Thursday, April 30, 2009

Confederacy of Dunces

Every so often I come across something that is too good to keep to myself, something that needs to be shared so that in it's own small way it can perhaps make the world a more agreeable place for those who care to check it out. In this case that something is a book I just finished reading: "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. While Mr. Toole's style is definitely his own, he does share a healthy sense of the absurd and a somewhat skeptical worldview with some of my favorite authors like Carl Hiassen, Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut. And, like these authors, he conveys that sense without resorting to silliness or being too obvious or preachy about it. Sadly, Mr. Toole committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 32 so this is his only book. In addition to the tragedy of anyone feeling so despondent that suicide seems to be the only answer, it is also sad to think of what the world lost as he would have no doubt become one of the premier authors of our time. But that tragedy doesn't take away from the fact that "A Confederacy of Dunces" is one of the funniest books I have ever read and one I am happy to recommend to all of my fellow bloggers. And now onto the music.

Apples in Stereo - The Rainbow
Here in NYC today it is sunny, about 65 degrees, flowers are beginning to bloom and the Yankees have won 2 in a row. So spring is definitely here in all its glory and this particular song is the perfect musical accompaniment. 
Big Al Downing - Down on the Farm
Although "...Farm" is rather well known in collector circles, it didn't do all that much back in 1958 when it was first recorded. While he definitely took a huge musical cue from Little Richard, this is a fine rocker in its own right. 
Foxboro Hot Tubs - The Pedestrian
By now it is fairly common knowledge that Foxboro Hot Tubs are really Green Day in their garage alter egos. I always think twice about posting anything by a popular major label band but I am doing so here in hopes that listening to this will encourage some of you garage heads out there to check out their album which came out last year. To me this more than holds its own when played next to anything by favorite modern-day garage bands like The Lyres, The Woggles  or The Swinging Neckbreakers.
Nolan Porter - Ooh Baby
Until I discovered it on a Kent Records compilation I had never heard this particular record before. But it certainly sounds like it had hit potential and would've sounded fabulous blasting out of car radios in 1965 or 66 when, I'm guessing it was recorded. 
The Kinks - Rosey Won't You Please Come Home
"Rosey..." is taken from one of my all time favorite Kinks albums, "Face to Face".  Up to that point their albums were basically just collections of songs but "Face..." has a distinct stylistic unity and really shows Ray Davies' maturity as a songwriter and storyteller.
The Huntingtons - You Better Mend Your Ways
With their Beatlesque harmony vocals, these guys definitely don't typify what has come to be known as the Northwest sound of the 60s. But, hailing form Tacoma, Washington they were definitely part of the NW musical scene at the time. For anyone interested, this is taken from the Trip in Tyme Vol. 4 comp. 
Lil' Bob & The Lollipops - Agent Double O Soul
If I had a time machine, I'd definitely be taking a trip to the early-mid 60s in Lafayette Louisiana to check out Lil' Bob and Co. wherever they were playing. Listening to them on record I can only imagine how exciting and fun they must have been live. 
Miles Davis - Milestones
Like John Coltrane (who also played on this session) and Duke Ellington, Miles Davis' influence goes far beyond the world of Jazz. Ten years or so after this was recorded (1958) Miles would revolutionize the Jazz, Rock and R&B world with "Bitches Brew", his unique fusion of all three genres into something completely new. But for me, this is the Miles I like best. The album this is taken from, "Milestones" and his next one"Kind of Blue" are regarded as stone classics by just about anyone with an interest in Jazz or American music of the 20th century.
Mose Allison - Your Molecular Structure
While Mose does not have the same stature as Miles in the Jazz world, he is still one of my favorite artists. Like JK Toole as described above, his lyrics and wry understated vocals convey an appreciation of the absurdities of this world. Someone once said that he sings "with a twinkle in his eye" and that's about as apt a description of his style as I've ever heard. And he's also a wonderful piano player as well as you can hear on this track.  
The Sands of Time - Come Back Little Girl
I'm pretty sure I've posted at least one other song off of the "Crude P.A." from which this song comes. Funny how at the time it came out, I didn't appreciate that particular compilation as much as I do now. Listening to this song, as much as I like it, I can't help but wonder how much better it would've been if they would actually have sung into the microphone.
Shirley Matthews - Big Town Boy
I remember hearing this song on the radio when I was a kid back in the early 60s, probably on WINS. Upon checking my Joel Witburn Billboard Charts book I was surprised to learn that it never even cracked the top 100. Too bad as it's a damn fine record. 
The Spaniels -Play It Cool
In Doo Wop circles The Spaniels are regarded as almost God-like and their records such as "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight" and "Baby It's You" among others, are rightly seen as vocal group classics. But like many Doo Woppers, they also had a more raucous R&B side to them as well, and "Play It Cool" is a perfect example of that.
Augustana - I Still Ain't Over You
I first heard Augustana last summer on a road trip when a friend played me a CD-R he put together of newer pop/rock bands he thought I'd like. On the basis of the 2 or 3 songs I heard that day I went out and bought both of their albums and I don't regret it. Featuring a commercially crafted Power Pop sound their songs resonate with a warm humanity that I find so easy to relate to. According to Wikipedia, this is their most recent single from late 2008.
The Magic Plants - I'm A Nothing
Over the years this song has appeared on a number of garage comps and has come to be regarded as a garage classic. My guess is that original copies of this record, if one can be found at all, are going for close to 4 figures at this point. 
Major Lance - Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um
From 1963 to 1970 Major Lance was no stranger to the charts with 12 records that made it to the Billboard Top 100. This was his biggest hit, rocketing all the way up to number 5 in the early months of 1964.
Gary Lewis &The Playboys - She's Just My Style
Speaking of chart successes Gary L & Co. had their fair share as well, even making it to number one with their very first single "This Diamond Ring". "...Style" was always my favorite of all their records getting as high as number 3 in early 1966. Consumer note: Collector's Choice is coming out with a 2-disc package of all their 45s, complete with B-sides. In many cases the flipsides were just as good as the hit so if you are at all a fan of these guys, this might be well worth checking out here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's Baseball Season!!!

Baseball Season 2009 is finally underway and from my moniker I guess it's not too hard to tell where my loyalties lie. After an incredible spring the Bombers didn't look too terrific the other day against Baltimore but I remain optimistic nonetheless. After all, in 1998 when they had their best year ever they went 0-4 to start the season. CC Sabathia was less than stellar and there was some sloppy playing all around but I think they have the makings of a great team that could go all the way. Their pitching staff, both the starters and in the bullpen, is strong and they have a nice mix of proven veterans and hot prospects. Like many Yankee fans I have grown somewhat tired of ARod and his drama and it will be interesting to see what they can do with Cody Ransom playing third base. I think it is going to be a fun year.

The Beach Boys - Forever
"Fovever", written by Dennis Wilson, is  from "Sunflower" which has always been one of my favorite Beach Boys albums. Whatever I can say about this lovely ballad doesn't begin to do it justice, so just stop reading and listen to it. 
The Bluestars - Social End Product
I first heard "...Product" when it was covered by The Chesterfield Kings on (if I'm not mistaken) their "Don't Open 'Till Doomsday" LP.  This is the original from the mid-60s. Over the past 10 years there have been a number of comps issued covering the mid-60s Australian and New Zealand garage scene and (not too) surprisingly there was a world of incredible music from down under just waiting to be discovered. For more info you might want to check here or here
Dwight Yoakam - Same Fool
DY is one of a new breed of Country singers with a pronounced Rock and Roll sensibility to his music, even going so far as to cover songs by Cheap Trick and The Clash. He has close to 20 albums out (maybe even more - I've lost count) and for fans like me every one is worth owning. Newbies may want to start with his Greatest Hits package.  
Eddie Boyd - Come Home
Bea and Baby was a Chicago blues/R&B label in the late 60s and early 70s. Until this 2-disc retrospective was issued a few years ago I had never heard of them but that was truly my loss. Featuring some well-known artists along with a handful of unknowns, if you like this song and want to hear more, this is well worth your time and money.
The Five Keys - Ling Ting Tong
Making its Billboard chart debut on Christmas day 1954, with a background chorus of "I smokum boo" this might have been one of the first Rock and Roll records geared for the teenage market with a pot reference.  If it was I'm sure it went unnoticed by the white radio programers at the time as it actually made it up to number 28.   
Gin Blossoms - Idiot Summer
I've always thought that these guys were one of the better and more consistent power pop bands around. They remind me of  an American version of Teenage Fanclub. This is from their first album "Dusted".
Herman's Hermits - Don't Try To Hurt Me
Although Mr. Noone & Co were chart toppers back in the 60s, "real" music lovers like myself always kind of pooh-poohed them as little more than teenybopper pablum. Which doesn't mean that I didn't own a copy of "Herman's Hermits On Tour" from which this song comes. I just  didn't admit it to anyone. Luckily for everyone concerned they are finally getting the respect they deserve.
Jack Green - So Much
Although at this point in time he is regarded as little more than a footnote in the annals of pop music, Jack Green does have a nice way with a tune. The album from which this is taken, "Humanesque",  is currently out of print and someone is asking over $190 for the only copy being sold on Amazon.  It's a great album but....
Jackie DeShannon - When You Walk In The Room
Just about everyone reading this probably knows the Searchers' hit version of "....Room" but here is the original as done by its original writer. Note the Phil Spector influence.  
The Oxfords - Time And Place
From Louisville, Kentucky I sure hope these mid-60s rockers enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame. To me, this is the essence of what Rock and Roll is about. Yeah, the big hits are great and I love 'em but it's the little bits that fell between the cracks, many of which are almost totally forgotten by the original band members but are revered by a few fanatical collectors today, that get me even more excited. 
The Stones - All Down The Line
Speaking of hit makers, this supposedly comes from a proposed live album that was supposed to come out after their 1972 tour. The sound quality is a little rough for an official album but the energy of their performance comes through loud and clear.  
Sonny Rhodes - You Better Stop
As with garage bands, the world of 60s Soul is filled with snappy little records that for one reason or another, never made it much past the launching pad. A case in point is this punchy upbeat dancer recorded for the Galaxy label.
The Tell-Tale Hearts - Bye Bye Baby
Mike Stax is probably best known as being the driving force behind the "Ugly Things" fanzine but in the mid-80s he was the bass player, along with Ray Brandes, Bill Calhoun, David Clouden and Pete Miesner in this 60s retro-styled garage band.  Over the last 20+ years many bands of this type have not aged all that well but these guys managed to put it all together in such a way that still sounds fresh today. 
The Beatles - Think for Yourself (Dr Ebbets mono)
The stereo mix for "Rubber Soul" is one of the worst abominations ever in popular music, with the vocals all the way on one side and the instruments on the other. Ugh! Luckily for us there is Dr. Ebbets who not only remixed the stereo version of this album and made it listenable but also served up a punchy mono version as well. I just read that in September of this year EMI is releasing all of their albums newly remixed in both stereo and mono. If they are smart they'll hire the good Doctor to do that remixing.   
Grandpaboy - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Grandpaboy is really ex-Replacement Paul Westerberg and here he turns in a stirring version of Hank William's classic. Next to the original of course, the best rendition of "...Lonesome.." I ever heard was when Patti Smith sang it at a free concert in Hoboken in 1996. Nonetheless, Paul really gets to the heart of it in his own starkly strung-out fashion.
The Kindred Spirit - Under My Thumb
To the best of my knowledge this version of The Stone's "Under My Thumb" has not been reissued on any commercially available compilation although it has circulated on a few privately pressed CD-Rs over the years. On first listen it doesn't sound like anything special but the geeky nerdiness of the singer and the 
unprofessionalism of the production in general soon exudes its own charm.