at the time was a studio musician but would later become a full time member of the group. The book’s review says: “His jaw dropping epic was recorded in a single take, and saw folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick duel at length with Thompson’s guitar.” They also cover Bob Dylan’s “Percy’s Song,” “Million Dollar Bash,” and translate his “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” into French as “Si Tu Dois Partir.” “Percy’s Song,” shines with the folk-rock treatment although granted I don’t know the original version. However, “Million Dollar Bash,” in my opinion, doesn’t fare nearly as well. They also recorded a version of “Dear Landlord” which wasn’t on the original album but is included on this version as a bonus track along with an outtake from the “Liege and Leaf” sessions, a version of Roger nee Jim McGuinn’s Byrds’ tune “The Ballad Of Easy Rider.” “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?” later covered by Judy Collins, is the most notable track here but until I heard it I had Enya’s “Only Time” playing in my head. They are not, in any way, the same song. So if I had to pick between the two Fairpoint Convention album’s in the book I think this is the clear choice. After hearing this one it’s probably no coincidence that I want to go to a nice pub with a folk band in the corner, a warm fire in the fireplace, and a pint in my hand.       

Monday, November 9, 2015

#484 - Scott Walker – Scott 4

great Scott
In case this is the first review you've read, I’ve been buying and reviewing albums for this blog for several years. Currently I have about 200 CDs in the blograck right now awaiting review. In addition to that there are 100 or so left from my original collection that I owned prior to starting this blog. Then there are somewhere around 200 albums left to buy/borrow/burglarize to get to 1,001. As for the remaining CDs they generally fall into three loose categories, 1) albums I’ve seen or are readily available but I don’t feel like buying yet (The Smiths, Echo and The Bunneymen), 2) albums I can’t find but am pretty sure exist on CD (The Jam, Neu) , and 3) stuff I think might be out of print or not exist on CD (Loretta Lynn, Dagmar Krause). I was beginning to think this was in category three until I stumbled upon it in the restock bin at Princeton Record Exchange. It was $9.99, which is a little pricier than many of the albums I’ve bought recently, but I knew this one had been almost impossible to find previously so I was happy to pay for it. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’ve read varying opinions about Walker’s music as well as his output in The Walker Brothers. Most recently he released an album with drone metal legends Sunn o))). Coincidently I ordered a copy of that album last week. I also have “Scott 2,” the other album featured on the book’s list, awaiting me in the blogpile. If I keep churning out reviews at the current rate I should get to it sometime around the New Year. So I popped this one in and was greeted by his rich baritone. I immediately thought of Tom Jones but Jones, to my knowledge, has never dedicated a song to the Neo-Stalinist Regime like Walker did. As the book says “The Old Man’s Back Again” sees Walker, an avowed Socialist, warning of the spectre of Stalinism in the Eastern bloc, following Russia’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia – over a funky bassline.” “Hero Of The War” tells the tale of a wounded war veteran returning home to his mother’s care (“It’s too bad he can’t shake hands or move his feet”). It’s one of the more compelling tracks here and its themes still resonates today. There are also ballads where his vocals shine like “On Your Own Again,” “The World’s Strongest Man,” and “Duchess.”  I found all three of these tracks the best listens here and gave them another spin. The orchestral flairs of the album and what the book aptly describes as “lush textures” come through nicely on headphones. For some reason this album, orignally credited to Walker's birth name, was deleted within weeks of its initial release. That might help account for why it was so hard find as it wasn’t issued on CD until 1992 and then again in 2000 on HDCD, which is the version I own. I’m looking forward to what “Scott 2” has to offer.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#485 – Tina Turner – Private Dancer

I think someone may have traded in their collection of 80’s hits at Princeton Record Exchange. I’m pretty sure I bought this on the same trip as Tears For Fears’ “Songs From The Big Chair.” I should’ve kept shopping as maybe I’d have found a-Ha’s “Hunting High And Low” too. This one cost me $2.99 and I think I checked the index to make sure it was on the list. For some reason I think there’s an Ike & Tina Turner album in the book too but I might be confusing it with theRolling Stone list. First off when I got to the title track, which was a huge hit in the 80’s, but I didn’t remember it being such a slow song. Or having a sax solo for that matter but I guess I just remember the chorus, “I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money…” which I’m sure 9 year old me didn’t quite understand when this song came out. Also unbeknownst to me was the fact it was written by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler which just seems really odd. For legal reasons Knopfler (or Dire Straits I presume) couldn’t appear on the track so to make it even odder Jeff Beck plays guitar on the track. I’m sure those facts will come in handy for musical six degrees of separation some day. The other monster hits from this album “Better Be Good To Me” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It” are more upbeat, if only in tempo, but still sound like I remember them. I doubt I grasped at the time of this album’s release what a huge hit this was or what a departure it was from Tina’s successes with ex-husband Ike. She also does a few covers, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” The Beatles’ “Help,” and David Bowie’s “1984.” All of which can both be filed in the cover versions I didn’t know existed until now. The last one I don’t think I’ve ever heard previously but perhaps I have at some point (my Bowie listening is admittedly sparse). I’m also not sure “Help” needed the full blown sax solo power ballad treatment either. Her version of “Let’s Stay Together” was apparently a single too but I don’t remember ever hearing it prior until now. “Steel Claw” combines so many of Turner’s trademarks, shrieking vocals, up-tempo danceable beats, and propulsive rhythms a la “Proud Mary” with so many 80’s production methods like a beat from Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and 80’s big drum sound to make the song almost a cliché. The book makes note of the production techniques used, which in my mind plant this album firmly in the 80’s. The book’s review says: “Slamming drum-machine beats were still new in 1984 and we barely noticed the straitjacket they put on the beat; today we do.” I’m not sure a live drummer would’ve made the difference but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt. The album is rounded out with seven additional tracks, three of which are extended versions of the two megahit singles. I was about halfway through the second bonus track when it caused my computer to crash. I figured that was the computer’s way of telling me that was enough Tina for today. 
I don't know how this got here...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

#486 – Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

I put it on a chair, get it?
If I was making a list of “guilty pleasure” songs I think Tears For Fears’ “Shout” might just make the cut (In case you were wondering Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby,” Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” are all already on my list). It’s just such a classic 80’s song; you’ve got the big drum sound, the unmistakable triangle opening, synthesizers, and a chorus that begs you to sing along. The book notes that “Most groups would not have had the nerve to open an album on such a bombastically epic and awesome track as “Shout,” with its chiming guitar solos and immense drum production. But there arrogance was justified given that they had penned such an unbeatable clutch of songs.” Well, yes it is an epic track but I think it's debatable that the album as a whole is "an unbeatable clutch of songs." Outside of the opener and megahit “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” you have a mixed assortment of tunes. “The Working Hour” opens with an instrumental two minutes that made me think I was watching an 80’s cop drama. “Mothers Talk,” which was also a single, brings back the big drums of the opener and plenty of synths too. However it's far from unbeatable. When I first put this in I took a break after that song but when I started up again before I jumped into the rest of the album I couldn’t resist the urge to listen to “Shout” again. “I Believe” is the album’s ballad and the vocals made me think of George Michael. It could play in the break-up scene of an 80’s romantic comedy. The piano riff in “Broken” sounded familiar but I didn’t recognize the song. The song leads into “Head Over Heels/Broken (Live)” which was also a single from this album and I instantly remembered it, except for the bit of “Broken” at the end. It was apparently the version released on a concert video too or at least they pump in some crowd noise at the end of the track. Album closer “Listen” cements the album in the 80’s with its icy synths, robot blips, earnest vocals, and overuse, in my opinion, of wind chimes. The fact that the track stretches for almost seven minutes doesn’t do it any favors. I bought the 1999 remaster when I saw it at Princeton Record Exchange. I knew it was in the book and was happy to have found it. It cost me $3.99 and includes seven bonus tracks.  The expanded liner notes mentions that some critics think, despite most of the tracks stretching over six minutes, “that a mere eight tracks didn’t really feel like an album, regardless of the songs’ individual running times.” They attempt to rectify it by tacking the US remixes of “Mothers Talk” and “Shout” as well as a “revisited” version of “Broken” since the other two versions weren’t enough. There’s also a trio of songs that did not make the album but the B-side of “Head Over Heels” wasn’t included for some reason.  One of them, "The Big Chair," was the inspired by the movie "Sybil" and the liner notes mention this inspiration. However they don't mention why it wasn't included on the album proper, I also assumed “Shout” had a single edit as the US Remix is just over eight minutes in length and the original is over six. I don’t remember the song being that long but it has probably been 25 years since I first heard it on the radio. The album was a nice bit of 80’s nostalgia for me as I remember hearing those singles on the radio bit I don’t think it’s required listening at all.

Monday, November 2, 2015

#487 – The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

beg for it, another album cover with a toilet
I mentioned a few reviews back that I had a date a month or so ago that I thought went pretty well. It was one of those dates that afterwards (or at parts during) you let your imagination wander and begin to picture future dates with this person. At least I did, she seemed to have a different opinion as I never heard back from her after date two. One of the things we talked about on the first date was that seeing The Rolling Stones in concert was on her bucket list. I’ve seen them 3 times and thought “Hmmm…someday, maybe we'll see The Stones together…” But alas it was not to be (cue The Stones version of "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)"). So I was thinking about that as I sat down to review this album. Then I realized I haven’t reviewed a Stones’ album since 2011? Really? Well I guess it’s time to rectify one of those situations, the other one I can do nothing about. There are six Stones albums on the book’s list and somewhat surprisingly I only owned one of them (“Sticky Fingers” – which was recently reissued) when I started this blog. I also own “Some Girls” which is not included but in my humble opinion warrants inclusion. I found the 2002 remaster at Princeton Record Exchange for $4.99. There are no linear notes but it mentions that fans had clamored for remastered versions since the original CD issues in 1986. The sound quality is fine and as advertised it does include some of the “rawness” of the original recordings.  Opening track “Sympathy For The Devil” seems to have some vinyl crackle that I don’t remember from other CD versions I own. It does make the guitar work of Brian Jones standout on “No Expectations” (check out the slide guitar) and “Parachute Woman.” In between those tracks comes a nod to the gallows humor of country classics like “25 Minutes to Go” on “Dear Doctor.” I thought it was a sax on “Street Fighting Man” but according to Wikipedia that’s Dave Mason (of Traffic fame) on the shehnai. I guess I earned two things today, Dave Mason played with the Stones and there’s a musical instrument called a shehnai. The song is probably one of the best Stones offerings and rightfully makes it onto any of their Greatest Hits compilations. It’s a classic for a reason. “Stray Cat Blues” returns to a slightly more straight ahead blues with a repeating piano riff and some of the better guitar work on the album. “Salt Of The Earth” features Keith Richards only lead vocal on the song’s first verse. It builds nicely and I’m surprised it’s not one of their more recognized tunes. After listening to the Stones for the first time in a long time I was left with the feeling that I needed to delve deeper into their catalog. There’s four more albums out there from the list and a potential Must ‘ear in “Some Girls.” I also think, if budget allows, I need to check out some of the awesome live albums the Stones have been releasing from their vault, at last count I think there were 3, maybe 4 releases. The book’s review sums the album up by saying: “The dark country blues of Beggars Banquet became a trademark, one that The Rolling Stones explored to mesmerizing effect on the three albums that followed. The next four years, up to 1972’s Exile On Main St., still stands as their golden age.”  That may also explain the exclusion of “Some Girls,” or why some girls exclude me, as the case may be.

Monday, October 26, 2015

#488 – The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators

electric jug band...
I first heard The 13th Floor Elevators on the soundtrack of the movie "High Fidelity." Their hit single “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, provided in two different versions on this edition of the CD, is featured on the soundtrack to the film “High Fidelity.” I like the movie and own the soundtrack CD as well. I haven’t seen the movie in a long time as my copy is on VHS, believe it or not. Years ago Henry Rollins did some benefit shows for Roky Erickson but I never investigated his back catalog any further. LAter on I heard about a documentary called “You’re Gonna Miss Me…” which focuses on the group's singer, Roky Erickson. He had quite a bizarre life after this band. The film also focuses on his brother Sumner’s attempts to get Roky the medical and spiritual help he needs. I saw it earlier this year after coming across a copy at FYE. I had planned on listening to this album around the same time but am only now getting around to it. I’ve also come across several of the group’s CDs, either compilations or the other albums in their catalog, but it took quite a while to find this one. I eventually found it at Princeton Record Exchange for $4.99. It’s the 2005 version and it rounds out the original album with 8 live tracks and the original version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” backed with “We Sell Soul” recorded by Roky’s pre-Elevators band The Spades. The band did a stint on the West Coast, where the live tracks were recorded, and decided to stay. They had to be coaxed back into the studio and recorded the album proper in one marathon session.  The hit single was recorded outside of the album session and then included on the US version of the album. The most notable thing you’ll hear upon listening to the album is that noise you can’t quite place in the background of many songs, that’s the electric jug played by Tommy Hall. If you compare The Spades version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” to its album counterpoint you’ll hear the impact it made. Apparently the jug doesn’t have a lot of range as an instrument however. It’s quite prevalent on many songs and a unique sound in its own right it does get slightly repetitive. However Hall was contributing lyrics and the band was his idea according to the liner notes so they had to have something for him to do. It’s probably the oddest instrument I’ve heard doing this blog since the jazz bagpipes. The album is considered the first acid rock or true psychedelic album to be released. “Kingdom Of Heaven” is a fine example of all those things. “Roller Coaster” has “a dark, eerie quality” according to the book. I just thought it was one of the better tracks on the album. The live songs encompass covers that most garage rock bands of the time probably covered including “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” (made famous by The Blues Brothers), “Before You Accuse Me” (CCR and later Eric Clapton), “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks and Van Halen), and “Gloria” (Them, Patti Smith, and almost every band ever at some point).