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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Karen Dalton’s 'In My Own Time' Waxes Again

posted by on October 16 at 11:39 AM

Seattle label Light in the Attic is reissuing Karen Dalton’s 1971 sundown-shiver, folk-soul classic In My Own Time on 180-gram vinyl, with a bonus four-track 7” including “Something on Your Mind” and an unreleased alternate mix of “Katie Cruel.” Nick Cave, Devendra Banhart, and Lenny Kaye pen liner notes. You salivate.

Karen Dalton’s cover of the Band’s “In a Station”


Monday, October 13, 2008

My Day Sucked Until I Heard This

posted by on October 13 at 4:34 PM

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey’s “Gbeti Madjro” offers yet more proof that Africa could hold its own in the funkadelic realm. This decade has seen an outpouring of reissues that have excavated incredible slabs of mantric, post-James Brown/Meters/George Clinton motion from the ’60s and ’70s. The Strut, Soundway, Analog Africa, and Soul Jazz, and Sublime Frequencies labels (apologies to those I’ve forgotten) have been doing exceptional jobs of searching for gems, curating compilations, and issuing single-artist works.

You may go broke trying to keep up with these archival releases, but your soul will be immeasurably richer for the expenditure.

Tip: Brian Go.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey - "Gbeti Madjro"


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Telescopes Come Back Into View

posted by on October 2 at 10:19 AM

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Who remembers the Telescopes? They put out some sweet psychedelic 12s for Creation Records in the 80s/90s, and then faded out, only to return to action to little fanfare about a decade later. Now the Mind Expansion label (run by Randall Niemann of Füxa) is going to issue Singles Compilation 1989-1991, which contains their finest material—and which will probably ruin all your plans to make a fortune selling the original vinyl releases on eBay.

The Telescopes kind of paled in comparison to contemporaries like Spacemen 3 and Loop, but they possessed some brilliant melodic charms of their own. This collection is a timepiece from an era that many bands are still trying to emulate (nu-gaze, anyone?).

The Telescopes’ “Flying” [see video below] embodies that much-used formula of the time: Beach Boys vocal harmonies + Byrds guitar jangle + UK twist on the “Funky Drummer” beat = first wave of British shoegazer rock (to grossly generalize). (For info on how to order the comp, see Niemann's MySpace bulletin after the cut.)


Continue reading "Telescopes Come Back Into View" »


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's time for Wednesday soul JAMZ!

posted by on October 1 at 1:35 PM

Schmader, your Exciters post from the other day got me thinking...here is another Exciters track...sorry for the lame fake...uh, video, on both counts.

The Exciters - Blowin' Up My Mind (RCA)

And a bonus (LOVE THIS ONE!) Major Lance...You Don't Want Me No More (Okeh)

Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” Remixed

posted by on October 1 at 11:52 AM

The 1994 meta-hiphop rap classic gets a pacelift by Beatnick & K-Salaam.


Monday, September 15, 2008

A Chance Encounter with Gun

posted by on September 15 at 5:04 PM

During a five-minute browse in Everyday Music recently, I heard a great psychedelic-rock song I'd never heard before—and I've heard hundreds. The tune lasted the duration of my brief visit. I headed to the checkout counter to identify the CD and it turned out to be Gun's self-titled album from 1968, which also boasts the hit single “Race with the Devil,” which has been covered by Judas Priest, Black Oak Arkansas, and Girlschool. The song that had charmed me to my curled toes was titled "Sunshine." (If you were in a rock group and didn't have a track called "Sunshine" in 1968, you'd be let go from your record deal.)

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Cover art by Roger Dean, dude.

The perfunctory video below is a dud, but the music itself is quintessential psychedelia from an unlikely source; it's hard to imagine a less psychedelic moniker than Gun. Further, "Sunshine" was an anomaly among the heavier proto-metal fare that predominates Gun, making its glistening, filigreed levity all the sweeter. There’s something so archetypically late-’60s about this tune, as if Gun had tapped into the era’s collective unconscious and plucked this song out of the pot-intensive, incense-laden air.

Trivia: Gun members Adrian and Paul Gurvitz went on to join Cream drummer Ginger Baker in the Baker Gurvitz Army, of whom I've only heard this unappealing song.



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Post About The Crocodile’s Infamous Post

posted by on September 9 at 4:52 PM

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Photo by Red Buttons from the Stranger flickr pool.

One thing about the old Croc that received universal hate was that big, obtrusive post that ruined many a fan’s view of the stage. We sincerely hope that reports of the pillar’s demise are true. Which begs the question: What to do with that columnar monstrosity once it’s excised like the tumor it is? We—Megan Seling and I—have some ideas. Let us know yours in the comments.

* Use it as firewood to warm the crackies in the 'hood during those cruel winter months.
* Make fliers out of it—millions and millions of ’em, for struggling, up-and-coming local bands.
* Shove it up Dick Cheney’s ass.
* Toothpicks.
* Surely somewhere out there, a blue whale could use it as a dildo.
* Carve several guitars out of it for Peter Buck.
* Let Bill Gates and Paul Allen whittle something cute out of it.
* Give it to Sarah Palin's daughter as a baby gift.
* Donate it to the EMP|SFM.
* Auction it off on eBay.
* Let the Dead Baby Bikers build some kind of monster bike with it.
* Keep it, but wrap it with that recently invented invisibility fabric.
* Convert it into a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper for the reopened club.

The Perils of Crate-Digging

posted by on September 9 at 10:04 AM

Stefan Glerum’s blog has a wonderfully illustrated guide to the pitfalls of spending inordinate amounts of time searching for vinyl. Enjoy the rueful pangs of self-recognition—or not.

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Tip: Kathy Fennessy


Friday, September 5, 2008

Mime is Money

posted by on September 5 at 9:11 PM

In the event that no one has ruined your weekend yet, allow me to present, courtesy of the mighty WFMU blog, and the 1978 Jerry Lewis Telethon, uh, and Skip Stephenson of Real People fame, and Richard Dawson of Family Feud... ladies and gentlemen: MANAKIN. (Warning: Not Safe for Any Living Thing)



Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bling-Bling White Boyz

posted by on July 8 at 12:26 PM

The whole thing is a joke:
blingbling.jpg What we must now judge is the funniness of the joke. Is it very funny or not so funny?

A hater:

for the love of god you're a 15 year old suburban white-boy, not some ghetto
gangbanger. I hope this website is a joke because if it isn't than you need
to 1) look in the mirror and realize you're not black 2) stop with the lame
"gang signs" 3) pawn some of that jewelry and buy yourself a bike cuz that's
all your 15 yr old ass can drive 4) realize that you're not hardcore or
intimidating in the slightest bit 5) learn how to spell 6) stop with the
dumbass nick names.
for the record i think that you're in the middle of some terrible identity
crisis, and you should go to the ghetto and try "pimpin" with some real
gangsters and see how long you live.

sometimes the truth hurts



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Don Armando's 2nd Ave Rhumba Band

posted by on July 2 at 10:41 AM


August Darnell and Andy Hernandez aren't ones to skirt a little controversy. In the '70's under the tutelage of Stony Browder Jr. they wrote and recorded songs like, "March Of The Nignies" and "Once There Was A Colored Girl..." by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savanah Band that played with race and stereotypes while the dancefloor kept jumping to faux-swing, big band disco.

So it's only natural that they would gravitate towards a cover version of Irving Berlin's widely criticized homage to Native Americans "I'm An Indian Too" from Annie Get Your Gun. By twisting the lyrics of a white girl ("Annie") trying to become an "Injun", sung by a black woman singing for the white disco scene, the song transcends it's original meaning and heads into the metasphere. With it's themes of inter-racial sex and "hilarious" name calling (could i be more dripping with sarcasm) the original was ripe for the Darnell/Hernandez treatment.


Just like Battle Axe, Hatchet Face, Eagle Nose
I'm and Indian too!
With my chief in his teepee
We'll raise an Indian family
And I'll be busy night and day
Looking like a flour sack
With two papooses on my back
And three papooses on the way

So maligned is the song nowadays, that it was completely left out of the 1999 revival (starring Bernadette Peters) due to its "insensitivity".

And that's just the way Darnell, Hernandez and "Don" Armando Bonilla liked it! Don Armando's 2nd Ave Rhumba Band was a one-off that members of Dr. Buzzard's Original Savanah Band put out as a sort of "cowboys and indians/old west" meets disco theme. Singular in that oeuvre, the albums pastiche is laid on a bit thick, and as such, it suffers from a bit of tongue-in-chic overload.

It's no wonder that, even though it wasn't the promoted single from the album (that prize inexplicably went to the just O.K. "Deputy Of Love") it has become the song of choice for disco loving DJ's the world over.

Singer Fonda Rae and the rest of the Rhumba Band even donned indian outfits to record the track, that on the album sits at around three and a half minutes, but in it's full 12" glory comes in at nearly eight.

To sample the track go here.

PS. The original version of the song "I'm An Indian Too" was sung by the incomparable Ethel Merman, who revived her original roll on broadway 20 years after her debut in it.

There is no good quality Youtube video of Betty Hutton from the movie singing the huge show-stopping song and dance number that is "I'm An Inidan Too", so may I suggest you go out and rent the movie to get the full impact of the song.

If you can't do that there are two different low quality Youtube videos of Judy Garland performing the number before she was eventually pulled from the project due to "ill health."

Now... can you see why the gays might dig this song?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Adriano Celentano - Prisencolinensinainciusol

posted by on June 11 at 12:56 PM

The last few times Altair Nouveau DJ-ed STUDIO at Havana he dropped this amazing track.

Adriano Celentano's "Prisencolinensinainciusol" is rap before there was rap. Disco before there was disco. Italo before there was italo. Fosse, well, fosse was around, but I'm not sure he would have ever seen or heard this track.

One word: AMAZING.

The internets are abuzz right now with the discovery of this incredible video from Italian TV circa 1973.

British DJ savant Greg Wilson has released (or should I say re-released, since his original edit of this track was made in the '80's) his re-edit, and holy fuck did he turn up the bass!

Anyways, enjoy the above video, the likes of which you'll never hear anywhere else.

Ciao!

Poll: Ménage Átomic Dustbin

posted by on June 11 at 12:54 PM

A singer has written in. He thinks his girlfriend has a thing for his bass player. He asked to remain anonymous:

triangle1.jpgI’m pretty sure they have hooked up, or they want to hook up. They look at each other all the time while we’re playing. I know something is up. It totally messes with my headspace and my singing. I’ve been dating the girl for eight months. The band got the bass player through an audition about two months ago. I guess we’ve become friends (the bass player and I). But this is a deal breaker.

The bass player is a Ned's Atomic Dustbin fan. Before he was in the band, I remember my girlfriend saying she hated Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. The other day, she got a “Best of” Ned’s Atomic Dustbin CD from Amazon and has been listening to it all the time. I’m so sick of this. It stinks because I really like the girl. What should I do?

This singer should:


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fred Meyer Experiments With Vinyl and Other Odd Music News

posted by on June 5 at 10:12 AM

The Oregonian reports that Fred Meyer is experimenting with restocking vinyl (hat tip to Rev. Fever). Older music technology keeps yielding new finds: Researchers have a found a song recorded before the advent of Edison's phonograph in 1860 using the Phonoautograph. Going back an eon or two, a team led by linguist Phil Lieberman and anthropologist Robert McCarthy claim to have reconstructed the sound of Neanderthal speech.

Also, I have yet to read Aniruddh Patel's Music, Language, and the Brain, but this filmed lecture is interesting if you can tolerate the dorky library music intro.

Finally, is anyone besides me experimenting with YouTube mixing? It's nice to hear and see these cats playing a theremin - once. If you've got the bandwidth, play 'em at the same time or stagger the play buttons here or open in multiple tabs and just as Roy Clark used to say for his TV ads for the Big Note guitar, "Just give a little strum and hey! You're making music!" (or at least something very strange).


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Pointer Sisters - Send Him Back

posted by on May 28 at 9:33 AM

It's always fun when you play something, and another DJ comes up to you with that muso-grin and exclaims, "What is that track?!?!?" This happened a couple of weeks ago, when I played the following track by The Pointer Sisters.

The Pointer Sisters - Send Him Back (Pilooski Edit)

Gene Balk from The Emerald City Soul Club. came up and asked me for all the info I knew about the edit. He was amazed at how much energy it had. After telling him everything I knew about it, mainly that I bought it purely on the basis of it being a Pilooski edit (and I loves me some Pilooski!) and that it was by The Pointer Sisters (duh! of course he already knew that!), but that I'd never heard it before I bought the re-edit. So it had to be rare, as it wasn't on any of my early Pointer Sisters albums.

Gene, then, became the font of information for me. He told me it was originally a b-side to an early single on Atlantic, "Destination No More Heartache", from 1972, that really went nowhere for the sisters. Meant to capitalize on the Northern Soul craze, it didn't garner many fans at the time. In 1975, though, the northern soulies re-discovered the b-side, "Send Him Back". It was even played in the legendary Wigan Casino soul night by Russ Winstanley and Richard Searling where it appears it went as high as 17 before falling to 19, and one would imagine, falling off the charts all together.

Needless to say, because of its original un-popularity, the single is rare. A copy sold in the middle of may on Ebay for $40. Most likely its a bootleg copy, as an original would sell for around $200. I couldn't find any copies on Gemm at all.

But hey, you guys are all so lucky, 'cause Gene was nice enough to share it with all of us!

The Pointer Sisters - Send Him Back

Tonight, STUDIO at HAVANA is gonna be a little different. Mainly because Monsieur American Athlete is in gay Paris! That leaves just me and our guest the aforementioned Gene Balk.

Gene is awesome! He has a great collection of records, and on the nights he DJs STUDIO he brings stuff that he usually doesn't get to play at the Soul Club nights, mainly the early proto-disco from the late-'60's/early '70's. It meshes beautifully into the later era disco that both TJ and I play during the night.

So join us!

Send my baby back!

Tralla Tralla Boom Boom!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sparks Revival

posted by on May 17 at 1:07 PM

Other than the vociferous rock Cicadas bestowed upon me at their last show on Thursday, they also introduced me to the band Sparks. This was one of those, "How had I never heard of these guys?" moments; despite my love for 70s prog Sparks had slipped under my radar. This introduction was followed strangely enough (or not) by an Idolator post yesterday about the band and how they will be performing their 21 albums over the course of 21 nights at Shepherds Bush Empire, starting last night. The final night will showcase a new release from the band Exotic Creatures of the Deep. 1974's Kimono My House was their breakthrough, with the single "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us" reaching #2 on the charts. Though their sound in this era fits somewhere between Queen and Yes this live performance is from a disco program, so, not surprisingly, no on in the audience seems to give a fuck about what they are doing. This song slays.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Soul Of German Funk

posted by on May 14 at 2:10 PM

Just a word that this song is killing me right now. I've listened to it five times in the last hour.

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Veronika Fischer & Band get a beautiful funked out re-work here on this brilliant re-edit by German DJ Hans Nieswandt (aka Edith Honnegger). I have no idea what the hell there on about something about "driving the course"?

Who wouldn't want to get down to some groovy-ass German funk? Who I ask??!?!

I'm sure this will get played out tonight somewhere funky and soulful!

Veronika Fischer & Band - Hey, Wir Fahr'n Mit Dem Zug


Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Big Man. Or, Excuse Me Demis, But You Have Some Lady In Your Beard

posted by on May 8 at 5:29 PM

Quite the departure from my post yesterday, but....

I love Demis Roussos' disco tracks. I was lucky enough to come across his albums Magic and Demis Roussos, yestereday, all from the heyday of the 70's, a very prolific time for Mr. Roussos.

His voice is so over-the-top and dramatic it's no wonder many a Brit on holiday came home with his albums in the 70's when leisure time and better economics finally afforded them the luxury of travel outside their own country. It must have been so exotic in comparison with their milquetoast 70's pop.

Here is Demis doing some of his best disco tunes. I never really see this AMAZING solo cover of the track he did to help launch Vangelis' solo career, "Let It Happen", around. It is totally incredible. It sounds completely modern. This is the best version of this song.

Check out the cover art for Demis' self-titled album. The ladies in his beard are a brilliant touch!

I think he needs a shave. He's got something growing in there....


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wendy Carlos - Switched-On Brandenburgs

posted by on May 7 at 2:05 PM

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Before 1968, when a new version of a piece of classical, and specifically baroque, music was produced, it often happened in the same way. Example:

A) Take a piece of baroque music, written for the harpsichord, transcribe it for string quartet, woodwind sextet, small string chamber orchestra....

B) Record, and release album with copious notes on how you came to make what decisions, in which instrument would get to play which lines, hardly varying from previous work done by similar artists....

C) Wait for the stodgy classical world to throw accolades upon you for your perseverance and hard work in the challenges of transcribing and recording a piece that had already been transcribed and recorded thousands of times before.

All that changed in 1968.

Wendy Carlos, then going under her given birth name, Walter Carlos, with the help of Robert Moog, recorded and released Switched-On Bach. Using multiple tracks to record all the parts of the various pieces from Bach's cannon, Carlos created one of the first versions of classical music performed entirely on sythesizers.

At first, deemed a gimmick by the classical community, that same community as a whole must have been aghast as Carlos went on to become the first classical artist to have an album of work go Gold (sell 500,000 copies) then Platinum (1,000,000 copies) in the following years. Switched-On Bach went on to win three Grammy awards in the classical music categories, one of which was Best Classical Album, the classical category version of "Album Of The Year".

Upon first hearing these works, many received them as "gimmicky", and in fact to this day some people see them as oddities (just look at the reviewer for Amazon.com who calls her work "quirky", "hilarious" and "wacky"). But while many in the classical world stood aghast at what Carlos had done, bringing, essentially, a pop music instrument in to the lofty world of classical music, others valiantly stood up for her and her recordings. Glenn Gould once wrote of Wendy's Bach recordings (incidentally on the back of her Well Tempered Synthesizer LP), "Carlos's realization of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto is, to put it bluntly, the finest performance of any of the Brandenburgs--live, canned, or intuited--I've ever heard."

Special note should be taken of the fact that at the same time Wendy Carlos was releasing her first seven albums,all released under the name Walter Carlos, she was hiding the fact that in 1967, before Switched-On Bach, the first album, was released, Walter had had sex reassignment surgery, becoming Wendy. Because essentially these were recorded works that took hours of studio time, but could never be performed live, the secret stayed safe. Until 1979 when Wendy came out with the released the double album of all six Brandenburg Concertos, Switched-On Brandenburgs: The Complete Concertos under the name Wendy Carlos.

Carlos has a fantastic essay on her personal website titled "On Prurient Matters" which details her feelings about anyone dwelling on this topic alone. (Interesting note to Seattle NPR liberals: the essay includes a link to a list of people on Wendy's Hall of Shame for their Cruelty in discussing matters of gender which includes the names Ira Glass ["Demonstrates sexual hang-ups, and little or no empathy"] and Sarah Vowell ["Has a sexual axe to grind, and needs sensitivity training"]) And by Wendy's own advice I shall leave the topic at that.

Well, except to say if you 'd like to read a fantastic essay on electronic music and sexual transgression you should pick up Peter Shapiro's Turn The Beat Around and read chapter 3, "Like Clones And Robots That We Are" which nicely sums up why so many "outsiders" come to electronic music to find community.

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On to the Brandenburgs themselves.

Wendy Carlos' recordings are spectacular. They don't just mimic the sounds of a string or woodwind orchestra. They clearly define each line, each phrase, each note with a clarity that is truly phenomenal.

Yes there are "violin"-like and "harpsichord"-escque sounds and "flute"-like passages, but while these are pleasant enough, Carlos also surprises by throwing in phrases performed with gusto by angular synths that surprise and delight in their reverb and force, chewing into movements giving them that slightly spaced out effect that sends Bach from well-grounded and dated sounds into the futuristic space that Carlos carved out for herself.

Add to this that the Moog synthesizer was not the most predictable instrument to play(to this day some Mini Moogs are often found to have tuning that is slightly off-pitch), sometimes requiring multiple tracks to just get "chords". Anyone who has fooled around with Moogs knows they don't like legato sounds very much and often needed to be forced to except fingers moving from one key to the next.

Never mind the limitless ability of the synthesizers to "create" synthetic sounds in the first place. The number of choices for sound and the way they were made must have been daunting in itself, add to that the performance and production of such a monumental work and you can get a feel for what an astonishing album this was to create.

The clarity and beauty with which these concertos speak is wonderful and can be recommended to anyone who enjoys both electronic and classical music. But don't stop there, if you hate classical, or dislike electronic music, listen to these concertos, and Ms. Carlos' work in general to have your ears and senses opened up. That, I believe, is exactly what Bach would have wanted them to sound like today, if he was still alive.

Lively, prophetic, intriguing and beautiful. All thing, the master himself was, reiterated by the new master of her genre, Wendy Carlos.

Samples of some of the Brandenburgs can be found here.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco De Valley of Fire

posted by on May 5 at 3:33 PM

Valley of Fire, Nevada:

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

posted by on May 5 at 11:43 AM

Yes, in honor of the Mexican holiday that only gringos celebrate, I present to you, Brujos Y Brujas (translation: Wizards and Witches)!

Since I don't read or speak spanish, I can't tell you anything about this group or record, which I'm sure was some east coast, resort town, hotel bar band, that some intrepid tourist bought and brought home, only to dump in a used record store years later for me to pick up and share with you.

As you can tell from the cover - it's DISCO! It's a medley of famous mexican tunes like "Cielito Lindo" (aka the Frito Bandito song), "Tipitipitin", "Volver Volver" and "Alla En El Rancho Grande".

So grab a bottle of Tequila, start up the grill for some homestyle carnitas and dance your day away....

Brujos Y Brujas - Fiesta Mexicana

And a closer look at that band....

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Music Of Cosmos

posted by on April 30 at 4:24 PM

In 1980 PBS aired the TV series, Cosmos, narrated by Carl Sagan. Easy to make fun of now, with his famous line, "Billions and billions of years ago..." Sagan at the time was the leader of the pop scientific community. Unabashed in his straightforwardness about subjects like biological evolution (a topic still hot today as ever), and the faux science of astrology, Sagan was the totem for all that was good in science. A man who could talk calmly and beautifully about the logic and confusion of the scientific world here on earth and out in the stratosphere.

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I was 9 years old at the time, and my father was the science and math teacher at a small indian reservation high school in northeastern Washington. He loved Carl Sagan. He read his books, followed his writing in magazines, and was thrilled to see Spokane was going to air the series along with most of the rest of the PBS affiliates in the United States. Why my father, a devout Episcopal secularist, loved Sagan so much, yet also sent me and my brother to a small christian private school is beyond me. I assume he wanted us to have a good education, and maybe at the time, the Spokane school district wasn't good. Who knows? But as rigorous as our private christian education was, so was our scientific education via Carl Sagan.

My brother was a math geek, so he probably remembers these things better than I, but what I do remember was the amazing, at least to me, at the time, special effects achieved in the series. While spaceships flew out into orbit, Carl Sagan walked around them as if he was on a life size set. Showing us quasars and imploding galaxies. Pontificating about what ancient scientists might have thought of the heavens, while reaching out in wonder and talking about the life he was certain was out there looking back at us.

The other important memory of the series i have is of the amazing and evocative soundtrack. As I've talked about before, I've always had a love of classical music, and love to see in what ways it can be referenced in modern electronic music. The music in Cosmos did this beautifully. Classic baroque by Bach and Pachelbel, intermingle with modern works by the vanguard of electronic music, Vangelis, Tomita, and Takemitsu. Vangelis and Tomita hadn't yet achieved the status that they would in the following years when Vangelis' soundtrack work (Chariots of Fire) and Tomita's classical recordings (The Planets) made them household names. But this was the television event that really put them all on the map. I remember my parents going out and buying Vangelis' two albums, Heaven and Hell, and Albedo 0.39 after songs from them were aired on the series. And being a "classically trained" household, my brother and I were force fed infinite listenings of Tomita's various albums which my mother would special order from the small local record store.

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Needless to say, when I found this record in a dusty bin of "New Age" music a few weeks ago, a rush of memory flared out to me, like lens glare on film. Bach's "Partita" and Vangelis' "Alpha" started playing loudly inside my head, blocking out the Judas Priest that was blaring in the used record store. Mixing and intermingly their tones as I gazed at the martian landscapes inside the gatefold cover.

It would have been easy for the producers of the series and album to put together a little compilation with snippets from each artists, one after the other, but that's not what they did. Sagan and his producers and sound engineers put together a thoughtful soundtrack which literally mixes classical pieces with the modern spacey electronic music, and programs them into "Parts" titled "Space/Time Continuum", "Life", "The Harmony Of Nature", "Exploration", "Cataclysm", and "Affirmation". Each part has one to four songs ranging from Hovhaness and Japanese flute music to Stravinsky mixing in with Kitaro, Tomita and guitarist Roy Buchanan.

It's really cool.

I don't know. Lineout readers might be too young for this kind of aural deja vu, or memory evocation, but just hearing this creative mix of great music brought me waves of nostalgia for a time when, I think, I was happy, well adjusted and my father and I could find something in common to gaze at in wonder.

The Music Of Cosmos.

Part 1: Space/Time Continuum A: Vangelis - Heaven And Hell, Pt.1 B: Shostakovich - Symphony No. 11 C. Vangelis - Alpha

Part 5: Cataclysm - A: Roy Buchanan - Fly Nighy Bird B: Vangelis - Beaubourg, Part 2 C: Stravinsky - The Rite Of Spring


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Roberta Kelly - Zodiac Lady

posted by on April 15 at 12:48 PM

Its hard to imagine now, when albums about all sorts of depraved shit get released regularly, even if they do have the "Parental Advisory" sticker on them, but there was a time when record labels refused to release albums they found objectionable at all.

One of the most interesting example of this from the disco era is this fine 1976 album by Roberta Kelly, Zodiac Lady.

Zodiac%20Lady.jpg

In 1975 Roberta recorded an album with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte called Troublemaker. The album was wall to wall disco smash after disco smash. It was a dancers album, the kind that had no huge hits, but was a sensation to those who loved to just get up and boogie. Her highest charting track from Troublemaker was the sensational cover of "Love Power" (A cover of obscure r&b vocal group The Sandpebbles 1968 hit, which went on to win a Grammy for Luther Vandross when he covered it in 1990). The album was essentially Moroder and Bellotte's first certified disco hit.

They of course went on to release Donna Summer's first big Disco album, Love To Love You Baby that same year, and went on to super stardom.

Roberta was, sort of, left in the dust, and when they brought material to her for a second album, even though it was rehashing the same throaty, gospel inflected vocal style, the b-list material was explicitly secular in nature.

Zodiac Lady is all based on songs about the zodiac and the stars. Tracks like "Zodiacs" and "I'm Sagittarius" reference the disco-era fad, but other songs like "Love-Sign" and "Moondreaming" seem attached by a thread to the album. Regardless, all the Munich Machine regulars play and sing on it, so the quality of the 4/4 beat is peerless.

Surprisingly as the album became a hit in European country after country (there are versions released in the U.K., Spain, Italy, France, and Germany), America balked. Casablanca Records, the label that had distribution rights to most of Moroder's work, refused to put out the album as they thought the references to star-signs and zodiac would be frowned upon by a conservative stateside populace.

Remember, disco was just beginning, and at this point those who went to discos were looked down upon as nothing short of a newer cleaner version of the "hippie".

Luckily for us, the Italian distributor of the album made enough releases that the album was imported to America to become a cult, if not a chart-topping hit. The album can be found, but is rare on the west coast as most imports landed in NY and were eaten up by the nascent loft party and club scene there.

Roberta would repent for her sins as the Zodiac Lady two years later and release the only full on hi-nrg gospel/disco album I know of produced by Giorgio Moroder called Gettin' The Spirit. Disco fans were not pleased, and while it did spawn a couple of dancefloor fillers, Roberta Kelly faded into musical obscurity.

Of note: Roberta Kelly was one of Donna Summers best friends while Donna was in Munich and Europe recording her first few albums with Giorgio Moroder, and it is rumoured that Roberta Kelly is responsible for Donna Summer's "coming to Jesus" moment in the late "70's that caused such a kerfuffle for her in the future. In fact, Kelly worked in the front office of Summer's music publishing firm throughout the early 80's and sang back-up on a number of her albums from that decade.

To here the full glory of "Zodiacs" and more from the album check out this link.

And here is the wonderous vido of her singing the track for an "enthusiastic" German audience. Enjoy!

"DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO.....DOOO!!!!"



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Grace Jones - Muse

posted by on April 10 at 8:53 AM

For some reason this album, of her three traditional disco albums, did the least well, and seems unpopular to this day.

But this album is fantastic! The medley on the first side, of all original tunes, that goes from sin to redemption has become one of my favorite listens in the last couple of weeks.

By 1979 the public had become tired of the disco "sound", and this album by Grace was no exception, but this albums' credentials are stellar and its sound is singular, even for the time. In fact right now I'd say its one of my favorite albums from the setting of the disco era.

Thor Baldursson, co-hort of Moroder and member of Munich Machine did production duties on this one, and even duets with Grace on my favorite song, "Suffer". Tom Moulton does the mix so it's all got that wonderful propulsive drive. But the album goes even further with its concept first side. "Sinning" has Grace singing about being a devil-may-care "bitch", "Suffer" has her under the thumb of a punisher whose audible whippings make her moan and groan, "Repentence (Save Me)" has her asking for forgiveness, and the last song "Saved" has - I kid you not - Grace Jones singing hi-nrg gospel/disco.

The flip has the popular gay anthem "On Your Knees" (which incidentally went nowhere upon its release), and "Don't Mess With The Messer".

If you're a Grace Jones fan, but don't know of her amazing work pre-Compass Point work, you need to hear those albums to understand what a force she was in the '70's, before being totally re-created in the '80's by Sly and Robbie.

If you want to hear what I'm talking about try this link.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

John Miles

posted by on April 8 at 1:59 PM

In 1975 John Miles put out what I think is probably the most clichéd and retarded pop song about being a musician that has ever been written.

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"Music" from his album Rebel was a huge hit in the UK and a minor hit in the states thanks to the over-the-top symphonic Abbey Road production and arrangements of Alan Parsons. The song has since become a guilty pleasure for some (including Guilty Pleasures, the club night in London) but I have always found it hard to move beyond that song, and further into his career. Luckily the same album includes the Pilot-esque track (yes, Alan Parsons produced Pilot too, I know) "Highfly". Once again sporting that brilliant production work that Parsons brought to bands like Pink Floyd and The Beatles (Parsons did not produce The Beatles, but his experimental work as their engineer on albums like Abbey Road can be heard quite clearly).

John Miles continued to work with Parsons on numerous Alan Parsons Project albums as singer and guitarist, but for his next LP he chose Rupert Holmes as his producer. Holmes claim to fame would be his one hit wonder "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)", but in the mid-seventies he was a producer extrordinaire working with such luminaries as Barbra Streisand (Lazy Afternoon), and Sparks (Big Beat).

Side Note: Rupert Holmes is also a Tony Award winning Broadway show writer. His first hit, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood won the Tony for best book and score. Recently he co-wrote the musical Curtains with John Kander (of Kander and Ebb, you know Cabaret...Chicago...) which just won the a Drama Desk Award and is seen as a shoe in for this years Tony.

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For John Miles, Holmes produced the incredible Stranger In The City Lp of 1976. The album inlcudes the incredible title track, which has recently become a spacy cosmic disco staple due to the recent re-edit by Pilooski. Holmes signature sound of separating instruments in the mix until their clarity is nearly singular is all over the track. Even on the fast paced disco track "Slow Down" Holmes capably pulls apart the instrument during the break to make room for a rollicking Talk Box solo.

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Rupert and John used these same values on their next album together 1977's Zaragon, a concept album about, um, love during world destruction and Jack The Ripper. At least that's what I came up with (oh, those tricky concept albums of the 70's!). The first track, amply titled "Overture" rings in at 8 minutes and goes from piano ballad to studio rock to full on synthesized and symphonic anthem and back to piano ballade.

Miles, however couldn't improve on success of his first two album, and soon would become a second tier artist who's talents were used in tours behind the likes of Elton John, Tina Turner and Joe Cocker, while vocalizing for acts like Jimmy Page and APP.

Samples of John Miles first three albums, and the recent Pilooski Re-Edit of "Stranger In The City" can be found here.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Schlager!

posted by on February 29 at 11:11 AM

I've heard that word describe music for a long time, but never really investigated what the hell it meant.

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I know that in the 70, a time when major record labels would release double album compilations of their latest artist and potential hit songs, Warner Brothers released a double album called SCHLAGERS! I just assumed the title had something to do with the singer-songwriter/proto-fm rock that was on the album which included artist like Joni MItchell, Petula Clark, Gordon Lightfoot, Herbie Hancock, Arlo Guthrie, Randy Newman....

But then I've also heard it describe pop music that comes from European countries that is slightly based on folk songs or vaudville styles, and western (English language) pop music translated into whatever countries original language. An example would be an Everly Brothers song translated into Finnish.

The biggest champion of this style in the past, before turning to crazy metal bands and transexual dance music, was the ever-poular Eurovision Song Contest, in which European countries vie for the prize by presenting a song that A: represents its country by being in an official language of that country, and B: sung live.

There are English language Schlagers, I believe, that have been hits in the UK. One huge hit-making schlager machine was, of course, ABBA. There songs like, "Thank You For THe Music" and "Fernando", based on old stage song styles in the former and folk songs in the later, were huge hits world wide.

But here's a couple of other interesting schlager songs of note.

Brotherhood Of Man had their first hit "United We Stand" in the UK and US in 1970, but really hit the big time with their Eurovision winner of 1976, "Save Your Kisses For Me". I believe this may be the ultimate british schlager.

Here they are with their choreography, bell-bottoms, "winks" and everything performing the song on the Eurovision broadcast that year.

The last line is nearly so sachrine as to give you a tooth-ache!

And then there's Kelly Marie, who I've written about before, before she went disco and pop in the late 70's and 80's her show-tune style of belting out crap lyrics over vaudvillian pop tropes. Here's one of her big hits "Who's That Lady With My Man".

Once again, crap-tastic choreography, AND the killer last line, which adds the twist-of-the-knife aspect to the song.

Also notice the use of clarinet (kind of klezmer-ish)in the verses and the traditional folk-song, sing-song chorus, which would be incredibly easy for anyone in another country to learn. Hence these songs being huge hits in other European countries.

So there you go, in case you ever wondered what the term Schlager meant.

And just in case you want to impress your friends with your crap taste in music....

Brotherhood Of Man - Save Your Kisses For Me
Kelly Marie - Who's That Lady With My Man

PS. Kelly Marie has a really amazing, extensive website!

PPS. I love these songs (I know, sad.)



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Wish I Had Listened to ________ Sooner

posted by on February 12 at 2:22 PM

For me, it's Atom & His Package.

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I should've loved Atom & His Package way before I actually started listening to them (within the past year, I'm so ashamed). When I was in high school and listening to the usual suspects (Op Ivy, Rancid, Jawbreaker, Green Day, etc.), I heard Atom & His Package's name mentioned now and again, but I never listened to them. I don't know why. We all make mistakes. But when he finally made it on a mix tape, I instantly loved it. His lyrics are hilarious and smart, the music's fun without being cheesy. You can listen to it and dance like an idiot without worrying about looking stupid because when dancing to songs like "If You Own the Washington Redskins, You're a Cock," you're supposed to look stupid.

But it was too late to say that I loved them--in 2006 could never say I was 26 and just getting into Atom & His Package (who broke up in 2003). I'd be crucified! So I had to love them in secret.

All the time, music geeks try to pass off that they knew about everything cool before it was actually cool. For me, that's not true. I try to search out new music all the time (and I think I do an okay job), but sometimes things slip through the cracks. Atom & His Package slipped through the cracks; 1998 would've been so much better if I had Atom & His Package.

As the cliche goes: Better late than never, I guess. Right? At least I know about his new band Armalite (with Dan Yemin, yo).

But my point is, I'm not the only one hiding secrets about certain bands I discovered way too late in life. Tell me yours. I promise not to laugh.

(And you probably already know how great this is, but if you don't, get your hands on Atom & His Package's cover of Madonna's "Open Your Heart." My favorite line is "Fuck face, I have something to say!")


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Morris On - Morris On

posted by on February 7 at 2:30 PM

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Morris, decended from the word "moorish", describes a type of folk singing and dancing performed in England. Very rhythmic, Morris dancers usually use props such as long sticks or swords, and sometimes hand-kerchiefs to beat out the time of the dance or to use in some form whilst dancing. Morris dancers often dress up in outfits that are related to the regions they come from, Cotswold, Border Areas and the Northwest of England. English records, according to Wikipedia, mention morris dancing as far back as 1448. It can probably be seen today all over England at various folk festivals and once a year at Folk Life here in Ye Olde Seattle.

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Some morris dancers in costume.

Ok, sounds geek-ish enough.

Move on to Morris On, an album of folk music performed by Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, John Kirkpatrick and Barry Dransfield with help from a certain Shirley Hutchings (né Collins).

I've prattled on before about folk/rock and the combinations of the two conventions, but this album is brilliant, often hilarious, meshing of the two styles. This really is a folk album that rocks (as opposed to a rock album that folks). Though folk svengali Hutchings is the real force behind the creation of this album, it would be unremarkable without the metronomic drumming of Fairchild Convention's Dave Mattacks whose loud and boisterous playing propels all players on the album to great performances. Thompson's guitar work is fairly background here as these are dances and not meant for intricate solo work, but the group is awesomely tight even so, and Hutchings fantastic basslines work as one with the brash Mattacks all the way through.

Lyrically the album plays all the british folk cards in spades, with the exception being that the songs are more about sexual canoodling (one song, "Cuckoo's Nest" is so blatant that it nearly makes me blush to hear these guys sing, about planting their faces in it....) then the death and despair so often associated with the british folk scene.

Let's not forget to mention Dame Collins (I mean Hutchings. Why did she use her married name on this recording?) who guests on two tracks, calling out the young gentlemen to dance. I can say nothing about Shirley that hasn't been said a hundred times before. As usual her stark voice, ever-so-slightly out of tune/touch brings immediacy to the tracks.

A note about that cover: It shows all of the members wearing traditional morris dance costumes from different regions of England, but updates them with modern amenities. So Ashley's musical morris is playing the Flying V, Kirkpatrick's chimney sweep has a vacuum cleaner, Thompson's Robin Hood a crossbow, etc.

But what is the tranny Mattacks about? Well, apparently it is a tradition in some Morris troupes to have a "Fool" who dresses in women's clothing, usually something fairly ruffled and pink, but always with a big pair of mens boots on too. The fool usually dances in a special morris dance called a "Molly" dance. Below is a picture of a real Molly dancer.

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And here's a video of a bunch of guys wearing g-strings doing a morris fertility dance. It's fucking CUH-RAY-ZEE!

Samples from Morris On can be found at my blog here.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Chic - Real People

posted by on February 4 at 12:20 PM

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Interesting facts about Chic:

At 13 both Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were hippies.

They took their first hits of LSD with Timothy Leary.

Rodgers was a member of the Black Panthers.

Rodgers also "laid down some tasty licks over which Big Bird and the Cookie Monster would drop science" as a guitarist for Sesame Street in the early '70's.

Chic had Warner Bros. biggest hit ever with "Le Freak".

Chic loved punk music.

Before being called Chic, they toyed with the name Boyz and Orange Julius. Being into rock music Niles recalls, "Tony (Thompson) and I were rock guys, we wanted to be, you know, the Punks and the blah blah blah. 'Hey, we could be the Chic Punks, the punks who dress up in whatever'" They settled on Chic.

After their success with "Le Freak" they were offered production work for any artists on WB roster. They chose the unknown Sister Sledge. They produced "We Are Family".

In 1980 WB started to force them to do stuff they didn't want to do. "They were afraid and 'disco sucks,' so they were trying to make us not disco."

They made "Real People" the hippest anti-hipster song, in the history of reactionary music.

It's janky and confusing, stop-and-go and strutting, silken and synthetic, hand-made and automatic.

It is their statement on their demise.

Chic is Real People.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Rare Vashti Demo from 2002

posted by on February 1 at 9:50 AM

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A rare Vashti demo from2002 can be found here.

It is from 2002, before the re-release of Just Another Diamond Day, when she was living in Edinburgh. It was recorded with the help of Saint Etienne, who were largely responsible fro her re-emergence. It is a demo for the album Lookaftering, but this version did not make it onto that album, which sounds completely different than this track. It was recently included in a fan club only box set, called Boxette, of Saint Etienne demos and rarities.

Check it out for a very limited time.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Neil Young - Trans

posted by on January 25 at 11:49 AM

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Back in September Eric wrote a short post regarding Neil Young's 1982 album, Trans.

In 1982 Neil had signed a new deal with Geffen Records. In the past five years Young had released 3 albums of new material (including the great Comes A Time) and 2 live LPs. For some reason, Neil decided to forego the classic singer/songwriter thing and the hard rock thing, and turned to technology for his first album on his new label.

Trans is a mind fuck. Ecstatic, erratic, eclectic, prescient, creative and soulful. Trans manages to hold on to Young's voice as one of the great songwriters, while completely obfuscating it under layers of vocoders, synthetic voice modulators and rigid sequential rhythms.

Kraftwerk had released Trans Europe Express, Man Machine and Computer World all in the last five years as well, and it is clear the impact both their ideas and music had upon the blueprint of this albums creation. While there are no extensive production credits on the album, it's impossible to think that the drumming on the six highly produced electronic tracks is anything but sequenced, a la "Trans Europe Express". And the heavy use of vocoder, more often found in euro-disco of the time, in this vein, with such futuristic, sometimes misanthropic lyrics seems directly descended from Man Machine.

Continue reading "Neil Young - Trans" »


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jane & Barton - It's A Fine Day

posted by on January 23 at 12:09 PM

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Musik Kontrapunkt Kontrol, out of Reykjavik, an amazing blog that mostly focuses on italo-disco, recently posted this amazing discovery.

It's the rare original version of the Rave classic, "It's A Fine Day" which was made famous by Opus III feat. Kirsty Hawkshaw. Edward Barton was a poet and folk song writer who joined with his girl, Jane, and put out an album of all accapella folk songs in 1983.

Edward Barton would go on to become so regarded in the rave community that there is a full cover album of their work with artists like 808 State, Inspiral Carpets and A Guy Called Gerald.

It's stunning. Go check it out!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Valerie Dore - Get Closer

posted by on January 22 at 11:55 AM

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First off, Valerie Dore is not a woman. Valerie Dore is a project. Not even a band. Members and singers changed with every successive release, causing some confusion about who or what Valerie Dore was/is.

In 1982 Italian model Monica Stucchi, born in Monte Carlo of French and Italian decent, was recruited by Italo producer Roberto Gasparini to front his group Valerie Dore. Based on the minor keyed, slow rhythm dance sound of bands like Gazebo and Savage (whose famous hit, "Don't Cry Tonight" was recently given new life on the Pet Shop Boys Back To Mine compilation), Valerie Dore's first single, "The Night," became a sensation in Europe. It has all the Italo trademarks: poorly enunciated English vocals sung slightly out-of-tune, with those mellow synths and handclaps.

The song wasn't actually sung by Stucchi, it was sung by a famous Italo singer named Dora Carofiglio (she sang the classic vocal line on Answering Service's Italo-rap hit "Call Me Mr. Telephone," "Funky Is On" by Funky Family, "You Got My Soul" by Domina and served as lead singer of Novacento). Stucchi, who lip-synched the song "live" made the group more famous however for her eccentric dancing and costuming (think early '80's Madonna with a distinctly Roman nose stealing from Kate Bush's interpretive dance playbook.)

Not satisfied with a single hit, Gasparini and his partners Lino, Nino and Ross Nicolosi used nearly the exact same music arrangement and added new lyrics to create the song "Get Closer," this time sung by both Carofiglio and Stucchi.

"Get Closer" is the pinnacle of the Romantic Dancing Italo sub-genre. Other great romantic dancing tunes would follow (most notably Katy Gray's "Hold Me Tight"), but the influence of Valerie Dore's "Get Closer" can still be felt today in the work of modern Italo artists like Sally Shapiro and Cloetta Paris.

The song was recently checked in the recent Royksopp Back To Mine, but even before that, and the homages given by Shapiro and Paris, artists have been playing around with its sound.

In 2001 Play Paul (né Paul de Homem-Christo, that's right, the brother of Guy de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk) released a deep French-house track called "Spaced Out" on Guy's Crydamoure label, which samples extensively from "Get Closer." So much so, in fact, I like to mark the beginning of the modern age of the Re-Edit with it's release. It is cut into so many small chunks and put back together in crazy ways, but the basics of the tune, the hand claps, the crying synths are all still there; just with crazy sped-up French house beats.

Then, in 2003, trance group Master Blaster used extensive samples of the vocal track, sped up to Minnie Mouse-esque heights, in its own song called "Get Closer" on their We Love Italo album.

Since then, white labels of the original have been released, it's been name-checked and dropped into sets by Italo artisans like Johan Argebjorn and DJ I-F as well as being paid homage by other nouveau Italo bands, like Chromatics and Glass Candy.

So every time you hear mellow sighing synths played with a bit of glide, handclaps, and female vocals, with short lilting verses you know who to thank.

Valerie Dore.

Samples of some of the above mentioned tracks can be found here.

Here's a snippet of Valerie Dore (fronted by Monica Stucchi) performing "Get Closer".


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This Post is Brought to You by the Year 1996

posted by on January 16 at 10:00 PM

Monday night, the night it snowed, was the night my boyfriend kicked my ass at air hockey. He really slaughtered me. I think one match was 14 to 6 or something embarrassing like that. Once he let me win, but I'm pretty sure that was just so I wouldn't feel like such a loser. Anyway, while we battled each other at the otherwise abandoned Game Works, where our air hockey tournament was taking place, I was taken back to 1996, one of the best years of my life.

That was the year I watched Empire Records at least once a week, the year I learned to drive (and subsequently listened to the radio a lot since the car my sister and I shared didn't have a CD player), and the year I desperately wanted to get my eyebrow pierced.

While we rehydrated with Diet Coke, Goo Good Dolls' "Name" played over the speakers in the bar. Then after that, they played "Take a Picture" by Filter which wasn't actually on the radio in 1996, but their song "Hey Man Nice Shot" was. It was the weirdest time warp. At the weirdest place. While it snowed outside. It felt like a dream.

Had I stuck around longer, I'm sure the rest of the soundtrack would've sounded a lot like this:

Nada Surf "Popular"

Superdrag "Who Sucked Out the Feeling"

Gin Blossoms "Til I Hear it From You"

Dishwalla "Counting Blue Cars"

I'll never know, though. There was more air hockey to be played.

Kelly Marie - Make Love To Me

posted by on January 16 at 1:28 PM

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Have you ever heard of this woman? I hadn't. I found this single recently at Jive Time in Fremont, and upon listening thought, "Why isn't this woman famous?" She sings as if she's taking her last breath and gulping for air as she belts out the refrain:

Won't you make love to me

Let it be

Set me free.

You and me

So tenderly

Make love to me!

So I went home and dutifully researched Ms. Marie, and guess what?

She is famous. In England.

How does this happen? I wasn't listening to music in 1978 when this came out, but I can't imagine why this woman wasn't everywhere. She had a hit in the early '70's with this guy Jim Dolan, "Sister Mary", that was the equivalent of a Hazelwood/Sinatra duet. Only in England.

She had some big dance hits, including this one, and a great one called "Feels Like I'm In Love", but not here. In England.

Was it something about the water, the charts, the radio? How did singers like this, groups like The Nolan Sisters, and ABBA get so famous there, and not here?

Who knows, but at least they've left their singles, if not their mark.

Freaky video of this song with a crazy transexual dancing next to her can be seen here.

And of course the song can be found here.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

What Tim Dog Hath Wrought

posted by on January 12 at 10:53 AM

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$6.99 plus tax from Value Village, with the RCA cable thrown in for free. Now I can listen to Penicillin on Wax as it was meant to be heard--with Dolby C noise reduction.

I dug out my tape collection the other day--100 cracked and battered relics from junior high to junior year of college (something dumb in me resisted CDs far too long).

Tim Dog is just the tip of the analog iceberg.

Stay tuned.


Friday, January 11, 2008

The Funky Worm - Hustle! (To The Music...)

posted by on January 11 at 1:27 PM

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In 1989 I spent a summer traipsing around Europe buying tunes in every port to bring home to impress my friends with. At the time Acid House was just coming into vogue. It was light airy dance music that took repetitive piano lines and slightly squelchy synths sounds and layered them over some heavy four on the floor bass beats. Often sung over by people who really shouldn't have had any right to be singing on a track (like Baby Ford). But this lent a diy attitude, a sort of pre-indie independence to this style of music.

In England at the time, the big names were Baby Ford ("Children Of The Revolution"), S-Express ("Theme From...", "Superfly Guy"), Guru Josh ("Infinity"), Lisa Stansfield ("People Hold On"), Coldcut ("Stop This Crazy Thing") and Yazz And The Plastic Population ("Docterin' The House" and "The Only Way Is Up").

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Out of left field (and out of Sheffield) came the group The Funky Worm. Made up of producer Mark Brydon, Carl Munson, DJ Parrot and Julie Stewart on vocals, this band was coming from a different place, but arriving with force at the same destination.

There sound was a mix of northern soul, with shuffling disco beat. The piano, heavy bass and electronic sounds were icing on the cake. This truly was what disco would have sounded like by the 1980's had early electro not gotten in the way. It was sexy, loose and kept the feel good vibe that seemed to be disposed of my so much early electronic and new wave. The Funky Worm were out to have fun and wanted you in on the party.

I found them to be totally refreshing and bought all the singles I could find from the group. The one that sticks best today is their first, "Hustle! (To The Music...)". It doesn't shy away from early house trappings, but brings in this groovy disco vibe that really set it apart from people like Baby Ford and S'Express. Julie Stewart's vocals, while definitely week and a bit labored just lend it the feeling that these guys had the idea, and just got it out the best way they could.

"Hustle!" still holds up, and I can even imagine it being thrown into some of the Nouveau sets your hearing today.

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One of my favorite mixes of this track is the Manchester Shuffle version by T-Coy. T-Coy was Hacienda DJ Mike Pickering and Simon Topping of A Certain Ration (how weird is that?!?). They tended towards latin sounds on some of their mixes and this mix is one of their best. T-Coy stood for "Take Care Of Yourself", a classic line during these early ecstasy crazed party days.

So check it out, and go back to the future when House truly met Disco for the first time.

Samples here!


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Late Regret For 2007

posted by on January 9 at 9:13 AM

One of my few regrets of 2007 was that I never got the chance to write a particular story about a local pop band. They have a strong local all-ages following and had been courting A&R reps from major labels, as well as being featured prominently on Myspace's band page. They've got a radio-friendly pop hooks that bounce over swooning rock ballads and hordes of teenage girls know their lyrics by heart. I've seen their fans sweating, panting, nearly crying just to bring the band a note, some homemade cookies or brownies, and maybe get a chance to talk to them and tell them, "Oh my god, I LOVE YOU."

But the story wasn't just about a local band on the rise or at least, it wouldn't be the kind of hype piece that just tells you that a band is worth checking out. My interest in the band and its seemingly inevitable ascent into mainstream success was based in the experience of one of their band members who happens to be transgendered.

Now, it would be ignorant not to acknowledge that there has been plenty of gender-bending and significant music made by those with fluid or non-traditional sexual identities, but to generalize: those artists made music that was often deliberately politically driven and sexually charged. Their lyrics and stage personas were often provocative and meant to shock, but this band just writes about heartbreak and romance in the polished but mundane fashion of most bands their age and style. (I don't mean that as a dig, just calling a spade a spade).

This band seemed to me so appealingly mainstream in every way, I saw the possibility that the experience of a transgendered young man itself may be becoming more mainstream and more mundane. While I think that many of their fans probably don't know that he is trans, from what I've seen most seem unlikely to care one way or another and some would probably love the band all the more for it.

I regret that the members of this band declined to be interviewed, although I can certainly appreciate their potential reasons. Not wanting to be identified/pigeon-holed for this single member's history alone, simple privacy, its lack or relevance to their music, maybe pressure from a potential label, or any number of other possibilities.

Of course the fact could be that maybe as much as I'd hoped that I could parallel his artistic and personal histories as signs of our society expanding its tolerance, often outing oneself as transgendered is still dangerous, highly stigmatized, and opens oneself to abuse from the hateful and ignorant. Regardless, I'm glad to know that the story is out there and that maybe someone will get a chance to write it some day.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Plainsong - In Search Of Amelia Earhart

posted by on January 7 at 2:28 PM

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As discussed in an earlier post, by 1972 Ian Matthews played in four different incarnations within three years. He'd left Fairport Convention for his own band, Ian Matthews Southern Comfort, put out two solo LPs for Vertigo Records, and then started the band Plainsong.

It is probably fair to say that Plainsong - In Search Of Amelia Earhart is the pinnacle of his work in the ’70s. Working with producer Sandy Robertson (Hard Meat, Steeleye Span, Shirley Collins), Ian and bandmates, notably Andy Roberts who shared vocals on the album ,created an a-typical British folk album conceived around the idea of the legends surrounding Amelia Earhart and her supposed demise.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nipper's 1998 Jane's Addiction Article

posted by on January 2 at 5:37 PM

In the comments of this post, I promised commenter DougSF I'd go searching for our lovely receptionist (and the most knowledgable being about music anywhere) Mike Nipper's take on Jane's Addiction from 1998. It's from before we had a website, so it's not online anywhere except right here.

Nipper laughed when I asked for it. "I pissed off SO MANY assholes with that thing!"

Jane's Addiction, Live Preview, Key Arena
I bet ya'll twenty somethings peed yer fuckin' drawers when you heard Jane's Addiction was BACK and comin' to town! "Right ON! Dude, like TOTALLY! Bro, they were my FAVE in like, tenth grade... TOTALLY!" This was too PREDICTABLE! Farrell dumped the "Pornos", didn't nobody REALLY like 'em...and the boy who was in the Chili Peppers...ought I say more? So, "dude", what else they got? Dammit, I'd PRAYED so hard "grunge" would erase the scars of "white-funk-acid-metal" from pop memory...

I hate late '80s "alternative/college crossover" crock. WAIT, 'fore ya'll get steppin' up to kick my ass, I DO "respect" them more creative dorks, like the art-pop Pixies, Flaming Lips, though I'd never, fuckin' EVER listen to 'em! Dig, "alternative pop", pre '91, resonated English "syth-wave". BORING! So when Jane's dripped their funky, acid folk "glam" slathered "alternative", the kids bought it. I 'member a flood of "preppies", "goths", metal "dudes", and hippies that assimilated and were suddenly "in the know", weird...those kids WEREN'T allowed on MY halfpipe. Anyways, when asked "what the fuck" they responded like hippies ravin' 'bout the Dead, "Dude, they changed my life, like, Jane's is totally revolutionary!". Really? Jane's "liberated" you? From what? WEREN'T you over the Smiths and Violent Femmes anyway... or were you comin' around from shit like AC/DC, Skid Row? Now I'd heard Jane's action and they were "lite", "sheep in wolves' clothing", but "revolutionary"...um, I'd heard Perry was "bi"? Whatever. I ignored 'em, I figured they were harmless pop, though I WAS rather annoyed by those "Dr. Suess hats."

It won't till '89 that I got learned how fucked acceptance of "alternative" was. See, I got stuck EVERY weekend with a friend's high school sweetness, who LOVED Jane's LOUD, ridin' 'round lookin' fer JOCK parties. Sounds fucked, I KNOW...I've no fuckin' clue why I went 'cause a PRICK like me couldn't show my FACE near a swarm of lit up JOCKS who would, UNPROVOKED, beat the livin' SHIT outta me! So, if we found the party I'd stay in the car, but in through open windows Jane's flowed. I recall thinkin', odd, jocks like Jane's too...wha? OHMYGOD...HA-HA! JOCKS love Jane's Addiction! Mullet havin' JOCKS worshipped THE icon revered in the church of the alienated! Damn! It figured for kids still playin' D&D, but FUGGIN' JOCKS? The nerds NEVER win! But it stopped being funny once I realized this meant Jane's was making "alternative" marketable...and you wonder why I got contempt fer the "godfathers of '90s alternative"? You fuckin' SQUARES shoulda stayed in yer godamn place...the MALL!

That takes me back.