Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Brinsley Schwarz - Brinsley Schwarz

Well, I've been working on something else entirely, but I decided to put it on hold cuz I'm not feeling it right now, and listen to this Brinsley Schwarz album instead.  I've got a feeling I'm really not gonna talk about this album as much as I probably should, but I had a little disagreement with someone in a Vinyl Record Collector's Group here on the internets, and between that and some shit Bob Lefsetz has been spewing lately, I just feel like I could use a little record that hardly anyone remembers and some relaxation.  This is a cool little collection of the first two US Brinsley Schwarz albums, the self titled record and their second, Despite It All.

Now, it's nice that these are more mellow and laid back than you might expect since they're labeled a Pub Rock band.  I just don't put these guys in the same sphere as I put Eddie and the Hot Rods or Dr. Feelgood.  They worry more about harmony and stuff, and I think that's what I need right about now.  I need that because I'm pretty bummed about responses in that Vinyl Community.  I'm right, and I know the other group of people haven't got a leg to stand on, but I didn't get a lot of support, and usually people that still buy records kind of agree on a lot of things like what stealing from artists is.

See, this kid (I looked, he's a kid to me and a young adult to himself) got called a parasite by someone for listening to the new Pink Floyd album on YouTube because he spent all his record money on other records and he wanted to hear it.  I didn't even notice that thread, but the dude puts up a post asking if he's a "parasite" for doing this.  He's getting a whole bunch of, "Hey, if you're gonna buy it anyway, what's the difference," and "Hey, it's cool - I do it all the time" responses.  So I looked on YouTube and lo and behold, Pink Floyd and their label aren't the ones that put the full album up a few days before the release date.  So I told the guy I didn't know if he was a "parasite" per se, but that he certainly seemed to feel entitled to free entertainment just because it was there.  I said that he stole it and man, did his panties get in a clump!  I won't get in to how it is that YouTube can put up stolen music at will and not have to worry about any repercussions, and I won't say I don't use YouTube for music, but I know damned well that if the label or band didn't put it up, then if someone had the money or inclination they could get it removed.  I can tell this young man isn't a taxpayer, because when i asked him what other things he used before he paid for them he said, "A house, and anything you can rent."  I told him there was a significant outlay of cash for both of those activities prior to use, but I don't think he gets it.

So I says, "Hey, if you went to a restaurant to try the food, would you expect it to be free and you'd start paying for it when you came back, and then, to sweeten the pot you'd bring all your friends?"  I didn't even get to say, "Because your friends would all probably want free food and it would never stop," because some other tool says, "It doesn't cost anything to make music.  Food you have to pay a chef and waitresses and buy the raw food."

Is that really where this generation of young people is coming from? I'm sorry, but what a bunch of entitled ASSHOLES.  "I spent all my entertainment money, and I DEMAND you entertain me for free until I can buy it."  I didn't go into the "How many times have you listened to albums, decided they weren't for you and never paid a fucking dime?" thing.  I mean, he is stealing.  He's asking for people to justify it because he knows he's a thief but he wants validation.  Well, ya ain't getting that from me.  Too many of the bands I love end up breaking up because they sell 1000 vinyl records, 1500 cd's and 400 downloads and then see that 40,000 people used bittorrent and stole their music. So they quit. The thing is, they don't need Bruce Springsteen money.  They could do this as a job for their whole lives if they could bring in 60K and benefits for themselves and their kids.  I know people can do it on less, but hey, if you're gone 100 nights a year, it's nice to know your wife and kids are in a safe neighborhood.  Those 40,000 downloads could have been all it took.

Why do people feel this entitlement?  I'm as far left as an American gets, but one of the douchenozzles that came to the kid's defense had something like 1.5 terabytes of stolen music.  I'm sorry, but Fuck You dude.  You're a thief.  Get a streaming account and pay your way.

Got a little riled there.  The first record ended and that's more mellow than Despite It All, and when push comes to shove, the second album is really a little more my style.  Country Girl is one of Nick Lowe's better songs,  That's really saying something, too.  Nick has written some of my absolute favorite things in the world, and lemme tel ya, where the first album is kind of a nice mellow diversion for me, Country Girl gets me to Take Notice, because something good is happening!  The next song is kind of like Nick does Van Morrison, but he just sounds like he's a happier person than Van to me, so I kind of like it.  After that is Funk Angel, which I thought would be dumb because of the title, but again, it's a great Nick Lowe song. I like the interplay between the guitar and the sax.  Why don't people use a sax anymore?  It's one of the backbone instruments of Rock and everyone acts like it's a harpsichord or something.  They're cool in the right hands.  They always were and they always will be.

Then there's Bob Lefsetz.  Is he a thing that people in the industry actually read or is he just some dullard with a modem?  I see people talk about things he said in his blog all the time.  The thing is, he talks about the exact same thing every day!  If you're not keeping up, you're dying. Streaming is the future. Radio is dead.  Duh.  He says that pretty much every day, he just uses a different artist to make his point.  What's the point he's making?  I don't know.  It's certainly not something we don't already know.  I think he thinks Taylor Swift and Big Machine were short sighted to pull Taylor's music from Spotify, but I think Big Machine and Taylor have already proved that so far as making money in this Blah New World, they're experts.  Spotify may or may not be a good idea, but Taylor has proven she knows what she's doing.  She'll get a better deal from Spotify and she'll be back, or wherever she ends up going will take Spotify's precarious position at the top of the streaming service hill.

Which I just don't get.  Streaming music is so boring.  It's okay for background noise, but I can't be bothered with it in my house.  I really just can't.  I realize I'm kind of on the fringe because I usually listen to records, but I'm not the only one.  There's a market for physical media.  It may be more of a niche, but once they figure out how to keep people from stealing music (and they will), the people that never buy any music will just go back to not listening to music anyway.  Of the people that are going to pay for it, the people that have huge collections may stay with physical because they've just already got so much, but most people aren't sitting on 1000 lp's and 2500 cd's.  Friends I have that actually listen to a lot of music usually have a few hundred cd's.  The guys at work that swap music files tend to buy stuff (I know what their "swapping" really is) in a mixture of physical and files.  Some of them have asked if I want things and I just seldom take them up on the offers.  One guy gave me a Jon Lord cd, and I don't mind it, but it's like Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings.  Good, professional, kind of dull.  Now there's a place for that, but I've already got that kind of thing.  The thing is, this guy also talked about St.Vincent.  Now that you might think I want to get for free, but actually I may be interested in her one day and I would rather buy it and come at it more organically.

So now my record is over.  And I'm in a really good mood, and that's what a good album does for you.  It makes things more palatable.  Even people that will either ignore the obvious or think we've completely missed the obvious.  Is Brinsley Schwarz my favorite album ever?  Nope.  Not even close.  Nick Lowe has done much better things since, but it's good.  It's solid and it's the kind of thing it would be nice to see more people hear.  But it was hard to hear in 1970, and now it's buried under the internet.  Which is a shame.  My copy is a cutout, but it's a pretty clean copy, and it sounds really good.  Better yet, it makes me happy, which by any measurement means it's a good record.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Andy Pratt - Andy Pratt

I was at work today talking with a guy that I work with who's getting pretty close to 70.  I don't know why he's still working, but I think he really enjoys what he does and he's good at it, so why not keep at it?  Part of me thinks he should step aside and let someone else who deserves it have his spot, but I don't spend much time thinking about it.  We actually have a lot to talk about because he still listens to a lot of Rock N' Roll, and I know pretty much all the bands he likes and he's still interested in new bands, to some extent. So it was a pretty pleasant morning at work.

One of the things we talked about was how scattered new music is today.  He calls it all "Indie," because to him that's pretty much everything that isn't some old Classic Rocker putting out a "pretty good for a dude in his 70's" kind of album.  I was trying to gauge what slightly more obscure things we might have in common and I mentioned Andy Pratt.   I was kind of surprised that he said he'd never heard of him.  He's the kind of guy that has plenty of solo Jon Lord things and oddball things like that, so I thought that he might have heard of Pratt, since he had an AOR kind of hit from this first self-titled album called Avenging Annie.  He especially likes those keyboard and piano heavy things, so I figured there was no way he hadn't heard this record, but I might as well have asked him to name the song by The Clash that we heard at lunch after a crappy Foreigner tune he recognized (and rightfully called shit).

I think Avenging Annie is one of the first times that I found out that not everyone liked what I did.  Or at least didn't fall in love with the songs I did.  I think the last time I was surprised that I had it all wrong on the popularity of something was when I took a friend to see The Dirtbombs.  I bought tickets ahead of time because they were playing a really small place.  I thought it would sell out instantly, but there were less than 100 people there.  So my friend not knowing about Andy Pratt just reminded me that when I talk about music I really need to pay attention to my audience, but like I said, I didn't think Pratt was that far underground.  I probably bought this when I was fifteen or so, so I think I was probably okay to think that he might have heard something by a guy that almost charted a song.

Which led to a brief conversation about this record and then we talked about listening to records with other people.  He agreed with me that people just seem to pretty much listen to music all by themselves these days.  I think there's merits to that, in that a lot of younger people don't seem to give a shit what anyone else likes, because if they want to listen to Iron Maiden and Katy Perry in the same playlist, it doesn't bother anyone else, and it's more like reading a book.  No one cares if you're reading Steinbeck or Nora Roberts.  Because you're not bothering anyone anyway.  But you also don't really get to meet people and get to share your knowledge with theirs.  Sure, that can lead to some group thinking snobbery, but so what?  That's the best kind of snobbery and group think.  It's certainly better than starting a new war for some bullshit thinly veiled reason that's hiding the fact that the people starting the wars are getting rich while poor people's kids get killed.

Which is way off track.  We were talking about how we'd get together with people specifically to sit and listen to some music.  Maybe four people and everyone would bring a record.  He used to have a thing you could plug four sets of headphones into, so if he was working nights his friends could hang in the apartment and not disturb the neighbors.  If you've never done that, you have no idea what you missed out on.  That was really pretty cool.  We did it mostly in the school library, but I did that in a friend's house too.  People didn't just stick one ear bud in their ear and share the other one with a friend.  I mean, what the hell is that?  Why bother?  That's like I watch the first half of a show and you watch the second half and we say we watched it together.  It's a lot of fun to hang with friends and just play a couple of records.

Andy Pratt wasn't the kind of thing I played with most of my friends because they had no idea who he was, but they would recognize Avenging Annie because if we were driving around I'd usually say, "Hey, cool song. Crank it."  The rest of the record is a kind of oddball, sort of folky, sort of depressing kind of thing.  But it's not like the guy's Gilbert O'Sullivan or anything like that.  I think he may be a little too clever sometimes, and his falsetto can be a little dated these days, but at least Pratt is differentWho Am I Talking To is pretty catchy and not as depressing as Inside Me Wants Out, which is lyrically as messed up as you would expect.  It's kind of a heart on the sleeve affair, and it's definitely a product of the 70's.  It's the kind of record no one would make today, because there's no reason for ProTools or massive drums.  I think maybe I think it's kind of like more highbrow Elton John.  Or like maybe is Elton had used Frank Zappa as a producer.

Sittin' Down in the Twilight is what I'm thinking of there.  Sounds like a big trombone blasting away and some funky piano and super high vocals.  It's pretty cool.  It's completely dated at this point and I don't know if someone new to the game could really appreciate it.  Especially since that song is followed by a dirge about hunting a deer.  Or getting married.  It's about something.  Probably how everything ties together.  Lot's of acoustic guitar fingerpicking and deep, slow, "Oooh, ooooh, ooooh" backing vocals.  Yawn.  A really bad way to end a pretty good record.

Mine's in great shape.  I hardly ever play it.  Probably because the last song is such a drag.  It sucks all the energy you were feeling right out of you!  The record itself is nice and flat.  I think I probably had my first Dual when I got this and it didn't get ruined by my junky BSR.  Which, lets face it, if I had changed the stylus more often, the BSR would have just been a noisy turntable.  Some things you just have to learn.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Artful Dodger - Artful Dodger

I have mentioned the occupation of Music Critic here before, and I think you may get the idea that I have kind of a love/hate thing going there.  I suppose that would be accurate.  I really like some of them, and I really wanted to be one for a bit, but it must suck to wake up and have to listen to ten new records every day, so no wonder half the time they like stuff that sucks.  They can't all be Lester Bangs, and even Lester liked some really shitty records.  There's got to be some kind of filters for me though, and I still prefer to read about music and then buy it than to just listen to it and then buy it.  I do both (and I also buy records just because I like the cover), but reading a review is still my favorite way.

The first record I ever bought that way was Artful Dodger's first album.  There's a freebie rag in Cleveland called The Scene, and while there have been others, The Scene has been around since I was in elementary school.  It's not anywhere near as cool as I thought it used to be, but it does a pretty good job of keeping up with the arts and local politics from a slightly left (uhh...Rock N' Roll maybe) kind of perspective.  So I still grab them, but I don't think it's the be all and end all of coolness I thought it was when I was 13.  What I'm slowly getting at is that there was a guy named Mark Kmetzko and he wrote a review of the first Artful Dodger album.  I think Mark eventually became the senior editor or something like that at Scene, and that's cool but he was still just a guy writing record reviews so far as I know when he wrote his little 250 word review of just another band's first album.  This came out in the fall of 1975 (I had to look) and that should put me pretty firmly into something like seventh grade.  I read Kmetzko's review and I hadn't heard a single second of their music, but I went out and bought their first album immediately.

Now, I bought it immediately because I had the money right then and there and he said this was a really fantastic record.  I didn't know him from Adam, but it was important to me to use some kind of filter, like a reviewer to help guide me to buying better records than my friends did.  So I bought this.  Little did I know that it would become pretty much Cleveland's favorite album ever.  I'm not kidding.  People from here that are my age think this is about the greatest thing that EVER happened.  I'm included in that group and I have no reservations about being a big Artful Dodger fan.  Mark Kmetzko was right on the money here, and I think for years if he didn't show great enthusiasm for something, then I probably just ignored it.  Because Mark really got it right for me  on this one, and I knew then that I could count on other people to steer me right.  That opinion changed shortly thereafter, but I learned quickly what kinds of music Mark and I agreed on, and his reviews pretty much turned into gold in my pocket.  It didn't matter if he liked something or not.  He was consistent and I could use his opinion as a tool, and I wish that today I still had a guy like that I could turn to.

Now, in 1975 I was a swimmer first, and a kid that wanted to just sit and listen to records second.  Swimming was definitely number one back then whether I  liked it or not.  The one thing about swimming is that practice consists of going back and forth all night long, and man can you get songs stuck in your head perfectly when you do that.  I'd hate waterproof music devices.  It's just better to do it yourself.  I don't know how many records I owned in 1975, but it wasn't that many, so  believe me when I tell you that every song on this record was gold to me (they still are).  Even songs like Waiting Place (which kind of fades in after Think Think).  If you ask me I'll tell you that there isn't even a wrong note on this record.  I mean, it's about as perfect as it gets.  I remember one time my dad was driving us to swimming practice and It's Over came on the radio.  One of the coolest things about that song is the sound that Steve Cooper got on his bass.  He had a sound that still seems kind of acoustic to me, but it's got an electric feel that makes it seem like he's always got it really under control. Billy Paliselli sounded a little like Rod Stewart, but I didn't care.  I thought it was hard to tell a solo Rod Stewart song from a Faces song back then, but I didn't have any trouble telling Artful Dodger apart from anyone.  I'm wandering here - getting back to dad - he kept pissing me off because I wanted to hear It's Over on the radio in the car on the way to practice and really feel it so that I could take it with me in my head to the pool, and dad kept saying, "Did he say it's over, she's breaking my ORT?"

It didn't matter how much I tried to reason with him that it was "heart and certainly not ORT, because that's just stupid."  Dad just kept it up and it messed up the whole thing for me.  I probably still managed to play that song in my head up and down the pool, but I still remember just how frustrated I was with the old man for blabbing during my song.  It's weird how I remember something like a car ride to the YMCA for swimming practice.  I'm sure we did it hundreds of times.  Looking back, Paliselli really does sing "ORT" and not "heart," but that's Rock N' Roll, ya know?

For years the only way to get this was on vinyl.  If you had heard it back in Cleveland in 75 you'd have thought these guys were about as big as anyone, but as soon as you left the WMMS and M105 reaches, you didn't hear Artful Dodger at all.  Which is a shame, because songs like Wayside, It's Over and Think, Think are just the kinds of songs that could have made the charts and still maintained their cool to be played on the cooler Rock stations.    The love of Clevelanders managed to get this pressed on CD by Sony for a short time.  I just happened to walk into a store I never shopped at and just noticed the first album on CD.  When I bought it, the guy said he ordered ten of them and mine was the last one and he had sold them all in two days and already couldn't get anymore.  Mine's got some weird defect that looks strange but doesn't affect the play at all.  So I've got the CD and the record.  The record has a textured cover that's flat and not glossy, and you can tell Sony didn't have the original art and copied a vinyl cover and shrunk it down.  Between the texture and the crappy copy you can't read anything on the cover.  But just the fact that it exists at all makes a lot of people really happy.

My record is in great shape and I probably bought a new one after high school.  I think there's a click or two on side two, but it's a record and shit like that happens.  If you ever come across one of these, it's kind of considered and under the radar Power Pop classic these days.  I don't know why they call it Power Pop (I hate that term) because we just called it Rock N' Roll back then, but whatever you want to call it, this first Artful Dodger album is a terrific record.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Grand Funk - Caught in the Act

Sorry I haven't  been around in awhile, but I've been busy and then when I haven't for some reason this has felt a little like work.  Which is weird, but its had me thinking about some things like music and work and work and music together.  Which you might think I'd be like, "music and work are awesome!" I don't exactly think that, though.  I mean, I like that I'm generally able to listen to music at work, but I don't have music as my job.

There was a time when I thought music would be my job.  I figured I'd be a DJ on the radio, or a music critic.  I really thought those might have been the greatest jobs that ever existed, but I slowly started thinking that there was no way I'd ever want to do either.  I think there were a couple of things around the time I was about 16 that changed my mind.  First was Steely Dan's song, FM (No Static at All).  The line where Donald Fagen sings, Nothing but booze and Elvis and somebody else's favorite songs really went a long way in making me think that a DJ can't possibly love music the way I do.  I don't want to listen to someone else's favorite songs.  Sorry, but you guys really have shitty taste in music.  I suppose I don't really mean that, but can you imagine how utterly detached you must be to sit around and play the same shitty songs over and over all day, every day?  And pretend that you actually like that song by Styx?  Fuck that.  I would hate to make it so that the music I love became actual work.  I told a guy on a message board that was a DJ that he couldn't possibly like music anymore, since he had to play crap like Nickelback and whatever other rock is supposed to pass for "hard" these days (don't the guitars all sound shitty?  Like Grunge tone with the attitude taken out).  He was pissed, but I stand by it.  No way you can be a DJ on a commercial station these days and still love music.  I can't imagine even kind of liking the job, since they want you to essentially shut up and get to commercials.

I remember the local college station used to occasionally use regular citizens (mostly alumni, but not necessarily) to do some shows in the summer.  I was friendly with a few of them, and had conversations about maybe doing a summer show.  I was mostly interested because I wanted to do a Rolling Stones 24 hour marathon show, which would have been pure badassery, believe me!  The thing is, I found out that my other shows would have to follow their playlist.  Now the playlist was pretty good at the time, and there was certainly a lot of leeway, but this wasn't like some college stations where it's pure free form.  They said you actually had to take and play requests once in awhile, and I thought that was just bullshit.  I thought of calling my show The No Request Show as a way to get around it, and then I'd take the calls on the air and it would be like, "Hey man, can you play The Cure?"  and I'd say, "Sure!  Here ya go, all cued up and ready just for you!"  Then I'd play some geezer music like Bob Seger or The Gates of Delirium by Yes.  I wanted people to ask for Led Zeppelin so I could really piss them off and play something like Carole King instead.  I never really followed up on that, though.  I went on the air on a couple of marathons and brought some cool bootlegs to make the show a little better, but I just didn't want to be told what to play, or even have a plan.

Music critic was a bigger letdown.  I didn't know that I was one of the only people that paid attention to who actually wrote the reviews.  I mean, someone that pans a band I really like can be useful to me if I know that they just don't like certain things I like.  So I always thought everyone paid attention to those things.  Maybe people just indulged me for years and let me prattle on about music just to be nice.  But I eventually figured out that getting free records meant you actually had to listen to some of that crap and say what you thought of it.  I would have had so many reviews that just said, "Yuck" that they'd have quit sending me records and I'd have lost my awesome gig at Rolling Stone in two months.  So I don't want this thing to ever feel like work.  Which means I may listen to things by the same bands sometimes.

Besides, I like a lot of stuff like Grand Funk.  I'm so uncool I even think Craig Frost really added a lot to their sound, so if you were listening to my radio show back then, you'd have very likely heard the live version of Inside Looking Out or Black Licorice from the live Caught in the Act album right alongside Radio Clash and I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea.  Because that's what I like.  I don't care that most Grand Funk fans think Elvis Costello blows.  I think it goes the other way, too.  So my radio show would have pretty much only worked for an audience of one, ya know?

Man, I'll tell ya though, I think this Grand Funk album is just fantastic.  Yeah, it's big 70's bloat rock, but it's so good!  Mark Farner and Don Brewer have great voices for this kind of music, and like BTO when they need a shot of Shit Hell, they can just let Don sing a song like We're an American Band and it's time to party!  It's like when CF Turner sings Let It Ride.  Two hours of that would be too much, but Grand Funk plays to their strengths and maybe it's the Midwesterner in me, but I love it.  I especially love side 3 where they play three songs in a row off the We're An American Band album and they just bring the house down.  They really do help you party it down.

I remember a friend back in my late 20's that said he was going to get a Grand Funk album and he wasn't sure which to get and I told him to get this one.  He came in to work the next Monday and just raved about it.  I had been listening to it since I was a kid, and he was just like, "who did you know that turned you on to this stuff when you were a teenager?"  I just said that I thought this was what teenagers listened to, and this was just good enough to stick.  He really liked Shinin' On and Gimme Shelter.  I told him Gimme Shelter was a good Stones cover, but that he really needed to hear Johnny Winter And do Jumpin' Jack Flash.  I don' t know if he ever did.  He got Jesus and married some girl that was deeply religious.  He was pretty lonely and I heard he had a garage sale and sold all his records and cd's because she only likes religious music, and at that pretty much only in church.  Bummer.

Anyway, obviously I didn't spend too much time talking about my record, here.  Suffice to say that it's pretty kick ass, but there are two things I'd have changed.  Drum solo - I'd have edited the hell out of it.  They just aren't that cool, ya know?  And what is up with side one going into side two?  Why does Closer to Home fade out, then you flip the record over and it fades up for a few seconds and then goes in to Heartbreaker.  Which by they way, isn't Heartbreaker just too fucking cool?  I saw these guys once, and believe me, that one brought the house down.  It's just everything big 70's Rawk should be. Anyway, the intro is twenty fucking minutes long, so they could have cut some of that and done a better job with the songs.  I think that as far as the 1970's double live album goes though, this is definitely one of the best.  It's what concerts really used to be like, and they were fun.

I think I've got an early pressing.  It just says Grand Funk on the cover instead of Grand Funk Railroad.  The records are cool and have neato custom labels and they're pretty quiet and play nicely.  I don't know if any versions of this would actually be collectible because if the generations that have followed us find out about music by reading the music critics that I never could have been (partly because my reviews are awful, which is why I write about other stuff more) all seem to have hated Grand Funk.  Let it be known here and now though, that these guys were HUGE and deserved  being huge.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The English Beat - Special Beat Service

Man, there was a time when the Ska/Two tone thing was all the rage somewhere, but it wasn't really Cleveland.  I remember when I first got this, I think I was living in the basement at my wife's mother's house. I think we lived there just under a year, and I bought my stereo when I got my first income tax check from my first Big Boy Job.  I mean, it turned into a Big Boy Job, but at the time buying a stereo was probably a stupid thing to do, but the time I spend sitting in front of my stereo has been what's kept me sane for something like forty years now.  I bought a pretty nice system.  A pair of Phase Tech HT 32's, which were nice three way cabinets with a twelve inch woofer and a soft dome tweeter.  Back then, if you had a soft dome tweeter, Phase Tech made it, no matter the manufacturer.  I had a Denon DRA 300 receiver, which was rated at 33 WPC, but it had a ton of dynamic headroom and would push over 100 WPC in short bursts.  I got a Bang and Olufsen Beogram RX turntable to go with it.  That took the place of my old Dual.  I was kind of late switching to mainly purchasing CD's for a long time, because that system sounded like a million bucks!

I remember I had The English Beat's Special Beat Service, and I felt like I never had time to actually crank up my killer stereo with no one in the house.  Sunday night was the exception.  I got the whole place to myself (with my son, who was just a baby), because it was bingo night.  Man, I loved bingo night!  I'd crank the stereo to some ear bleeding volumes (that kid didn't seem to mind loud music, or someone used to come and get him now and then.  I can't remember).  The thing was, the people that would come over almost to a person absolutely hated stuff like this.  They wanted a pretty steady diet of Led Zeppelin (not at my house, I never did like them), The Who, and Black Sabbath.  I'm mostly ambivalent about those bands, but I still had a pretty decent record box and I was getting pretty heavily into The Stones then so I could usually keep people entertained.

I liked when my brother came over back then, because he'd listen to The English Beat with me.  He liked The Clash more than air or water (I think they're still the only music he listens to), but at least he got it that stuff like Special Beat Service was just about the greatest thing in the world to put the speakers out the windows and sit on the porch and blast the neighborhood with.  We'd roll one up, grab some beers and make a warm Sunday night super mellow, listening to Ranking Roger Toasting and Dave Wakeling Confessing.  We'd sit out on the swing and half the time not even talk to each other, just listen to music.  We don't do that anymore, and I won't go into that other than to say it's really a shame, because I loved listening to records with my brother.

Anyway, I really like this record.  I found it a year or so again for a dollar and I couldn't pass it up.  Anything with Sugar and Stress, I Confess and Save it For Later is worth at least a dollar in my book.  Throw in Rotating Head and the killer saxophone on End of the Party and I'm all in.  I always thought these guys were just really cool, and I never quite got why the guys that hung out with my wife's siblings thought they were somehow too effeminate for them to listen to.  Hey, I like my Blues Rawk as much as anyone, but if you're gonna enjoy the summer weather and have a little fun, you can't get much better than Ackee 1 2 3 or Pato and Roger A Go Talk.  I'm not much of a fan of the reggae, but I like a lot of the Ska/Two Tone stuff. Kind of like the same way I guess I like bands that sound like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles.  For some reason the followers sometimes are what I'm most interested in.  I don't know why, but that's the way it is.

Like I said, I got this record for a buck.  It's got the original inner sleeve with the lyrics and if you ask me, I'd guess it was only played once or twice.  It sounds great, it's flat and the cover has creases all over the place. But who cares?  It's got a big sticker on it that says $1.00 and I can't get it off, so I just sit back with a nice cold drink and listen to this one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Death of Samantha - If Memory Serves Us Well

I love bands from Ohio.  I mean, I live here and I like to be a part of my local community, and I kind of consider the whole state my community.  I think a lot of us here are like that.  We're definitely Homers.  I mean, our sports talk stations ignore national stuff, even big stuff like the World Series or NBA Finals for the most part, so that we can analyze whatever the most crushing needs of The Browns are in the upcoming draft, or why The Indians should just break down and buy that one big bat.  If the World Series is The Yankees and Dodgers, we'll mention it, but always quickly change it to whatever is going on locally.

I love that about Cleveland.

I like sports, but music is definitely my passion.  I love Rock N' Roll.  I love guitars.  I'd have been bored out of my skull if I had been born into a world where there were no distorted guitars.  But I got lucky, and I'm here now, and I live in a city where there's always been some flat out great bands.  Yeah, you've never heard of them, but the bands in Ohio are as good as any bands from anywhere, if you ask me.

So I've had the recent Death of Samantha retrospective album for a little while now, and I've only got one of their ep's so this has been a welcome addition.  These guys were all over in the second half of the 80's around here.  They were really popular on the live circuit, but WMMS was in a tailspin around then and too busy with their heads up Michael Jackson's ass to bother blowing away N.E. Ohio with Death of Samantha.  WCSB played them, and that was good enough for me.  Hell, back then I was really mostly into The Stones, so I didn't care if 'MMS played anything other than The Stones, because I could listen to the new music I liked on college radio.  Those were pretty great days, even though I was really broke with a young family.

So Death of Samantha probably left a bigger footprint than most of you are aware of.  Doug Gillard is pretty well known for playing in Cobra Verde and Guided By Voices, along with John Petkovic (who writes for The Plain Dealer these days).  One of the things I never liked hearing about a lot of Cleveland bands is how they're some kind of avant garde Art Rock.  This happens a lot.  Their live shows were spectacles, but there's a lot of bands in Cleveland and you need to set yourself apart somehow.  Having a great show to go with your great songs doesn't make you Art Rock.  I just don't like that label.  It makes me think all the people in the audience are beatniks or some other beret wearing hipster doofus type of crowd.  Cleveland crowds respond to passion and we drink beer and liquor.  Turn it up and bring some fun and we're on board.  We don't have to call it anything but Rock N' Roll, okay?

I don't know if anyone reading this (I have a worldwide range, but it's only like six people, I think) will know any of the songs I'm going to mention, but it gives you something to check out on Youtube then, doesn't it?  So what's this record all about?  It's Death of Samantha getting together in 2011 to rehearse for some reunion shows.  This record is a recording of the rehearsal sessions, so these are new performances of old songs.  But they're live, so it gives a nice immediacy to everything.  There's plenty of crunchy guitars, David James on bass and Steve-O on drums are a really solid backbone and Gillard's guitars are fantastic.  Petkovic's lead vocal range is as limited as ever, but he knows what he can get away with, and he stays far, far away from where he doesn't belong.  What more could one ask from a Rock N' Roll band?

The songs here are all top notch.  I shoulda went to this show, cuz they were on the money, man!  We kick off with Coca-Cola and Licorice, complete with some clarinet strangling, and plenty of weird guitar playing.  It's a great song, and only one of many on this two record set.  I don't want to just start listing great songs, because you can just look up the track listing on AllMusic or something.  Savior City, Geisha Girl, Amphetamine - in a just and decent world these would be songs everyone knows.  They're certainly good enough.  It's a real bummer that we live in a world where Rosenberg Summer and Yellow Fever aren't talked about at least as much as what The Pixies have done.  don't think I'm all down on The Pixies or something, because I like them a lot.  If Memory Serves Us Well is just certainly as good as any albums they ever made.

The biggest omission the world is making is not think that Blood Creek is anything short of one of the coolest, best Rock songs ever recorded.  It's one of those songs I can listen to all day.  It's probably a good thing that I haven't got this in a digital form because I'd probably only listen to Blood Creek for a week.  It's just such a great riff, and it closes out four sides of great Rock N' Roll.  If you haven't heard these guys, it's not your fault, but you should really check them out.  If Memory Serves Us Well is a great place to start.

Since I bought mine new, it's obviously in good shape.  The pressing is nice and flat, there's a spot of distortion here and there, but I'm listening with headphones while I write this, and it's mostly dead quiet.  I can't recommend it enough.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory

I haven't decided what record to write about for this post.  But I'm working on it.  The thing I've been thinking about lately is exactly why do some people seem to think that it's important to have an extremely diversified collection of music.  I've heard some people say their tastes are eclectic, just because they have some Iron Maiden albums next to their Can albums and their Herb Alpert albums.  I'm not saying it's impossible to like very different types of music, but I just find it a little more unlikely than the internets would have us believe.  It's part of the whole critical listening process that us people in the collecting community are often so proud of mentioning.

Now, the idea behind critical listening is something I understand.  I realize that essentially it means that I'm making a decision that one piece of art (music's the only art I'm comfortable being critical about) is more worthwhile than another piece of art.  Obviously, other people will agree, while others disagree.  That's pretty much half the fun of interacting with other people that like the kind of art you're interested in.  I've got a nephew (nephew-in-law?) that doesn't collect music in any form.  We were someplace where we were listening to the radio in the background and a Stones song came on and I said, "Cool!  I love this song."

He said, "Yeah, this is pretty good."

I asked, "What kind of music do you like?"

He replies, "Oh, I like all music."

Now to me, this is the worst.  How can you genuinely like all music?  We talked about that a little, but I could tell that it's really just not important to him what music is playing.  We saw a band that played 90's hits, and he danced with his wife to all those songs, and they seemed to like the nostalgic aspect of those songs. Maybe those kinds of songs would be his "favorites," I'm not sure.  I'm not sure because I think he puts equal value to every song he hears.  Now, you can admire that if you want to, but I'm actually very glad I listen to music differently than he does.  I don't think The People on the Bus is as worthwhile to listen to as say, Magic Bus by The Who.  I understand that I'm not a four year old, and I understand that when I was four I thought The People on the Bus was a terrific song.  So is it a worthwhile song?  Yes, for children.  It's like a crayon.  A crayon is great to get a child interested in art, but as that child gets older, hopefully he sees that paint conveys more emotion than a crayon does.

I heard something by Florida Georgia Line the other day.  I did it on purpose, and I have to say, that was a mistake.  It was a mistake because I don't think all music is good.  I think some music is bad.  Listening to Florida Georgia Line was like huffing gasoline, or eating paste, or maybe listening to Rush Limbaugh.  I could feel myself getting dumber just listening to this.  Every second, I felt dumber.  I felt like I was wasting my time.  I'm a musical snob, for sure, but I can see the joys in a stupid song.  I love songs like Wooly Bully and Louie, Louie.  Some songs are just fun.  But some songs are mind numbingly stupid and sound like they've got paid product placements in them.  I mean, there was a time when a corporation wouldn't want anything to do with a song, but now it sounds like Ford, Chevy and Dodge are competing with Budweiser and Miller to get mentioned in some stupid song about looking at a teenage girl's tits.  Ugh.

Which got me to thinking about something that's almost universally loved (at least by people in my general age range), and I came up with Creedence Clearwater Revival.  In particular, Cosmo's Factory.  These guys had like a two year smash of a career.  They completely ruled the singles charts, and their albums were really solid.  The kinds of albums a real Rock Snob could get behind.  It kicks off with Ramble Tamble, which I suppose is kind of just a jam more than a real song, but it's a great way to start an album.  CCR sounds like an American band, and their brand of roots music isn't an act or a facade, these guys know why the guitars need to wail right here, and the drums need to pound right there.  CCR works in Cleveland as well as it works in Baton Rouge. They're the kind of band that just sounds like what we all want Rock N' Roll to sound like, no matter what part of the country we're from.

The thing with CCR is that they were a truly great singles band, and I know a lot of Rock Snobs scoff at that kind of success, but their albums, at least during the time when they were ruling the world, are even better than the singles.  I mean, Cosmo's Factory has five Top 5 singles.  Think about that.  Five Top 5 singles, and this isn't a Greatest Hits package.  Sure, that means you've heard Lookin' Out My Back Door and Up Around the Bend enough that they're burned into your psyche, but How great a world is it when Run through the Jungle is the kind of song that hits number 4?  The argument can certainly be made that it's a better one than we have now.  The thing is, the charts can have bands with good music on their albums, but for some reason we've decided we don't want that anymore.  I dunno.  If all albums were as solid as Cosmo's Factory, maybe I'd just like everything, too.  But all albums aren't even close.

My copy is a late 70's pressing.  I'm sure older pressings have more "bloom" or some other bullshit than mine does, but you can crank it up and hear a little of the passing of the years through my record, but I love the way it sounds, and I love the cool inner sleeve with their catalog on one side and their faces on the other.  It's a nice copy of a great record, by a great band.  There's not a bad second on it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

So have you ever watched videos of people looking at their records?  You may think, "Rick, that sounds really fucking stupid."  You wouldn't be wrong, but what's the difference between someone making a video and showing you some new records they just got, or talking about some records they like and writing about their records in a blog?  Really, not that much when you come to think of it.  I started this project mainly just to make sure I keep writing things, using paragraphs, spelling words and generally not turning into one of those IT guys that can only spell or communicate in acronyms. So before you go giving these people a hard time, remember, they're just having some fun with their stuff and lets also remember that those of us that collect records have had some serious issues in the past:

Guys that collect records are notorious for not having girlfriends or wives.  Many of those that did have ended up choosing records over that life.  C'mon, you've met them so don't look at me like that.

Guys that collect records often have all the social skills of a ten year old with a new toy he doesn't want anyone else to touch.  They also often don't understand why people might not give a shit who Robert Ludwig is.  Or what a matrix number is.  Or any number of the little bits of minutiae that give record geeks a hard on.

Guys that collect records often have serious issues with body odor.  Every record show I've ever been to, some cat smells like he doesn't wipe his ass or bathe, and I'll be damned if that dude isn't always following me or just ahead of me.

So we shouldn't be throwing any stones near our incredibly fragile glass house, ya know?

Anyway, I was down a YouTube rabbit hole watching people show off their newest records and I had a pretty entertaining time of it, actually.  Especially with the kids.  The kids are teenagers or young adults, and it's really pretty cool to see just how excited they get about something like finding a Rolling Stones Let It Bleed album with the poster (and to be truthful I don't have one of those, so I'm a little jealous!).  You just go to YouTube and search on Vinyl Community and there's tons of stuff to sit and watch.  The common thread is that everyone is really into records, and the size of the collection doesn't matter.  You can have thirty or 30,000.  All you have to do is hold up your record and go back to kindergarten and do the whole Show and Tell thing.  I'm often very surprised at how much the kids know about Classic Rock and first pressings, label variations. One girl held up a Columbia Two Eye label and called it exactly that.  I didn't know anything about that kind of stuff until I was in my twenties.  I kind of wish the kids would listen to more new stuff, but maybe that will change as they make more money?  New records are expensive, but then again some of the old stuff they dig up isn't exactly cheap.  But I'm not gonna complain about kids listening to records.  Or showing them off on YouTube.  I think it's pretty cool, and they meet other people that like their records.  So good for them.

All of which has nothing whatsoever to do with the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album.  I know I said Damn the Torpedoes was his masterpiece, and I stand by that, but man, I'll tell ya, when this came out in 1976 and I first heard it wherever it was I first heard it, I was really excited about these guys.  I mean this is kind of a scattershot album, but I have loved Breakdown since the day I first heard it, and I still love it. I remember my friend's dad that had a real, honest to goodness, badass stereo in his basement had a little Datsun B210.  That's the little car my friend always tried to get, because he had a killer Pioneer under dash stereo cassette and a bunch of Jensen Coaxials wherever he could fit them in.  Man, Breakdown would just shake the paint off that little car when my friend cranked it up!  That used to be a lot of fun!

I think this record got more play than it might have otherwise just because Breakdown and American Girl were just instant favorites for everyone.  I don't think the rest of the record really holds up to the standard set by those two songs, but Strangered in the Night, and Fooled Again (I Don't Like It) were just good enough to garner some airplay and keep the sides on turntables.  I don't think anyone thought Tom Petty would still be selling out anyplace he wants to this far into the game, but it really doesn't seem like that kind of success couldn't have happened to a nicer, harder working guy that knows how hard it is to make it in Rock N' Roll and also appreciates the history of the genre.  I mean, for me the guy gets into a sameness after Damn the Torpedoes that I'm just not interested in, but he was a new Classic Rocker at the time when it was starting to look like there might not be any of those anymore.  So that's pretty cool.

Well, that was a rambling, mostly incoherent little essay, but that's okay.  I tend to look at these like the kind of things I'd say if you were here listening to records with me and you couldn't figure out how to get a word in edgewise.  Not so much different than the YouTube people, is it?  Except I probably take up less of your time!   But back to my record - I've got an MCA Super Saver pressing, but it's really in great shape, and the vinyl is actually pretty heavy, flat and quiet.  If you're looking for this album, you should be able to get one of these for five bucks or less.  I had an earlier pressing long ago, but it had some issues that I think were related to the pressing plant not quite using enough vinyl to stamp the record.  The first song on both sides was really bad!  This one has been a nice replacement, though.  I hope I come across one of the YouTube kids listening to it and enjoying it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Zappa/Beefheart/Mothers - Bongo Fury

Man, I have some strange, strange stuff on my record shelves.  I don't know where or when I got this.  In fact, I have several Zappa albums and I really only remember how three of them came into my possession. This one, with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart just doesn't seem like the kind of thing I'd expect me to have.  Yet here it is.  In terrific shape, even.  As I listen to this, I'm not sure I've ever played it before.  I doubt that, because I think I've played every record I own, because I think it's stupid to just hoard the damned things.  Records are for listening to, and I don't feel the need to save every record from the garbage pile, nor do I buy records I just think I should have.  I should have records that make me happy, and I shouldn't have records just because someone else thinks they're important.  So I'm kind of surprised this oddball thing is on my shelf.

It starts off with a live track with Captain Beefheart called Debra Kadabra.  I'm not exactly sure what the good Captain is on about, but he's on to something.  He's ranting over some kind of weird beats and guitar blasts. I can't imagine anyone ever walking around trying to hum these songs.  I mean, every time it gets a little melody or rhythm going, they completely change things up or Captain Beefheart howls about some new thing.  But then Frank starts riffing a little and we get into Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy, which is sort of what I expect from Frank.  It's got some odd time signatures in parts, but lyrically it's about a groupie.  FZ has done some of those songs better, and some worse.

The album is mostly live and part studio, and I kind of like how they just decided that that's the way it was going to be.  Why does a record have to be one or the other, or even live on one side and studio on the other?  It still works out to be a pretty weird, but pretty listenable blast of weirdness.  It came out in 1975, when I was 13.  I wonder what I'd have thought of this back then?  I know 13 year old me would have absolutely loved Advance Romance, because right now much older me is really getting into it.  I have no idea what the vocals are on about, but Frank tears some ass on his guitar, which is always a good thing.  It's a really long song and it's real weird, but the line, half an hour later she had frenched his fry is gong to have me chuckling to myself all night long.  I'm enjoying it.  Especially the stupid shit about cupcakes and muffins.  I'm assuming that we've morphed into Muffin Man, which has some more blistering guitars on it.  I think I'm all in on this one.

Mine had a promo sticker on it, but it fell off.  It didn't leave a mark, but I'll keep it in the record bag. There's a corner bump, but otherwise the cover is pretty nice.  The record sounds terrific.  It's flat, dead quiet and ya gotta love those old DiscReet labels.  I really wonder where I got this from.  I wonder if it was a gift, or one of those times where I bought a bunch of records and thought I had listened to everything, but I missed some (I've missed some great bands for years because I did that - more on that some other time).  I'm glad I dug this one out!

Monday, June 23, 2014

801 - Live

When I was a teenager I used to go to downtown Cleveland once in awhile for a special record shopping trip.  I bought what I thought were the weirdest and hardest to find titles back then after a ride on the RTA Rapid Transit (the rest of the world calls them trains) and then a few blocks of wandering around.  I always went by myself because I'm pretty insufferable to go record shopping with.  Depending on the size of the store, I may decide I need to flip through every single record to make sure I don't miss the one record I've been looking for for ten years.  Plus, I'll talk to the store employees, other customers and generally be hours later than I said I would.  Hey, it's as good as (or better) than going to the bar so far as I'm concerned, and I like the bar a lot!

So I think I was about fifteen when I got this.  I went down to one of the downtown stores and flipped through everything and I think this was just in the import section, which back them may or may not be sorted in any way, depending on the size of the section.  I don't remember this being in a huge import section, but I remember it being a nice, diverse section of the store.  I looked at the cover and I just loved the grainy shot of the headstock of the bass guitar and pretty much nothing else.  I knew that Phil Manzanera was the guitar player for Roxy Music, and especially when I was a kid that meant total Guitar Hero to be in a really cool band that was big in England but mostly unknown in the US.  Except here in Cleveland because WMMS championed Roxy Music before most other markets in the US.  So I figured I'd take a chance on this, because I knew that Eno was also involved in Roxy, but at the time I don't think I much appreciated what he brought to the table.  Anyway, the back cover had pictures of the guys playing and they looked like what I thought a jazz band would look like if they weren't all really old.  I always wanted to like jazz some day, so I thought this might be some kind of gateway record into that world for me.

So I rode home with it and read what little text there was on the cover over and over and just couldn't wait to hear my new record.  I didn't have The Beatles' Revolver album so I didn't know if Tomorrow Never Knows was some weird outtake song or what, but I couldn't wait to hear it.  I had heard Baby's on Fire a few times on the radio, and I wondered how that would come across live.  I figured I'd either flip my wig over this, or I'd hate it, and I figured the big money import price was an exciting gamble.

When I got home I listened to it, and the beginning of the first side is something that I just always hear in my head these days.  It's just really quiet and I'm sure the band is kind of just getting situated to start, but the opening of Lagrima has these two little notes on the keyboard that almost sound accidental, but they also remind me of a train whistle kind of far off in the middle of the night.  I love that sound.  We lived near enough to railroad tracks that we could hang out by them, but just far enough from the intersections that the horns didn't wake you up or anything.  I loved hearing them late at night when I was a kid, and I still love the rare times I actually hear a train in the distance these days, though trains hardly ever blow their horns anymore.

Lagrima segues into Tomorrow Never Knows, and the songs become a little more structured.  Trust me, they're all kind of weird, especially with Eno singing.  For awhile I thought maybe he left Roxy because he wanted to sing more, but I think that's just a leap of my teenage imagination.  He's pretty cool because he sort of talk-sings like Lou Reed did but he actually sings a little more.  The more this record played, the more I knew it was going to be one of my favorites forever.

The odd thing is, this really still is one of my favorite records.  It's one of the reasons I still buy records because I like the cover.  It's adventurous, it's musically tight as can be, and while it isn't a jazz album in any sense of the word, it's definitely not just some more of the same old choogle that I love so much.  I love the weird lyrics to Miss Shapiro.  I used to love playing their cover of You Really Got Me for my friends, especially after Devo's first album came out with its killer cover of Satisfaction.  I mean, this was what I thought sophisticated Rock Music was all about.  I thought I was unbelievably cool for having found it.

Then years later, when I found the CD (and gave my import vinyl record away), I took my purchase up to the cash register and the clerk says, "Wow!  I didn't know this came out on CD.  I love this album, it's a total classic."  I'm thinking, "Bullshit.  I'm the only person in the world that's ever heard this!"  So I enjoyed that for years and then the internet comes along and apparently this is a slightly above ground semi classic record. Huh.  Who'd a known?  It's a truly great record that I think I'll never get tired of.

So you're saying, "Hey, Rick.  You said you trade this away and have it on CD now, but I see a record up there at the top of the post!"  Well, I was in Ithaca last week for a day and I found a neato record store called Angry Mom that I can highly recommend to you.  I think this was seven bucks.  The cover looks a little loved, but it still had the original sleeve and it plays pretty damned nicely.  It's got someone else's clicks now and then, but I think they can become mine.  The record is nice and flat and the guy that rung me up said I'd like it, especially if I never heard it.  I told him I've owned a copy since like 1977, and he called me an "early adopter."  I asked if it was popular and he said he doesn't keep them in stock that long when he gets one, but they're kinda few and far between.  I liked the store a lot and bought several great things there. I hope I can go back some day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Saxon - Strong Arm of the Law

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I used to be in my early twenties and I had a job that paid very little, and a wife and a kid.  It was the early 80's and I had always enjoyed the Punk Rock that I've mentioned here in previous posts, but I always had a fondness for hard, fast heavy rock that had nothing to do with Punks. Maybe it's growing up in the Midwest.  I dunno.  It's just that I've always liked the hard and heavy, but I kind of have my limits.  It's so easy to just laugh off heavy metal, especially the metal of the 80's, but there was some pretty kick ass stuff back then, and when my record spending allowance was incredibly meager, I managed to buy a few metal albums that I'll stand behind to this very day.  I have some that are less great than others, but then again, there's no accounting for taste, and I think if you've seen much of this blog you'd agree that hyperlinking the term there's no accounting for taste and using this blog as the link would get your point across quite effectively.

Anyway, back when I had to work all three shits in a week and often stood next to the same one or two people for twelve hours a day, we'd sit and talk about music and movies mostly, and we'd get pretty in depth and go on and on all day.  Metal wasn't a joke then.  I don't think the genre has aged well (have you seen That Metal Show?), and I think it's a young man's game (again, have you seen That Metal Show?  I think there are usually three females in the audience), and I think older men just look funny with their thinning, super long hair and weird, apocalyptic, demon-y and generally laughable lyrical subjects just come across more as kind of sad than kind of fun.  Maybe it's just me, but c'mon, when you're fifty I just don't believe you'd rather stir up some demonic trouble more than you'd rather just go home and have a beer and hang out with your wife.

Man, metal is tough for me to stay on track with!  So I was saying, way back in the 80's in Cleveland, we were one of the cities to get Z-Rock. It only lasted maybe a year, in like the mid 80's, but it was enough that in that period of time, Cleveland was pretty into metal, and so was I.  I was a lousy metalhead, though.  Just like I was a lousy Punk.  I never dressed right, and I never cared.  Some of the true powerhouse metal bands I essentially ignored, like Slayer or Venom.  I really liked this album by Saxon, though.

I still think there's a lot of good on this record.  It's not so much like a metal statement or anything, it's kind of like the direction I'd have expected a band like UFO to go.  It's harder and faster usually, but it's also just a really catchy album.  I still have no idea how old a sixth form student is in school, but I'm assuming like a high school senior, and Sixth Form Girls is a song about young girls in the proud tradition of The Standells' Dirty Water.  Sure it's ten times faster, but the girls still want to go out and party.  I like it.  It kind of reminds me of a less salacious Motorhead song.  I mean, there's not just a mindless, chunky riff with some screaming on these songs, like a lot of 80's metal wound up being.  Heavy Metal Thunder is another fast and furious one.  It's about getting ROCKED.  It's essentially an updated version of any song about Rock N' Roll and that's always cool by me.

Dumb as metal bands can often be, I thought Saxon did a decent job with a song about JFK's assassination on Dallas 1 PM.  It could have been really stupid and totally missed the point, but I think the music playing behind the broadcast we've all heard (at least if you're my age or older) is cool, and helps make a decent artistic statement.  Saxon may have looked like a dumb metal band, but they weren't.  They were a solid hard rock band, at least for a little while.  I had wished I knew the title track when I was in high school, because it was just the kind of song that everyone partying in a car would have been able to get behind, ya know?

My record is in great shape.  I think it only saw play on my old B&O turntable and my current Rega.  It's not an amazing audiophile recording, but it sounds good loud and the record is quiet and flat.  The cover is black and shiny, but when I look it up online it's usually white.  That's probably the import or the CD version. I'd bet you can get this really cheap, and even if you don't like heavy metal, I bet you'd end up liking this record.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

King Tuff - Was Dead

There are times when I look at my records and I think they're all ancient and I feel like one of those guys that says there's been no good music recorded after whatever date, which always seems to coincide with when they got finished with school.  I think that's stupid, especially because half the time those people don't know anything about any music that came out before The Beatles.  So generally the only good music came out over maybe twenty years, and that's just stupid.  I'm not some major musical historian, and I'm not some kid that just from having friends hears all the latest stuff.  I don't know anything about whatever the Top 40 or Bro Country charts are doing, but I'm not that young anymore and now I spend my time looking for things that make me happy.  I don't care if it's a record from 1976 or 2014, but no matter what, I'm still gonna do what I've done as long as I can remember.  I'm gonna read reviews, I'm gonna talk to people and I'm gonna go to the record store and buy things because I like the covers.  I'm not going to keep buying the same records over and over, looking for some elusive pressing with more Pace, Rhythm and Timing or Bass Slam. I think that's just obnoxious, and I think that's really something more for people interested in their equipment more than the music (which is okay, it's just not for me).

All that certainly doesn't mean I don't like it when someone asks me what I'm listening to.  My wife does it now and then, but she usually says, "What are we listening to?" with some kind of a sneer or outright distaste.  Every now and then someone (including her) will actually come in from the other room and say, "What are you listening to?" and sit down and listen with me.  That makes me feel good.  Not because it really matters to me if other people really like what I like, but when it's a band that's actually out there working today, and the person listening is only 30 or so, then I think it's cool to turn them on to something that may be a scene they can actually be a part of (cuz face it, I'm not part of any scene unless that's the sitting in my house listening to records by myself scene).

So just the other day I was listening to King Tuff - Was Dead while my oldest son and one of his friends were here.  I was feeling like and old fart and wanted to listen to something I haven't heard since Jr. High, and I decided on King Tuff.  I bought this just because I liked the cover and the name of the band.  It turns out it's a reissue of a really limited 2008 record by a guy named Kyle Thomas.  I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't play everything on the record.  So what does that usually mean?  It usually means lets have fun and blast some guitars the way kids have done it since before The Beatles.  King Tuff is all guitars and garagey goodness.  There's guitar solo's galore, and absolutely nothing to bring you down on this record.  I think I was hoping it would bring the sun out, and looking out the window right now, while Ruthie Ruthie is blasting its killer riff, I think the sun is trying to come out, anyway.

I like this record because it's the kind of record that it's really hard to pick standout songs.  The whole album is fun from front to back.  It's pretty much pedal to the metal for the most part, but Stone Fox is a slower song, but it's still drenched in great electric guitars, and there's none of the boring acoustic instrumentation some bands on indie labels seem to use as their stock in trade, and it doesn't drown itself in distortion like some newer bands seem wont to do these days.  I mean, who cares how catchy your pop hooks are if I can't make them out through the distortion you're purposely putting in to the recording?  I'm okay with lo fi, and King Tuff is never going to be considered as a reference kind of recording, but it sounds good.  it sounds good and the music is fun.

Mine's still pretty new, so it kind of obviously looks and plays like a perfectly new record.  The Burger Records reissue is nice, thick vinyl and it comes with a pretty cool poster of Kyle sitting out in the woods. It's a nice package and it's a great record.  The kind of record that's so great the kid's friend came up, asked what it was and sat and listened to the whole record with me.  What else can you ask a record to do?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Brownsville Station - Motor City Connection

Well Crabby mentioned some Brownsville Station stuff in the comment section to Brownsville Station's Yeah! album and I'll tell ya what - I just don't need much prompting to get started listening to anything Cub Koda was connected to.  Because plain and simple, Cub loved Rock N' Roll the same way I do, and he knew why some music was great and why some music just sucks.  You don't need a refined or critical ear for Rock N' Roll, but you do need to know why some stuff, even though it's nothing new, is now and always will be 100 times better than something like say, whoever this year's "Rocker" is on American Idol.  Yeah, maybe Brownsville Station spent too much time in Boogieland, but even their worst is better than every one of those guys on that show combined.  Maybe it's the Detroit Rock N' Roll Swagger?  I don't really know. But I'll say this, whatever it is Brownsville Station had, it's the thing that craftsmanship and attitude only make better.

Because I'll admit it, there's no-one in this band with Rock Super Powers.  No one plays 100 miles an hour, no one writes lyrics that have so many meanings you could write a book about them and no one will make you cry with their beautiful voice.  You will however, have your face rocked off on their killer instrumental cover of Crazy Legs.  It's just bitchin' guitars and a killer harp rocking your ass for three minutes or so.  It's the kind of thing J Geils Band did, but Brownsville Station is just stopping in for a quickie in that genre, and they pretty much show everyone how it's done.  It sounds effortless, but I'm sure it has a lot of thought behind it.

I knew a guy that used to play a lot of Brownsville Station albums (I seem to remember it was either them or a host of Progressive Rockers - kinda weird).  He had this album, and I always remembered Crazy Legs, the fantastic opener Automatic Heartbreak and the truly epic They Call Me Rock N' Roll.  You might be thinking, "only three memorable songs?" but that's not exactly right.  Combination Boogie and Self Abuse are the kinds of things you could count on on a Brownsville Station album.   It's not filler. It might not be brilliant, but you can always put on a Brownsville Station album and you can listen to the whole thing and it's all good.  There's never anything shitty on their records.  Anyway, this guy lived in his own house, over by the airport and he was all by himself with no one near.  He had some kind of old speakers that looked like end tables, and they were huge.  I think he had a shelf full of Pioneer or Marantz stuff and we'd blast the hell out of that thing.  The whole house was probably less than 600 square feet, but when I was 16 I thought it was beyond cool.  He paid like 125 bucks a month for it, which was ridiculously cheap, even then.  I loved going over there.

I bought this at a used record store, I think.  Not really all that long ago.  Maybe just a year or two.  I know it was still sealed, and I couldn't believe it!  I remember the kid asking me if I was going to keep it sealed for an investment, and I just said, "No, I'll probably open this as soon as I get home and play it right away."  He seemed to think I was making a mistake, but I don't buy records to look at.  I buy them to listen to.  And I've listened to every record I have.  I don't get buying them just "because."  I have some records I don't like, but I eventually take them to the record store and get rid of them.  But records I've never played?  That's just stupid.  So anyway, since I got this still sealed, it's like a brand new record from 1975.  It sounds like a brand new record and it looks like one, too!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blitzen Trapper - Furr

Did you ever just start getting records by a band and then after you have a few get around to reading critical reviews of those records?  That's kind of how it was when I got into Blitzen Trapper.  I would look at their records and wonder what the hell they were about.  You pretty much can't tell by the covers or the titles. They could be anything from a heavy metal band to a folk rock duo.  So I didn't buy anything for awhile, and then one day I was flipping through records and I think I had enough for a few records, so I took a chance on this album, Furr.  I think I promptly took it home and loved a few of the other records I bought and really didn't even listen to Blitzen Trapper.  Then one day I was talking to a customer and he was asking me what new bands I was liking, and I was asking the same of him.  I think I had been really digging Deer Tick, and this guy said he had seen a little of them on the internet and they kind of reminded him of Blitzen Trapper. Sort of.  Deer Tick was newer and didn't have as many records out, but this guys said I should check out Furr.

Well, I got home and looked and that was the Blitzen Trapper album I had bought and kind of neglected.  I remembered thinking, "Hmmm...this is pretty good" while I listened to it, but it ended up getting filed away before I really got into it.  That happens sometimes.  I had a Replacements CD while the band was still a functioning outfit and I just really never got around to listening to it until they broke up (D'oh!).  So I decided I'd go home and give Furr another shot.  It didn't come with a download card, so it didn't have the luxury of popping up now and then in my mp3 player, so it was kind of like listening to a record I sort of knew.  It ended up like being a trip to the record store with just like fifteen bucks on me, where I just buy one album and then really spend some time listening to it.

Which is what I should have done the first time, because it turns out I really like Furr, and I really like Blitzen Trapper a lot.  They're one of those bands that critics say are too derivative sometimes, but I really don't care if God & Suicide sounds kind of like a New Pornographers song, because it's a really great song.  I don't care if some critic thinks they sound like they're emulating a more modern Bob Dylan sound because I don't hear it, and I wouldn't care if I did.  I just like the way Eric Earley sings and I like how the musicians seem to be able to use hip hop beats when they want, but they can mix in a banjo here and there or remind me of an epic old 10cc song sometimes.  So sure, you can hear their influences, but they do such a nice job of mixing them all together that it comes out sounding like Blitzen Trapper to me.

It kicks off with Sleepy Time in the Western World, which is the kind of quirky song with great vocal harmonies that 10cc used to come up with once in awhile.  It's just not the same, though.  It just sounds more like 2008 than 1978, and that's good, isn't it?  The title track is like one of those old acoustic songs that made a nice break in an album, but for an entire career?  Not for me, anyway.  I like those kinds of songs in small doses, and that's what Blitzen Trapper does with this little story about being raised by wolves.  Yeah, it's weird but it's really cool.

So Blitzen Trapper is one of those bands that I think is really great, and to the people my age that haven't heard any good new music since 1982 or whatever arbitrary date they've chosen, I'm glad I'll be listening to this album for decades to come.  I'd be really bummed out if I had missed out on a song like Black River Killer.  These guys are just a fun band to listen to, and when people have been over I've put them on when no one was paying attention and had more than one person ask who they were because they liked it.  That's not the whole reason we all listen to music, but it's really nice when someone else actually notices that you don't just listen to music because no one else has ever heard it.  I hate hearing that, because it's not the point at all.  I don't listen to music because no one's ever heard it, or because everyone's heard it.  I listen to what I like, and I really like Blitzen Trapper.

So my record is probably four years old or so, but I bought it brand new and it's only seen a pretty decent turntable so it's in great shape.  Sub Pop made it nice and flat, and the fact that I'm not a sixteen year old with fifty records and nothing but time to kill seems to have helped insure that my record is in excellent condition.  I think I'd like this one in the car, so I really should rip it to an mp3 some time.

Toadies - Rubberneck

OK, number one, I'm too old for Toadies.  In 1994 I was 32 and these guys were a big deal to the teenagers that were a little too young for Nirvana.  Hell, I had a job making magazines and worked third shift back then.  Plus a shitload of overtime because I had two kids, one just about the right age for Toadies music.  By just about I mean that I bought the CD Rubberneck and he listened to it a lot.  One thing I remember about 1994 is that I was really mostly listening to The Stones in my house, but FM radio hadn't quite gone to pure shit yet, and they played Toadies on popular radio (Possum Kingdom) and they also played them on college radio (Mr. Love, I Burn, Tyler).  So they were one of the rare bands that could maintain a semblance of cool while hitting the charts pretty hard.

Now the only song most people know by Toadies is Possum Kingdom, which I've heard called a million different things, like Make Up Your Mind or Behind the Boathouse.  I even argued with a guy at work all night once about it being called Possum Kingdom (I was a certifiably old dude on third shift, so no way could I know new music) when he swore it was called My Dark Secret.  Actually I kind of think that would have been a better title, but I had to go bring in the CD to get him to shut up.  I remember that kind of was a pain in the ass, because it meant I had to remember to bring it in to work to show him as I certainly didn't have a CD player in my car.  I think I had my '62 Comet back then, which meant I had a plastic plate where a radio could go.  Wanted to hear music in there?  Then you sang or listened to me sing!  I do remember the kid I was arguing with most of the night didn't bother to come back after I remembered to bring in the CD so I could show him what a D-Bag he was for questioning my awesome Rock N Roll trivia ability.  Oh well, we probably just argued music all night without the kid anyway.  I loved that about that job - we talked about music pretty much exclusively, and it was pretty mindless so we could talk a lot.

What I like about Toadies is that they're an aggressive band.  Todd Lewis' vocals fit the music perfectly.  He's got a lot of power and he has a good screaming talent.  Some singers just sound like Fay Wray when they need to scream (see almost every metal band after Judas Priest became popular), especially on the Hard Rock side of things.  I know a lot of people seemed to think Toadies were a Grunge band, but they usually played too fast for that scene, if you ask me.  I know Possum Kingdom was kind of reminiscent of The Pixies, but Toadies didn't live in that Loud-Soft-Loud realm all that often.  Usually they were just Loud.  Mr. Love is lyrically really basic, but damn, the guitars and killer drums and bass (along with Todd's excellent screaming ability) just always hit home for me.  I bet I've played this song twice in a row as much as almost any other song I have.

Maybe 1994 was nearly the end times for college radio to play songs on commercially successful albums.  I can remember going out to lunch at 3:30 AM and hearing Possum Kingdom on WMMS, which was probably followed by some ass sucking sounds from Collective Soul or 90's balladeering Aerosmith.  So we'd change the station to one of the low numbers and hear I Come From the Water or the really twisted and fucked up Tyler.  Boy that was one of those songs I used to hope the kids wouldn't ask about, because it's a sick tale of rape wrapped up in some really catchy and well done music.  I always tried to look at it like a bad horror movie.  I liked that the line between popular and underground was still so close back then, though.  I think it gave people more to have in common.

Well, Rubberneck just got reissued for its 20th Anniversary, and this is the first US vinyl release.  There is a European release on MOV, but I've heard it's kind of a grey market deal.  I'd get the US version anyway, because it's about fifteen dollars less and it's not exactly an audiophile release anyway.  It's a mostly midrange affair with nothing much happening in the higher frequencies.  What I was most impressed with is that the record is dead quiet (a lot of 180 gram records aren't these days) and I really love the stereo separation on it.  You get heavy guitar riffing out of the right channel and screaming and wailing out of the left.  It sounds like you're in the room with the band, and it's really hard to not keep turning it up.  So obviously since it's such a new reissue my record is in perfect shape.  It comes with a download card, made of plastic which is good for the bonus tracks that aren't on the record.  At first I was gonna be bummed about that, but I think everyone that wants this probably has a CD from around 1994 they ripped to mp3 a long time ago.  So all in all, I think it's a great package of a record most people my age really never heard.  Which is fine with me, because I still love it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Golden Earring - Moontan

Well, I guess ya can't get more Classic Rock than the album that gave us Radar Love, can you?  I have had this for years and years and years.  I think my original copy is a late 70's US pressing, but I saw a really nice German one in Florida a few days ago in an altogether boring record store, with an altogether bored clerk who wouldn't hardly talk to me at all.  I hate that!  I figure if it's just you and me in the store and you're just reading the album cover for the record that's spinning (Bowie's Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture Soundtrack), then maybe you could use someone to make your day go a little faster.  But I guess this dude was really interested in knowing what address the record label was at.  Besides, it was a shitty, beat up copy of a pretty dull album.  I mean, the movie works okay, but if you wanna hear The Spiders live, you really should be doing Santa Monica 72, doncha think?

The cool thing about the German one is that it has the cover with the girl on it instead of that awful picture of a woman's ear.  I guess the other cool thing is that the track listing is different than the US version, too.  What makes this album confusing is that in the US original versions came with the US tracklisting and the girl on the cover, but it was soon replaced with the dumb ear picture.  The songs stayed the same, though.  That record usually seems to command a pretty good chunk of change, and if you ask me, the imports have better songs, so I always wanted to find a reasonably priced import version.  Problem is, most places just see the girl on the cover and stamp a twenty dollar (or more) price tag on it.  So I never got one until a few days ago.

The US and import versions have four songs in common, Radar Love, Candy's Going Bad, The Vanilla Queen and Are You Receiving Me.  The US version adds Big Tree, Blue Sea to these.  The import adds Just Like Vince Taylor and Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock).  The former was available in the US on the flipside of the Radar Love single.  My brother had that 45, and I always liked that song, though I had no idea who Vince Taylor was.  I was a little disappointed when I bought the album and got Big Tree, Blue Sea, which is easily the least of all these songs.  It's not bad, it's just not memorable.

So this is another of those albums that came out in 1973, and that year seems to be one that really worked for me.  Maybe the songs on the charts had good guitars in them that year.  We used to hang around at the pool in my friend's development all day, every day.  The lifeguards played the radio all day, and I could just hang out and listen all I wanted back then.  I used to get in to the pool even when my friend wasn't there because all the guards swam for my dad at the high school, plus I'd be a ringer on their swim team and if I was on the team, they'd win four events.  The only time that wouldn't work is if some kid I swam against in AAU or the YMCA lived in another development and recognized me and whined to his coach.  It was pretty fun for me because it was the only time I ever raced and really didn't feel any pressure to win.

Dad used to drive me to swim practice or meets sometimes.  Mom or the other kids' parents did it more often because swimming season kinda meant my dad was busy with the high school team.  But I remember being all ready to go and sitting up front with dad and punching in G98 or whatever the FM Top 40 station was back then and Radar Love came on one day.  My brother and I are like, "Yeah!  Turn it UP!"  So dad does.  He liked music and always thought it was actually important, even if the music I listened to was pure crap.  He figured I'd eventually like "good" music if he encouraged me with the music I already did like.  So anyway, we're digging Radar Love, in a car, the way you're supposed to dig Radar Love.  And our Dutch singer, George Kooymans, tries to get his Dutch tongue around "and the longing gets too much," and dad freaks out, and changes the station to anything that comes next.  I'm incredulous!

"Dad!  What are you doing?  That's Radar Love!"

He looks pissed and says, "I won't have any swearing on my radio!  You're not allowed to listen to that!"

I couldn't believe it!  My dad was censoring something?  I got in trouble for taking a Playboy to school because my dad always let me read anything I said I could understand (his Playboy subscription mysteriously ran out soon after I took one to school).  I knew that he was thinking he said "bitch" in there, but no amount of my pleading would get him to understand that.  I really fucked it all up when I told him my little brother had the record, man!  I got the stinkeye from him for awhile, but I don't think dad took the record away.

Good times, huh?

So anyway, I like this record a lot.  Especially the import version.  It opens each side with the two best songs, Candy's Going Bad on side one, and Radar Love on side two.  Both of those songs are catchy, just the right length and hold up pretty well over the decades that have gone by.  We used to get Are You Receiving Me and The Vanilla Queen now and then on the late night radio shows (and college back then) and I just always loved when they came on.  They're both a little Prog Rockish, and maybe a little psych and some hard rock.  It just works, and I always thought it was weird that they really seemed to blow everything that had on this one record.  I remember seeing them do Radar Love on Midnight Special or something and the drummer jumped over his drum kit after the song was over.  Keith Moon never coulda done that!  At least not without biting it in a big way.  It was weird that Golden Earring just never seemed to go anywhere after this one really good album.

So both of mine are in really nice shape.  I'll usually play the import version because I like the track listing better than the US, but I also think it sounds better.  The US one sounds okay, but the import just has more dynamic range to it.  I've heard some people kind of disparage this in the intervening years, but it's really a pretty darned good record.  Yeah, it sounds like the 70's, but there were some really cool things about the 70's.  Besides, who can keep their foot off their accelerator when Radar Love comes on, anyway?