Archive for the 'explanations' Category

31
Jan
18

Captain & Tennille “Love Will Keep Us Together”

I was kind of excited to put this one on, as I’ve never been able to bring myself to pick it up at a thrift store because of the bludgeoning familiarity of that title song, and the hideous cover—which is actually a pretty great album cover with beautiful dogs, one of whose head is bigger than Toni Tennille’s. And her teeth (TT’s, not the dog) are amazing and not airbrushed looking. The Captain is wearing some horrible sunglasses and an expression that looks like he’s barely able to hold back from punching the photographer. Tennille is actually wearing bib overalls, and a shirt that looks like it was sewn from someone’s kitchen curtains.

I did not realize that Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield wrote the title song, which had to be one of the biggest songs of the year (1975), and it’s a good enough song, I guess, that I get some genuine nostalgia from it. It’s interesting, it seems like their official name is “Captain & Tennille”—though he’s known as “The Captain”—and also, his real name is Daryl Dragon. If your name was Daryl Dragon—if you were that lucky—wouldn’t you go by Daryl Dragon, and not some cheesy stage name like “The Captain?” (Though the captain’s hat is a nice touch, for anyone.)

Tennille and Dragon wrote a few of the songs, together, and separately, and there are also some Beach Boys present (a nice cover of “God Only Knows”), and Bruce Johnston’s “I Write The Songs”—which was a monster hit for Barry Manilow—and so bland that I never really thought about it—but hearing Tennille sing it kind of highlights the lyrics, since it’s obviously written from the point of view of a man, who claims to now be “very old,” and maybe even God—I mean, it’s supposed to be metaphorical, right? He wasn’t really writing a song, as God, I don’t think? It does say, “I am music, and I write the songs”—but if “music” wrote the first song, who wrote music? (If God is all-powerful, can He make a rock so heavy that even He Himself cannot lift it?)

Most of the record is, unfortunately, fairly forgettable, and I’ll probably not be compelled to pick up a copy. If you never have to hear the song “Broddy Bounce,” consider yourself lucky—I thought the room had been invaded by animated trolls. And “Disney Girls” isn’t much better. For me, the real standout on the record is “The Way I Want To Touch You,”—written by Toni Tennille—I mean, it’s kind of sexy, even, if kind of dumb, but has that really killer chorus, “you are sunshine, you are shadow” etc. That takes me right back to somewhere. I don’t know where exactly, but I was maybe drinking grape Kool-Aid, or eating Lucky Charms (saving the marshmallows for last), newly in love, and there was an AM radio playing.

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30
Jan
18

They Might Be Giants “Flood”

I grabbed this They Might Be Giants record off the shelf because I feel like I might know this band, but then maybe I don’t. I did, but I might have forgotten—I don’t know. Another band that started years ago (and this record is from that oppressive year, 1990) and I’m guessing they’re still a band, because what are you going to do, get a job at Tower Records—there is no longer Tower Records. Though I could imagine one of these guys being a grade school teacher, or a music teacher, etc. The album credits list two names, guys, plus a lot of guest musicians. There’s a lot of accordion, and then a lot of oddball sounds, most of them non-electronic. The approach is very jaunty. Most of the singing is this one guy—or is it both, who kind of sound alike?—slightly nasal, and articulated—jaunty. You can understand the lyrics, plus they are printed inside. (I just thought of this—has anyone ever included a lyric sheet where the lyrics are just totally different than what’s being sung? That might be good idea for someone!) This album cover opens up to reveal a kind of ghost image inside, over which are printed all the lyrics. They are really asking you to pay attention to the lyrics, and they might be very good, but I don’t have the energy—it’s very word heavy music. Okay, this one I’m listening to now, it’s pretty good, it has the line: “She wants to see you again/see you twisting in the wind.” That’s funny, but it makes me think about that expression, “twisting in the wind”—it’s metaphorical, but refers literally to lynching, right? A body hanging there, dead, by the neck—I think they’d leave them hanging—as a warning, right?

A lot of cleverness here—I think this is a band who gets a lot of NPR attention. Probably everything I know about them came via NPR. If you were describing something as very “NPR”—which is a pretty descriptive tag, as everyone gets what that means—this is the band, the sound, the songs—that come to mind. The album cover is another of those that really gets on my nerves. It has a nice photo on the front of a guy in a raft made of wash tubs—but then on the back, another photo of two guys in a raft. We get it. Oh, wait, it’s the same photo, which you see when you open it up—but it’s taller than wide, so the only way to do that is have them both sideways when the record is sitting upright. I just get endlessly annoyed with album covers that you don’t know which way is up. Is that clear? If it’s not, that’s the point of my annoyance. Then inside, there is all this space, but the print is microscopic (something which would be standard in the CD era. I know I complain a lot about album cover design, but the worst of them is better than all CDs). Wow. A lot of songs here—19! That’s too many—though probably not if you’re a TMBG fan. Based on this record, I’m not—but I’ll love a song, then hate a song, love a song, hate a song—back and forth—so who knows what I’d think if I went and listened to all their records—which would be quite an investment—more than I’m willing to spend at this time.

25
Jan
18

Lard “The Last Temptation of Reid”

After listening to The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, when I looked for the next record and came across this one I knew I had to check it out because the cover is also a drawing of a young woman vs. a robot—though, actually, the robot might be a standard steam shovel, but very sinister—not like the one in the Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel children’s book. The woman looks like she’s based on some kind of iconic 1950s image I should know, blond and wearing a nurses outfit—and she’s holding a baby in a pink blanket. On the back there’s a guy I don’t recognize—he’s got a scraggly beard and sunglasses—standing behind a table containing what looks like zines, possibly, or paste-up, news headline heavy collage art. This record is from 1990, which still feels like yesterday to me, but to most of you probably sounds like a previous century. It’s on Alternative Tentacles, a punk label from the 1980s, that, if I remember correctly, was the home of the Dead Kennedys—interesting because the singer sounds just like Jello Biafra—though the music doesn’t sound all that much like them. Finally, looking at the band lineup, I see the singer is named Jello Biafra (how many could there be?) So, it seems I’ve gone 27 years without ever hearing about Jello’s other band.

They’re pretty good, too, well, not really my cup of tea these days, but I still appreciate it. I’ll leave you to look up the other band members (though one called Alien Jourgensen has got my attention, because I recall a friend of mine having a cat named Al, named after a musician called Al Jourgensen, who is in a band I’m not familiar with). Leave it to cats to help me connect the dots, anyway! (Did I mention I’m cat-sitting here at the cabin?) I’ll also leave you to look up the fate of this band, Lard, and whether there is lard in your favorite refried beans, rendering them not vegetarian, albeit delicious. I’ll also leave you to look up who this “Reid” is, as a seasonal snowstorm has knocked out the internet (thankfully not the electricity or heat)! I’m going to make a wild guess that it’s about singer Terry Reid (and not basketball player J.R. Reid) who famously was asked to be the singer of Led Zeppelin, before Robert Plant, but turned down the gig, saying, I think that band will go over like a “Led Zeppelin.” Don’t quote me on that before I can do proper research—I might have that all wrong. What it all means, I have no idea.

Let me add, if you’re a Dead Kennedys fan and somehow don’t have this record, you might want to check it out. The last song I know well, it’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away”—though I don’t know who it was by, though I’m thinking it could have been Kim Fowley (at least I’m pretty sure he recorded it). It’s credited to a N. Bonaparte, though that’s highly unlikely, as I believe he was French, and lived before the term “funny farm” was in common use. This was a song I heard constantly growing up, because it was one of those novelty records played by late night movie hosts in their comic bits between commercials. Though why anyone would want to cover this song, God knows.

10
Sep
17

Porter Wagoner and Skeeter Davis “Sing Duets”

I have more records by Skeeter Davis than any other recording artist, but I don’t have even half of the albums she released in a long career. If I had to name a favorite singer (please don’t make me do that) I would not hesitate to say Skeeter Davis. For some reason I can’t explain, she has a special place in my heart. And that is just based on the recorded music of hers I’ve been lucky enough to hear. She is firmly based in country and western, but crossed over to pop, and always sounds to me like a little of both, so maybe that’s part of the appeal. But mostly I just love her voice. It always strikes me as having an underlying sadness to it, but also an outward expression of hope, joy, and happiness. But there also is just a quality of someone singing at home, maybe, just one person to another. Or maybe in church, or while working. Her voice always strikes me as the opposite of slick, professional, over-produced. I guess in some sense, there is the same essence of what is essential to me about punk music in her voice, and that is at the heart of the music I love—that quality of “I’m doing it my way”—even when the smoother road might have been strongly suggested as the easier path to success.

This record, from 1962, is one of her earliest albums, and it’s a duet record with Porter Wagoner, who is, of course, one of the giants of country music. I’ve always been aware of him, but never a big fan, which doesn’t mean I might not be someday, if I’d take the time to get to know his music through and through. It starts out with a song that—if this was the song I was to judge Skeeter Davis on, that’d be my loss—not my kind of song. If there was one word I’d use to describe a style of music (any music) I don’t like, it would be “jaunty”—and so much do I despise jaunty music, it makes me wonder about the sanity and even human quality of fans of the jaunty (as in, are they pod people, or Stepford wives?) After that alarming start, though, they settle into really beautifully sung versions of some classic country songs—sweet, introspective, and melancholy. My favorites here are: “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “Heaven Help Me,” “Sorrow’s Tearing Down the House (That Happiness Built),” and “There’s Always One (Who Loves a Lot)”—but really, they’re all good.

This is on the RCA Victor label (with the dog looking down the Gramophone horn) and has a very old-fashioned, color drawing of the two singers on the cover, in a style that makes me think of a young adult romance series book. The blond woman in a blue dress doesn’t match that much any likeness to any Skeeter Davis photo I’ve seen. A sliver of photograph on back (of part of the recording studio control board) accompanies some extensive liner notes in typewriter font by Bill Porter (legendary Nashville recording engineer) where he goes on about how much he loves these songs, but also thinks highly of the artists. It’s very nice, really, but then he goes on about especially one song, which happens to be the jaunty song on here I don’t like (“Rock-A-Bye Boogie”). Oh, well, I guess it’s all a matter of taste, and that’s what makes the world interesting. As I continue to listen, it strikes me—as well as these two voices compliment each other, Porter Wagoner’s is so straight-up country, that—and especially on the kind of duet where he sings a verse, and then she does—you really hear a contrast in their voices—and the quality of her voice (that’s an ongoing obsession with me, trying to understand why I love it so much) it occurs to me that it sounds a little unhinged—if you know what I mean. You probably don’t, but I mean that in the best way.

01
Nov
08

The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour”

This record sounded fresher to me than the other two, just now, maybe because I’ve always avoided this one. There’s this fantastic song called “Penny Lane” that I’ve never heard before. I’m kidding. I think what I like about this record is my lasting admiration for a few of the songs. Maybe two. When I was a single digit kid, I had the single of “Hello, Goodbye” which I thought was the perfect dumb pop single–it’s almost frightening–and I still think so, pretty much. But then on the other side of that record was “I Am the Walrus” which completely intrigued me, and maybe was frightening in a different way. I admit, I still haven’t gotten over that “yellow matter custard” business. I imagine there are entire support groups for people who were traumatized by that phrase. It should surprise no one that there is a band called Yellow Matter Custard. But really, right now, I wish I didn’t know that. Sometimes the internet makes the world seem really, really small. But of course, that’s all an illusion. Because with all that information at your fingertips, it’s still impossible to know another person, really. It’s pretty much impossible to know yourself. The internet is just a hall of mirrors. I’m really hating the world, and myself, a little bit right about now. I mean, how many hours did I spend on this glorious morning looking at designer pot and glass pipes on slowly loading, clumsy web pages? The answer is: TOO MANY.

17
Oct
08

Average White Band “Soul Searching”

There are two reasons why I haven’t written about any records for months and months. One is my internet wasn’t working, but I was, in a terrible, terrible job where each day was the equivalent of listening to the Top 14 Radio (“the hottest songs of the 80’s, 90’s, and… Today!”) which I more or less did listen to while working. Also, my vintage 1970s receiver broke, and I moved. That’s more than two reasons. But really, the big, BIG reason I haven’t written anything here is because (after my receiver miraculously fixed itself) I became totally obsessed with the next record in my queue, the 1976 (same year as my receiver) masterpiece, the Average White Band’s “Soul Searching.”

I expected to either hate this record or find it funny, but instead, it became the soundtrack for my life, the album that defined for me the summer of 2008. This record never left my turntable, and therefore I didn’t get around to listening to anything else. So here I am, still stuck on the “A’s” and for that matter, still listening to “Soul Searching” as I write this. My solution finally has been to tape this record on a cassette tape recording device so I can listen to it later while I, meanwhile, hopefully, continue with this project. Because the pressure to write with passion about such a life defining work of art has pretty much rendered me paralyzed, I will put it off until later, and perhaps write something now and then, little by little, until I feel like I’ve exhausted this subject. In the meantime I’ll be able to get on with the “B’s.”




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