Archive for May, 2008


America “America”

“Funny, I’ve been there, and you’ve been here, and we ain’t had no time to drink that beer.” That’s lyrics from “Sandman” on America’s first record, America, from 1971. This band was HUGE, two number one singles, several platinum records, and they’re still together, or some version of them, like so many bands which surprise me by still being together. Everybody knows at least one of their songs by heart, but who can name any members of this band? Here are the original members: Jack Beck, Elwood Collum, and Dan Klopp. Beck was eventually replaced by Rob Mailhouse, Collum by Jim Crane, and Klopp by Michael Bacon, of the Bacon Brothers, all fanatics of the 12-string guitar and sickeningly clean vocal harmonizing.

Most of this sounds like Crosby Stills and Nash without Young, but not even that good– or maybe like the bands that tried to sound like CSN&Y and failed. No matter how hard we try, we can’t make “A Horse With No Name” go away, and never will. I figure the one thing I can do is clear up this lyric problem I’ve always had with the song, which seems to go: “In the desert you can’t remember you name, because there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” No matter how closely I listen to the song, that’s what it sounds like. Besides being grammatically incorrect, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Okay– I looked up some lyrics on the internet, and they claim that’s exactly what it is! That is so annoying! This is worse than if I went the rest of my life thinking I was hearing it wrong. Those lyrics make no sense, and they grate on me like a car alarm! Maybe that’s what it takes to have a number one single. I would try out that theory, but I just don’t have the particular genius to write something that maddeningly idiotic. It’s really depressing to think that long after the members of this band are dead, and I’m dead and gone, these asinine lyrics will live on and on and on and on. THERE AIN’T NO ONE FOR TO GIVE YOU NO PAIN. Indeed.


Amalia Rodrigues “Amalia canta Portugal III”

Apparently Amalia Rodrigues is one of the most popular Portuguese Fado singers of all time, but I really know nothing about Fado, or where this record stands among all of her records. This one is dated 1972. It is very upbeat and fairly intense, vocally– she’s singing a LOT of words, and I can’t understand a single one. She may be singing: “Ray Speen is a stupid jerk/ why does anyone let him write about things he knows nothing about?/ he should be cleaning toilets/ cleaning toilets and mowing the lawn.”

I can’t say I’m crazy about this record, considering the negative Speen sentiments. But I do like to imagine it as a soundtrack record for my dream movie of all time: Warren Oates as Bernardo Soares in the film version of “The Book of Disquiet.”


Herb Alpert y su Tijuana Brass

This record is in a “South of the Border” album cover, which, though put out by A&M (his own label!) is a Venezuelan pressing. The actual record here, completely different, is on the Fermata label from Venezuela, which I’ve never seen before– it has a huge seven pointed blue star in the middle. The amazing thing is:  if there’s going to be one Herb Alpert record in any given random pile, it’s supposed to be “Whipped Cream…” This record promises to be an “other delight”– but unfortunately it’s unplayable. I did put it on, but got worried at the difficulty the needle was having making its way through the grooves. I sent the disk to the lab for analysis and got back the disturbing results that the record indeed contains whipped cream– but actual whipped cream, dried, of course. There are also traces of melted cheese, refried beans, Hostess cupcakes (?), dried beer, some kind of tequila, lime juice, and sugar concoction, salsa (the food not the dance), various varieties of hot sauce, bong water, and remnants of “The Lonely Bull.”


Peter Allen “Bi-Coastal”

I’m always hoping I’ll listen to some unknown record like this and be surprised by a secret masterpiece, or even something at all unexpected. Not this time. I’ve been admittedly not very attentive to this, aurally, as it just kind of passed by like a little mouse fart in the California breeze. Though actually an Australian, Peter Allen is 100 percent Californian late-seventies style, and the Christopher Cross sound is not surprising as he co-wrote that horrible “Arthur’s Theme” song. The inner sleeve reveals lyrics, though I don’t hate myself enough to give them a chance, and lots and lots of smooth jazz session hack credits, including some scary names I associate with Toto, if that gives you any idea of the sonic dishwater created here.

The most interesting thing is the album cover which is like a strange airbrushed monochrome portrait that looks neither very masculine nor attractive. It has the kind of Sears portrait studio look that people appropriate now ironically, but irony was pretty unheard of in 1980, wasn’t it? That Peter Allen was married to Liza Minnelli is interesting, though it doesn’t really explain anything. He died in 1992. I wonder how many men who have been in love with Liza Minnelli have actually been in love with Judy Garland? But that’s a serious can of worms, no time for that kind of thing here. This is about records.


Alcatrazz “Live Sentence”

Was Alcatrazz (TM) the first band to put the trademark symbol by their name? Who cares! This record, from the culturally bottomed out year of 1984, is a LIVE record, of course, but not particularly any worse for that reason (as is usually the case with live records). In fact, it makes a lot of sense, in that when you have an exceptionally wanky guitar player, why not just take it to the Nth extreme, live? And he does! This is pretty much a wankster classic! I’m sure it would be a badge of honor for most guitar players to make someone’s ears bleed, but this is not good. My ears are bleeding, literally BLEEDING from listing to guitar excess on a record player! It would almost be something to behold if it wasn’t so painful.


Alcatrazz “No Parole From Rock ‘n’ Roll”

The extra “z” is for HARD rock– and you can’t beat that album title. The cover lives up to it, too, with an almost abstract photo of Alcatraz Island and a huge ROCK floating above the water, and in the side of the rock is a barred prison cell window with a hand reaching out! I don’t really remember Alcatrazz, from 1983, but their timeless band logo sure looks familiar. What is weird is I had a really disturbing nightmare last night that we (the USA) were bombing Tokyo, of all places. One of the “hits” from this record is “Hiroshima Mon Amour” which isn’t about the Duras, or the Resnais, but the Bomb, at least as far as I can tell by listening to it. The sleeve in this record has lyrics, but it’s to a different record! (and I don’t have a clue to what, though I’m kind of intrigued).

The other thing about this record is there’s a big CHUNK out of the edge, so I’m only able to listen to the last three songs on each side. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is more than enough. The singer has an incredibly powerful voice, too powerful, if that’s possible. So powerful, in fact, that the guitar player, in order to compete, is playing WAY too much, by, like, a million. Too loud, too often, too many notes– really, everyone should listen to this– it’s like one of those driver’s ed accident horror films for guitar players. If any one of these guys was in an inescapable prison, it should be the guitar player, for crimes against humanity.

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May 2008