Archive for October, 2007


Randy Lee “Soakin’ With Tears”

I tried briefly to look something up about this guy, found nothing, and that’s okay– I’ll just let his legend– based on this 1974 record– reign on its own terms. He wrote all or most of the songs and is backed up by some pretty big name Nashville session musicians, so I get the impression that he’s a songwriter, and a pretty good one. He also has a voice that could melt: granite; the cold heart of America; and 33 years of popular music being ruined by every force imaginable. OF COURSE I couldn’t find Randy Lee on the internet– he’s probably dead, or at least knows better. I was just fooled because this record is so “now.” When is it Randy Lee day at my house? EVERY DAY I play this record is Randy Lee day!!!

First there is the cover, a full face portrait of who we will presume to be Randy Lee– though it looks like a woman in drag with a black wig and Peter Fonda Easy Rider sunglasses, and lots of leather. The picture is taken in front of what looks like a wall of nasty green carpet– either soundproofing the wall of a studio, or perhaps Mr. Lee is LYING on the FLOOR of some Nashville outskirts dive motel, most likely passed out with a bottle JD nearby.

The songs are all good, but none quite as, as the title song, and there is no experience quite like hearing it for the first time. It starts out with a pretty standard upbeat instrumental bit, complete with full horn section… and then the VOICE comes in: “Look up in the sky-aye-aye…” There is no way I can describe the impact of that first brutal introduction to Randy Lee’s radioactive, FBI’s Ten Most Wanted, Weapon of Mass Destruction VOICE, except to say, I STILL haven’t gotten up off the ground.


LL Cool J “Bigger and Deffer”

I guess it’s because I don’t listen to much “rap” music that I am having a little trouble deciding if I like this record or I don’t. But mostly, I think it’s because it’s incredibly uneven. Ups and downs are okay, as long as the downs don’t go as low as song like “I Need Love.” Now maybe I AM missing something, because this song is just unbelievably wimpy and lame. The worst parts of the rest of the record are some of the choices of samples, like a Chuck Berry riff for “Go Cut Creator” which is just corny. But then the lyrics often save a song, and at best, they’re really funny.

There is one song, “Ahh, Let’s Get Ill” that just tells you about LL– what LL could mean, what it does mean, and what that means to you (especially if you’re a hot lady). I think I would have rather NEVER known what LL means. “Get Down” is also all about LL– but I have a definite weakness for something like a “Haystacks Calhoun” reference.

My favorite song, and the reason I even consider keeping this record, is “The Bristol Hotel”– just because it’s a solid song, the words are funny, and there is a pretty infectious base line. It’s probably that bass line, the best thing on the record. Along with the very last song, not a song, just guys talking, where they’re joking about having pulled off making a record.


Ronnie Laws and Pressure “Pressure Sensitive”

When I bought this 1975 record per recommendation by Tom Seiler’s older brother, I think I was trying to “branch out,” but I never have warmed up to this record as much as I have just listening to it now. The overall sound is kind of fusiony, smooth jazzy, and dated, and the dated part makes it charming. I think the Clavinet has a lot to do with the overall sound. There’s also a percussion instrument called the Flexitone, which when I searched for it gave me a page with a picture of it and a thing you could click and hear it. Sometimes I love the internet nearly as much as I hate it!

The best approach to this record is to respond to how each individual song makes me feel or what it makes me think of. “Always There” which is a “classic” makes me envision a low budget, 1970s blaxploitation movie, as well as a commercial for an upscale steakhouse where investment bankers go before taking their season ticket seats at an NBA game. “Momma” sends a private detective through various steamy and sordid night spots. “Never Be The Same” emerges as happy and sunny, on a date with the top down and wind in the hair. “Tell Me Something Good” makes me think of Stevie Wonder without Stevie Wonder– but maybe friends hanging out in on wholesome drug-free stoops.

Side Two: “Nothing To Lose”– through the city at dusk; if the budget allows, a helicopter shot. “Tidal Wave”– the deal is being made, cynical guys wearing expensive suits. “Why Do You Laugh At Me”– the resolution, with credits rolling, everyone puts their arms around each other, victory! “Mis’ Mary’s Place– a new beginning, tougher than ever.


Albert King “Live”

I like this double live 1978 Albert King blues on Tomato Records record as an OBJECT– I don’t think I have anything else on Tomato– and I love how the liner notes (by Robert Palmer) start on the FRONT cover, continue on the inside (it opens up) and then conclude on the back. Along with a number of haphazard black and white photographs. The sad thing is I can’t really listen to it. It’s the kind of blues that makes me think of a bunch of executives getting off work in Chicago and going to a blues bar, drinking martinis with their ties loosened and their suit jackets slung over one arm. It’s not the fault of the blues, and certainly not Albert King, but I’m sorry, it’s how I feel.

The worst thing is when the horns are playing energetically, which sounds so lifeless to me. If you’re going to have horns, it’s best to hire horn players who smoke, so they have something to do while they’re not playing, which should be most of the time. At best, and this goes for all blues, I like when it becomes repetitious and trancelike, to the point of becoming almost abstract. I think that is more likely to happen when you hear blues live. This, however, is not the same– it’s a “live album”– one of the worst ideas in the history of recorded music.

I was trying to think what compelled me to buy this record back in the late 1970s, not being much of a blues fan. I think this was when I was discussing our record collections with my friend Brad, and we both realized we had NO records by black people! It was a shocking revelation! Why, we tried to figure out, was that? (I’m sure it had a lot to do with us reading Rolling Stone, and going from glam rock to “classical rock” to punk rock, and being mostly interested in what was current.) We set out to buy some records buy black recording artists. I liked blues a little then, and I bought this Albert King record, as well as a couple by Muddy Waters which I liked much better. A couple of years later I would discover James Brown, as well as start buying older, and used, records (after moving to the big city).


Kevyn and the Kasualties

I have no idea how this record and I found each other– though I DID used to live in Columbus, Ohio, where the band is from. I was always moving back and forth from Columbus to Kokomo like some kind of a Interstate 70 yo-yo. The album cover is so bad (some cartoon drawings) it could possibly be genius. It’s a homemade deal. Yet it’s quality vinyl and sounds better than anything released this Millennium. One side is labeled “Punk???” and the other side is Pop??? — and those are apt designations. The punk side is better, one can only hope the K’s went in that direction. I have to admit that I’m not sure if my turntable here at HQ is running at the right speed. I’ll have to take it home to the state of the art system to double check. Anyway, here, the singer (Kevyn) sounds a LOT like Jad Fair, in a really pleasing way, I mean. That is a good thing.

There is band info included inside that was typed on an *actual typewriter* and then photocopied, I would guess, on a broken down copier inside the front door of a United Dairy Farmers convenience store. Kevyn’s last name is, you guessed it– Kasualty. The only name I recognize is Nudge Squidfish, unless I’m mixing that up with someone else faintly nautical. NS plays bass. Rudy Krash plays N Burn Drums (or is it Rudy Krash N Burn plays Drums?) and KK sings and plays guitar– and very well. He is the best guitarist (besides Jimi Hendrix) ever to play guitar. I’m convinced. I take that back about the Pop??? side being inferior. This is a great record. It may be the best record of whatever year it came out, though there is no date anywhere to be found. I’ll have to consult with the Smithsonian.


Klaatu “3:47 EST”

Listening to The Knack made me think about Klaatu, even though I can’t find my Klaatu album, which is probably just as well, it would probably not pass the nostalgia/nausea quotient. But it always makes me happy to think about Klaatu, who REALLY WERE supposed to be The Beatles in secret identity. I don’t know if the band started that rumor– I suspect they didn’t– but I’m sure it didn’t hurt record sales.

Looking them up on the big internet, I find that THEY have a website, have released 10 records over the years, and one of them recently died. I think it might not be such a good idea for me to be looking up these bands on the internet. There is not likely going to be anything that doesn’t depress me one way or another.

One of the reasons, I guess, that the Beatles rumor started was that they didn’t list their names on the record or have a picture of the band. There is a picture of them, however, on Wikipedia: there are three guys, and it looks like: porn star John Holmes, Don Van Vliet, and either Ben or Jerry from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Now THAT’S a supergroup!


The Knack “Get The Knack”

You get the feeling it’s all fake, played by studio musicians, a guy from Mott the Hoople, and the guy who wrote The Archies’ songs,  or maybe they’re actually Cheap Trick, or, I don’t know, a band created by that supercomputer that takes up a whole room. I just looked up their website, and they’re still together! Except for the drummer, who died. The first thing under “news” says “Doug’s cancer is in remission.” Too much fucking perspective, to quote This Is Spinal Tap, sorry!

The album cover and pics announce that THIS IS the NEW Beatles. No. I guess they would be totally forgotten if it wasn’t for “My Sharona” which isn’t even a good song. “Your Number or Your Name” is a nice pop song, and “Maybe Tonight” is a nice ballad, but that’s about it. Everything is black and white, vests and skinny ties, and in the cover band portrait Doug Fieger’s head is at least twice as big as any of the other guys’ heads, who all have help from totally styled, puffy hairdos.

The most impressive thing is the inner sleeve, all black except for a little photo of a The Knack pin. And the fan club info: Leslye & Nicole PO Box 46926 Los Angeles CA 90046. I would bet there was NO fan club, and that PO box was where some studio engineer received his pornography. But I bet whoever has that box now occasionally gets some pretty funny, way after the fact fan mail!

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October 2007