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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

HARUOMI HOSONO - "Omni Sight Seeing" (Epic, CD, Japan)

In my first long stay in Japan, somewhere in 1989-1990, I purchased this CD, I think, at the music store THE WAVE.   The store was located in Roppongi part of Tokyo, and it was a six-story building filled with music and film DVD's.  It also had an art movie house in its basement.  The perfect home away from home for me.  A few laters I come back to the area and I was shocked to see the store gone - and not just the store, but the entire building as well.  It was just an empty hole in the place of the structure.  It's like a dentist pulling a tooth and just leaving the open wound for the world to view.   I'm just now, getting over the depression of losing such a store and building.  Nevertheless, Haruomi Hosono's album "Omni Sight Seeing" was one of the purchases I have made at THE WAVE.  Twenty-six years later, I'm still paying attention to this album, and when I do hear it, the horrid humid summer comes to mind, that was taking place that summer in Tokyo. 

But to focus on the album, it is very much a travel-log of sorts for Hosono.  It's going around the world with Hosono, or to be even more precise, Asia.   At the time, I never heard an album like this - it is various sorts of music and its history, but through the eyes and sounds of Hosono.  In the West, he's a famed member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), a band that I admire, but not love.  On the other hand, Hosono solo albums are always interesting. He's sort of the Ry Cooder of Japan - in that he's very much a historian of music and its various cultures.  But that is everything from techno-pop to Americana roots music. He works on a big canvas.  If I was to recommend one album for the new listener it would be "Omni Sight Seeing." 

There are traces of John Cage to Middle-Eastern melodies to Parisian tourism to techno to Duke Ellington on this album.  Hosono's version of Duke's "Caravan" is a solid delight.   Accordion, sax, and electronic keyboards is a very good mixture for this tune.   The whole album is very much a variety pack of goodies.  It's traveling without a passport or the fear of security.  The other highlight of the album is "Laugh-Gas," which has to be the ultimate 11 minute minimal techno cut.   Superb entertainment for all!

Monday, August 15, 2016

GEORGE HARRISON - "Wonderwall Music" (Apple Records) 1968

To be perfectly honest, I like George Harrison's music in The Beatles a lot - but his solo albums (including his much loved "All Things Must Past") leaves me wanting something more.  There are individual songs here and there throughout the solo years that I enjoyed, and I think his role as a record producer is very underrated.  Still, the one album of his that I love, is his soundtrack album to the über-hippie film "Wonderwall."  For one, this is the first album released on the Beatle label Apple, and therefore the first solo album from the Fab Four.  

For the first time, I think Harrison moved away from London/Liverpool to embrace Indian music.  The beauty of this record is that he's not doing Indian music, but putting his personality and style into that form of music.  So it's a hybrid version of George Beatle and Indian classic music.   Recorded in Bombay and London, this album is probably one of the first 'world' music projects - at least by a pop star.  One of the great charms about this album is that it really doesn't remind me of Harrison as much as Serge Gainsbourg when he did soundtrack music.  There's a Jean-Claude Vannier (Gainsbourg's co-writer/arranger during the early 70s) that clearly this album must have been an influence on those two French geniuses.  In fact, this album is very French sounding to me.  Why?  I don't know.  All I know is if you put me in a room and played this album without me knowing its history, I would think it was Gainsbourg, or at the very least, a French soundtrack album from the early 70s.  

So, the album is very much ahead of its time.  Even though Indian sounds were clearly entering the Beatles world and other artists as well - this is the first album where Harrison embraces that world fully, but still added his pop sensibility into the soup.  There are traces of Musique Concrete as well.  This is such a great album, and it's disappointing that Harrison didn't continue the great adventure.   Then again, without his presence, we wouldn't have those great British comedies from the 70s.  Harrison was equally serious and hysterical at the same time. 

DIANA DORS - "Swinging Dors" (Columbia) Vinyl, 1960

It took me forever to locate a copy of this album.   To be precise, Diana Dors herself is more important to me than, say, her music.  She was a magnificent figure in London culture circa pre-swinging 1960s.  If one just has to compare her to someone, I guess it would be Jayne Mansfield.  Busty, hour-glass figure, with a sexuality that is both enticing and alarming at the same time.  My type of gal.  A pal of the Kray twins, and other dark figures that made an appearance in London showbiz and gangster life, she strikes me as someone who liked to live life at its most bizarre and fullest.

With respect to this album, it's pretty good.  She can sing, and the beauty of her voice, is actually the character behind the vocals.  The Dors magic or personality comes through in these set of swing/pop classics.  The opening track "The Gentleman is a Dope" is very much the iconic Dors touch.   If nothing else, the title alone is a work of genius.  "Swinging Dors" is a time capsule, but not always filled with goodies.  Like all of life, there is the darkness - and it is there, if you give yourself time to swim into her 'darkness. '  For instance, Wally Stott did the arrangements and orchestration.  He worked with Scott Walker on his first three solo albums.  Doors can swing in both directions.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

LEWIS FUREY - "Lewis Furey" (A&M Records) Vinyl, 1975

I picked up on this album when shopping at Moby Disc on Ventura Blvd, and it stood out in the cut-out bin.  I was kind of surprised to see something worthwhile in that section of the store - although, now we have sort of the romantic memory of finding gems for 99 cents to $3 in this section, mostly it was a horrible drudge.  Nevertheless, Lewis Furey's eyes spoke to me.  When I flipped over to see the back cover, I was impressed that there was a song on it called "Hustler's Tango."

I sense a glam Velvet Underground vibe, so what the hell, worth the $1.99 or so.  When I got home and played the album, that very instant, it became one of my all-time favorite albums.  The cover and the song title didn't lie.   Here was a guy who has the John Cale genius for arrangements, and seemed to have one foot in the music of the theater world, and the other is .... kind of gay-oriented pop, but with dark overtures to the night world.  There's accordion, piano, banjo - which gives it Brecht/Weil orientation, yet very American sounding.  Which is strange from a musician/songwriter from Quebec Canada, and now lives in France.

The album is co-produced and arranged by John Lissauer who also served the same duties on Leonard Cohen's "New Skin for the Old Ceremony" and "Various Positions" as well as the classic Cohen song "Hallelujah."   There is a strong connection between Furey and Cohen -not only sound wise, but both write songs that are very poetic, yet direct.   For those who love albums or artists who are beautifully orchestrated and arranged, will love this album.  Why, Lewis Furey fell between the cracks here in the U.S. (he's known in France, but also in Japan) is beyond me.  This album needs to be re-released.  Beautiful melodies, stark lyrics, street wise, and witty.

Many years later, after losing most of my vinyl collection due to past economic situations, I was deeply surprised to see his first two albums on CD, displayed in a music store in Tokyo.  Truly one of my happiest moments when I discovered the album again, and just waiting for my hands.   You must Locate, and buy it!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

MICHEL LEGRAND - "Michel Legrand (WEA) Vinyl 1981

I found this album yesterday, at Amoeba on Sunset.  I'm a fan of Michel Legrand.  I try to avoid the 80s material. Because I always felt that was a bad era for everyone - and this album was recorded and produced in 1981.  What caught my interest, is that he wrote both music (of course) and lyrics.  So this is truly a hardcore Legrand solo project.   If not the greatest Legrand, it is still pretty good.  Side one is the most interesting, due that it has a full orchestration on that side.  Legrand doesn't only do lush, but he's intense as well.  There are only a handful of recordings or albums where he sings, and this may have been the last Legrand singing album - but I'm not sure about that.   Nevertheless, he sings great.  Side two is basically different from the first side, due that it is very much guitars, bass, keyboards and drums setting. Not exactly rocking, but some tunes do have a 'funk' feel to them.  I can imagine a Steely Dan fan be into side two, while us Jacques Demy lunatics will be into side one.  As far as I know, this album never appeared on a CD, but one can find used vinyl here and there. I would pick it up - especially if you're into the Legrand/Demy world (side one). 

The Dave Clark Five ‎– "Glad All Over / Bits And Pieces" (Hollywood Records) 45 rpm Single

I found a used copy of the 45 rpm single of The Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over" and the back side "Bits and Pieces."  This is argumentative, but I feel that these two songs pretty much represent the Five sound at its best.  I have read that Joe Meek was convinced that Dave Clark was stealing his trademark sound, in fact, he suspected that his home studio was bugged.   This may or may not be true, but nevertheless this 45 rpm is magnificent.  It's the rhythm more than anything else.  The powerhouse drumming, the sax guitar bass - just basically the same noise.  And then Michael Smith's vocals which are John Lennon like in its intensity.   Strangely enough, the mighty five are not on Spotify or Apple Music, in fact, it's hard to find their work online.  Dave Clark owns the masters to his recordings, and for reasons unknown, he maintains the records wrapped up in his safe.   On the other hand, pretty much any decent music vinyl store will have used copies of The Dave Clark Five albums in stock.  Mono recordings of course are the best sound format for the Dave Clark Five sound. It's a sonic wave coming towards you, and once you're in the wave, there is no way of getting out.   Overall I'm not a fan of their albums - they tend to be one dimension.   But this single, oh my, fantastic. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

THE ROLLING STONES -"Necrophilia" Bootleg

The Rolling Stones

For me, due to the inner-world I live in, this is the Stones album for me.  And oddly enough, it's a bootleg.   "Necrophilia" is sort of the bastard version of their collection "Metamorphosis" but of course, much better.  I don't really know the history of this particular bootleg, except I think at one time this was going to be released as a rarity album of goodies - why it didn't happen, I don't know.  Still, it's my favorite Stones album.   

Some of the material on this album sounds more like the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra with Jagger on vocals - or perhaps session musicians (Big John Sullivan & Jimmy Page?) but clearly some of the recordings here were meant to sell the songwriting of Jagger and Richards to other artists.  "Neocrophilia" captures the band between being a R&B band and popster songwriting duo.   Even the 'hits' that we know are different on this album.  "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby" is either an early mix, or more stripped-down version. It has always been one of my favorite Stones cut.   It is like hearing a blending machine mixing your favorite ingredients for a drink.   Pure cocktail of sound.  Trumpet? Blaring in the background, echoy vocals fighting out with the background vocals, and it is simply wonderful.  

This album is sort of the negative version of "Aftermath," in that I'm sure it was recorded around the same time, or in a sense the "Aftermath" notebook.  Notes for an unfinished album.  The nature of recordings that are bootlegs is to see the wizard behind the thick velvet curtain at work.   It is like we are in the studio but invisible. "Hear It," is the mystery cut.  The beauty of this particular song is that it sounds like a soundtrack to a film, but discarded.  Lot of guitar pickings, and then this beautiful string section takes over, but it goes back and forth with the guitars.  Somehow I don't feel this is a Keith Richards guitar.  Brian Jones related production?   Or maybe Jimmy Page?  A beautifully arranged piece. 

"Some Things Just Stick In Your Head" is a throw-away song, but that is also its charm.  It is a country arrangement with the full pop Jack Nietzsche arrangement.   The song is not that hot, but the production and arrangement are amazing.  "Aftermath" is a jam session, and I'm sure I can hear Phil Spector's voice in the background.  So this maybe the Spector/Gene Pitney gets together with the Stones

"I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys" is the classic Mick and Keith song.  This is where they show their true worth and sensibility.  I often felt that the best love songs by Mick and Keith were really about them.  The sexual energy in that band is not going outward, but very much inward.  It is more of a yearning to be within one's gang then out with another 'girl.  "Andrew's Blues" song is about sucking. And I believe this is also Phil/Gene and I want to point out the Motown influence in the early Stones - especially during this period.

An early period of "Street Fighting Man" but here with different lyrics and called "Pay Your Dues."   The height of the Brian Jones sitar, strong bass playing by Wyman, and the great Nicky Hopkins.  It's magic really.   Now comes my favorite of the favorites, "Each & Every Day of the Year."  The slow built-up is almost Roy Orbison intensity, with his sort of lyrical world and melody.  It's a beautiful song. Majestic.  It is so good, I suspect that it isn't the Stones, but Mick with session players. "The Sleepy City" is another fave of mine.  It appeals to the Situationist instinct in me.  To walk in an urban area in the early morning - perhaps after a long night out, or just waking up to this beauty of a landscape.  I often walk around the town here, with this melody in my head. 

The version I have is a vinyl picture disc.   I wish that there was more concrete information about these recordings, like who plays what and so forth.  On the other hand, the mystery is extremely appealing.  Sometimes the information that is in my head is totally wrong, but yet, enjoyable.  Nevertheless a superb collection of songs that are lost in the Stones world. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Maurice Ravel - Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra ‎– Daphnis And Chloe (RCA Victor Red Seal, Vinyl, Mono)

Maurice Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe" gets the perfect packaging from the year 1955.  Although I have a very odd wrap on the vinyl, which gives the sound an extra dimension of weirdness, this is a superb piece of music by Ravel.   Charles Munch, and The Boston Symphony Orchestra does a brilliant job of stating the Ravel vision.   I found this album at The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles.  Lately I have been slightly obsessed with Ravel's "Bolero" due to my wife, Lun*na Menoh's recent performance of that piece.  So I had that in mind, but when I looked at the booklet that comes with this specific album, I was totally thrilled that the illustrations are done by a young Andy Warhol.  I, for one, really love Warhol's commercial work from the 1950's - and here you can see the influence of Jean Cocteau (with respect to his drawings) but it still has a strong Warhol feeling as well.  Delicate, and then you have the strong album cover image that was so typical of that era. Without a doubt worth the $14.99 price tag!

Friday, August 5, 2016

John Cage ‎– "Sonatas And Interludes / A Book Of Music" (Tomato Records)

I used to own this album in 1977 (the year it was released) but had to sell it to Moby Disc for money for some reason I totally forgot.  Nevertheless, it has been in the back of my mind for 35 years of so. As I was taking one of my strolls down Glendale Blvd, I found a copy at Mono Records.  A great record store.  The best thing about a record store is when you go in to look for a specific album, and you find something else instead.  And usually something much better than the other record you're looking for.  The above John Cage album fits that category.  Prepared Piano pieces on a double album, and on the great Tomato Records label.   Beautifully mediative as well as intense.  How does two work together is sort of like enjoying a Tom & Jerry cartoon. You need the violence, as well as the pairing of the duo. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

James Brown and the Famous Flames - "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)" / "There Was A Time" 45 rpm Single

The first time I heard this song, wasn't the original, but The Contortions "No New York" version.  I couldn't believe the minimal aspect of the song - and the tight groove that if unwounded would clearly be an act of murder.  I then heard the original when I purchased the 45 rpm of this song, backed by "here Was A Time."   I have heard the I-Tunes version but I strongly suggest the vinyl version, because you can feel the song being contained in the physical grooves.  The song to me is about being contained is some space.  And believe me, it's not a healthy landscape.  I never heard a song that is so alienating and so strongly, one gets the feeling that your back is towards the wall.  "You can't stand your love."  

"There Was a Time," is the ultimate dance song.  The band is hot. James is hot.  I'm not sure, but I suspect that this recording is live - due to either audience yelling out encouragement, or the band itself.  Nevertheless, the beauty of James Brown is that there is a sense of time being destroyed - or at the very least, you're placed in Planet James Brown - which is a world that has its own logic.  And it's not exactly a planet of joy.  It has its darkness and therefore "I Can't Stand Myself," which to me, pretty much describes the human condition in the 21st century.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

THE ROUTERS "Let's Go! With The Routers" (Scott Walker) Warner Brothers Records 1963

I found this album at Rockaway Records on Glendale Blvd, and there are two reasons why I bought this vinyl.  One, I love the song "Let's Go!"  Pre-glam drums (Hal Blaine?) mixed with a chorus yelling out "Let's Go," is a cocktail for the perfect aural listening experience.  The number 2, is the most important reason why I have this album in my collection.  Scott Engels plays bass on it.  In other words, Scott Walker.   From teenage singer to The Routers to Sunn)))0 - how can it be so perfect.  

Beyond these two and important facts above, this is a great instrumental surf/beat album.  Handclaps, beat drums, honking sax (roots of Andy MacKay/Roxy Music), and the knowledge of the bizarre twist of Scott Walker's entire career.  Also I played two sides of this album, and the record was finished before I could finish these two paragraphs.   Short, makes it point, and it's gone is a haze of hot rod exhaust.   

Scott Walker on bass on both photographs

MICK HARVEY "Delirium Tremens" (Mute) 2016

Mick Harvey, one-time Nick Cave left hand arranger, and Serge Gainsbourg lover (at least musically), has a new album of Gainsbourg tunes.   This is the third package of Serge tunes, and Harvey's good taste comes through.    The majority of songs on this album comes from his French TV project "Anna," starring Anna Karina.    It's classic all the way from side one to side two.  There are no bad cuts on this album, and the additional pleasure is hearing Serge's lyrics translated from the French to English by Harvey.  I think he stays on track with respect to Gainsbourg's playfulness in his literature, and Harvey does have that masculine swagger in the presentation of these songs.  One thing about this album and the other Harvey / Serge recordings is showing what a masterful songwriter genius the French icon is/was.     The other Harvey / Gainsbourg albums are "Intoxicated Man" and "Pink Elephants."  Get all three of them, and then of course, the original recordings by Serge Gainsbourg as well. 

JACK SCOTT "The Legendary Jack Scott (Big Beat Records) 1958

Jack Scott, an artist who worked and recorded in Detroit Michigan, is a superb talent. There is something very working class about him.  Not eccentric like Elvis, or insane like Vince Taylor.  A regular "Jack," who sounds decent as the sun arriving every morning.  Yet, there is menace in his music.  It's very sexy.  The great do-wop backup vocals on almost all the songs, are like angels looking over Jack Scott's shoulder.  If he makes the wrong move, they are there to protect him.  And on top of that, you get Stan Getz on sax.  The two classic cuts on this album are "The Way I Walk," and "Goodbye Baby."  The Mono edition of this album is sonically superb.