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Monday, April 7, 2014

Andrew Oldham Orchestra and Friends - "Play the Rolling Stones Songbook Volume 2"

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra and Friends - Play the Rolling Stones Songbook Volume 2
Download from I-Tunes, 2013
Gold Lake Records

A very surprise release is the volume 2 of the Rolling Stones songbook by Andrew Loog Oldham and pals.  At times I feel like I’m the only fan of the ALO Orchestra, and often I think his music making is more interesting than his discovery the Rolling Stones.  40 something years later we get volume 2, and not odd at all the music is mostly from the Oldham years with the Stones.  Oh, and I love this album. 

There is nothing really new here, but the taste factor is high.  It is like going to five star restaurant and expecting and then having that great meal.  So no surprise factor, except the (perhaps) cheeky version of “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”   But I think it’s better than the original version, which of course that record was based on “The Last Time” which in turn there was a lawsuit…. Nevertheless money was spread around, and I think everyone is happy for it.   

And again to taste, my favorite Stones songs are covered on this album.  “She Smiled Sweetly,” and “I Am Waiting” are here, and lovely versions as well.   “She Smiled”..  has that classic ALO production sound, which quietly builds up into a wow that started off as a whisper.  The High Dials, a band I don’t know of, does an incredible version of that song.  And the bass-fuzz sound of “Under My Thumb” gives me goose bumps.  I haven’t heard such an ugly garage rock sound in a long time. 

I don’t have the full picture of this album, due to the fact that I downloaded it from I-Tunes, and it sucks one doesn’t get info like who plays what or when or why or any of the mighty w’s one comes up in one’s mind while listening to an album.  Nevertheless if you’re a Stones fan, especially circa. 1966 or so, this is the album for you.  Oldham I am convinced is a genius. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra - "East Meets West" CD remastered album

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra - East Meets West
CD, Album, Reissue, Remastered, Japan, 2013 (originally released in 1965)


This is a super interesting album due that Andrew Loog Oldham has a fascination with American pop, and here he puts his focus on his love for both The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys.  For me, this is what made the Rolling Stones so noteworthy during the Oldham/Brian Jones years -the mix of R n’ B with the love of contemporary pop.   Keith Richards spoke of the love of the blues, but with the Stones, in this time period, it was the crazy mixture of their original passion and the hit parade of that time.

Oldham was probably one of the first pop people to worship the brain of Brian Wilson, and the whole orchestra idea of his comes from a mixture of Wilson and the classic Phil Spector era, which were happening at the time of these recordings.   Now we get homages to artists or a sound many years after the original recording, but Oldham and company paid their respects almost instantly when these hits were on the pop charts.

The Four Seasons was masterminded by member Bob Gaudio and the Season’s record producer Bob Crewe.  Both of these men crafted, wrote and produced the New Jersey aesthetic as it happened.   Oldham’s appreciation sort of goes behind the Wizard’s curtain to look at how they work.  The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra is a great deal a tribute to the men behind the sound booth with the engineer.

The music here touches on the greatness of the Beach Boys and The Four Seasons, but the purpose could be meant for various reasons.  Since both artists were popular at the time, it could be seen as a cash-in to what was happening in the charts at the time, but I think a lot of it has to do with Oldham’s love for the medium of pop stardom, pop record making, and the vision of the guy in the studio who conducts and makes the music.   It is also about image, so there is a visual aspect to this narrative as well.

This Japanese issued CD has both mono and stereo mixes, and there are differences between them with respect to sound and even mood.  Again, the best $28 I have spent on a recording.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra - Plays Lionel Bart’s Maggie May

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra - Plays Lionel Bart’s Maggie May
CD, Album, Reissue, Remastered, Japan, 2013

I didn’t even know that Plays Lionel Bart’s Maggie May existed, when some years back I walked into a small Shinjuku record shop, and there it was!  It was close to $50, and way too much for me to buy at the time.  Of course, I thought of that record whenever I closed my eyes at beddy-time.  So there was at least five years of regrets about passing up on this album, and very few people knew of it.  The most famous Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra album was their first one, which was Rolling Stones’ covers.  The Lionel Bart album was a weird one for me, because it was devoted to one songwriter, Lionel Bart, and one of his shows, who for most Americans, would be king obscure.   Which makes this album fascinating on a lot of levels.  Oldham was a friend and someone who looked up to Bart as both a music businessman as well as a music hustler of sorts.  He played the game, but I think the game won in the end.  Nevertheless he was a key figure in British rock before The Beatles broke big.  He wrote songs for Cliff Richard and most famously the musical “Oliver.”  

Here Oldham, John Paul Jones, and others, turns on their magic to the tunes from “Maggie May.” I don’t think there is an official OST of this musical or if it is, disappeared into vinyl heaven.  So this is what we take into existence, and thank god for the Japanese, they re-leased it with not only mono mixes, but stereo as well.  Plus 11 bonus cuts.  

The mono version of this album is the one to hear over and over again.  It’s classic Oldham vibe.  For instance, “It’s Yourself” has a killer lead bass sound, very Jet Harris.  But the stereo version, the bass is practically gone!  Nevertheless it’s a cool album, and this CD collection is incredible, mostly for the bonus cuts, which to be honest, are the highlights of this set.   

The rest of the album is recordings from around this time (1964) from the Andrew Oldham and Immediate Records world.  Totally essential songs like “Each and Every Day of the Year” (Jagger & Richards) and “All I Want Is My Baby” (Oldham & Richards) sung by Bobby Jameson and simply incredible recordings.   Not sure if the purpose was for the publishing end of the music business, but Jagger and Keith came up with wonderful tunes.  The other stand out by them is “(Walking Thru’ the) Sleepy City”, performed by The Mighty Avengers, but gawd, what a fantastic song.  The best $28 spent on a CD in my lifetime!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra & Chorus - 16 Hip Hits (cd reissue, Japan)

The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra & Chorus - 16 Hip Hits
CD, Album, Reissue, Remastered, Japan, 2013

To step into a fantastic record store like Pet Sounds in Tokyo and seeing the entire Andrew Loog Oldham catalog reissued as CD, was something that almost forced me to cry, but I held my tears back and purchased all of them.  They were $28 a piece and for sure worth every yen and cent.  The first one I played was “16 Hip Hits.”  To be honest I have a lot of these songs in a collection that was put together in the 90s, but for me, to hear it in its natural order - plus the additional 16 bonus cuts, well it was like being put in a time machine in 1966.  Except I was in Tokyo not London.

Paul John Jones did a lot of the arrangements for this album, and the selection is mostly from the obsessive taste of Oldham.  It was songs that were hits at the time, and Oldham at that time, didn’t look back or reflect on his past.  This was music made to be carried out at that point and time.  So one got a snapshot view of his world at the time, and the beauty of him is that he’s an artist, but I suspect that he was thinking about himself as more as a hustler than anything else.  Music was another part of the hustle, and this is what makes this album such a sweet listening experience. 

The arrangements appear to be slower, then the original recording hits, and there is a looseness of the arrangements that almost feel like it would fall apart any moment.  So that adds a certain amount of tension in the work.  For me, it gives a sense of charm, and with the additional good taste from Oldham makes these recordings essential for anyone who is interested in 60’s British pop.  Most of the songs, if not all, are American orientated.   They hanker back to almost an imaginary state of mind of the original recordings - but re-imagined by Oldham and perhaps Jones.  But I suspect that Jones was just following Oldham’s lead, and Andrew it is all about image, and that image, is really beautiful.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bryan Ferry - "Let's Stick Together" CD Album

Bryan Ferry - Let’s Stick Together
CD, Album, U.S.,  1990 (Released 1976)
Reprise Records

A very odd record.  In the same year, at least in the U.K. Bryan Ferry released an EP that was sort of perfection in format and music.  Let’s Stick Together is a full album including that EP, but still, the album feels like a b-side to various singles.   In fact, I believe that most of this material were b-sides.   On this album he does or re-do’s five Roxy Music songs.   All decent covers, but not as good as the Roxy originals.   So one wonders,  perhaps he re-recorded them for financial reasons? 

The one thing that Ferry never fails to do is do a great version of an American Songbook classic.  Here he does “You Go To My Head” which is superb.   The voice, the image, and his stance backs the greatness of this song.  It’s a natural fit.  Also his take on “Let’s Stick Together” works because he has that sheen of the surface and when it is attached to a gritty R&B song, it adds a new dimension to the work.   So yeah, enjoyable package, but what is the thought behind it?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bryan Ferry - "Extended Play" Vinyl 7" EP

I purchased the original copy of this EP at Moby Disc record store when they were located on Ventura Bouvelard.   At the time, I loved the compactness of having an EP with four new songs.  The year being 1976, the height of the punk era, and yet, Bryan Ferry totally ignored that world for his own private-like cell of luxury and his version of recorded history.  The design and even the liner notes expresses a time gone past.  I imagine that Ferry still has all of his old original vinyl EP’s in some room in his house.  So this selection is perhaps a tribute to that era, but the music, at least on the surface, is all over the map.

We have a classic Beatle tune from “Rubber Soul,” and in theory Ferry could do a whole re-make of that album, and it would fit into his aesthetic.  It is quite straight forward with a heart on the sleeve sentiment - which ironically enough there is another track with that very title.  “Heart On My Sleeve” is totally nice but also unnecessary.  What comes off the strongest is his version of Jimmy Reed’s “Shame, Shame, Shame” and The Everly Brothers “The Pice Of Love.” That is totally superb, with an intensity that is powerful and then going right into “Shame…” is a great series of moments.  The b-side is all reflection, as I noted above.  But the real star of this package is the idea of the EP.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bryan Ferry "Another Time, Another Place"

Bryan Ferry - Another Time, Another Place
CD, Album, Remastered

The second Bryan Ferry album, and on the surface, it appears to follow the first, in that it is mostly all covers, except the title song “Another Time, Another Place.” The album opens with “The ‘In’ Crowd” and this mod soul classic is re-imagined by Ferry.  Here in Ferry’s hands the song becomes a manifesto.  In other words, it is pretty much what the listener imagines the world of Bryan Ferry is like.  “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is another totally suitable piece of work, due that Ferry has a real understanding of the Great American Songbook.  He knows how to be subversive with the mixture of effortless elegance, with his much studied approach to that subject.  The beauty of this song sounds like Ferry wrote it.   The lyrics are genius.  The image of a heart in flames, which in turn causes the eyes to burn from the smoke, is a great visual ‘romantic’ image.

Sadly the rest of the album doesn’t match the two songs above.  The thing is I think he sees these songs as irony-free, but the enjoyment of a Bryan Ferry project is the projection of his pop aesthetic on a song form.  At least with his solo projects.   By no means is this a failure of an album, but compared to his initial solo, and of course Roxy Music, it is minor stuff.   Well, that’s true till  we get to the end of the album, when all of a sudden we get an original song by Ferry.  Not only an original, but a masterpiece by Ferry.  “Another Time, Another Place” is the iconic Ferry subject matter of time standing still, which is woebegone island for him.

Ferry doing covers as a solo project makes complete sense to me, but I am surprised that he put an original song on this album.   Even though it is the best thing cut, why not save this song for a Roxy project?  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bryan Ferry - "These Foolish Things" Virgin CD

Bryan Ferry - These Foolish Things
CD, Album, Remastered, 1999 (original recording 1973

For me personally, the year 1973 was a major time for new music.  Glam reached its peak, and David Bowie and the Spiders were non-stoppable.  But also the dark mirror image of Bowie, Roxy Music was making revolutionary music.   It was virtually a shock that around the time of the second Roxy album, Bryan Ferry released a solo album.  An album of song covers on top of that.  At the time, I thought of These Foolish Things as a creative notebook for Ferry.  Perhaps influences, both iconic and sonic wise.  The majority of the songs were taken from the 60’s with a touch of the 50’s and even something from the classic American songbook.

When I first heard the album, I was shocked by Ferry singing a Bob Dylan song for some reason.  Even more surprise by his glam/experimental arrangement of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” An incredible version of the song that first rendered this protest song into a camp level.  Now hearing it many years later it seems to me to be more of a poetic approach to this iconic piece of work.  On one level the album sounds like a collection of b-sides, but that is a part of its great charm.  Ferry’s focus on turning these pieces into something more personal for him, yet the distance between his voice and the material is quite a distance.  It is, and still is, a very strange album.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Antonin Artaud - Pour en finir avec le Judgement du dieu" Internet recording

Antonin Artaud - Pour en finir avec le Judgement du dieu

I have this incredible joy of listening to Poets reading their works in their native language, and the fact that I don’t understand that language is an additional plus for me.  But I think people in my category would have no trouble listening to and enjoying the voice of Antonin Artaud reading his works.  This piece was recorded for a radio broadcast, but was banned before it even got on the air.  There are very few recordings of Artaud, so each one has to be treasured in the sense it is a voice lost with the noise out there.  Nevertheless there have been numerous recordings of this piece floating on Earth as well as on the Internet.  

This work is very musical, and keeps one on their toes, because you don’t know what is going to happen.  There are percussion affects as well as ambient noise affects through out the work.  Even though I don’t know the language it is pretty intense stuff. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Antoine - "un éléphant me regard" EP

Antoine starts off Donovan and goes into Jacques Dutronc land.   So if one looks at his career he went folk to garage rock to psych-garage rock.  And I don’t know what he did in the 1970s but I find his later 60s work really interesting.  “un éléphant me regard” is kind of wacko.  But I like the slowly built up “qu’est-ce que je foes ici” which has sort of an Animals drive.  For those who like their folk music in French with some 60's poison. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Antoine - "Lolita Lolita" EP

Antoine - Lolita Lolita EP
Download, 1967
Vogue Records

Antoine is hardcore French folk-pop.  The Donovan affect is so strong in his music.  It is almost if you can't get enough of Donovan’s music, then thank god for Antoine.  Like all great folk songs “Madame Laure Messenger, Claude, Jermie et L’Existence de dieu” borrows from the melody of “Hey Joe” but done in a snappy jazzy way - its a great cut.   On this four-song EP, besides the track mentioned, has a big production or big band sound.  He’s an artist who serves his songs with whatever it needs.  My question is, was there any bad songs put out in 1967?

Antoine - "La Guerre" EP

Antoine - La Guerre EP
Vogue Records

The garage French rock version of classic Donovan.  “La Guerre”  I am going to have to presume that this is either an anti-war song, more likely about Vietnam, which makes it very May 68.  I like his voice, his music, well, everything. “Ne t'en fais pas pour cela, ils revent” (Don’t Worry About, They’re Dreaming) is Bob Dylan if he landed on St Michel sidewalk.  It even has that Al Kooper organ sound.  The beauty of the EP format is that the music, the image, the whole package is compact.   Like a full album, the EP works it magic the same way.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Antoine - "A Tramontane" EP

Antoine - La Tramontane EP
Vogue Records

Antoine is totally underrated in the English speaking world, well… more like totally unknown, which is a shame because’s he really good.  On the surface he reminds me of Mickie Most era Donovan.  With a touch of Jacques Dutronc thrown in the mix, with unusual production sounds.   “La Tramontane” is a pysch-pop song with a hint of Nino Rota thrown in.  “Mon auto m’attend” is a relaxed jazzy ballad that goes well with drinking on the patio on a warm day. But really all four songs sounds like a great Donovan b-side.  Truly fab.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Anthony Perkins - "From My Heart"

Anthony Perkins - From My Heart
Album, Download, 1958
RCA Records

It’s not unusual for a movie or TV actor to do an album during the late 1950s to 1960s.  Even up to the 70s, but I think the actor Anthony Perkins, in the late 50s was very much interested in being a recording star  But alas the movie world came upon his door and he answered the knocks of Orson Welles and Hitchcock and history was made.  Nevertheless this album came before that knock, and at then there is nothing awkward about his singing. He’s quite good.  The material is so-so, but he had the voice to cut it.  It would have been interesting to see if he could have added the quirkiness of his acting talent to his music, but alas that didn’t happen.  But on the other hand the arrangements are good.  It's a shame that he didn't stay with the music making. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Anthony Newley - "The Decca Years 1959 - 1964

Anthony Newley - The Decca Years 1959 - 1964
CD, Compilation, 2008
Decca Records

My strong interest in U.K. life right before The Beatles hit the world made me buy this collection of Anthony Newley early recordings.   I knew of him, because he was on American TV a lot during the late 60s and 70s.  Also years later I read that David Bowie was a fan of his, due to the fact that he sang with an English accent, just like his other singing idol Syd Barrett.  

Newley is an interesting figure in 20th Century pop.  Hardcore show biz figure but one with a lot of personality, especially in the songs he wrote and covered.  He had a personal touch, the voice always had that quiver quality but I feel he was singing for the great masses and not to that one sole individual in the audience or by the record player.  He was the Cockney version of Sammy Davis Jr.  A true song and dance man in the world of the swinging 60s. 

 “Bee-Bom” is a fantastic piece of recording.   A fantastic piano riff is played with Newley doing a British version of Broadway doing rockabilly.  Overall his music is very conservative but still, there is something ‘there’ that is interesting.  In my imagined world, Bowie would have produced him.   Or maybe even Morrissey?   If you are going to get a Newley album, I think this is the one to get.  Also on a personal note, I bought this CD at HMV on Oxford Street, while working on the “Sparks-Tastic” book, so it has deep importance to my life

Ava Cherry - "The Astronettes Sessions" (David Bowie)

Ava Cherry - The Astronettes Sessions
CD, Album, Remastered, Reissue, UK, 2009
Black Barbarella Records

In the middle of the cocaine haze, David Bowie made a secret masterpiece of a recording.  The Astronettes Sessions are a bit of a mystery to me.  Was it ever meant to be an official release of any sort?   I have seen this under the heading of an Astronettes recording, and now under Ava Cherry, who was Bowie’s backup singer in the Young Americans era.   But it is not really an Ava Cherry album, due that she doesn’t sing lead in all the songs.   For instance Bowie sings “I am Devine.”   Some of the vocals are taken care of by long-term Bowie pal Geoff MacComack as well as by Cherry.

Nevertheless this is a fantastic Bowie album.  Whatever they are demos for other singers or Bowie hiding his identity in front of The Astronettes, this is really the little sister album to Young Americans.  Bowie’s cover choices are interesting, everything from Roy Harper to Frank Zappa (great choice by the way), and Bruce Springsteen.  On one level there is something very Broadway about it all.  But without a doubt it has traces of the Young Americans vibe running through the album.  The standout tracks are “I am Devine,” Zappa’s “How Could I Be Such A Fool,” and the great “I am a Laser.”   Also it is interesting that there is a version of “God Only Knows” which he did later for his “Tonight” album.  It seems that Bowie doesn’t throw out his ideas, but uses it later when he sees fit to do so.   Like his Toy this is another lost Bowie album, and I think its fantastic.