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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boris Vian - "Boris Vian á Saint-Germain-Des-Prés" - "Pauline Julien Chante Boris Vian Box Set"

Boris Vian - Boris Vian Á Saint-Germain-Des-Prés - Pauline Julien Chante Boris Vian
3 x Vinyl, LP, Album, Box Set, France, 1978

In theory this 3 LP set captures the magic of Boris Vian’s early fascinating with playing traditional jazz in smoky bars that are located in the Saint-Germain des Prés area of Paris.  So there is a great deal of romance with respect to listening to this album and reading the jacket as well.  You can smell the existential angst off the vinyl!

For those who want to investigate and enjoy the early years of Vian making music, this box set is pretty much all you need.   The first two disks focus on small jazz combos that he was in.   The first disk is Vian in the Claude Luter band, and the other is with Claude Abadle and his jazz orchestra.  Both recordings are from 1944, so it was slightly before Vian started writing his novels - both the Vernon Sullivan and the books under his name.   What is interesting is that during this time there were two parts of the Jazz world in Paris at the time.  One totally into playing New Orleans jazz and other grouping was into Be-Bop.   Vian was unique in that he played New Orleans jazz but was a champion critic for the Bop scene that was making noise in Paris, as elsewhere.  As usual,  Vian was doing several things at once and just taking the whole Jazz music world in one gulp.   His jazz criticisms are excellent and actually for its time it sort of reminds me of Lester Bangs or punk-era critics writing about music. 

The third LP in this box set is a set of songs written by Boris Vian, all of them classic works, done by Quebec citizen Pauline Julien, a feminist and pro-Quebec personality.  The beauty of having a rebel doing the songs from the ultimate rebel is simply fantastic.  These recordings were made in the mid 60’s as Vian’s writings became better known through out the French speaking world.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - "The History of the Bonzos" 2 x CD Compilation

Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - The History Of The Bonzos
2 x CD, Compilation, Remastered, UK, 1998
BGO Records

On one level the musical roots to The Monty Python world and on another plane - total original artists playing in the field of commercial pop.   I first heard of them through the world of The Beatles.  They appeared in The Magical Mystery Tour, and of course they were the most interesting aspect of that film.   Satirists on one level, but also brilliant pop songwriters as well.  

A perfect storm of sorts, with the combination of theorist lead singer Vivian Stanshall, the musical pop talents of Neil Innes and the other eccentrics that make up this band.  As an introduction to their madness, The History of The Bonzos is a perfect introduction.  Not only does it have the hits, but also the obscure solo recordings as well by the key members of this band. 

Does the humor stand up?  I don’t know, I am not British, but I appreciate their scope and skill.  The musician skills are top-notch, and Vivian I  suspect was a genius, who should have last longer on this planet (he died in a fire).  Spike Jones aesthetic but mixed in a highly British way, and they’re seductive with their wit.  Comedy record or serious music playing?   In the end it doesn’t  really matter, it is rather enjoyable experience. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bobby Troup - "Bobby Troup!" Vinyl 10" Album, Mono

Bobby Troup - Bobby Troup!
vinyl 10” LP, Mono, 1954
Capital Records

Bobby Troup reminds me of a jazzy Alex Chilton, and if there is any law of pure chance, Chilton must have been a fan.  The lazy cool approach he has to his music seems to be as natural as a child playing in the sand.  Half conversational, you expect him to get near your ear just purring out the words from his mouth to your auditory opening. 

The beauty of his work is not only his conversational style of singing, but also he is quite a wordsmith.  Playful, yet romantic and truly a perfect package.  Troup, even though he wrote the great “Route 66” became better known in his life time as a character actor.  Listening to his music it makes perfect sense that he was married to Julie London.   They both share that intimate vibe.  Smothering passion galore.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bobby Troup - "Bobby Troup Sings Johnny Mercer" Vinyl LP

Bobby Troup – Bobby Troup Sings Johnny Mercer
Vinyl LP, Reissue, Spain
Fresh Sound Records

I'm crazy about Bobby Troup's voice. Very conversational, almost light enough to float as a feather, yet soulful and quite deep. Here with a small band he takes on the songs by the great Johnny Mercer. A natural fit, due to the country (not as in music, but there is something rural about his voice) reflecting on the city (Mercer). The foundation of Troup is that one of a jazz hipster and it is that attitude that is most strong with respect how he sees the world. He is sort of the Country boy hustler on the make in the big city, and the music here is set as his theme song or a series of themes. Also his piano playing is very playful, so he reminds me of Monk in a certain fashion. A beautiful 2 in the morning sound with that last glass of whisky taste.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bobby Jaspar - "Jeux De Quartes" CD Album

Bobby Jaspar – Jeux De Quartes
CD, Album, France, 2002
Jazz In Paris No. 85

I am so location and time orientated, I often buy albums for that sole purpose. For instance here's a record recorded in 1958 and in Paris. That alone gives the album three stars, if I believed in that horrible system of talking about art. Also the fact that Kenny Clarke's name came up on the back of this CD, made this recording a must for me.

Bobby Jaspar, born in Belguim, played Sax and flute. He also composed compositions as well as being married to the great Blossom Dearie. A pal of Boris Vian, which makes this album part of the “Friends Of Boris Vian” collection I have on going. But getting to the music, what we have here is very much 'cool' jazz that's very European sounding. His take on the masterful “Misterioso” a composition by Monk has an original arrangement by Jaspar that shows off the master's great sense of loopy melody, but Jaspar makes it is own, with great drumming from Clarke. It borders on bad taste oriental-ism, but that is part of the fun of this arrangement.

Perhaps it is the nature of the flute, but the music is very soft for the ears, but the interplaying between Jaspar and the rest of the musicians (besides Clarke - Paul Rovére, Jymie Meritt, Humberto Canto, Sadi Lallemand, among others) is effortlessly steamed into a beautiful sound. Actually a nice album to get drunk to. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

13th Floor Elevators - "The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13TH Floor Elevators" Vinyl LP, Mono

13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13TH Floor Elevators
Vinyl LP, Reissue, Mono, 2010
Sundazed Music

Oh Yeah, Yeah” is a battle cry from Roky Erickson's voice in the first cut of The Psychedelic Sounds that strikes me that great violence or terror may occur. “You Gonna Miss Me” is without a doubt one of the awesome garage rock songs, but beyond that limited category it is just a great record. The 13th Floor Elevators are trippy in that hellish way, but beyond the smoke and mirrors this is a band that plays beautifully together. The mono edition of this vinyl kicks my butt on both the big speakers in the living room and my little teenage turntable with small speakers as well. The album is so wonderfully recorded , it just comes at you with seductive force, but also with a sense of grace as well.

“Splash 1” is one of those perfect rock ballads from the mid-'60's. It is almost Stones era Oldham like in its glamour with a touch of vintage Arthur Lee Love era vibe as well. I hear traces of vintage Stooges as well, not in their riff intensity, but more of the textural ballads that are on their first album. “Don't Fall Down” is another gem, just a priceless piece of melody and performance. “Fire Engine” is a work of genius. Lyrically, musically, it just fits in their world as one spreads butter on hot toast. Unusual sounds through out the album, this is a fantastic piece of work. Excellent.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bob Lind - "Don't Be Concerned" Vinyl LP Mono

Bob Lind – Don't Be Concerned
Vinyl LP Mono, US, 1966
World Pacific

As an 11-year-old, I could care less about “Elusive Butterfly” which was pretty much tattooed on AM radio during 1966. Now that I am 63, I can't get enough of Bob Lind and this album. For one, I always loved Marianne Faithfull's version of “Counting” not realizing it was a Lind song. I bought this album only because, for at the last ten years, I became a fanatic Jack Nitzsche fan. Noticing that he produced and arranged this album – well, I had to give the Bob Lind world a more serious listen. But I was warned about the upcoming storm due to Jarvis Cocker and Pulp's recording of a song “Bob Lind.” So to me being the ultimate Pulp and Nitzsche fan, it was time for me to dive into the pool of Don't Be Concerned.

The first thing that strikes me is the delicate arrangements that cling to Lind's music and voice. Nitzsche just had the talent to take a piece of music and make it better. The beauty of a song like “Counting” which moves in a pattern that reminds me of (Buzzcocks) Pete Shelley's circular list songs – it moves in circles that strikes me mechanical, but that is what makes it such a great song – both the Lind and Faithfull's version. The other great song is “Cheryl's Goin' Home” which is incredible.

The pleasure I get from Lind is the tension or the marriage of his folkish background meeting the pop master's (Nitzsche) approach, which equals a sweet little 'wow' for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bob Dylan - "Highway 61 Revisited" Vinyl LP, Mono, Reissue

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
Vinyl LP, Album, Mono, Reissue, 2001
Sundazed Music

The first bona-fide hit song by Bob Dylan is “Like A Rolling Stone” which was 5:59 long. Most single 45rpm singles were in the 2 to 3:50 minute length, but Bob doesn't play by those rules. At the time, the single was the medium for the teenager or perhaps for the one who was on a strict budget. Nevertheless Dylan's snarly put-down of a song really hit a nerve in the U.S. For one the whole silly Dylan gone electric issue was very much past-tense when Highway 61 Revisited was released to the pop market. What was the issue for me was hearing this grown-up music on my turntable and radio.

What is beautiful is how Dylan puts one image over the other, and his choice of words are always perfect.  "Desolation Road" is hypnotic in its description of a picture, it is almost like a camera pulling back from a close-up and slowly the viewer is getting the bigger picture.  It has a cast of thousands, and all of them are waiting, yearning, or hoping something on Desolation Road.  Dylan is the town-cryer on the street corner commenting on what's happening.  The listener doesn't really need anything else, because Dylan supplies the images and as I mentioned before he's a superb singer.  Highway 61 is a traveling album, and I feel its very much a cinematic work of art, but a cinema for the ears.  

The Dylan mystique was the magnet to hear his very difficult music for me. I hadn't a clue what was going on, but I got the vibe that it was something important and its affecting the pop world with great intensity. So my admiration for his coolness and smartness grabbed my attention. But still (like his other albums) sonically it didn't grab me, except “Ballad Of The Thin Man.” Now, I wonder if it is a reference to Dashiell Hammett's Nick Charles, or is it literally about a reporter who is also thin. What I like about pop generally speaking is the leap from a straight ahead narrative into the unknown. Dylan does that for me with mixed results.

 Mr Jones” here I don't think is about a specific individual, but more of an ideal figure that gives Dylan a certain amount of displeasure. Now, how and cow. The discussion between Mr. Jones and Mr. Dylan is not a good one, because the reporter/journalist is missing the big picture and focusing on things that are not important – according to the Bob.

Highway 61 Revisited was released at the height of Bob-fan-dom. Teen idol craziness with the addition of admiration from the literary masses. For a man who doesn't like to be stuck or have his back to the corner it must have been a nightmare of sorts. Nevertheless it gave fuel to his music at this time, and for me this is the classic Bob Dylan era.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Barry Gray Orchestra - "No Strings Attached" Vinyl 10" LP

The Barry Gray Orchestra – No Strings Attached
Vinyl 10'', LP, Compilation, UK, 1985
PRT Records

Only for the hardcore British pop culture “otaku” fanatic. Barry Gray worked with the always wonderful Gerry Anderson, the creator and main aesthetic person for “The Thunderbirds” and “Stingray” puppet animation show. On a good listening experience you can imagine a touch of Joe Meek, but it is mostly hack by the numbers type of orchestration. I bought it for 99 cents, because I couldn't resist the 10” size as well as its cover. No Strings Attached is a good and honest title for this little album.

Bob Dylan - "Bringing It All Back Home" Vinyl album Mono

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home
Vinyl LP, Album, Reissue, Mono
Sundazed Music

This I think is the first Bob Dylan album that entered my household in Beverly Glen. Without a doubt my father bought it, and at the time it was almost impossible to avoid the subject matter of “Dylan.” At the time my parents shared friends with the Dylan world. My father spent an interesting evening with the Bob, when he got a phone call from Allen Ginsberg asking if he would mind meeting Dylan at his hotel to help him pick up a tape machine. My father did so, and it led to a wild car trip through the classic teenage Sunset Strip, where people on the street recognize Dylan in the passenger seat. Some tried to get in, or blocked the car. Eventually they made it to the Byrds rehearsal space, to get the tape machine. This is all very 1965, the release date of Bringing It All Back Home.

I was never a Dylan fan, but have always been fascinated with the identity or aura of the Dylan mystique. To enter his world one is approaching the 20th Century in a nutshell. Even before the Beatles Sgt. Pepper cover (which my dad is part of...) people were studying the image on the front of Bringing It Back Home. I remember there was one theory that the woman on the cover is actually Dylan in drag. And what about the albums laying around Dylan? One of them, the Lotte Lenya album, was perhaps the first album that I was ever aware of. That particular recording was and still is part of my DNA. On so many levels it is an incredible album cover. Especially when you compare it with the earlier Dylan covers. Before this album, they were very much of a portrait of a 'folk singer.' But now, or then, there is another side (no pun intended) of Dylan coming out. Something more worldly or sophisticated.

The music inside was also a major change for Mr. Dylan. Over-all the songs sounded more personal with a strong taste of 'french' poetics. It seemed otherworldly. It was like Charles Baudelaire was writing the words if he was a New Yorker of the 1960's. For a teenager like me, and at that time, it was such an adult album compared to The Beatles, Stones, Herman's Hermits, etc! He looked young, had the uniform of pop, but way more man of the world than the others. So, this was my first adult 'pop' record. And to this very day I am still trying to get my head around it. I love the album, but not sure if I really like it.

Its interesting to know that the Velvets were happening at the same time – another songwriter or musician(s) making grown-up music in the language of the teenage pop world. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bob Dylan - "Blonde On Blonde" 2 x Vinyl LP, Mono

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde
2 x Vinyl LP, Mono, Album, Reissue, US, 2002
Sundazed Music

I had the original mono release of this album when I was 12 years old. As a young teen, I was intrigued with the Dylan cool. I liked the way he looked and dressed in 1966. Also the album cover was very mysterious to me. I couldn't understand why the front cover photograph was out-of-focus. For sure on purpose, but did it have a deeper meaning? The black and white images inside the album was also an attention getter for me as well. Every image of Dylan on this album was unique and fetish like. Perhaps the cover conveys the feeling that Dylan cannot be captured by a mere camera. Or perhaps the year 1966 was one giant blur for him.

Artistically he was on a roll. Dylan was the first pop star that seemed to be smarter than the average pop star. He knew something, or more aware of his or our world at the time. He used the medium of the teenager's music, but he somewhat went over the typical teenager's head but still used their instrumentation.

Teenagers love Sonny & Cher, The Byrds, The Beatles, and The Stones, but for Dylan, I suspect it was guys and gals in their early 20s who are tasting the fruits and confusion of life as it was happening to them. Perhaps Dylan supplied these people a soundtrack – so if the first song on this album “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” conveys that we must all get stoned – that's a pretty strong message for that year. Not only that, but what does that title mean and why the additional numbers. When you get down to it, Bob Dylan is one big mystery in a world where pop singers were not mysterious at all.

I actually like thinking about Blonde On Blonde than listening to it. I only played the album a few times as a kid, and just filed it away as something important to pop culture – along with The Fugs, who I didn't get at all as a 12 year old. But saying that I think I purchased this album in all its formats through out my life. 8-track for the car, cassette, and eventually an used CD. It was recently that I purchased the re-issued version here at Rockaway Records in Silverlake. I wanted to hear something that came back to my childhood, which is the mono edition. Listening to it now I don't get the nostalgic feeling at all. I think the album is basically a snapshot of what Dylan's life was at the time. Hard poetry images (especially the titles) that convey a sense of bitterness or even meanness. But that's the classic Dylan we like, someone who doesn't pull any punches, and just cuts into the meat issue of the songs. Yet, surrounded with a sense of mystery and sometimes dread. The album lurks in my life as not an essential piece of work, but a presence that is ever-lasting and goes beyond even 'taste.' To be honest I like it, I don't like it, but I always care about Blonde On Blonde.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bo Diddley - "Bo Diddley The Chess Box" 2 x CD Compilation

Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley The Chess Box
2 x CD, Compilation, U.S., 1990

The great Elais McDaniel better known as Bo Diddley is a genius. There are many geniuses in the music field, but Diddley is one because he understood the power of the primitive guitar. In many ways I feel Chuck Berry is the Cliff Richard of rock, and Bo is part of the punk/noise/avant-garde of 1950's rock n' roll. The classic line up of drums, maracas (courtesy of Jerome Green) and electric guitar is beyond great, the feeling is more of a wild spirituality. All emotion and thought is caught by the beat, and one is a prisoner of that relentless rhythm.

Often imitated or quoted, but when you hear the original Chess recordings of this music giant you realize all those other versions are just silly. Also the directness of Bo's music is so straight forward. I feel there is no sepearation between the brain and the beat. All of it done effortlessly by him and his band. Essential. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blur - "Blur" CD Album

Blur – Blur
CD Album, US, 1997
Virgin Records

This is the album where I got on the Blur train. In certain angles a perfect album, but a tad long. But I did fell in love with Blur by the first note from the opening song “Beetlebum” which struck me as a moment of perfection. That followed by “Song 2” was like the perfect 45rpm single that doesn't exist. The other cut that I can't get enough is the hyponitic “Death Of A Party” which I can listen to on endless repeat from now to ever.

It's an interesting album compared to what they have done before. It seems that they thrown away their image as teenage pop-makers into a more dark murky world. Whatever it is hard drugs or just the entrapment they felt being part of the Brit-Pop affair, it forced them against the wall, and they fought back to obtain a new landscape for their songs. All four of them add to the chemistry that is necessary Blur. It's a cool album made when things were not that 'cool.'

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bluebob - "Bluebob" CD Album

Bluebob – Bluebob
CD, Album, US, 2002
Soulitude Records

Bluebob is a band, of sorts, composed of David Lynch and John Neff. I suspect, and I can be deadly wrong, that Lynch will be better known for his music. For me it is hard to think about his films without the soundtrack – and even though he chose the recording, it somehow conveys the Lynch aesthetic. Bluebob came out of nowhere and landed in the home of Tosh, and usually I have a memory of getting the record or CD, but in this case, it is totally blank.

The sound is what you expect from the Lynch world. Driving boogie-blues with the 1950's Duane Eddy meets Joe Meek guitar. But the big difference here is Neff's vocals, which almost, makes these songs sound normal. But there is also a death metal touch to the recording as well. It's a remarkable record, and in some Lynch music landscapes it s a road house bar, but the music here I think belongs to a dark forest. It's not an urban sound, but more of a 3:30 AM in the wrong part of the forest type of sound. Also it's a good record to hear by yourself. It is not sharing type of music, more of laying in front of the hi-fi by yourself, and letting the sounds bath you type of record. 

Black Box Recorder - "The Worst Of Black Box Recorder" CD Compilation

Black Box Recorder – The Worst Of Black Box Recorder
CD Compilation, Enchanced, US, 2001
Jetset Records

The Worst Of Black Box Recorder is a collection of b-sides, re-mixes, and the 'hits' by Sarah, Luke, and John. Their short-span of their work is very much appreciated by yours truly, due that it is hard to find an artist or band that is devoted to pure irony. That word is looked down upon, especially in pop, but I think we can always use a certain amount of irony in a work of art, especially in the pop song. Black Box Recorder makes irony into a steady art form, and it is used quite effectively in their recordings.

The three covers they do on this collection is dipping into sarcasm that is beautifully expressed by the wonderful singer Sarah Nixey, whose dead-panned vocals convey a certain amount of boredom and icy feelings. Luke Haines as a writer is border-line Ray Davies with a glam fixation. This, believe me, is a a good combination. The songs he wrote with John Moore are a tad subtle with the tongue deep in the cheek.

Their sound is eloquent and I can understand people not fully adopting their stance with a thumbs up due to the consistent stance of humor. In a funny way they remind me of 10cc in that their work is consistently clever, and clever is sometimes a tad much. Artifice and surface is used to expose a deeper understanding of their culture – which is mostly about the world of pop music and identity. There is also a JG Ballard aspect in how Black Box Recorder looks at the landscape. They have not made an album in 10 years, and I miss them. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Black Box Recorder - "Passionoia" CD Album

Black Box Recorder – Passionoia
CD Album, UK, 2003
One Little Indian

“British Racing Green” is almost klassic Kinks like, and therefore that alone is worth getting this album. Also sadly this was the last album by Black Box Recorder. It was a series of perfect moments, but with Facts Of Life being their masterpiece. What is interesting is that they're fully 'English' sounding via their lyrics, but musically they strike me as more European sounding. Passionoia is very much a bigger production than the other albums by Luke, Sarah, and John.

Parts of it reminds me of ABBA, which is a good thing. Luke Haines, generally speaking, is always on the tightrope between genius or missing-that-genius-mark. He's such a smart-Alec that it sometimes becomes a wall that one has to climb over to appreciate his music. But then again his stance towards or at the very least, his commentary on the contemporary world is priceless. His (their) tribute to Wham's second partner “Andrew Ridgley” is a good example how his sense of humor is at play. Haines looks at the world in a critical light, and in a way his music is like reading a small essay.

Passionoia is not my favorite album from Black Box Recorder, but still its a gem of a really good piece of work – and Haines is a person someone should follow to the end of the Earth. Also Pulp fans would find his work interesting...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Black Box Recorder - "The Facts Of Life" CD Album

Black Box Recorder – The Facts Of Life
CD, Album, UK, 2000
Nude Records

The promise, in other words their masterpiece. All the stars are lined up correctly for Black Box Recorder's The Facts Of Life, because here the melodies match the biting lyrics with the perfect presentation. Some years back I played this album to a friend, and they thought 'so contrived.' Which is true, but in this case, it is a strength than a hinderance. “French Rock n' Roll” and “The Facts Of Life” are both perfect pop songs, and funny.

What they do on record sounds simple and un-cluttered but is actually quite sophisticated due to the arrangements and how they work up Sarah's deadened vocals with even a more laid-back but perfectly pitched back-up vocals from John and Luke. They can almost be folk music, but somehow turned into glam rock. A very laid back version of glam of course. A tongue-in-cheek classic introduction to the 21st Century, before we knew it would turn to shit. Luke Haines would admire that. I think only artists can convey the horror that is the new century.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Black Box Recorder - "England Made Me" CD Album

Black Box Recorder – England Made Me
CD Album, Reissue, U.S., 1999 (recorded in 1998)
Jetset Records

Luke Haines' work, generally, leaves me cold. I admire his wit and charm, but I often feel that his songs are too forced upon. But his work with co-writer / musician John Moore and the British Chanteuse Sarah Nixey aka Black Box Recorder is another matter. I love them.

England Made Me perhaps named after an early Graham Greene novel, is gentle on the ears, but the lyrics are biting, The beauty of the bored vocals mixed in with the simple guitars and minimal arrangements add a large picture in one's head. Sophisticated of course, and maybe a tad too much of a tongue in cheek, but still its a warm album for me, even though the band does it best to be distant and unemotional. But is that not a seductive move? One can't over-estimate Nixey's talent in conveying Haines or Moore's sarcastic lyrics. I think anyone else doing it, will cheapen the affect. So Black Box Recorder is very much a balanced act – where all their strengths are focused to make a very 'smart' sort of pop. Not many can carry this off, but Black Box Recorder seems to do it effortlessly. 

Billy Nicholls - "Would You Believe" CD Album, Reissue

Billy Nicholls – Would You Believe
CD Album, Reissue, Stereo, Mono, UK, 1999 (Originally 1968)
Immediate (Sequel Records)

For me this album came out of nowhere, and I couldn't believe (no pun intended with respect to the title...) no one heard this or why it hasn't become an instant 1960's classic. In a way it reminds me of the great Jackie Lomax album Is This What You Want?in that it got support from the heavy hitters of its era or year and yet, crashed down the charts.

Billy Nicholls was (and still is) an associate of The Who, and on Would You Believe he is backed by the mighty Small Faces as well as Nicky Hopkins, John Paul Jones, and Big Jim Sullivan, with production by the great Andrew Loog Oldham and issued on his Mod-tastic Immediate Records. Why didn't it sell? Well, never mind that, because this album is great.

With respect to my memory, 1968 was the year where everything was coming apart in very interesting ways. The songs got longer, and more jazzy, with an eye towards the endless horizon. So this album is very much the last stance on short perfect psych-pop songs that is also a snapshot of its year and I presume London music life as well. There's not a bad cut on this album, but the one that I play over and over again is “Girl From New York.” Just the rush of the melody and the fullness of the production makes one swoon. It's a great, great record. “London Social Degree,” “Portobello Road,” and the title cut (not written by Nicholls) are excellent as well. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Billy MacKenzie / Steve Aungle - "Eurocentric" CD Album

Billy MacKenzie / Steve Aungle – Eurocentric
CD, Album, 2001
Rhythm of Life Records

Liberty Lounge” is pretty much the highlight to this album by the great MacKenzie with large assistance from Steve Aungle. For one the song is like a refreshing splash in the face, due that most of the album is very electro-dance or ballad driven, which is perfectly OK, but the music is not that challenging compared to other Billy projects. But “Liberty Lounge” wow. Like most (if not all) Billy Post-death albums, it is very much a grab-bag of music. The techno-music doesn't work when one compares it to classics like “Wild Is The Wind.” It's hard for me to be critical on an album like this due that Billy wasn't alive to finish it, and by no means is the work exploitive – one wants these releases. But the pacing of the album is not that strong. They're very much of a side-one and a side-two. But what makes Eurocentric a must is the cover of Sparks' great “Mother Earth.” For the Billy obsessive, which I belong in that category, the album is a must. But by no means is it an introduction to his greatness. For that you have to go back to the Alan Rankine era Associates. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Billy MacKenzie - "Outernational" CD, Album, 1992

Billy MacKenzie – Outernational
CD, Album, UK & Europe, 1992

I remember reading about this album when it was released in Europe but I had a hell of a time trying to locate a copy. Eventually I found a single copy at Tower Records Piccadilly London branch around 1994. And it was expensive! Nevertheless worth every pence.

The only Billy MacKenzie album released under his name when he was alive. Not sure why this is not under the Associates banner, but nevertheless all albums without Alan Rankine, is in its nature, a solo album. The first cut “Outernational” is a classic in the same landscape as Kraftwerk's “Trans-Europe Express.” Electro-pop at its best. An excellent opening to a world of electro-disco, and in many ways a total underrated masterpiece.

Often Outernational sounds like it wasn't made by humans, because it is very much a producer's album, being that Yello's Boris Blank and the totally European sounding Thomas Fehlmann and Moritz Von Oswald. MacKenzie's voice blends into the mix like adding cream to coffee. It is effortless that it seems to be an ideal of what pop should sound like. Dance floor friendly to the max, if this album was a color it would be pastel colors with flowing fabric on a window backed by a wind machine.

The Boris Blank cuts are more flavored in the sense it is very textural and Billy's voice and music is in the hands of a wonderful chemist. The stunning great song here (besides the title cut) is “In Windows All.” That alone is worth the expense of getting this album. A Billy slow burner.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Billy MacKenzie - "Beyond The Sun" CD, Album

Billy MacKenzie – Beyond The Sun
CD, Album, UK, 1997
Nude Records

Beyond The Sun was the album that Billy was working on when he committed suicide. So of course there is tragedy spilt on this album like red wine on a white cloth. Stained with memories, yet its best to look at this album away from the tragedy.

The album feels very rough, not in the quality of the songs, but in its pacing. Many ballads, and I believe most of these songs are just demos, that was re-recorded after his death. It doesn't sound like a man drowning in despair, but an artist at his prime working on new material. The one thing that never fails is his unbelievably great voice. It never fails. He can sing from 100 to 1 and it will sound incredible. Along with Bowie and Scott Walker, MacKenzie is one of the great vocalist in the pop world. “14 Mirrors” is the classic Billy cut, with a beautiful melody that just builds slowly up and it comes to head with a gorgeous chorus. Full of emotion and just daring to be out there that only Billy can do. “At The Edge Of The World” is a smoky number that slinks to the edge, and looks over the horizon.

Over-all this is not an essential Billy release except it was demos for his next album at the time of his death, that makes it sad. But clearly this is not an artist on his last stage, but one can't say the same for his personal life or demons. Recordings by Billy are never bad, that's impossible! But there are stronger works by him that's out there, but as a fan you would want this album. And again, the voice never fails. In two words. Superb. Singer. 

Liner notes by Paul Morley that came with the CD

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas - "Little Children" / "Bad To Me" 45rpm 7" Vinyl

Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas – Little Children / Bad To Me
Vinyl 7” 45rpm, U.S., Reissue

In the Beatles empire in the early days of the British Invasion, Billy and his Dakotas were gifted with various songs by the Lennon/McCartney factory. Sort of an outlet that worked commercially, but also artful recordings by Billy & Co. including the talents of George Martin. But there is one non-Beatle song “Little Children” that I feel even went beyond the fab four. As I mentioned before I find a small percentage of Kramer's recordings to be haunted affairs. Of course I first heard them as a ten year old, but it has a lasting effect on me. And I still get goose-bumps listening to “Little Children.”

On one level I think of the great film “Night of the Hunter” when I hear this song now. The singer is basically trying to get the younger brother or sister to keep a secret that he's romancing the big sister. He will inncocently either give them money or take them to the cinema if they're good and won't tell on the couple. Or is even the big sister involved? There is a gothic darkness involved here, and reading the lyrics I think it's innocent, but Billy J. Kramer and the production convey something very un-nerving and unsettling. The thing is I was never put-off by the song, I was deeply attracted to its message, or what I thought was the message. The singer need to see his girlfriend without the prying eyes of the little children is almost fetish like desire. It is forbidden. Looking at it now it is a sister or little brother version of Elvis' great “Little Sister.” These two songs should be played one after the other.