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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bob & Bob - "Simple & Effective" (M.I.T.B. Records) Vinyl LP

Bob & Bob are an art duo.  Which means they make drawings, paintings, photographs, videos/films, art performances and of course, record albums.  On the surface, one can describe them as not only an American but specifically a Los Angeles version of Gilbert & George.   Yet, entirely different.  Gilbert & George deal with the British world, Bob & Bob are more light, entertaining, and very American.  Beyond that, there are no concrete comparisons between the two duos, except that they are a duo, they do art, and for the casual fan, it's hard to tell the difference between Gilbert and George, and therefore the same for Bob & Bob. 
Bob & Bob has been around since the 1970s, where they met in art school and decided to work together.  What they have produced is quite remarkable, and I have to say the big aspect of them that I like is that they are fun.   The fact that they are not serious is what makes them so important.  Yet, I wouldn't say humor is the only importance to this duo.  
As far as I know, "Simple & Effective" is their first recording under the name of Bob & Bob.  Recorded and released in 1978, the album came out of the Los Angeles art scene when it was very active.  The album reflects not of its time, but more in the state of the Bob & Bob mental state.   14 songs that are funny, but also quite tuneful in that early Beatle mode of tunefulness. Clearly, the album is very much a hand-made project with the lyric sheets that look like it was made at the local Kinko's -including the pages hand stapled by either Bob or Bob.  This is very much a statement by an art duo who looked beyond the art gallery to do their art. 
It's an impressive collection of songs that is very much the DIY spirit of those years.  It's a remarkable album that puts me in a great mood.  There are very few albums that do that. Especially recordings from visual artist, which tends to be on the dark or depressing side.  Not Bob & Bob, they are here to entertain.  Although, I wouldn't take it fully on that surface level.  There is something critical being made here, and I appreciate that effort to put the stamp, even licked, on the culture of that time, and yes, even now. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Move - "Shazam"/"Move" (Fly Records) Double Vinyl reissue, 1970

I have always heard of The Move, but it was years later till I actually heard their music. I have to imagine that the first Move song that I was aware of is "Hello Susie."   How can any teenager refuse that song?  The odd thing is, I think I first heard "Hello Susie" on KMET, which was the Los Angeles underground rock station.  I suspect that the DJ (B. Mitchell Reed?) had the import because I don't think the album "Shazam" came out in the United States.   So it was years later that I actually heard the album - probably in Topanga Canyon.  

For one, I loved the variety of pop that's on the album.   Only six songs, yet, extreme pop done in a hard rock style.  Crunching guitars, with baroque overtures.  One can say it's sort of in the Beatles groove, but the truth is, I think the leader of the band and chief songwriter Roy Wood was in his own world.  My first impression was 'eccentric fellow." At the time I never read an interview with him, and rarely did they get press in the U.S.  Maybe a mention in Rolling Stone, or perhaps they were lucky enough to get this album reviewed, but the memory of it was not me experiencing the album through the printed media, more radio.  
"Beautiful Daughter" is still a song that stays in my head when I walk around Silver Lake.   The string arrangements sound very elementary, and it is almost a punk like the DIY version of something classical.  When you hear strings on a Beatles record, you know it's done by professional musicians - but "Beautiful Daughter" has an enticing spirit from an amateur.  For me, it's a unique song that is beautiful, but something off about it all. In fact, that explains the logic and beauty of The Move.  There is something not quite right.  "Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited" is clearly the masterpiece of this album.   The song builds and builds on a powerful bass riff, and then goes into "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."  Side two mostly covers, but again, totally reimagined as originals by The Move. 

The vinyl version I purchased comes with their first full-length album, "Move," which is even odder than "Shazam."   Mostly Roy Wood songs, with the help of a young Tony Visconti on arrangements of strings.  It's sort of a greatest hits album but from an alternative universe. Clearly not from this planet, and super sure not from the U.S.  Even though there is a cover of a Moby Grape song, the pop on this record is very hyper-baroque pop.   It includes an early version of a much shorter "Cherry Blossom Clinic.   The Move was a unique band in an unusual period of experimentation in the field of pop.   

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Morrissey - "Swords" (Polydor) 2 x Vinyl, 2009

I love Morrissey.  Without a doubt one of the great songwriters of the late 20th century and 21st century.  But is he consistent?  No.  Finding his brilliance one has to really check out the b-sides to his singles.  For instance, I do like his stand-alone solo albums, but it's the collections that are much more satisfying.  I'm not sure how or who decides what goes on the final album, or how he chooses what becomes a B-side and not on the A-side, but I find him at times, consistently wrong.   His "B" choices are excellent.

For me, the great classic Morrissey is "Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice," which when I first heard, I cried.  I haven't the foggiest idea what is in that song that made me tear up.  It could be the Daddy image or the passionate delivery of Morrissey's voice.  The song is poetic, with a significant amount of anger reflecting on sadness.  "Good Looking Man About Town" and "Christian Dior" have a novelist approach in nailing down a character's traits - but with Morrissey, it's a combination of a mirror image as well as a projection of sorts.

Credit should go to his band and his co-writers, who are credited for the music composition.  Whyte, Boorer, and Tobias fit into the Morrissey orchestra.  In a way, it reminds me of Duke Ellington's big band.  Each member can express their 'identity, ' but it has the Morrissey stamp as well.  "Swords" is my favorite Morrissey album.   A B-side may be the throwaway material, but for that reason alone, I love it more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Edwin Astley - "Secret Agent Meets The Saint" (RCA) Vinyl, 1965

Two shows that made an impression on me as a child were the British series "Secret Agent" (Danger Man, UK) and "The Saint."   In the back of my mind, I have remembered the theme songs and often hummed them in my daily baths.  Someone either on Facebook or some other social media site brought the title theme of "Secret Agent" to my attention.  A super catchy face-paced melody that is the opposite of the slower-pace show.  Patrick McGoohan played John Drake, a British secret agent who travels the world for the Queen.   When I watched it as a boy, it seemed sophisticated to me.  It wasn't like "Wild Wild West, " or the other knock-off James Bond shows on TV.  It had its own gritty glamor.  McGoohan was cool in every sense or meaning of that word.  The music, on the other hand, is frantic, busy, with an orchestration that featured a speeded-up Harpsichord.  

"Roger Moore plays the Saint," and he's a combination of private detective and borderline criminal.  Simon Templar (his fictional, given name) as played by Moore, had a built-in charm factor.  He wasn't cool but was fun.   To be in the Templar/Moore world was to participate in the good times.  As he traveled around the world, us viewers went with him.  Even though most of the sets were fake (like "Secret Agent"),  one could feel the sense of exotica or a new adventure.  

The composer Edwin Ashley, who did both tv series, was very much into the British film soundtrack world.  He is also the father of Karen, who married Pete Townshend, and his other daughter is Virginia Ashley, a noted songwriter-singer.    The happy arrangements and melody of "The Saint" is very much like the mood of the series.  The British composer has this unique talent of doing something corny sounding, but great at the same time.   The one song that does it for me in a big way is the "Theme from Secret Agent" or known here on this album as "High Wire."  As I write, the title song goes through my head, and I think it maybe impossible for me to escape from its clutches.  The Harpsichord is the key here.