Sunday, September 28, 2008

More than this...

It's been gray and raining off and on outside for 3 days, this is the first time in over a decade that the Yankees didn't even make the playoffs and after 11 years my job is being outsourced as of this coming Thursday. You could say that this has not been one of my better weeks.  So at this point I really need to feel the presence of something greater than the mundane details of my everyday life.  I need to get back in touch with knowing that, as Grace Slick once said "It doesn't mean shit to a tree".  So it's that thought in mind that has influenced this current batch of tunes. For some the connection is obvious and for others it may merely be that for me it's just a 'feel good' kinda song. Anyway, here goes. 

I got my first Beach Boys album "All Summer Long" when I was 13 in the summer of 1964. And I can still remember how I felt the first time I heard Brian's falsetto on "Don't Back Down", singing the line "You gotta be a little nuts". I couldn't put it into words at the time but I think that was the first time I got an inkling that there was something greater than what I had experienced up to that point. To this day I still love Brian Wilson and hearing that line still gives me goosebumps....Nolan Strong has an amazing voice and he was also a big influence on Smokey Robinson. "The Wind" has a kind of an ethereal quality so that when I hear it I feel like I am in this huge cathedral on a mountaintop somewhere. For me it kinda puts into perspective how insignificant we all are, but in a good way.

I was lucky enough to see Roky Erickson in concert twice last year. First time was at Southpaw in Brooklyn where he was nothing short of brilliant. The second time was a free concert in Battery Park where he played with such fire and energy that it was as if God tapped him on the shoulder and said "Tonight I speak through you". He really was that good! I don't know how often he plays, but if you get a chance to see him don't pass it up. "...Here Before" has always been one of my favorites with a quiet intensity that never fails to captivate me...There's not much I need to say about "Look Through Any Window". The Hollies have some of the best harmonies in the history of R&R and this is (for me) one of their top songs. Ripped here by yours truly in glorious mono the way it was intended.

The Mega City 4 never got much notice in the U.S. although in England they were the darlings of the indie pop crowd back in the early 90s. But unlike many 'hype-of-the-month' bands, these guys really delivered the goods again and again. "Stop" is only one of many terrific records they made...One of my favorite parts of "Good Morning Vietnam" was when they played "What A Wonderful World" and juxtaposed it against the horrors of what was happening there. There've been many versions of this classic but nobody does it like Satchmo, although I also really like Joey Ramone's version...For years I was a diehard Patti Smith fan but as I've gotten older her music just doesn't speak to me the way it used to. "Mother Rose" though, still touches me. There's something so comforting about it. When I listen to it I feel safe and warm, like the good guys will win and we'll all live happily ever after. 

I can't put up a post without at least one 60s garage record. That is definitely my favorite among all the many different types of music I love. This classic from the Aardvarks seems to be the perfect fit here. You can hear more from them on the fabulous Fenton Records Story 2-disc set from which this is taken..."Bubblegum Factory" by Redd Kross is one of those feel-good records I was talking about earlier. It's from "Third Eye" which many (myself included) consider their best album and was just reissued earlier this year. They played a few shows in the NYC area last winter and they've definitely still got it...Back in the early-mid 90s when I was doing record reviews for a number of small fanzines there was a thriving punk music scene in Finland (perhaps there still is for all I know) and Jalla Jalla were my personal favorite of all the bands that came out of that scene. "Minnesota Plates" was their 'big' single and it still sounds great to me.

I really love this Gene Vincent track. I always thought it would be a great song for the A-Bones to cover with Miriam Linna singing lead. Be-I-Bicky-Bi-Go-Go-GO!...I know that "...Planet" is about the first rush of heroin and while I've never experienced that dubious pleasure, there's no denying the sheer exuberance of what is probably the song many people (myself included) know best by The Only Ones..."Win Or Lose" is a picture-perfect slice of punkified British R&B that in a more just world would've been a big hit and made the Lew Lewis Reformer household names. Although they are in this household anyway...When I read record reviews of Jazz albums by critics who talk about who played what with whom etc. etc. I realize very quickly how little I know about the subject. But I know what I like and I know that every time I listen to this fantastic Charles Mingus track I hear something new in it. I also can hear enough to know why he is regarded as a God among 'real' Jazz fans.

Next to listening to music, one of my favorite things is talking about music. So, if there was something you particularly liked (or particularly didn't) please leave comments. 

01  The Beach Boys - Don't Back Down
02  Nolan Strong & The Diablos - The Wind
03  Roky Erickson - I Have Always Been Here Before
04  The Hollies - Look Through Any Window
05  Mega City Four - Stop
06  Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World
07  Patti Smith - Mother Rose
08  The Aardvarks - I'm Higher Than I'm Down
09  Redd Kross - Bubblegum Factory
10  Jalla Jalla - Minnesota Plates
11  Gene Vincent - B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Go
12  The Only Ones - Another Girl, Another Planet
13  Lew Lewis Reformer - Win or Lose
14  Charles Mingus - Better Get Hit In Your Soul

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My first post - getting my feet wet

So far setting this whole thing up has been remarkably easy. Although I've been a programmer for over 25 years, this is my first foray into actually creating something web-related. So for this, my first post, I wanted to keep it simple. So I just went through a bunch of songs on my Ipod and selected a few favorites to share here. My tastes in music are pretty wide-ranging although Rock & Roll from the 50s and 60s (the soundtrack to my life) is what I listen to most. But what I post will generally depend primarily on my mood when I'm putting it all together. Anyway, here goes.

I first heard "...Lovin'" on  one of Tony the Tyger's "Hipster's Sampler" tapes around 5 years ago. Generally, when it comes to 60s British beat, I prefer listening to the mono versions but in this case the stereo mix is actually pretty good....The Barrington Davis song comes off "Ugly Things Vol. 2", a comp of Australian 60s garage records. If this kind of freakbeat noise is what gets you goin', the 3 volumes in this series will be money well spent. And unlike many compilations of this ilk, the sound quality is first rate...Not much needs to be said about Big Maybelle. A big woman with an even bigger voice. This song is from the mid-50s. About 10 years later she cut a dynamite version of "96 Tears" which is kinda hard to find. I'll try to post that too one of these days.

I first heard Couple about 2 years ago, completely by chance. In the last days of the fabulous Power Pop Lovers blog I read a comment from Aidil, the main force behind the band. That's him you hear singing. Hailing from Malaysia they are creating quite a stir in their little corner of the world. They've got one album out (with another on the way) which you can get from Kool Kat or Amazon but in the meantime, you can hear more here.  

Del Shannon is one of my all-time favorite singers. "I Wish..." was supposed to be his last single on Amy but for some reason it was withdrawn. It's a shame as it's absolutely lovely as is "You Were So Warm" by Dwight Twilley.  Getting back to Del Shannon for a bit, I've heard rumors of some recordings he did with The Smithereens back in the late 80s. The mind boggles at the mere thought of such a pairing. If anyone out there knows anything more, please post a comment....Nothing much need be said about "What's So Funny...". EC belts it out with all the conviction he can muster and it feels even more relevant today than it did 30 years ago when I first heard it. 

I've never been caught up in the whole Sarah Records mystique. While, to a point, I can appreciate sensitive and twee, many of their records seemed too much so for my tastes. But not Heavenly. Amelia Fletcher has a beautiful voice and "Cool Guitar Boy" has a bit more bite to it. It's one of those songs I can play over and over...Little Willie John is another favorite of mine. Even when his material wasn't first-rate (which didn't happen often) he really knew how to put it across. "I'm Shaking" was covered almost note for note by The Blasters but the original is way better. 

"Margio" by Rob Hoeke is another incredible song brought to my attention by Tony the Tyger and it's become one of my all-time favorites. Mr. Hoeke was mainly a blues/boogie woogie piano player who also made a handful of amazing beat/R&B 45s back in the day...The E-Types single "I Can't Do It" was typical of many records coming out of California back in 1965/66 but that doesn't take away anything from how well their combination of upbeat jangly guitars and wistful vocals pull at the heartstings. Well, mine anyway. Available as a 45 with a nice picture sleeve from Sundazed Records....Lastly, a little bit of silliness. Rock and Roll has aways, at it's heart,  been about fun and that's all "Martian Hop" is - just pure dumb fun. 

Adam Faith - I Don't Need That Kind of Lovin'
Barrington Davis Powerpact - Raining Teardrops
Big Maybelle - That's A Pretty Good Love
Couple - Now That I Can See
Del Shannon - I Wish I Wasn't Me Tonight
Dwight Twilley Band - You Were So Warm
Elvis Costello - What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding
Heavenly - Cool Guitar Boy
Little Willie John - I`m Shaking
Rob Hoeke - Margio
The E-Types - I Can't Do It
The Ran-Dells - Martian Hop