Monday, August 31, 2009

The Yanks are Comin'

It's good being a Yankees fan these days. Everyone is doing what they're supposed to do and they're running like a well oiled, perfectly calibrated machine. True, they've probably got the biggest payroll in all of professional baseball but high-priced free agents have not always been a blessing for them in the past. Randy Johnson (among others) comes to mind. On any really good team, whether it be a team of athletes, construction workers or scientists, there has to be the right chemistry. Everyone knows their role and is comfortable within that role. For me, the 1998 Yankees epitomized that chemistry. But this year I'm feeling it again. They're playing together as a unit and they're not only winning but having fun at the same time. I love the whole pie-in-the face thing when they get a walk-off win. I love how guys like AJ Burnett and Nick Swisher keep things loose. This is the first season in a few years where even when they lose a game, I never feel like they are out of it. Of course I have no idea what will happen over the next two months but I really think this could be our year. LET'S GO YANKEES!!

Artful Dodger - Wayside
I must have read about these guys in some magazine like Rolling Stone or something because, back in the mid-70s I certainly didn't hear them on the radio - at least not in New York City. Too poppy for the qualudes and beer crowd and not convoluted enough for the prog heads, their brand of power pop just didn't fit in back then. But they have certainly aged much better than many of their peers and 30-plus years later still sound fresh.
The Merseybeats - Shame
The Merseybeats are mostly remembered for their beat ballad "Really Mystified" but here they turn in a nice rockin' version of Jimmy Reed's "Shame Shame Shame".
Big Bob - Your Line Was Busy
This song has appeared on a number of 50s R&R comps over the years. My first memory of it was when my friend Mitro sang it with The Vince Brnicewic Air Force, a NYC garage supergroup of sorts that I actually had the privilege of singing a few songs with onstage a couple of times. My 15 minutes of fame for sure.
The Blue Hearts - Linda Linda
Back in the late 80's and early 90's these guys were superstars in Japan, selling out huge stadiums and selling loads of records and CDs. They never broke over here despite their best efforts, but I was lucky enough to see them a few times when they played clubs like Woody's and The China Club in NYC.
The Possums - She Loves Me
These are the Scotsdale, Arizona Possums (not to be confused with the Possums from Columbus Ohio) and this particular track can be found, loud and proud, on volume 2 of "Teenage Shutdown".
Captain Beefheart - Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles
For many people the Captain is an acquired taste. "Her Eyes...." is one of his few (maybe only) bonafide love songs although I can't imagine too many couples picking this to be played on their wedding day.
Chris Kenner - I Have News For You
This is so New Orleans I can just taste the gumbo. All my life I had always planned to visit N.O. but kept on putting it off. Tragically, after Katrina, so much of that rich history was lost forever.
Tommy James - One Track Mind
I saw Tommy a few months ago at B.B. Kings and he was just wonderful. His voice sounds great, he's lost none of his energy and it was obvious to all that he still loves playing. This is from his long out-of-print "In Touch" album and has a bit of a glam feel to it.
Dwight Yoakam - Fast As You
Although there's no doubt that Dwight Yoakam is a country singer he can still rock and roll when he wants to. I can picture Tom Petty doing this song.
Ian Dury - I'm Partial To Your Abracadabra
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Ian Dury. He had a sensibility that was completely, uniquely his own and his songs always made me smile.
The Lovin' Spoonful - Alley Oop
The Lovin' Spoonful were another group whose music could always lighten my heart. "Alley Oop" was an outtake from their "Do You Believe in Magic" album and was included as a bonus track when it was reissued in 2002.
Major Lance - Investigate
"Investigate" is very popular in UK Northern Soul circles which means that scoring an original 45 is an expensive proposition. I won't even tell you what I paid for my copy. Making matters worse is the fact that on almost every ML Best-Of I've seen over the years, when this song is included at all, they use the inferior stereo version. Luckily, there's one collection that has the way better mono mix and it's available on Amazon.
Senseless Things - Standing In The Rain
Senseless Things were one of many incredible bands I first read about in the super fabulous "Noise For Heroes" fanzine back in the early 90's. If you like The Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers, you will love these guys. Especially recommended is their "Postcard C.V." album which can be purchased through Gemm Music.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - You Really Got Me
For some reason I never fully appreciated Tom Petty until I started hearing him on my Ipod. Better late than never, he has become one of my favorite artists. Like Bruce Springsteen, he is very conscious of his musical roots and always throws in some great covers in concert. Like this one.
The Thanes - That's The Story Of Your Life
In July of 2000 I went to the Las Vegas Grind garage festival for a 3-day weekend and saw a ton of great bands. By Sunday night I'd had my fill and was ready to pack it in when The Thanes hit the stage. I'm so glad I decided that sleep could wait another hour as they turned out to be one of the high points of an already incredible weekend. This is from their "Evolver" CD which I would totally and unequivocally recommend to any and all lovers of 60s influenced garage sounds.

Monday, August 17, 2009

(Son of) I'm Baaaaaack!

It seems like I start off every posting lately apologizing for being away for so long. What can I say? I've been busy with school and my basic nature is to be a procrastinator. So be it. My summer has been relatively uneventful but that's OK. School is taking up more time than I thought it would. Not just going to class but doing the homework and studying. The good news is that I got A's in both my courses last semester and if I do well on my Business Management final (which I take on Thursday) it looks as if I'll ace this one as well. For any of you folks out there who have been in the working world awhile and are thinking about going back to school but don't know if you can do it - I say not to worry. I was pretty scared when I first went back in May after not being in a classroom for over 30 years but the fact of the matter is that whatever pressure there may be going to class, doing assignments and taking tests; it's nothing compared to the daily life of having a job where there are demands being made on you all the time. It's not that school is easy. In order to maintain my grades I have had to put in a good deal of work. But the stress level just isn't the same.

Another thing that's been keeping me busy these days is watching the Yankees. Despite losing today to the Seattle Mariners they are 7 1/2 games ahead of Boston for the lead in the A.L. East. It's great to see them running on all cylinders in a way that they've not done in a few years. But enough blabbing from me, let's get to the music.

Edwin Starr - You're My Mellow

This was Edwin's last single for the Ric Tic label and if it sounds a lot like his Motown hits, that's because all of the same session musicians are playing on it. I'm not sure if "...Mellow" was ever issued by Motown after they bought Ric Tic although given its rarity, I don't think so.

The Ugly Ducklings - She Ain't No Use To Me

From Toronto, Canada, these guys recorded a handful of mid-60s garage classics, all of which can be found on their album "Somewhere Outside". Years ago I was happy to pay $50 for a beat up original but since then it has been reissued and, last I saw, still available on Amazon.

The A-Bones - Outcast

This track is hot off the press from the A-Bones' new album "Not...Now" which I think might be their best ever. The song selection, production and overall sound - everything clicks together just right. They were always a whole lot of fun live and this album really captures that feeling. You can get it at Emusic or directly from Norton Records mail order. And for any of you bloggers from Japan, the ABones will be doing a couple of shows in Tokyo the last weekend in August. As part of that show, my buddy Jeff Cuyubamba will be displaying some of his photos at the Shimokitazawa and Eristika galleries that he took at the height of the 80s NYC garage scene. I wish I were going along but unfortunately, it's just not in my budget.

B.B. King - Summer In The City

"Summer..." was a huge hit for the Lovin' Spoonful back in 1966 and while their version inspires visions of stoned out hippies hanging out at Tompkins Square Park, B.B. takes it on the A train for a ride way uptown.

Billy Boy Arnold - Rockinitis

"Now I wanna go to heaven but I've been told that Rockinitis has got my soul." These words were sung about 50 years ago not much has changed since then. They remind me of just about everyone I know.

Del Shannon - She Was Mine

"...Mine" was the flip side of Del's version of "Under My Thumb" and while it's not quite up there with "Stranger in Town" or "Keep Searchin'", it's still a nice record. I'm sure it sounds better on the 45 (this version is taken from a CD) without all of the separation, in real mono the way God intended.

Jim Jones & the Chaunteys - If You Know How To Start

From Fort Worth, Texas Jim Jones and friends cut a handful of cool 45s back in the mid 60s. I don't really know any more than that but I do like this song. So here it is.

The Lurkers - Ain't Got A Clue

Back in the late 70s thee guys were one of the more popular punk bands in the UK. In fact, "...Clue" even made it to number 45 on the singles chart. According to Wikipedia, they actually recorded 8 albums, most of which I've never even seen, let alone heard. But their first two, "Fulham Fallout" and "God's Lonely Men" are really excellent.

Millie Jackson - Ask Me What You Want

This song really takes me back to the spring of 1972 when it was quite popular on many jukeboxes around town. She went on to have a very successful career as some kind of musical sex goddess - a cross between between Tina Turner and Barry White but for me her first few 45s are where it began and ended.

Nick Lowe - Love Gets Strange

"Love..." is taken from the sadly out-of-print "Pinker and Prouder than Previous" album. A few months ago he released a 2-disc Best Of but hopefully someday all of his 70s and 80s work will be readily available again.

October Cherries - One Fine Day

Here's a group I know very little about. They were from Malaysia and were around in the late 60s/early 70s. According to my Malaysian pal Aidil, even in their home country their records are next to impossible to find. "Dreamseller", the album from which this song comes was reissued in Holland about 10 years ago and that too is super rare. This came from an MP3 that some very kind person posted a few years ago.

It's OK - The Pointed Sticks

Best known for their pop-punk classic "Out of Luck" Vancouver's Pointed Sticks recorded a number of fine singles and an album back in the late 70s. They are still together and have a new album available from their website.

T.R. & The Yardsmen - I Tried

Although technically there's nothing special going on here, I've always liked this single a whole lot. It's been on a number of comps, most notably "Friday at the Hideout" on Norton (see link above to purchase). I don't know if these guys recorded anything else or even what the B-side of "I Tried" is because while they are on a number of garage comps, this is the only song that's ever included. So I guess that must tell us something.

The Tangents - Send Me Something

This is a record I know absolutely nothing about except that I just love that sound from the early 60s when doo wop was starting to evolve into soul music.

20/20 - Out Of My Head

No, this isn't "Touch Me" by the Doors, despite that riff in the beginning. Despite being part of that whole power pop 'skinny tie' contingent, 20/20 were usually a little too new-wave for my tastes. Maybe I've grown a bit more musically open-minded but today these guys sound pretty damn good.

Howard Tate - Ain't Nobody Home

If you're a fan of classic 60s soul and you don't have Howard's "Get it While You Can" album, you need to rectify that situation toot sweet. Recorded for the Verve label and produced by Jerry Ragovoy, his sound leans more towards gritty southern soul than the slicker grooves coming out of Motown. This is one of a handful of stone classic singles he recorded.

She's like a door without a key