Monday, January 31, 2011

Lucky - Nada Surf


Lucky
Nada Surf
Barsuk  bark70LP
2008

I bought this as a CD a while back and loved it so much that I recently went out and got it on vinyl.  Ideally I like to have all the albums that I really love on vinyl.  I have nothing against CDs, I own lots of them, but to me the vinyl LP is still the ideal format for music.  I love this album so much, it would definitely be a desert island record for me.  I've listened to it over a hundred times and it still sends me.  It picked me up when I was down and it made good days even better.  Matthew Caws has a classic alternative rock voice, sensitive, expressive and tender - akin to Fran Healy, Ben Gibbard or James Mercer.  The harmonies and arrangements are terrific as is the songwriting with memorable melodies, colorful imagery and clever lyrics throughout.  "See These Bones" is one of the best pop songs that I've ever heard, every time I play it my spirit soars.  Its allure is irresistible to me and I love the lyrics about regret and seizing the day.  I know a lot of Nada Surf fans think "Let Go" is their best album and I really love it too, but for me this is their masterpiece.  Every song is terrific, I'm enthralled by the record from beginning to end.  It is hard to single out specific favorite songs, but I guess I would opt for "Beautiful Beat," "Are You Lightning," "I Like What You Say" and "Ice on the Wing."  I haven't been so obsessed with a new record since "Oh Inverted World" by the Shins.  I doubt that Nada Surf will ever be the best band in the world (that would be Radiohead) and they may never make another record this good again, but as far as I am concerned they have earned their permanent place in the rock pantheon.  Give me a hammer and chisel and I'll gladly carve that in stone.  Recommended to disgruntled Travis fans and impatient Shins fans.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

People Get Ready - The Impressions


People Get Ready
The Impressions
ABC Paramount ABC 505
1965

I think Curtis Mayfield is one of the more underrated figures in rock history.  Of course the Impressions had plenty of commercial success and Mayfield scored fame and fortune with his work on "Superfly," but this man was one of the finest songwriters of his generation and produced consistently good work for quite a long time.  He had a unique style that is instantly recognizable and the sound he achieved with Sam Gooden and Fred Cash was one of the most appealing vocal sounds to come out of the 1960s.  I guess most casual fans could get by with just a compilation record since most of Mayfield's best songs were singles, as is the case on this album with "Woman's Got Soul," "You Must Believe Me," and "People Get Ready."  The latter in particular is one of the best songs Mayfield ever wrote.  I'm not the least bit religious, but when I listen to it I can almost feel the spirit.  Although it is fundamentally a religious song, it is frequently associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s which is basically how I respond to it.  It is a very moving song, beautifully sung.  The rest of the songs (all written by Mayfield) are certainly better than filler though and are impeccably crafted and performed.  I particularly like the powerful "Emotions," the swinging "We're In Love," the calypso flavored "Can't Work No Longer," and the uplifting "Get Up and Move."  So yes you may just need a comp, but this is a very fine album on its own.  It is an always engaging record that is well worth picking up if you find a copy.  Recommended to Motown fans who prefer Smokey Robinson over Diana Ross.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rock Sect's In - Downliners Sect


The Rock Sect's In
Downliners Sect
Charly CR 30140
1966
 
Back in the dark ages before CDs or MP3s or the internet even, you had to really work to get the music you wanted sometimes.  American record companies were pretty ruthless about cutting stuff that wasn't selling out of their catalogs, even recordings we now regard as classics.  Good luck finding the Velvet Underground albums on Verve or the second MC5 album.  Fortunately their European distributors weren't so crass, you could find some of this stuff in the import bin.  The import bin, if you were lucky enough to have a record store that had one, was where you could find the treasures that could only otherwise be found in a used record store.  I always went to the import bin first in any new record store, I judged the store by the amount of imports they carried.  I still have a warm spot for that ubiquitous "Imported by Jem" sticker on the shrinkwrap of many of the imports.  I have an even warmer spot for the Charly records label, the pride of English re-issues and any decent record store kept its import bin well-stocked with Charly products.  If I saw the Charly label, I knew the record had to be good, they had impeccable rock and roll taste.  This is a reissue of the original album on Columbia (E.M.I.) Records in the U. K..  These guys have a big following among collectors for some reason that I don't really get.  I think they are not far removed from a garage band, the British equivalent of the Shadows of Knight, except that the latter is a better group.  They mostly did straight forward covers and their few originals are uninspired to say the least.  They did have pretty good taste, mostly favoring a r&b style with occasional forays into country.  The lack of an inventive approach to the music and the pedestrian musicianship really limited this band.  This record might have sounded okay in 1964, but when you consider where their peers were in 1966, the Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Pretty Things, this record sounds like a dinosaur.  If I wanted to hear something like this, I'd put on a Jimmy Reed or John Lee Hooker record, at least I'd get better singing.  My favorite song on here is the early Lou Reed/John Cale song "Why Don't You Smile Now" which leads off side 2.  It is worth checking out this album for that alone.  I also like their cover of "Fortune Teller," the Chuck Berry version of "Don't Lie to Me" [sic] and "Brand New Cadillac."  It is a generally enjoyable record, it rocks pretty hard most of the time and the boys play with enthusiasm, it is just seems kind of useless to me.  Recommended for people who think the Yardbirds were better with Eric Clapton instead of Jeff Beck.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Power Plant - The Golden Dawn


Power Plant
The Golden Dawn
International Artists IA-LP #4
1968

This is another reissue.  As you probably can tell from the cannabis plants and mushrooms on the cover, they aren't referring to a utility company with the title.  This is a seriously trippy record although there really are not many overt drug references in the lyrics.  They sound a lot like their labelmates, the 13th Floor Elevators, in fact I don't think I've ever heard any group that captures their sound so well.  Like the Elevators' albums there are goofy philosophical liner notes and the lyrics are mostly in the same metaphysical vein although they are clumsier and not as dense or impenetrable as Tommy Hall's lyrics for the Elevators.  Not many conventional love songs on this record that's for sure.  Thankfully there is no electric jug, but the sound is thinner than the sonic roar generated by the Elevators in their best moments.  Even the vocals sound a bit like Roky Erickson, that is if Roky was singing like a whiny wimp, I picture the hippie teacher on "Beavis and Butthead" at times.  The leader of this group, George Kinney, was a friend of Erickson since childhood so the Elevator influence is understandable, too bad so little of Erickson's fire was transferred to this group.  It is not as good as any of the three Elevator albums (the fake live one doesn't count) but it has its moments.  I love "My Time" - it is a driving psych-rocker that alone justifies purchasing this album.  It is such a great song, it deserves to be better known.  It is better than anything you will ever hear on a "Pebbles" comp.  I like all of the faster songs on the record like "Evolution," "I'll Be Around," "A Nice Surprise," "Starvation" and the countryish "Seeing Is Believing."  The slow ones are a bit dreary although if I'm in a sufficiently mellow mood they are tolerable enough.  Fortunately there are just a few of them.  It is an album that is worth checking out although probably not at the inflated price that a good quality original will cost you.  Recommended for people who wish that the 13th Floor Elevators had made a fourth album.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Blue Things - The Blue Things

The Blue Things
The Blue Things
RCA LSP-3603
1966 

This is a re-issue pressed on blue vinyl which is pretty cool if you are into that sort of thing.  I learned about this record in Richie Unterberger's book on folk rock and I'm grateful to him for that because this is a wonderful record.  I sometimes see it referred to as "Listen & See!" but I'm listing it the way it is listed on the record.  The spine, cover and inner label all list the title as "The Blue Things" - "Listen & See!" only appears as the title of the liner notes.  This is one of the best folk-rock records I've ever heard, right up there with the early albums of the Byrds or the first Love album.  There is not a bad song on the record.  "Doll House" is an extraordinary song about a prostitute, way ahead of its time.  "The Man on the Street" is another memorable socially conscious song with a strong melody.  "I Must Be Doing Something Wrong" has a nice Beau Brummels type sound and clever lyrics. "High Time" is reminiscent of the Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away".  They do a nice rocking version of Dylan's "Girl of the North Country" and one of the best covers of "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" that I've ever heard.  I really like their driving version of Dale Hawkins' "La Do Da Da" as well.  If you have any interest in folk-rock or even just mid-sixties music in general you should check this record out.  You won't be sorry.  This album is smart, tasteful and has a terrific sound.  It really is one of the great lost records of the era.  Recommended to Byrds fans who think the band went into decline when Gene Clark left.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hard 'N' Heavy (With Marshmallow) - Paul Revere and the Raiders



Hard 'N' Heavy (With Marshmallow)
Paul Revere and the Raiders
Columbia CS 9753
1969

A return to form after the disappointing (to me anyway) "Goin' To Memphis" and "Something Happening."  This offers the alluring mixture of bubblegum and garage that fueled them in their classic period.  Despite the title, it is not all that hard and it is certainly not heavy, which to me is a good thing.  1969 had way too much crappy hard and heavy music already.  As for the marshmallow, well I guess there is some of that, the sappy "Trishalana" comes to mind, gotta keep the teenyboppers happy.  There are plenty of good songs to make up for that, the vaguely hippyish single "Mr. Sun, Mr Moon," the hard-rocking "Out on That Road," the light pop-psych of "Cinderella Sunshine" and the Stonesish "Without You."  Plus you get to hear Paul Revere imitate a monkey, at least that's what I think he's doing.   Recommended for anyone who thinks fuzz guitar automatically improves any record.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Waves - Katrina and the Waves


Waves
Katrina and the Waves
Capitol ST-12478
1986

I found this in a box of records abandoned in the alley behind my home.  The records were mostly 1970s singer-songwriter crap like James Taylor and Jackson Browne which I left in the alley, but this one I nabbed.  I liked their major label debut as well as one of their Canadian albums that I have.  This was their second Capitol album (fourth overall) and it has the reputation of being a flop.  I beg to differ.  No record with Kimberley Rew on it is ever going to be a stiff.  True there is no hit single and no song as good as "Going Down to Liverpool" like its predecessor had, but it is still very listenable and pleasant.  It sounds a lot like the earlier album, kind of a new wave flavored bubble gum.  Normally I dislike that sort of thing, but Katrina Leskanich has a great voice and the songwriting is better than average.  I particularly like the lovely vocal on "Sleep On My Pillow", the hard rocking "Money Chain," and the punchy, soulful "Is That It?"  It is not a classic by any means, but it is consistently fun and you could do a lot worse than this picking up records from 1986.  Recommended for Bangles fans who find Susanna Hoffs irritating.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chuck Berry's Golden Decade - Chuck Berry



Chuck Berry's Golden Decade
Chuck Berry
Chess 2CH-1514
1967

Unless you are a big fan, "The Great Twenty-Eight" is probably the only Chuck Berry album you need to own.  It is the definitive vinyl comp for Berry although there are several CD comps that have a lot more songs on them, most of which are far from essential.  I consider Berry a genius, but his albums are pretty spotty.  Prior to the release of "The Great Twenty-Eight" this was the best Berry compilation.  It has fake electronically altered stereo which I know bothers some purists, but I'm generally okay with that although I do prefer mono.  I rescued this album from a thrift store.  It was in the bin with the usual thrift store vinyl dreck and although the cover was a little beat up, I took pity on it and decided to give it a good home even though I really didn't need it.  It was the first and best of the three "Golden Decade" comps, all of which are 24 track double record sets.  The majority of his most famous songs are on here but it is missing a few essential classics like "Carol" and "Little Queenie" (both on the second set.)  Unless you are a casual fan you'd have to buy both of the first and second "Golden Decade" sets to get all the Berry you need to have.  This is lots of fun, one great song after another although there are few duds.  "Deep Feeling" and "Wee Wee Hours" are reminders that it was a good thing Berry invented rock and roll because he never would have made it as a bluesman.  I don't care much for "Anthony Boy" or "Havana Moon" and I could easily think of a dozen other Berry songs that are better, but this is a minor quibble since there are so many classic songs on here besides the 4 misses, it is still an impressive collection.  Recommended to people who can't find "The Great Twenty-Eight" - everyone who likes rock should own these songs in one form or another.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jackie - Jackie DeShannon



Jackie
Jackie DeShannon
Atlantic  SD  7231
1972

My favorite of DeShannon's post-Imperial albums.  Her recording for Atlantic prompted my hope for a Jackie "Dusty In Memphis" type classic, but the record is merely very good, not much of a radical departure from DeShannon's classic sound, a bit more soulful for sure, but there isn't much here that would sound out of place on "To Be Free" or "Laurel Canyon."  DeShannon only contributes 4 songs, but 3 of them are among the best songs on the record:  "Vanilla 'Olay" should have been a hit, "Laid Back Days" is the rockinest song on the album and "Anna Karina" is a charming song that would be worthwhile for the song subject alone.  The covers don't offer much.  I like her version of John Prine's "Paradise" mostly because I don't care too much for Prine's voice on his original.  Her sweet genteel cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" seems misguided to me and her pleasant version of Van Morrison's "I Wanna Roo You" is basically pointless - she can't sing better than him and her version offers nothing new.  All of the remaining songs are fine, sung tastefully with feeling but I've already forgotten most of them by the time the next song starts.  The record has a nice vibe as they used to say back in the 1970s and it sounds really good late at night.  I gave it a spin in the early afternoon and I got a little bored with it.  Recommended for Dusty Springfield fans who wish Dusty had stayed in Memphis.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Grass - The Grassroots


Golden Grass
The Grassroots
Dunhill DS 50047
1968

The Grassroots had been making records for 3 years when this premature comp was released.  Sometimes record company greed is a good thing though.  I count 5 top 40 singles in this greatest hits package: "Bella Linda", "Midnight Confessions", "Things I Should Have Said", "Where Were You When I Needed You" and "Let's Live For Today."  Those happen to be the only Grassroots hit singles that I like very much.  This comp focuses on the years when the band was part of the Sloan/Barri folk-rock hit factory.  They'd move in a even more crassly commercial, bubblegum direction in the following 4 years of their hit-making existence and have lots more top 40 singles.  A friend once gave me a CD comp of these guys with all their hits which I hated and returned to her.  This record is perfect for me.  I love the 5 hit singles, fine examples of quality 1960s commercial pop music rivaling the Monkees, the Turtles, the Association or Paul Revere and the Raiders.  Even the filler on this record is well-crafted, catchy and enjoyable.  Many sound like they should have been hits too.  On a weird trivia note Creed Bratton, the guitarist of the band, went on to become an actor and was a regular on the TV series "The Office" playing a character named "Creed Bratton."  Recommended for Association fans who prefer "Along Comes Mary" to "Never My Love."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Live Europaturnen MCMXCVII - Pavement


Live Europaturnen MCMXCVII
Pavement
Matador OLE 324-1
2008

This record was the main reason I bought the deluxe re-issue of "Brighten the Corners".  Normally I dislike those things because the bonus tracks are so rarely worth the expense or the waste of getting rid of your original copies.  Matador's work with re-issuing the Pavement records though is outstanding, even without this bonus record, the added songs on the CDs make it more than worthwhile.  This record is terrific although I'm not so crazy about the packaging.  It is designed to look like a bootleg with minimal information, spartan artwork, misspelled song titles, even 3 incorrect song titles.  I got all excited when I saw "Remake/Remodel" in the song list thinking it was a cover of the Roxy Music song, but it turned out to be "Type Slowly".  In case you are wondering, the other two are "We Are Underused" mislabeled "Joe Boyd (Stringband)" and "Fin" listed as "Tusk" which is dumb since the band clearly announce the song as "Fin" in the spoken introduction to the record.  Despite the shoddy bootleg packaging, the record does not sound like a bootleg.  The quality of the recording is excellent.  According to the record title the concert is taken from the 1997 European tour although no specific site is identified.  Most of the cuts are drawn from "Brighten the Corners" which is fine with me since it is my favorite Pavement album.  It is hard to single out specific tracks, they are all really good, but I guess I would single out "Fin" and "Type Slowly" for their exciting guitar work, the lively humor in "Stereo" and the jumping version of "Silence Kit".  There is also a nice, rocking version of "Painted Soldier."  I'm not normally a big fan of live albums but this one really works, the songs sound so punchy and immediate, it would actually be a pretty good introduction for a Pavement neophyte and it is a record that I will be likely to reach for first when I'm itching for a Pavement fix.  Recommended for people who kind of like Pavement but don't understand what all the fuss is about.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cucumber Castle - The Bee Gees



Cucumber Castle
The Bee Gees
Atco SD 33-327
1970

Reduced to a duo with the departure of brother Robin for his ill-fated solo career, Maurice and Barry Gibb don't seem to have missed him too much.  This album is loaded with the whiny, sappy ballads that made the Bee Gees so successful, most of which would fit quite nicely on "Odessa" or "Trafalgar".  "Then You Left Me" ranks among the most maudlin songs that they ever produced.  There are a few unusual songs however, most notably the country influence on such songs as "Don't Forget to Remember", "Bury Me Down by the River" and "The Lord".  The first two are interesting, sappy as ever but at least they depart from the usual formula, but "The Lord" is so awful, I wondered if it was a joke.  These guys aren't known for their sense of humor though so I assume it was meant seriously.  In either case it sucks.  Then there is "I. O. I. O" which I guess might be compared to groups like Mungo Jerry or Marmalade, a quasi-world music sound that is mildly fun.  I've never seen the television special that generated five of the songs on the album and since they are mostly the worst ones I'm pretty sure I never want to.  If you are a fan of the pre-disco Bee Gees, you will probably find stuff to like on this album.  Recommended for people who think "Odessa" was too short.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Id Music - The Third Rail


Id Music
The Third Rail
Epic BN 26327
1967

I always thought this was called "ID Music" as in identity, but reading the liner notes I learned that it really refers to id as in id and ego.  The liner notes are pretty amazing perhaps the most pretentious ones I've ever read.  Considering the bubblegummy nature of the music, I think it is safe to assume that they are a joke.  "We have placed songs as mirrors to reflect, in an aquinian sense, the world" reads one sentence.  I wonder how many of the original purchasers of this record had ever even heard of the word "aquinian".  Elsewhere the album is compared to Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", the record's search for truth evokes a reference to Diogenes and it is all part of the "Id movement" whatever that means.  Hilarious.  I first encountered the Third Rail on the original "Nuggets" comp via "Run, Run, Run" which was one of the poppiest tunes on that record.  If you like that song you will probably like this album as well although only the Jan and Deanish "Boppa Do Down Down" approaches the bubblegummy quality of "Run, Run, Run".  The rest of the record is all over the place from the blue-eyed soul of "Jack Rabbit" to the pop-psych of the excellent "No Return" with lots of sunshine pop and even some chamber pop in between.  All of the songs are good and there is a surprising amount of sophistication and social commentary in the lyrics.  It is no masterpiece, but I thoroughly enjoy this record and it is never boring.  I have a re-issue, but if you stumble across an original pressing, it might well be worth the price to pick it up.  Recommended for Monkees fans who don't like the Davy Jones songs.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best of Dolly Parton - Dolly Parton





Best of Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton
RCA AHL1-1117
1975 

The CD era has rendered a lot of vinyl compilation albums obsolete.  You can cram more songs on a CD although I suppose it is debatable whether a lot of performers need more than 40 minutes to compile their “greatest hits”.  This album will never be obsolete though.  It is a perfect record, one of my favorites of all time.  I’m not a big country music fan, but that doesn’t matter because this is a great pop album that transcends genre.  Ten pristine tracks of Parton at her peak, before Hollywood and her regrettable attempt for mainstream success.  If you like Buddy Holly or Paul McCartney you should like “Jolene” regardless of how you feel about country music.  This album features heartfelt singing and brilliant songwriting throughout - pure American music at its finest.  Plus if you are lucky you might find a copy with a nifty poster of Parton inside.  I don’t know where to begin in singling out specific songs, they are all wonderful.  “Lonely Coming Down” gives me chills whenever I hear it and you’d have to be pretty heartless not to be moved by “Coat of Many Colors.”  "The Bargain Store" shows her typically inspired use of metaphors.  "My Tennessee Mountain Home" is warm and inviting, it makes me want to take a road trip to the Smoky Mountains.  I like the frankness of "Touch Your Woman," Parton lyrics are always worth paying attention to, she definitely has something to say.  The sweet sincerity of Parton’s original version of “I Always Will Love You” is infinitely superior to Whitney Houston’s histrionic cover version.  People might dismiss Parton because of her goofy persona and the mediocre music she made in the late 1970s and 1980s, but this record is proof positive that from 1969 to 1974, she was one of the great artists in American music, period, right up there with John Fogerty and Bob Dylan. A great, great record.  Recommended to anyone who has a heart.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The North Star Grassman and The Ravens - Sandy Denny




The North Star Grassman and The Ravens
Sandy Denny
A&M SP 4317
1971

My favorite Sandy Denny solo album.  If you combined the best cuts on this with the best songs on Fairport Convention's "Full House", you would have a terrific follow-up to Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief".  If only she had stayed with the Fairports long enough to pull them out of their obsession with traditional English music, we might have been spared some of the mediocre folk-rock albums that tarnished the band's name.  But then again Richard Thompson probably would have still left and that was really the death of the band.  This album is actually closer to Fairport's "Unhalfbricking" than it is to "Liege and Lief".  There is only one traditional song (the very fine "Blackwaterside") and there is a nice Dylan cover "Down in the Flood" as well as a sexy and rockin' cover of Brenda Lee's "Let's Jump the Broomstick" - the sort of eclecticism that made the early Fairport so charming and fun.  Denny's original songs are often criticized for being too obscure and I have to admit there are plenty here that I can't figure out even when I stare at a lyric sheet although they do sound very nice.  I was shocked when I read Rob Young's  "Electric Eden" and saw his interpretation of the gloomy and doom-laden "Late November" as being a reference to the van crash that nearly destroyed Fairport Convention which she apparently foresaw in a dream.  I was equally surprised to learn from Young that "Next Time Around" was about her former boyfriend Jackson Frank and their days hanging around in Theo Johnson's folk club.  You can appreciate either song without knowing their significance to her yet I find it amazing that she fills the songs with so many telling, yet impossibly obscure and personal clues that only a close friend would ever be able to figure them out.  I love both songs but this insular quality is a little alienating to me.  I would certainly prefer a more direct connection to what she is trying to say.  The exception to this is "John the Gun" which is one of the most compelling songs she ever wrote, a beautiful synthesis of traditional folk style and a modern sensibility.  Anyway even though I don't understand some of the songs, I love Denny's voice so much I'd listen to this record even if the songs were written in Klingon.  She is supported by an excellent backing band featuring most notably Richard Thompson who plays on the entire album and helped produce it as well.  Recommended for Fairport Convention fans who rue the day Dave Swarbrick joined the band.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No Dice - Badfinger


No Dice
Badfinger
Apple SKAO 3367
1970 

Badfinger’s second album is my favorite.  I've always thought these guys got a raw deal and should have had a better fate.  They deserve a lot of credit for championing traditional pop values in an era of rock excess and self-indulgence.  There are no long crappy guitar solos or macho posturing on this record, just short tuneful songs that are well-crafted and consistently enjoyable.  The longest song on this record is 4:42 and all the rest are considerably shorter.  “No Matter What” is a great single, one of the best of the era.  It is punchy and loaded with hooks.  It sounds great on the radio and even better on the turntable.  Admittedly nothing else on the record comes close to the excellence of “No Matter What” but there are no bad songs with “Without You”, “I Can’t Take It” and “Better Days” being particularly fine.  Badfinger are often cited as being derivative of the Beatles, as if that is a criticism, it ought to be a compliment - it automatically makes them better than most of their peers.  This often sounds like a long lost Paul McCartney solo record, although Paulie himself wouldn’t even come close to equaling this album for 3 more years.  It is a lot better than “McCartney” or “All Things Must Pass” and is more enjoyable than “Let It Be”.  One of the best albums of 1970.  Recommended for people who think Graham Nash was better off in the Hollies than hanging out with David Crosby.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

You Turn Me On - Ian Whitcomb


You Turn Me On!
Ian Whitcomb
Tower T5004
1965

Ian Whitcomb gave up rock for the hit parade of the early 20th century and I can only say that ragtime's gain is also rock's gain.  He is definitely one of the most irritating rock singers I've ever heard, shrill and affected, he sounds like a drunk Colin Blunstone crossed with Vivian Stanshall only not as good.  His cover of "Be My Baby" is truly horrifying.  The title track was a hit and is a pretty good novelty song if you like that sort of thing.  With its deliberately stupid lyrics and Whitcomb's high pitched singing, it sounds like a snooty prep school kid mocking rock and roll.  Most of the rest of the record is in a similar vein with the notable exception of "No Tears for Johnny" which seems to be a sincere and dreary protest song and one of the worst songs on the record.  Much of the record actually rocks pretty nicely and with a better singer could have been quite good.  My favorite number is "Fizz" mostly because Whitcomb does not sing on it.  To his credit Whitcomb does write most of the songs himself and at least the album is sort of interesting, possibly even fun if you are a fan of music hall style entertainment.  Recommended to people whose favorite Kinks song is "Dedicated Follower of Fashion".

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Silver Bird - Mark Lindsay


Silver Bird
Mark Lindsay
Columbia C30111
1970

When I was a little kid "Silver Bird" was one of my favorite songs.  It wasn't that big of a hit but when I heard it on the radio it really stuck with me and became my personal anthem for awhile.  I never knew who did it, the only rock artists I knew were the Mamas and the Papas, the Monkees and the Beatles.  Eventually I forgot about it.  Then a couple of years ago I was in a record store looking at Paul Revere and the Raiders records and I saw this shiny silver Mark Lindsay solo album and realized that this must be it.  I bought it and sure enough when I put it on the turntable and heard the opening song "Silver Bird" I was transported back to my childhood.  The song still sends me, it is a terrific song.  Then I heard the rest of the record.  Yikes.  I'm a big Raiders fan and I expected something in that vein.  It was the time when the Raiders were trying to appeal to more serious or mature rock fans with their albums.  I have no idea who Lindsay was directing this record at, teenyboppers who hate rock I guess.  Almost the entire record is basically easy listening/MOR music, strings, fussy arrangements, mellow crooning, it is hard to believe this same guy used to make a living singing "Louie, Louie".  He does do it pretty well though, he could have made it as Vegas lounge singer.  He offers useless covers of "Come Saturday Morning" and "We've Only Just Begun" worthy of the Lettermen or the Sandpipers.  He sings an unholy medley of two of the sappiest songs in the Beatles canon - "The Long and Winding Road" and "Yesterday".  Aside from the title cut, the only decent song on the album is "Windy Wakefield" by the Addrisi brothers of "Never My Love" fame.  I only keep the record because I love the title song and don't care much for singles.  Recommended for adventurous Jack Jones fans.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sugar & Spice - The Cryan' Shames


Sugar & Spice
The Cryan' Shames
Columbia CL 2589
1966

This is a contemporary mono re-issue, not an original pressing.  I think Columbia does a nice job on their re-issues with decent quality artwork and pressings.  I have no qualms about picking them up instead of originals.  I don't think this album is really worth the price that a near mint original copy would fetch.  "Sugar and Spice" is a classic single but the rest of this is largely derivative.  It is also pretty skimpy, less than half an hour long.  I first encountered "Sugar and Spice" on the original vinyl "Nuggets" comp and really liked the guitar sound and the driving beat.  The album itself is basically ersatz Byrds folk-rock, it even includes a Byrds cover with a faithful version of "She Don't Care About Time" - at least they chose a B-side rather than something obvious.  They also pick up a couple of songs that the Byrds covered, "Hey Joe" and "We'll Meet Again" and deliver arguably superior versions although that isn't saying much.  The other covers on the record "Heat Wave", "If I Needed Someone" and "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" are useless filler.  The original compositions on the record are considerably better - especially the rocking "Ben Franklin's Almanac" and the sweet "We Could Be Happy".  Recommended for folk-rock fans.