Saturday, May 14, 2016

#465 – Sabu – Palo Congo

jazz, should've looked in jazz
I don’t know why but when I started this blog I became fixated on trying to find a copy of this album. In the first blopping trips this was an album that I would search the World Music sections of the record stores I frequent looking for a copy. Often I would check eBay looking for one, or at least one at something below full price. At the very least those searches let me know that it was in print but I feared I’d be paying $18 - $25 for a copy. Then on a recent trip to the Princeton Record Exchange I was looking through the budget jazz releases, as I often do, and Sabu’s “Palo Congo” was staring back at me. I grabbed it and gave it a once over and added it to my purchases for the day. Upon further inspection I noticed, for the first time despite having looked at but not read the entry, that the album was on the Blue Note label, purveyors of fine jazz recordings. I wondered if I’d overlooked a copy of the album at some point since it may have been hiding with the jazz CDs instead of the World section. Either way I finally had it and it only cost me $3.99. Sabu, also known as Louis Martinez, combined African rhythms with Cuban instruments as the book says: ‘drawing on his mixed Spainish/Africian/West Indian heritage. It makes for a slightly hypnotic mix. It also allowed me to use those three years of high school Spanish on “Billumba-Palo Congo” as I know he’s saying “Good Evening” to someone. Outside of that my translations become spotty at best. It is quite an interesting mix of sounds and well worth the listen, if not the time I spent tracking this one down. Sabu (not to be confused with a certain homicidal, suicidal, genocidal pro wrestler) had played with Dizzy Gillespie and according to the book became a session player for Blue Note. There he also played with Art Blakey (a newer obsession of mine) and this session was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. For those unfamiliar with Rudy Van Gelder (or RVG as I call him, not to be confused with Sabu’s tag team partner and occasional adversary, RVD) he is a renowned engineer who has overseen hundreds of sessions with just about every prominent jazz figure from the 50’s on. He built a studio in a house in Englewood Cliffs, NJ after building a smaller one in his parents’ house years earlier. At some point in the last year and a half I went on a huge jazz kick (that hasn’t really stopped)and started buying albums by artists I hadn’t really listened to before, I’m sure it was prompted by something I’d heard for the blog but I’m not sure what. Anyway it started with the Keepnews Collection and when I couldn’t find any of those I started buying Rudy Van Gelder remasters (there are two kinds, the albums he did for Blue Note are called the “Rudy Van Gelder Edition” and for other labels “Rudy Van Gelder Remasters”) of which there are probably hundreds. I haven’t been able to find a comprehensive list anywhere but at least one inlay tray pictures several dozen different titles. My obsession with collecting these CDs probably warrants its own entry but suffice it to say my jazz collection has grown quite a bit over the last few years. This CD however does not seem to have an RVG remastered edition, which I found odd considering it was released around the time those started to be produced. The CD itself is a 24 bit remaster but was done by Ron McMaster.   

Sunday, May 1, 2016

#466 – The Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts

believe it or not, I tried to make that look like waves...
Everything I know about The Adverts I learned from Henry Rollins’ “Get In The Van.” For those unfamiliar with the tome it was Rollins journal of his time on the road with Black Flag. It was released shortly after The Rollins Band’s popularity was at an all time high with “Liar” in heavy rotation on MTV. The book won a Grammy and there’s an audiobook version read by Rollins himself. It also spawned a deluxe version released for the book’s tenth anniversary. I spent many a night going through the print version or listening to the audio version in my late teens. In the book he mentions touring with The Adverts in the UK several times. He also maintains a friendship with singer TV Smith and Gaye Advert (whose name I thought was Gayle for some reason). I believe they remain friends to this day as I know they’ve been mentioned in some his more recent books and spoken word shows. Unlike some of the other groups mentioned in the book, The Stooges being a frequent one and a major influence on Rollins, I never investigated The Adverts, until now. It took a long time to find this CD. I had looked for it a few times without success but I was in Long In The Tooth Records one day and going through their new used arrivals and saw the spine of CD saying “The Adverts.” I pulled it out and realized it was the album I needed as the other side of the case says “Crossing The Red Sea With.” I then wondered if I had previously passed up a copy since it didn’t have the album title on the spine. I paid $7.99 for it and added to the blogpile. It’s a remastered version and rounds out the original album with two tracks “New Day Dawning” and “No Time To Be 21.” Unlike many deluxe versions these bonus tracks have been placed into the album’s running order which I found to be an interesting touch (the latter song isn’t bad either). There are also four other bonus tracks placed before the start timing of the actual disc according to the liner notes. I’ll have to wait to get this into my other CD player to see if I can find them but that’s certainly different. The book’s review says: “the band possessed a dynamic sound that mixed thrashing guitars with melodic, yearning choruses.” I’d recommend opener “One Chord Wonders,” as well as “Bombsite Boy,” “New Day Dawning,” and “On Wheels” to get a taste of the band. They also have a track called “Drowning Men” which made me remember a band I saw once open for The Airborne Toxic Event called The Drowning Men. I have to wonder if they are familiar with the tune although according to their Wikipedia page they got the name from a Nick Cave book. The book mentions the album came on the tail end of punk and was overlooked so I imagine they probably aren’t aware of their namesake song.      

Friday, April 22, 2016

RIP Prince

This is probably my favorite Prince song, I love Sinead's version too. As I mentioned before I had a chance to see Prince a few years ago and declined because I'm dumb. A few years passed and he became my bucket list leader. He was the one artist I hadn't seen live and now he's gone. I can't believe it. I try to go as many shows as possible because you just never know when the last time you'll see an artist is. I was reminded of that last year when I passed on seeing Motorhead because of work. I should've toughed it out and made it happen and I regret it now, even months after the fact. So celebrate Prince's music and legacy but don't forget to enjoy those who are still here. Go buy a CD or see a band tonight. It's good for the soul.

Price rated 3 albums in the book, you can check out the reviews here:


Purple Rain

Sign O' The Times

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#467 – Aerosmith – Rocks

It's still rock n roll to me...
The opening notes on “Back In The Saddle” brought back a ton of memories. I know the song from a cassette copy of Aerosmith’s “Greatest Hits” that I had in high school if I remember correctly. I used to play that one a lot and it logged many miles in the tape deck of my Mazda 626. One particular memory of the song was when I had a friend staying over and he refused to get out of bed the next morning. So I got a boom box (remember those?) and let the intro play right up to the horse whinny at 27 seconds then I cranked it. It woke him up but I’m not sure he jumped out of bed as I had anticipated. Regardless the song still, ahem, rocks. All these years later and the remastering gives it some bottom end I didn’t remember. Then again Metallica's "Black Album," also on cassette, did those speakers in around that time. I had forgotten, until hearing this album, that “Greatest Hits” also contained “Last Child.” I instantly recognized it when I heard the opening notes. I am amazed all these years later that somewhere my brain had filed away those notes and still remembered the song. The book says that this album “for many is their magnum opus.” Outside of the aforementioned tracks I don’t think it has the hit singles of the other Aerosmith albums in the book but for 34 minutes it’s a solid album. I bought this with “Toys In The Attic” at the same time for $3.99 at aka music. If I had to pick one of the three albums from the book I would probably stick with “Pump.” This one does offer a bit of a “rawer” feeling than either of the other two however. It wasn’t surprising to find that it has inspired a ton of hard rockers to pick up a guitar however as the playing of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford stood out on most of the songs. The book mentions Stephen Tyler recruiting a singer from the Metropolitian Opera to help with the vocals on “Get The Lead Out” but none is credited, nor are the contributions obvious, unless you listen really closely, and even with headphones it’s not the throat shredding experience the book’s review alludes to. Granted I have a slight case of tinnitus so maybe it’s much louder than I think. I mentioned the ringing in my ears to a friend recently and blamed using headphones for this blog, since I hadn’t used them much in the years prior to starting the blog. He said, “Yeah and seeing Slayer a dozen times had nothing to do with it? Touché. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

#468 – Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

This is the second of three Aerosmith albums included in the book’s list. I reviewed “Pump” a while ago and set out to find copies of the other two albums. I knew there remastered versions so at some point I decided to get those versions although I can’t remember any particular reason for it. I did eventually find them at aka music for $3.99 each. Obviously someone had had enough of their Aerosmith CDs. The remasters don’t include any bonus material or expanded liner notes, although I have seen stickers that claim there is added artwork. It looks like what was probably included in the original vinyl release but that’s me. I mentioned previously that I rather enjoyed Aeromsith when I was in high school as they had begun a career renaissance in the wake of the crossover success of “Walk This Way” with RUN-DMC. The original version is included here and still sounds good even minus the rapping I’ve since become familiar with. Sometime shortly after discovering Aerosmith I saw The Rolling Stones live for the first time in 1994. I quickly decided that Aerosmith were pale imitators and apparently I’m not the only one who made that comparison. The book’s review states: “…their first two albums failed to make an impression as the band struggled to define itself amid unflattering comparisons to The Rolling Stones.” I’ve since lightened up slightly on Aerosmith but I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. I might even consider adding them to my list of band’s I should see in concert. When I was in high school I can remember a friend getting tickets to see them but his mother insisted on going with him and asked him if she should bring a book to read while they waited for the band to go on. How do parents learn to be so embarrassing? Anyway, what’s here is not bad at all, a solid 37 minutes of rock n’ roll that the book credits with creating “cock rock.” It is defined by the book as: “a subgenre that reveled in sex, drugs, and double-entendre to a level that made Led Zep’s “The Lemon Song” sound like something from a church hymnal.”  So no, subtlety is not the album’s strong point especially on tracks like “Uncle Salty” or the not so cleverly titled “Big Ten Inch Record.”  The book’s review points out four songs as key tracks. The high points are obvious, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” The book also likes the title track but I found it to be rather bland and “Big Ten Inch Record” probably would’ve been a lot funnier to teenage me. For something different I would’ve gone with “Round And Round” since it’s still rock n’ roll (to me) but the production adds a little flavor to the proceedings. Album closer “You See Me Crying” offers a glimpse of all thos ballads that would help fuel the band’s second “soccer mom renaissance.” I’m curious now to hear the follow-up, “Rocks” which will be my next review although I am still puzzled by the book’s choice not to include their comeback album, “Permanent Vacation,” a title I may now just be inspired enough to add a copy to my collection.      
ummm...attics are at the top aren't they?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

RIP Layne Staley – Alice In Chains – Facelift

Every year I dedicate an entry to Layne Staley who was found dead in early April of 2002. Previous tributes can be found here:

2011 - Layne Staley Tribute
2012 - Mad Season - Above
2013 - Mad Season - Concert Chronology
2014 - Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies
2015 - Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2

I saw Alice In Chains with Staley on Lollapalooza in 1993. I always thought I’d get a chance to see them again with Layne but they didn’t tour much after ‘93/’94, save a few dates in 1996. I can still remember hearing the news of his death on the radio and it hitting me hard. And so it is that at this time every year I dedicate a review to his memory and ask that if you can, support his memory at the foundation named in his honor.

say what you want, I like it

This year I’m listening to Alice In Chains’ 1990 debut “Facelift.” Their 1993 album, “Dirt” is included in the book’s list but I would’ve put this one in as well. Every bit as gloomy as it’s more well known follow-up it’s worthy of inclusion on its own. Grunge hadn’t yet entered the popular lexicon but this album is every bit as responsible for the term as any other. Opening with the far too prophetic “We Die Young” Staley’s vocals and harmonies with Jerry Cantrell are quickly evident. Cantrell’s churning guitar riffs and the heavy, sometimes dirge like, rhythm section of Sean Kinney and Michael Starr (RIP) take the music past metal troupes into different sonic territory. There are also plenty of head-banging opportunities here, “Man In The Box,” “Seas Of Sorrow,” and my personal favorite “It Ain’t Like That” (the band can be seen playing it in the movie “Singles”). The band explores slower territory on “I Can’t Remember,” “Confusion,” and “Love, Hate, Love.”  They even touch on Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque funk on “I Know Somethin (Bout You).”  While their best may have been ahead of there is no reason, in my opinion, to skip their scintillating debut. Critics, especially the one in my "Trouser Press Guide To 90's Rock," did not care for the album but it had an instant impact on me. It lays the groundwork for the unique sonics of the band and the stunning vocals of Layne Staley.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#469 – Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor

sequel? sure why not?
I found this CD at Long In The Tooth Records on one of my first blopping trips there. I don’t know why it is that it seems the first time I shop in a new store they often have a title or titles that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere (I also found The Adverts album on this trip). I paid $5.99 for it after seeing other Lupe Fiasco albums in other places including the sequel to this one cleverly titled “Food & Liquor II.” A friend told me years ago that this album was really popular with his students (he’s a music teacher and reviews many of the albums his students listen to). Despite his positive review I generally tread lightly in regards to most hip-hop albums listed in the book, especially anything after the 90’s. I’m just not as familiar with the material and often times I find the albums a chore to listen to as they’re filled with needless skits and a couple of worthwhile songs mashed into an 80 minute album. Then again your mileage may vary. This album eschews skits but does include an “Intro” and “Outro.” The “Intro” wasn’t bad but the “Outro” is little more than an extended awards speech in which Lupe sends out shout-outs and thank yous for 12 agonizing minutes. If you think some Grateful Dead or Phish tracks go on forever without going anywhere this certainly gives them a run for their money. Outside of that misstep many of the tracks here are catchy and the first line that caught my ear is: “I’m Cornell West-side” in “Just Might Be OK.” He released a video for the song in 2015, nine years after the release, and here I criticized Kayne for taking too long to make albums. The book calls “Kick, Push” “irresistible” and notes it’s “self-help meets skateboarding” and I have to agree, it’s quite a catchy tune. It has a sequel, cleverly titled “Kick, Push II,” but it’s not nearly as catchy as its counterpart despite similar lyrical content. He raps “My temperature is tempura” in “I Gotcha” and I wonder if that means he’s lightly battered and fried? The song closes with something that sounds suspiciously like a melodica. Despite its title “The Instrumental” is not. It was written with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and his touches are instantly recognizable (twinkling keys over a robotic beat in case you didn’t know). “Daydreamin’” features Jill Scott and offers a unique perspective on hip hop troupes. He visits these themes again on “Hurt Me Soul” which was an unexpected treat. “Pressure” features Jay-Z but musically, at least to me, sounds like the opening credits to an 80’s action comedy show like a big city Dukes of Hazzard. While this isn’t something I’m going to have in my heavy rotation or pick up the sequel to I will say it held up better than many of its contemporaries.  However I think it will always i probably teeter on the verge of being cut from future versions of the book’s list.