Archive for the '1970s' Category

13
Sep
17

Randy Barlow “Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa”

I bought this 45 due to the weakness I have for buying records by any artist with the first name “Randy”—which has actually done pretty well by me in the past—Randy is kind of a goofball name, not necessarily someone you’d want to spend your life with, but well-equipped for theatrics, unhealthy deep-fried rings of sweet dough, or odd-ball songs with questionable lyrics. In my fiction writing, I named a character (based on me) Randy, and another (based on me) Barlow—so naturally, the name Randy Barlow intrigued me. I’d never heard of him, but it turns out he was fairly successful in country music, from the Sixties into the Eighties. He’s still out there, maybe still playing. Originally from Detroit, he was born Randall Moore, but I suppose that sounds like a guy who is sipping tea and writing sonnets, so he changed it to Randy Barlow. He’s got a solid singing voice. The label is Gazelle Records, which has a really nice logo where there the two L’s make the horns on a simple drawing of the gazelle. This record came out in 1976.

“Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa” is a Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune, but I don’t really like it—it sounds like something that would have been on the AM radio when I was in grade school, like “Knock Three Times,”—it’s not terrible, but I picked up this record entirely because of the intriguing title of the B-side: “The Bottle Took His Mother (And My Wife)”— which struck me as kind of insane sounding—a bit of a brain-twister trying to figure out what that means. Offhand, it makes you think it’s going to be a situation like in Chinatown (1974 movie) (“My sister, my daughter… she’s my sister and my daughter!”)—but then when you listen to it and realize the “he” in the title is the singer’s kid… it’s like, oh, okay, my kid’s mother and my wife, right. Kind of boring. Though the bottle still took her. The song pretty much spells it out: The guy took the kid and left his wife, because of her drinking. She didn’t die, though, so I don’t know… it seems like he’s more upset because her drinking is exceeding what he deems Christian-level drinking. In a way, it’s fairly reprehensible—I get the feeling it’s a little selfish. I know that it’s not easy to deal with an alcoholic, but it’s not like she started drinking after you married her. Essentially, this song should he called, “Because the Bottle took My Wife, I took our Kid (and now we’re making the lawyers rich in this extended custody battle).”

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29
Aug
17

Sarah Vaughan “Send In The Clowns”

As much as I like Sarah Vaughan, and as much as I like clowns, and as much as I like the year 1974 (when this was released), you’d think it’d be an automatic home run. But no. First of all, I was never crazy about the song, “Send in the Clowns,” and here is a kind of cloying version that sounds more like the lame 1980s than ’74 (and interestingly, Sarah Vaughan also released a record called Send In The Clowns in 1981). The very next song, though, is a nice soul song (I’m not going to list all the songs here, but okay, I especially like this one: “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”). Then the next one sounds like it could accompany a Blaxploitation movie. The next one is another smooth soul number. Then another one that’s more smooth than soul, but it’s okay. Side two is all really pretty good, though the last song is just way too much—it sounds like something from a live review in a very big supper club or small casino. It’s not pleasant. But really, the rest of the record is growing on me. I think this is one of those rare, but not unheard of, “skip the first and last song” LPs.

The album cover, put out by Mainstream Records, has the same exact picture on front and back, which I find just really unforgivable—I mean, why? You have the opportunity to put a full-color, twelve inch by twelve inch piece of art into the world—put a picture on the back of Sarah Vaughan applying makeup, or removing it, or cooking breakfast, or drinking tea, or a picture of your cat, or your kid’s art, or your laundry—anything but the same photo that’s on the front cover! The picture, of a clown, I’ve always assumed is Sarah Vaughan in clown makeup, but really it could be someone else, like maybe a clown. Anyway, as far a clowns go, it’s not too gnarly, but as far as album cover pictures go, it’s disturbingly gnarly. She’s wearing an odd clown suit, of which I think there is some significance, but I can’t find an example in the many, many, many, many clown images on the internet, so I just don’t know. Maybe someone will fill me in. She’s drinking from a straw, from a glass/cup/coconut concealed behind a paper umbrella. I don’t know, the whole combination of things is really kind of odd and unpleasant, though I can’t really put my finger on why. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Also, she’s not just a clown, but a man clown. But do clowns even have a gender? I mean, what are they, really? But anyway, this song, by Stephen Sondheim, isn’t about clowns, literally—duh. The lyrics are great, actually, but I’ve never heard a version of this song (and there’s been like a million of them?) that I liked. I don’t like the song. Maybe if there’s a version out there sung a cappella by Gilbert Gottfried, I could warm up to that.

23
Aug
17

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin IV”

I’ve got a new random number system for picking out records to write about, by the way, so there is no other reason for me putting this one on than that, though I still do thoroughly enjoy it—one of the more overplayed rock records of all time—every time I hear it. I don’t really need to talk about the songs or the music with this one, do I? My dream would be to meet someone who has never heard this record, then play it for them a few times while we talk about it and I take notes. But in what cave am I going to meet this person? My favorite song, no hesitation, is “Misty Mountain Hop”—one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs—especially the, “Baby, baby, baby do you like it,” part.

One of the funniest things is the disagreement over the title of this 1971 LP, the band’s fourth. I’m calling it, here, Led Zeppelin IV, as that, I think, is the most common way to refer to it, and what Wikipedia calls it. Discogs, however, insists that is has no title, which I guess is technically correct, but to call something “Untitled” strikes me as asinine, and that goes for anyone who has an artwork or something without a title, because then “Untitled” becomes the title and it’s no longer untitled. So please, people, title your shit. It just occurred to me, that since I’m writing about this now, in 2017, I may as well assign it a new title, and maybe it will catch on. I’ll think about this as I proceed.

I’m sure the album cover is considered some kind of a classic album cover, but I never liked it (except for there being no words on it), but when you open it up and look at the entire composition—the bleak landscape on the left, and crumbling wall with the painting hung on it in the foreground—it’s really pretty great. So I guess in that sense, I like it, which is more than I can say for the stupid stoner drawing on the inside, with a wizard standing on a rocky cliff looking down on a town (or maybe on a small, ragged figure of indeterminate gender, in the foreground). So little have I ever cared for this drawing, I feel like this is the first time I’m really looking at it. How many bags of weed have been consumed while the intricate, unrealistic rocks have been examined for hidden images and meanings? However, I just noticed, for the first time, that little white goat, grazing on an elevated plateau. I’m pretty certain the answer to the mystery lies there.

Okay, I’ve got it. Since this might be the most “Speenish”—(i.e., my last name, as an adjective, meaning the distillation of the R. Speen essence (sometimes, though not to be, confused with patchouli and burning sage))—of all popular rock ‘n’ roll records, I’m going to officially, as of this date forward, name this record: Led Zeppelin Speen.

22
Aug
17

Tom Waits “Foreign Affairs”

This is the first Tom Waits record I ever heard in my life (though I’m sure I must have heard a song or two, here or there, somewhere, but I don’t remember). It was in the attic of 4 Costley Court, Kent, Ohio, sometime in 1983, and I put the record on but little did I know the turntable was on 45, instead of 33, and I listened to the entire first side without realizing it was on the wrong speed. So my first conscious impression of Tom Waits as a singer was that he did kind of an offensive, comic impersonation of a black, woman jazz singer. I soon realized it was the wrong speed, but even so, it took me a long time to get used this record on the correct speed. At the time I thought Tom Waits’ singing voice was among the weirdest things I’d heard on a record.

The record belonged to Tom Strange, and I bought it from him. The other thing I bought from him was his acoustic guitar, and after countless moves across and back the country, I still have and engage with them both. I’d take them both to the ends of the earth, if there was such a place. Maybe it means something, those two things. Maybe I should be dedicating my life to playing songs like these. All great songs on this record. For a long time I called it my favorite Tom Waits record, and though it no longer is my favorite, it will always have a warm place in my heart because it was the first.

The noirish black & white cover photo is TW and a mystery woman, enveloped in shadows. She’s got more rings than fingers, a cigarette, and a passport. For some reason, I realize now, I thought for years it was a bottle of Passport Scotch. I guess that just shows that my head was more into traveling via liquor than streamer ship. The back is just TW, taking over the cigarette, and in a cute pose, looking like a 25 year-old heart-breaker. The record came out in 1977, so do math if you want to. There’s a lot of really nice nightclub sounding jazz playing on this record, and Bette Midler sings on one number. The lyric sheet is typed out with no caps, and even though you can make out every word he sings, you could read the lyrics like a pulp novel if your record player was broken. “Licorice tattoo turned a gun metal blue scrawled across the shoulders of this dying town…” You get the idea. I could probably benefit by typing out the entire lyrics—it would likely be a more fruitful next few hours than the sick dreams I’ve been suffering with, through long, terrible nights. I can only hope some of this record will go into my dreams.

30
Jul
17

Michael Franks “The Art of Tea”

I had never heard of Michael Franks, saw this record in a thrift store and bought it against my better judgment. The picture on the cover, of him, doesn’t tell you much, unless it tells you this record is 1975. There are some familiar names playing on this record: Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, and more, and I’m listening to it as I look for him on the Internet. He’s a jazz singer/songwriter; all the songs here are his, and there are lyrics on the back, and there’s some good ones. On second listening the record is already growing on me. I like his voice a lot—it’s equal parts a little odd and way smooth. He’s been putting out albums pretty regularly since 1973, and he’s got a website, looking pretty good, now in his seventies, and still playing. Don’t know why I’ve never heard of him. One song here, “Popsicle Toes,” I’ve heard before—I believe done by Diana Krall. How about these lyrics from that song: “You must have been Miss Pennsylvania/With all this pulchritude/How come you always load your Pentax/When I’m in the nude?” Or how about this one, called “Eggplant”: “When my baby cooks her eggplant/She don’t read no book/And she’s got a Gioconda/Kind of dirty look/And my baby cooks her eggplant/About 19 different ways/But sometimes I just have it raw/With mayonnaise.” In the lyric department, he’s definitely got it going on, at least here in 1975. And did I say that the whole record is smooth?—something that might have put me off at one time, but now I’m into it.

25
Jul
17

Archie Ulm “Archie Ulm at the Yamaha EX-42”

This is apparently a private pressing record from around 1975 of this organ wizard from Milwaukee, Archie Ulm, playing some supper club standards on the Yamaha EX-42, accompanied by percussionist Paul Hergert and guitarist Ar Kriegel. I don’t know anything about the Yamaha EX-42—“an electronic marvel” without looking it up, and I’m not going to (it’s an early 70s big-ass electric organ) which he plays, as well as an ARP Odyssey and a Carnaval electric piano. (The cover photo, of Archie sitting behind a bank of keyboards, is pretty great.) This whole record is a pleasure to listen to, just because he’s taking the organ a little (and sometimes a lot) beyond what you’ve heard anyone do (I think… well, I haven’t heard everyone… but then everyone hasn’t heard this). It’s kind of unfortunate that a lot of songs here are popular numbers (“The Hustle,” “Pink Panther”) that I kind of wish I’d never have to hear again, under any circumstances. (Though I don’t mind so much the “Rockford Files” and “NBC Mystery Movie” Themes.) When he goes off from the familiar parts of the songs, though, it’s pretty amazing and makes you think it’d be great if we could just hear his own compositions, or better quality, less cheesy standards. (“The Cat” is a standout; and he doesn’t hold back.) But you’ve got to make the people happy, I guess, and for some reason the people get nervous when they’re not hearing something they recognize. The cool thing is, because he is apparently satisfying the popular familiarity button, he sneaks in quite a lot of playing that should be making people nervous—because it’s completely insane.

18
Jun
16

Lee Hazlewood “The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides (1968-71)

I don’t want to get into an entire bio of Lee Hazlewood but I do have to include this legal disclaimer that he’s like my all-time hero, at least based on his style, singing, songwriting, and legend, and also the fact that he did the tile song (sung by Dusty Springfield) for my all time favorite movie (The Sweet Ride) as well as having a cameo part in that movie. If there are stains on his reputation or tales of bizarre behavior, there are other forums for that, but here I’m discovering this odd double LP with a much too specific title and questionable album art. Not because there are naked women or they are kneeling, looking up at him (you can only think about this humorously, right?) but because the women are all sporting fake LH-esque moustaches, and I’m sorry, but that’s where I draw the line.

This album is dated 2012, about 5 years after he died, and LHI stands for Lee Hazlewood Industries (his own record label in the late 60s) and it’s got a booklet with extensive notes which I unfortunately don’t have time to read, and it’s on this super heavy vinyl that someday is going to be cursed by the aching back survivors of record collectors (at least until they start selling the stuff off). Two records, 11 of the 17 songs written by LH, but they all sound like his songs. He sure knows how to pick songs to cover. He is joined singing, on a few songs, by Suzi Jane Hokom, Ann-Margret, and Nina Lizell. All the songs are good, most are weird, and several have those crazy kind of spoken introductions. Because of this modern packaging, it’s hard to remember that these were records that came out at about the time when I first started buying 45s. It would be cool to find the old versions. Pretty much, if you ever see a Lee Hazlewood record, no matter how dusty and scratchy it is, it’s worth picking up because it’s like a an artifact from a parallel pop music universe.

 




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