Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed

Lou Reed passed away last Sunday after having complications from a liver transplant.  Reed's recent passing brought back so many feelings, good and bad, about my life.  The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed were THEE soundtrack to my life in college.  I don't know how many times I listened to "Heroin" and "Sunday Morning" on my headphones while I was in the study hall of my dorm in my freshmen year in college.  This time of my life was probably the most depressed I have ever been, and as dark as the Velvet Underground could be, they brought lightness to my life back then.  I completely connected with the music, and as a 19 year old, I felt the anger and depression, yet tenderness at the same time from the lyrics of Reed--lyrically and musically he could be as spiritual as he was dark (listen to "Jesus" as an example of Reed's spirituality).  I was obsessed with all four Velvet Underground albums, but especially Velvet Underground & Nico.  I was never as big of a fan of Reed's solo work, but enjoyed listening to Transformer and Berlin occasionally (even though Berlin was too much of a downer even for the dark, goth-influenced late teen that I was back then).  I remember once listening to Metal Machine Music once ALL THE WAY THROUGH, which I think barely anyone can attest to--of course I was under the influence, but that's beside the point.  The point is that Reed's music, his lyrics, his deadpan New York vocal delivery, his style, and his fearlessness to grow and change as an artist were inspirational and commendable.  Lou was an artist, a rock legend, and probably one of most influential musicians in rock music of the past fifty years.  R.I.P. Mr. Reed, you are gone but will never be forgotten.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"The Plague": A Forgotten Song

Scott Walker
Scott Walker's first four albums (Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3, and Scott 4) were big fixtures for me about twelve years ago.  Somehow, over the years I've moved away from Scott Walker--I think I burned out on his music.  In the past few weeks, I've been rediscovering his music, and really enjoying it.  I recently discovered his track "The Plague", a B-Side off of his first album, Scott.  This track really blows me away--I can't believe it wasn't released on any of his proper albums.  You can find it in the box set of Walker's music, or on the compilation Boy Child (a very nice introduction to Walker's music).  I love the introduction to the track--the la, la, la's of the female vocals, the fuzzed out-acid-drenched guitar intro to the song, then Walker's vocals kick in, "I spent many nights laying on my back, waiting for the dawn that appears to crack..."   Just a great song!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Can This Be Real?

Not necessarily a HUGE fan of Natural Four, but I've always been a sucker for "Can This Be Real?", the first track off of their debut album Natural Four.  It definitely has that Gamble-Huff, Philly soul sound to it.  Beautiful vocals, and a nice, sax lead-in solo just to start the song off right.  Just a solid single overall, once of those 'repeaters' for me, I can never get enough of it. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nilsson: Aerial Ballet

Nilsson (No, It's Not Elliott Smith)

I haven't done much of anything with this blog recently.  It's not that I have stopped listening to music (that never happens), and it's not like I haven't heard anything that has inspired me to write (that isn't the case), it's just finding the time to sit, gather my thoughts, and try to articulate why I like what I like can be difficult.  I'm not a writer, so it makes it all the more difficult for me. 

What I do know is that I've been on a 60's/70's pop kick recently, running through the catalog of post-Pet Sounds era Beach Boys albums (Sunflower, Surf's Up, and Friends are all enjoyable albums while nightly getting my mind blown by Smile and the outtakes), delving back into Syd Barrett/early Pink Floyd era, repeatedly listening to the first three Love albums (Love, Da Capo, and of course, Forever Changes)--essentially I'm going back to my college music interests...

While I've heard plenty of Nilsson songs, and even once had a solid compilation of his work called Personal Best, I recently picked up the Pandemonium Shadow Show/Aerial Ballet albums on cd, essentially the first two solo Nilsson albums compiled on cd.  While I like Pandemonium Shadow Show, and can understand John Lennon's obsession with the album, Aerial Ballet is the album of Nilsson's that really gets me.  From the brilliant pop of "Good Old Desk", to minimalist organ (keyboard?) track "One", to the gospel-tinged "Bath", to the Fred Neil, country-ish cover of "Everybody's Talkin'", it's all pretty brilliant in my eyes.  This song particularly gets me...
..."I Said Goodbye to Me" is probably one of the best break-up, moving-on-with-my-life songs I have heard.  Maybe because I wasn't familiar with this track, and was already familiar with a majority of Aerial Ballet from compilations, I don't know.  It doesn't resonate with my current life, but everyone has had a break-up in which they felt afterwards, everything in their life is entirely changing, and they have moved on.

And Aerial Ballet ends with "Bath", a nice closure to an album with it's gospel-like opening piano chords...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunshine Pop, Psych Pop, and Pet Sounds

I've been on a bit of a warm weather, sunshine and psych pop bent recently.  Of the things that has "floated my boat" recently:

1.  The Beach Boys The Pet Sounds Sessions--If I had to choose one album to take on a desert island, it would certainly be Pet Sounds.  That album means everything to me, and has since I was a kid.  Just recently I decided to pick up The Pet Sounds Sessions, released in 1996, and have been absolutely blown away by the disc 3 of the box set.  Disc 3 is vocals only, a cappella versions of Pet Sounds in its entirety.  The album blows me away even more after repeatedly listening on my headphones to strictly the harmonic vocals of The Beach Boys, pure as day and absolutely brilliant.

2.  Curt Boettcher--I dug the singer-songwriter and his compositions with The Association, and I'm also rediscovering his band The Millennium, and realizing what a brilliant album Begin is.  I bought Begin a few years ago, but never really delved into it until the past month.
Curt also formed a band named Sagittarius and recorded an album in 1968 (same year as The Millennium Begin was released) called Present Tense, which I just recently purchased so I can't form a great opinion of it yet, but I have enjoyed what I heard thus far.
3.  Lastly, I've rediscovered Olivia Tremor Control, and have been listening to their two albums, Dusk at Cubist Castle, and Black Foliage recently.  They were an amazing band from the late 90's from the Elephant 6 Collective, and were one of my favorite bands during that era.  It's fun rediscovering albums that I haven't heard in over ten years--I feel like I'm approaching the band with fresh ears again and they still sound wonderful to me. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Up All Nite (With The Nite-Liters)

I've always loved listening to instrumental funk and soul over the years.  From the obvious bands like The Meters and Booker T & The MGs, to Funk, Inc., and The Bar-Kays, all those bands each have a few impressive albums in their catalog.  I would have to put The Nite-Liters A-Nal-Y-Sis album up there as one of my favorite instrumental funk albums.  Their cover of Donny Hathway's "Valdez in the Country" has always been one of my favorite funk songs.  It's a real groover...
 And of course, "Damn" is one of my favorite Nite-Liters songs as well...
The Nite-Liters only released five studio albums total as a band from the early to mid-70's (not counting albums by the band The New Birth, which many of its bandmates were members...but that's a whole other story).  K-Jee is a great album from The Nite-Liters as well, but I highly recommend checking out A-Nal-Y-Sis first if you're interested in a little instrumental funk. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Are You "Hep"?

I really lucked out last week and bought a ton of used Reggae cd's that just recently came into my favorite record store in Seattle.  I was especially excited to pick up a bunch of Heptones on cd, namely the most excited about picking up On Top, one of my favorite Reggae albums of all-time.  

I was also psyched to find the later-period, Lee Scratch Perry produced Heptones album Party Time, which is really solid as well.  Really, you can't go wrong with any Heptones album, period.  One of the top vocal Reggae groups of all-time and always a staple of my summer jams. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Freddie McGregor: Bobby Bobylon

If I had to choose a one desert island reggae album to listen to the rest of my life, I would choose Freddie McGregor's Bobby Bobylon album.  Recorded and released in 1979 off the famed Studio One label with Producer C.S. Dodd, Bobby Bobylon is a timeless classic from beginning to end.  Rich and soulful, it is without a doubt McGregor's best album, my favorite reggae album (though there are many other contenders) and the album I always turn to when I want to really feel good.    

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gone Away

Sorry, I've been "Gone Away" for over a month.  Work has taken up a lot of my time, and with that on top of being busy with my two kids, sometimes the blog gets neglected for awhile.  Speaking of "Gone Away", that Curtis Mayfield tune gets me every time.  Written by Mayfield for The Impressions album This is My Country, it's such a heart-breakingly great tune.  Roberta Flack's version off of the excellent Chapter Two album is an excellent version as well.  Both versions of "Gone Away" are repeaters for me. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Master Rocker

I'm not necessarily a HUGE fan of pianist Bernard Wright's 1981 solo debut 'Nard, but there are a few tracks that hit on all the Dave Grusin/smooth jazz cylinders, most notably "Master Rocker".  If I was a DJ playing out, I would play the crap out of the track "Master Rocker".  Instead, I play it at home on the headphones and get my pleasure that way.  "Master Rocker" has got it all-nice drumming, great touches on the electric piano/keyboard, nice use of horns, it's all tastefully executed.  While there some definite misses on 'Nard, the tracks the hit, like "Master Rocker", make this album worth checking out.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Love Me Forever

The track, "Love Me Forever", off of Carlton and the Shoes album of the same time, is one of those perfect soulful, rocksteady tracks from the late 60's that I can listen to repeatedly and never tire of it.  I've been continuing to listen to a lot of dub and reggae music from the 60's through 80's in the past month (the uncharacteristically warm 70's and 80 degree weather in Seattle during this time of the year will do that for ya!), and will probably be featuring some more music from that genre in the coming month.  In the meantime, listen to "Love Me Forever"--such a beautiful melody, and I love the horn line that leads into the vocals.  Perfect!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dub Plates

Back in the day, I went through a heavy Dub-Reggae phase, then later in life I turned to Rocksteady and Ska.  Over the past few weeks, I've been revisiting some of my favorite dub and reggae albums over the years.  Besides the obvious choices like Lee 'Scratch' Perry, King Tubby, and Augustus Pablo, I've also been listening to a lot of Keith Hudson.  This album is crazy, swampy dub-reggae:
Check out some of these tracks.  Hudson's off-key monotone vocals, and the backing female vocals, along with his magnificent production, make this a great listen.

Carlton and Family Man Barrett's Macka Dub has been a recent find for me, and I've been playing it quite a bit since I picked it up:

 Other more obvious favorites for me in the dub genre include:  Lee 'Scratch' Perry Roast Fish, Collie Weed, and Cornbread (my favorite dub album and the first one to introduce me to the world of Dub), Augustus Pablo's Original Rockers, as well as Augustus Pablo's King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown, Burning Spear Marcus Garvey/Garvey Ghost, and Lee 'Scratch' Perry's Superape.  I'm sure there are a few more up there for me, but these are the ones that I really enjoy off the top of my head.  Of course, as Summer rolls around, I may be posting more upon the topics of Dub and Reggae, as I tend to pull out the Dub and Reggae favorites around the Summer season, so stay tuned!      

Monday, April 8, 2013

Szabo Songs

I've been listening to lots of Gabor Szabo over the past few months, grooving to the instrumental sounds of the Hungarian-Gypsy guitarist.  Years ago I was given a copy of Spellbinder, and somehow it didn't quite connect with me at the time.  I wasn't until recently when I picked up both Jazz Raga and Dreams (especially Dreams) that my mind began getting blown.  I've also recently turned back to Spellbinder and can't believe that I didn't love it when I first heard it years ago.  Here are a few of my favorite tracks off of Dreams:

Cop this album Dreams if you can, listen to it with the lights out, and your mind will be blown. 

Also, Jazz Raga is great and was reissued by Light In The Attic a few years ago.  Well-worth picking up, as besides Szabo's gypsy guitar, it also features some great sitar flourishes throughout the album.  "Walking on Nails" features a rare vocal courtesy of Szabo himself. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stark Reality: Acting, Thinking, Feeling (The Complete Works)

I don't know what to write about The Stark Reality.  You can probably google them and find tons of bloggers that have written wonderful superlatives about them, and describe the sound of the band better than I.  Let me just say that I was pumped to pick this up the other week.  Previously all I had of The Stark Reality was the compilation Now, which was nice but I really wanted to full deal.  The Stark Reality was a groove machine--a band that existed in the late 60's/early 70's, and were a combination of jazz, rare groove, and soul (with a little psych thrown in).  No one sounds like them.  And come on, an electric vibraphone, who can beat that!  Included in the Acting, Feeling, Feeling (The Complete Works) is the classic album in its entirety Hoagy Carmichael's Music Shop, a crazy album written for a public television show for kids which featured vibraphonist Monty Stark.  It's great music and well worth picking up!  The first clip I have posted is footage from the children's show (I wish I was one of those kids!), along with the music of Stark Reality performing live.  The three clips following are individual tracks from the album Hoagy Carmichael's Music Shop.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Throwback to the 90's: Hey Mr. DJ

I'm a sucker for solid 90's R&B.  While I enjoy the obvious favorites by Erykah Badu, and D'Angelo, a lot of R&B sounds a little dated and not quite as good as I once thought.  However, I would never put TLC CrazySexyCool (that album still sounds modern to this day--a classic) or Zhane Pronounced Jah-Nay albums in the "dated" category.  I've been pulling out Zhane's Pronounced Jah-Nay album a lot recently, and it holds up extremely well.  Their first, and best, of their two released albums, Zhane's debut contains their one obvious hit "Hey Mr. DJ" but there are so many other solid tracks to dig.  Case in point:  "This Song Is For You".  This track contains a solid beat, nice echoey guitars, floating keyboards, and the melting vocals from the lovely ladies.
 "Sending My Love" is another one of my favorite jams off of Zhane's classic.  The feeling is similar to "This Song Is For You".  A nice jam. 
And of course, concluding with their big hit, "Hey Mr. DJ".  Always a track to throw on while having a classic 90's R&B party.  (Follow it up with Mary J.'s "Real Love")

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Nature Boy

Nat King Cole

"Nature Boy" is one of my favorite songs of all-time.  It's a timeless song, written in 1947 by Eden Ahbez and first sang, and made popular, by Nat King Cole. 

 Since then it's been covered by many people over the years, from jazz guitarist George Benson, to power-pop icons Big Star, to psych-rock underground legends Gandalf.  I really love every version, because each are so different in their own right.  Besides the Nat King Cole and George Benson version, the next version I heard was by Big Star off of their Third/Sister Lovers album, when I was highly into anything Chilton-Bell-Big Star related back in college.  Alex Chilton sounds so lonely and cold on "Nature Boy", I remember playing it repeatedly when I was in college 15 years ago and being mesmorized by it.  
The George Benson version of "Nature Boy" may have been the first version that I heard, as I come out of the womb listening to Benson constantly in the first five years of my life.   It's got a funky-jazz feel, and I enjoy Benson's vocals on it. 
Lastly, this is the most recent version of "Nature Boy" that I've heard.  In the past six months, I bought Gandalf's self-titled album, and it has increasingly become one of my go-to favorite psych albums.  "Nature Boy" certainly gets the "Gandalf" treatment on this album.  Very psych.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Let's Talk Prog...

Soft Machine
...Or more like, essential Prog, because there is a lot of craptastic Prog Rock that I've never dug.  From my somewhat limited knowledge of Prog Rock, the ones that are tops are the first few Soft Machine albums (Volume One, Volume Two, and Third), King Crimson In The Court of The Crimson King, Gong You and Angel's Egg (though sometimes they are a bit too lyrically quirky for my taste at times), Caravan In The Land of Pink and Grey, and Egg's first album Egg.  Definitely of the Prog I've delved into over the past seven-eight years that I've liked the most is the Canterbury scene Prog, and I've never quite gotten into Yes, ELP, type of Prog. This is the kind've stuff by Soft Machine off their first album that I dig:
 As I mentioned I get sometimes get turned off by some of Gong's quirkiness, but sometimes their music really hits on all cylinders, like when they get into a groove with flutes, crazy drumming, and of course, Prog's essential, the Saxophone:
I have begun to just recently get into Egg, part of the Canterbury scene of the early 70's.  Check out their rendition of a Bach composition:
Recently I've been thinking I need to delve deeper into Prog, but it's hard to wade through the crap and find the cream of the crop.  Maybe my like of Prog is mainly of the Canterbury bands--a little more poppy, but still the prominent keyboards, drumming, and saxophones are all there.