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.


Michael Lynch said...

You're right about some of those Gary Lewis B-sides being as good as the hit. "Little Miss Go Go" is a great rocker, akin to "Little GTO"...I've played that at deejay nights...and "Without a Word Of Warning" has a great melody. I think I've heard Gary even does that song in his shows nowadays, so he must have thought highly of that one as well.

YankeeBoy said...

I just found out from a friend of mine who knows these things that the Gary Lewis & Co. 2-disc set coming out on Collector's Choice is going to be the mono 45 mixes, most of which have never been on issued on CD before. This is good news indeed!

Michael Lynch said...

That's good news that they're using the mono single mixes...A few months back there was a similar collection for Tommy James, also of the A's and B's of all his singles, and that too wisely used only the mono 45 mixes, a good number of which were exclusive to the 45s, and were even different from the versions on the mono LPs. ("Mirage" and "Run Run Baby Run" had extra harmonies only on the 45, and the single of "Mony Mony" had a horrible edit that mssed up the beat.)

mark said...

Take a look at "Neon Bible". Toole wrote it in college. While it's not nearly the masterpiece that "A Confederacy of Dunces" is, it's well worth a read.

YankeeBoy said...

Interesting - I had no idea as it wasn't mentioned at all in the forward to "Confederacy...". I will definitely check it out. I love that title. Thanks for the info.

Laura said...

"Dunces" is NOT his only book. Look for "The Neon Bible"... :)