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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Associates - "Perhaps" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1985 (WEA)

Billy MacKenzie's passions were in this order:  His dogs,  his family, and then music.  And I suspect he hated the music business. Which explains why he didn't go for the gold when it was evident that his talents were placed above so many others in the music world.  Without a doubt, his greatness was magnified by his work with Alan Rankine.  The first three Associates albums were magnificent in its scope, design and of course, the voice of MacKenzie.  When Rankine left the partnership, MacKenzie lost the driver, yet, he still made gorgeous pop music. 

"Perhaps" is the first album without Rankine, and it's produced by various people on different tracks. Martin Rushent did half, and Martyn Ware of Human League/Heaven 17/B.E.F. did the others, with some self-production by MacKenzie.  As a whole, the album sounds like a bunch of singles with the additional b-sides added to the package.   It doesn't have a consistency as the other Associates' albums.  On the other hand, you're going to get pop perfection in all its glory with songs like the title cut "Perhaps," "Those First Impressions," "Breakfast," "Thirteen Feelings," and others.  For one, the songwriting of Billy MacKenzie doesn't falter.  As a lyricist he's superb, but also he can sing the text off a cereal box and make it magnificent sounding.  For sure, with Rankine, he was pushing boundaries, and here he's singing magnificent pop.  The production makes the record sound very 1985, but if you go beyond that, there are incredible songs on this album.   In fact, over time in 1985, MacKenzie did a live concert with just his voice and a piano player.  Hardcore Billy music.  One of the great figures from the Post-Punk world, this album is essential to the Associates' world.  If for nothing else, for the comparison of the two sides of The Associates and just a reminder how great the Rankine/MacKenzie team were. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sacha Distel - "La La Song" 7" 45rpm EP, French, 1964 (RCA)

The Last of the International Playboys, if that were a social club, then surely French singer/guitarist Sacha Distel would have been a member.   I discovered him through my obsession with the world that surrounded Boris Vian, the author I published with my press TamTam Books.  Distel was a guy who was in the right place, Paris, and to be specific, at the Saint-Germain des Prés nightclubs and had an obsession with be-bop jazz.   Studied under and pal with the great Henri Salvador, Distel played guitar with artists like The Modern Jazz Quartet, Dizzy Gillespie, as well as with top French jazz musicians.  In the late 1950s, he became internationally famous for being Brigitte Bardot's lover, which in turn introduced himself into a favourite vocalist.

When I think of Sacha Distel, it is in two separate compartments.  One as a massive French pop singer star, and the other as a great jazz guitarist.  Rarely did the two forms of music met on his recordings.  For the casual fan, he is probably thought of as an entertainer who sings.   It's much harder to locate his work on vinyl/CD of his Jazz-leaning guitar work.  I went to Amoeba yesterday and found this French issued 7" EP, of Sacha singing  "La La Song," which is not fantastic, but nevertheless a good French pop song.  The other three songs on the EP are based on Amerian songs with French lyrics written by Maurice Tézé, who worked a lot as a lyricist with Distel.   The best song on this EP is J'aimerais Être Là (I Wanna Be Around) which is based on a Johnny Mercer tune.   The real stars of these recordings are the arrangers.  Three songs are arranged by the Boris Vian/Serge Gainsbourg associate Alain Gorgaguer (as well as doing the futuristic soundtrack to the animated "La Planète Sauvage) and Michel Colombier, another artist who worked with Gainsbourg.  For those in the know, when you see those names attached to a recording, it is usually a good sign that they're good. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Duane Eddy His 'Twangy' Guitar and the Rebels - "Peter Gunn" b/w "Along the Navajo Trail" 7" 45 rpm vinyl, 1960 (Jamie)

The killer riff of all riffs of all time.  Henry Mancini's recording of "Peter Gunn" is just as fantastic, to be honest, but of course, for that sound that breaks doors and a few windows, Duane Eddy's great recording of this song is essential.   I purchased this 45 rpm single about a month ago, and when I put it on my hi-fi system, it was like unleashing a powerful presence in the room.   Even on a piece of vinyl that is 57 years old, it still a shock of a listening experience. 

The honkin' sax that floats over the guitar riff, the relentless rhythm section, and the magic touch of just hearing the guitar by itself, and then the bass comes on, and the whole band joins in.  The record is architecture.  It has a foundation that the sounds are built on, and it's perfection.  Lee Hazelwood and Lester Sill made a mountain of sound for this recording. 

It's a shock to flip to the b-side of "Along the Navajo Trail" which is classic pre-rock pop, with backup vocals, that for me, makes me focus on than Eddy's guitar.  A cool recording, but by no means is it "Peter Gunn."  In fact, nothing in this world comes close to "Peter Gunn."  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ennio Morricone - "Indagine su un Cittadino ai di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto" OST, Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, 1981/2015 (AMS Records)

One of Ennio Morricone's playful scores.  "Indagine Su un Cittadino ai di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto" (Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion) sounds like a dark comedy, but the fact is the film is a suspense movie.  The thing about Morricone is that he never gives you what one expects, but something extra.  If you have to categorize his works, for instance, his avant-garde scores compared to his 'pop' pieces, lush orchestrations, then this one would be his melodic soundtrack.  It borderlines on his Spaghetti western soundtracks.  There are the 'boings' and odd percussion throughout the score.  The record is chamber music, in that it's not a large ensemble playing this music.  Everything is understated, for the exposure of the main melody.  Unusual harpsicords come in the mix, with perhaps a trombone is thrown in for good measure.   There is a delicacy in the playing and within the score's arrangements.  The album is a perfect introduction to Morricone's work for the beginner.  Intriguing melodies played over a perfect mixture of instruments.  

This edition of "Indagine Su un Cittadino ai di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto" is the one to get.  Incredible packaging with liner notes, and a separate LP sized poster of lobby cards for the film.  A film geek's sense of heaven.  In a limited edition of 500.

Various Artists - "Jack Good's 'Oh Boy!'" Vinyl, LP, Album, UK, 1958/1978 (EMI)

The 'commercial' roots of British rock n' roll is all here on this album.  Jack Good, who is still alive at the age of 86, was a pioneer for rock n' roll TV.   His British show "Oh Boy!" was the first variety program devoted to British (pre) rock artists such as Cliff Richard and Billy Fury.  The show lasted for 30 minutes and it was packed with non-stop music.  No song lasted more than a minute, and it was like a variety show with an Amphetamine approach to its timing and management.  The other significant wrench is that Good allowed the audience to be part of the show, with the artists surrounding themselves with the audience, most if not all teenagers.  

"Jack Good's 'Oh Boy!" album is a live soundtrack to the show.  Listening to it now in 2017, it's a weird reminder of how rock was packaged almost 60 years ago.  Cliff Richard sings seven songs, but also includes the talents of the incredible John Barry Seven, way before his work on the James Bond films.  Other artists here are Vince Eager, Two Vernon Girls, and Neville Taylor & The Cutters.  The beauty and the essence of this recording are not really the music, but a snapshot view of British showbiz before the Beatles hit the scene.   Jack Good eventually made it over to America where he created the show "Shindig!" (1964-1966) which focused on the British Invasion at the time, as well as popular pop/rock acts.  

"Oh Boy!" is one of the first shows specifically made for the British teenage market.  It's interesting how the teenager became a vocal/social, and even more important, an economic model that fueled an industry.  The 'beat' cannot be ignored anymore!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Television - "Marquee Moon" CD, Album, Reissue, Remastered, 1977 (Elektra/Rhino)

The stark image by Robert Mapplethorpe of Fred Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca A.KA. Television sets the tone what is inside the package.  Before the Internet, and yes, there's radio, but it was pretty useless for those who live in Los Angeles and therefore didn't have access to the tidal wave of new bands in New York at the time.  I've read about Television, and even more intrigued by their photographs of the time.  They never smiled, nor do they look like they enjoy each other's company.  The only goofy/fun one was Richard Hell, but he left the band by the time of this album's release.  

I think I first heard of the band in 1975, so through publications like The Village Voice, I kept track of this band and was very curious what their sound was like.   The critical response from their shows seemed chaotic from boredom to spiritual enlightenment.  Alas, I purchased the 45 rpm single of "Johnny Little Jewel" (Part 1 and 2, like a James Brown single from the late 1960s), and was transformed by the words, Verlaine's voice, and of course, those two magical guitars working at and against the slippery bass and drums.  When they reissued this remastered CD, the folks on the label were smart to add this song to the package.  

"Marquee Moon" is without a doubt, a classic recording.  The albums' mixture of intensity, beauty, drama, and you know these guys probably didn't move much on the stage.  Verlaine's lyrics/poetry would read like Raymond Chandler if he were a beat poet.  Romantic, yet tough, but with strong visual poetics that gives a picture while listening to the music.  Their stance of attachment or coolness mixed in with a focus on a classic rock two guitars, bass, drums sound is essentially fantastic. In my mind, since Elektra originally signed the band, I think of them as younger brothers to the other Elektra acts Love and The Stooges.  Of all the labels in the world, Television is an Elektra band.  With respect to the band's devotion to the music, and doing things their way.   The way Verlaine and Lloyd would work their guitars separate from each other, and in a sense giving little stabs, stings, and a sense of play, and then on the chorus, they join sensually and sexually manner.  There are a lot of great guitar bands, and one can argue who is better than the other.  The truth is Television is unique, and I think it's not only due to the talents of Verlaine's writing (although I suspect the others had their two or three cents in) the whole chemistry of the band, working together.  Indeed a gang, a group at work.  Perfection practiced by professionals. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Giovanni Fusco - "L'Eclisse" Vinyl, LP, OST, Album, Limited Edition (500), 2016 (Doxy Cinematic)

"L'Eclisse" is an Italian film made in 1962, starring Monica Vitti and Alain Delon, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  The soundtrack to the movie is by Giovanni Fusco, who also did the music for Alain Resnais'"Hiroshima, Mon Amour," as well for other Antonioni films.  About a week ago I saw "L'Eclisse, " and I loved the soundtrack.  I located a copy very recently, and I'm very impressed with Fusco's music.   The music is so much of the visuals, but here, I try to not think of the film, and just focus on the music. 

On this album, we get six versions of Mina's "Eclisse Twist."  One in Italian (of course), French, Spanish, English, an instrumental, and a slow-downed version.  That alone is worth the price of the album.   The additional greatness is Fusco's moody music that is minimal and dramatic.  While listening to Fusco's music, it reminded me of Angelo Badalamenti's work with David Lynch.  Perhaps due to the juxtaposition of a rock n' roll tune ("Eclisse Twist") with Fusco's borderline avant-garde composing.  In the same manner of a Roy Orbison song fitting into Badalamenti's score for "Blue Velvet," the same goes for the dynamic combination of Mina (an Italian 60s pop singer) and Fusco. 

The film "L'Eclisse" is slow-paced and takes its time to unveil its seductive relationship between Delon and Vitti, as well as presenting the world that is empty.  The music also conveys that unbalanced where things are not settled.  "Eclisse Twist" throws a wrench in the process, and it's very effective to go from one mood (celebrating) to the other (contemplating).   And back again.  The film and the soundtrack is a beautiful piece of work.  

Also, I want to give praise for the label Doxy or Doxy Cinematic.  I suspect that they operate in the gray area of bootlegging, but do a superb job concerning the sound of the vinyl, as well as the design work, and even more important, their ability to curate their series in a thoughtful and excellently manner.