Archive for the 'Growing On Me' Category

14
Feb
19

Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 “Look Around”

The few Sérgio Mendes records I have I can put on at any time and listen to every day, it’s just that it’s hard to keep changing records—sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense to have one of those multiple record changer things—young people might not even know what I’m talking about. They weren’t great for the longevity of your vinyl, I guess. I bought this one, “Look Around,” even though I broke one of my record buying rules: never buy a record with a Lennon—McCartney song on it (unless it’s The Beatles). There are just too many sad versions of their songs from when it seemed like everyone had to put one on their album (and usually first, for some reason). This one is good, though, and then the rest of the record is better. The album came out in 1968, and you wonder if they almost called it Brasil ’68—there is no doubt a story there, or many stories over the years, with all the records—his discography is insane. 66 is a good number though. Not too many people I talk to remember Salem 66, from Boston, and the Eighties—a great all (or primarily) women band. I played briefly with the ’66 Mustangs—influenced by neither Salem 66 nor Brasil 66—but had the three of us toured together (The 66 Tour), say, in the mid-Eighties, I might have been the happiest man alive. Could we even have closed the show with a group rendition of (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 ? This is what happens when I get no fucking sleep to speak of—I dream while awake, like a happy zombie. Anyway, I love this record, but not as much as I love the album cover. When the dozen or so iconic album covers pop up, this should be one of them. You know it, right? I’m not even going to try to describe it, it’d take more than 1000 words. I mean, it’s just a band acting silly with a few props, but when you get the right photo, everyone knows it. Personally, it makes me feel like I’m in love. But maybe I just need some sleep.

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11
Feb
19

Stan Kenton and his Orchestra “Cuban Fire!”

This is a totally pop-culture reference, and a dated one at that, but there’s a part of the first number here that reminds me totally of the title song of the Jonny Quest TV show from the 1960s. I guess it’s just this particular horn part, maybe a trumpet. If you watch that show now, whether you remember it or not, with the sound off, you might be shocked at how primitive the animation is. I mean, the art is good, but it’s just pretty clunky and not overly sophisticated. I don’t remember it like that at all, I think, because the sound is very sophisticated, and the score is amazing. Sound and music create a much more complete picture than image does. This record reminds me of records my dad had—he had some Stan Kenton, I think, but not this one—this is a lot more intense than what my parents normally listened to. It’s got a kind of insane album cover, all orange and black, like a highly stylized illustration of a conga player, possibly on the edge of a volcano, or Hell. On the back there’s about an hour’s worth of liner note reading (including detailed notes for each song). There are a lot of liner notes, actually—I’m going to put this on a “do on a rainy day” list—to read these liner notes—I’ve seen shorter novels.

I think this is one of those records where the best way to approach it is to go song by song (there are only six), and because each one feels like a mini-drama, describe what each song makes me visualize, or think of, or feel. The titles are in both Spanish and English, but I’m just including the Spanish (which is Greek, to me), so as not to be narratively influenced. Fuego Cubano – A guy in a white suit drinking rum and cokes at a bar, in Cuba, naturally, just kind of not sweating somehow and calmly waiting to be detained by the authorities. El Congo Valiente – A well-dressed European couple, a very shallow looking man and a beautiful woman, are dashing from airport to airport, carrying their undersized valises, trying not to miss their planes (in each airport). Recuerdos – The guy in the white suit again, but this time suavely being escorted into the bank lockbox area where he fills his valise with some unrecognizable currency, then leaves unmolested, except at the end we are made aware that this is just a flashback. Quien Sabe – Now our hero is piloting some kind of super fast and also totally silent aircraft, flying very low, passing over small islands dotting an impossibly blue sea. The mood is optimistic. Le Guera Baila – This is the couple from earlier, but this is back in time because they don’t know each other—she is at the bar and he comes in and introduces himself, orders them both a rum and coke (he drinks them both) and then she leaves. La Suerte de los Tontos – The man and the woman are making their getaway in an elaborate chase scene, first riding in the back of produce truck, then stealing a motorcycle. As both they and the authorities (in small cars) approach the dock, and the waiting yacht, there is a freeze frame, suggesting an ambiguous ending, or maybe indicating that this entire escape is all in the guy’s mind, and he’s probably dead or in prison. FIN.

10
Feb
19

Dick Lee “All I Want Is A Chance / The Show Has Ended”

I don’t know who Dick Lee is, and I’m in no mood to check the Old Internet in order to find out—so I’m going to let the two song 45 RPM single do the talking. I think it’s from 1953, it’s on Essex Records from Philadelphia, and both of these songs are with an orchestra, with Dick Lee belting out syllables in a hyper-dramatic, old-fashioned style—as if it pre-dated microphones and needed to project from the stage. It’s the kind of singing that you might find some older people love with fondness and nostalgia—for me, it make my ears bleed. The somewhat sick thing about this record—and I don’t know if this is accidental, or if someone had a pretty good sense of humor—is how the A and B side songs work together. “All I Want Is A Chance” is a desperate plea to a possible lover—you can imagine it. He just wants a chance to hold him/her in the morning and then, naturally, at night—to make this person love him as much as he loves this person. The B side, then, is decidedly less optimistic. “The Show Has Ended” is, surprise, not about a show, but a relationship. “The show has ended, I know that we’re through—you just pretend that your love is true”—it’s pretty harsh, really—“the curtain is falling, and so are my tears.” The show has ended, and all he has left is the memory. So it goes from “faint hope” to “distant memory” in two songs—no aspect of the actual relationship is documented here. I’m kind of surprised, though—after listening to the record a couple of times—I kind of like it. I guess it’s not so weird after all that it was pressed on vinyl and preserved for eager listening 66 years later by some asshole with nothing better to do than write about what listening to scratchy old records makes him think about.

04
Feb
19

Gale Garnett “Variety Is the Spice of Gale Garnett”

I had never heard of Gale Garnett even though she apparently had a hit in the Sixties—so I probably heard her on the AM radio in the kitchen before school, which never enamored me to anyone. The only garnet I know is the gemstone, which I’m partial to since it’s my birth month stone; also, it’s most famously ruby red, but the color theme on this album cover is green (green print on a green background)—so I think my nutty brain immediately made this weird association with The Wizard of Oz (1939), because I’m always getting Dorothy’s ruby slippers mixed up with the Emerald City—like, for the longest time I thought she had emerald slippers! Also, Dorothy’s last name is Gale. So can you blame me for my confusion? The other thing is, I would have guessed this record was from at least the late Seventies, if not the Eighties—by the cover—I can’t say why exactly—but it doesn’t look like 1966, to me, that’s for sure. And then there’s the photo of Gale Garnett on the cover, wearing one of those hats that’s always tilted, but her head is tilted at such an extreme angle, the hat is almost straight. It’s a little disturbing, but not as much as her eyeliner, which is so severe it would make Robert Smith jealous. And her eyes look so much like they’re popping out of the cover I had to touch them to make sure. This is some album cover photo—it’s almost life-size, and it could give you nightmares—or maybe happy dreams—depending.

An apter title was never conceived, and the detailed liner notes by Gale Garnett go on to explain how important it is to her to perform in so many different styles. While I agree with her in theory, it’s a little hard on the listener when there are some songs you want to put on repeat (to use that weird notion of the digital age), while other songs make you want to throw a shoe at the turntable. I’m not going to go through the songs song by song—and neither am I going to mark up my record with notes. I suppose I don’t mind the idea of having the same experience every time I put this record on (if I keep it) where I’ll think, “Why did I keep this record?” and then, “Oh, yeah, because that song is great.” The internet tells us Gale Garnett was born in New Zealand and then moved to Canada when she was young—I think that’s about all the biographical material I can handle right now. She writes lovingly about these songs (many of which she wrote)—I might like her writing more than her singing. The best part, though, is her story about the song Carrick Fergus—she said it was taught to her by Richard Harris, who said he learned it at his mother’s knee. But later, Peter O’Toole told her that he wrote it with Domenick Behan—and at press time, no resolution had/has been landed upon. If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Gale Garnett, I’m going to tell her I wrote that song and see if she gets the joke.

01
Feb
19

The Chico Hamilton Quintet “Sweet Smell of Success”

This is a soundtrack record, more completely titled: The Chico Hamilton Quintet Plays Jazz Themes Recorded for the Soundtrack of the Motion Picture “Sweet Smell of Success” (and there’s an even longer version on the actual label, which sounds like someone’s Oscar acceptance speech). If you’ve never seen the movie Sweet Smell of Success (1957) you can keep reading, because I’m not going to talk about it, and also consider yourself lucky because it’s a great movie, even if it might take all your strength to get to the end, drama-wise. It’s grim! But it’s one of the most beautiful black and white movies you’ll ever see, and it’s got two of the most over-the-top performances, by two actors who probably would have paid to deliver what is some of the most over-the-top dialogue you’ll ever hear. It’s also got a great score, and in fact there are two soundtrack albums—one is Elmer Bernstein, and the other, this one, with music from the movie played by The Chico Hamilton Quintet—who actually appear in the movie, quite prominently, as the jazz band that one the characters (not one of the above two) plays guitar with. I knew nothing about Chico Hamilton before I saw this movie, and I still don’t know much, except he was a jazz drummer who then started this band that featured a cello. I’ve never heard any of their records, but if this one is any indication, they might definitely be worth picking up.

The album cover has a wallet-size picture of the band, but is mostly taken up by a big photo of Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster (actors referred to, above) who both look like they’re on the verge of actually exploding. They don’t, literally, anyway, but they come as close as an actor can without special effects. There are extensive liner notes on back, nicely written, though anonymous, which is too bad, because the beginning of the third paragraph makes this statement: “Side Two is one of the most unusual recordings ever attempted.” Ever attempted! It goes on to elaborate, but I’m neither going to retype it nor paraphrase, here. I didn’t find it as such, on first listening, but then I think there are things going on here that I’m not yet attuned to, so hell yes, I’m going to put it on again. It could be a great record for painting abstract paintings, or writing, abstract or not, or even cooking a decidedly not abstract dinner, which is what I’m going to do right now.

26
Jan
19

Chicago “Chicago”

I bought a late-Seventies Chicago record when I was in high school and was so-so about it, then later I just didn’t like them at all, so it was a surprise to me when, a few years ago, I found myself compulsively listening to some of their early stuff, especially the hits. I bought this 1970 record, titled “Chicago” (but also referred to as Chicago II, I guess, because it’s their second LP) from a $4 bin—mostly fascinated because the cover was thin cellophane over what looks like a badly photocopied cover, and the label is this really exotic, old, Asian looking, beautiful silver printing on red, called “First.” What was it? I looked it up when I got home, and it turns out it’s from Taiwan, maybe legit, maybe a bootleg, who knows. I thought it might be unlistenable, but for $4, I was just curious. It turns out that it’s not only listenable, but a great record with great sound. I don’t know if it’s my imagination or not (and my stereo system is an ongoing adventure in inconsistency), but weirdly it sounds better than any other record—just really lush and warm. How much that has to do with the pressing, and how much is just the recording, playing, songs—I have no idea. One thing about the band, Chicago, that I really like, is how uncomplicated their early recordings are, while being tremendously complex—you know, in song structure and arrangements—but just all really organic sounding.

I finally got curious and consulted the internet about these Taiwanese pressings, and sure enough, people talk about the sound quality being really good. I didn’t want to go down that particular rabbit-hole though—you’ve got to protect yourself, you know, from the old rabbit-holes—but I did note that someone talked about the weird cellophane covered album covers that are just like covers printed on the back of other things and then wrapped in this plastic. Then, looking closely at the cover of this Chicago record, I could see this faint writing coming through, and it said: “Shaft’s Big Score!” So then I had to cut the plastic away to see what was going on, and it turns out the Chicago cover is printed on very thin paper, and the inner structure of the album cover is made up of a Taiwanese printed “Shaft’s Big Score!” LP, and a divider (it’s a double record) in the middle is the cover of “Blood, Sweat & Tears 3.” Just really bizarre. Anyway, not ever having heard this record, except for some of the hit songs, I just kind of thought maybe the whole thing was some kind of random bootleg collection, but as it turns out, it’s just their second record, and it is kind of bizarre, just all over the place, but really great from beginning to end. They sure were pretty ambitious for a new band. I guess their first few records were double records, like they just didn’t realize that most sane bands primarily put out single records. At first they were called Chicago Transit Authority, but wisely chose to shorten the name (seeing how it’s even more syllables than ELO, and probably could foresee a career of rock journalists’ cleverness: “elevated” or “missed the bus”) to Chicago, and adopted that dumb script logo that looks like the sign for a deli, or something printed on a fat guy’s softball uniform.

I don’t want to go down a Chicago rabbit-hole, either—well, I just did—looking over their discography, and history, about which I know nothing. I rarely consult other music writers (I read lots of music writers, but I mean, specifically, when writing a review), but I was compelled to check Robert Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” which is a great website, with no bullshit popping up, with an index, and searchable, tons of concise and insightful music writing (plus, he had the honor of getting a taste of his own medicine from Lou Reed, on that “Take No Prisoners” live record). Let’s see… Chicago… Christgau is… not a fan. To say the least. But I guess I am, now. Maybe I’ll pick up some more of the early records (I have a copy the their first “greatest hits” LP). Then, of course, I started reading about the tragic death of Terry Kath, and tried to remember what I thought about it at the time—1978. We didn’t have the internet, of course, and so we had to wait for any news to be on the radio or TV or in the papers, and then to really find out anything, next month’s Rolling Stone. I guess by that point I thought of the band as an insipid AM radio hits band, but still, it was pretty sad and senseless and depressing. Then later the same year, my hero Keith Moon died, and that really hit me hard. While I was legitimately sad, I remembered thinking that the intense public mourning for Elvis (the previous year) was kind of ridiculous (though it’s easy to forget that he was only 42). But Terry Kath and Keith Moon were barely into their early thirties. I don’t really believe that “only the good die young” thing (maybe it’s more that they haven’t had the time yet to become wretched), but considering another prominent 1946 birth… well, forget that (I try to avoid presidential politics on this site, but it is notable when someone goes from being merely a huge, reeking, cultural turd to a literal giant magnet for hate, racism, intolerance, and fascism).

A couple of years ago, when David Bowie died, and then a few months later, Prince died, I did feel pretty emotional, sad and devastated—again wondering if that made sense, not knowing them personally. But now, because of social media, you are very much aware of this as a shared experience. It is not at all unusual for people to mourn the loss of artists, public figures, who enrich their lives. Thinking about it now, when Terry Kath died, I was still in high school, living with my parents, and my shared experience about this kind of thing was primarily with them. And in those years, from the time of my birth, to the point at which I first moved away from home (which coincided, by chance, with Keith Moon’s death) my experiencing and dealing with the death of family members, friends, and public figures was a pretty intimate experience with my parents, and I feel like I was closer with them, on a communication level, than probably the average kid. So I’m thinking about that now… started out to write about this Chicago record… talk about your rabbit-hole…

14
Dec
18

Lesley Gore “California Nights”

A pretty listenable all the way through Sixties pop record—I really don’t know much of Lesley Gore’s music (besides that “It’s My Party” song, of course) as household name as she is. I’m a little too young for her earliest records, at least when they came out. I don’t think I realized this until later, but I was at first a fan of her because of a couple appearances on the Batman TV show, in the Sixties, which I never missed—I was really into that show, to the extent that every version of Batman since has only offended me. Seeing the Batman episodes many years later I realized that her character, Pussycat, was maybe the first girl I had crush on. I mean, who can remember, really, but I do remember being pretty infatuated. She did a couple of songs on the show, even, that are on this record. Pussycat is criminally employed in some way by Catwoman, and I don’t think when I was that young I was even able to fully process Julie Newmar’s over-the-top sexuality—actually, I still don’t know if I’m able to. Also, somehow I remember that my brother and I had these costumes that Catwoman’s male henchmen wore, which I think I thought were really cool, on one hand, but I was also kind of creeped out by how emasculated the guys seemed—even though I didn’t really know what that meant. There was a lot of pretty deep psyche-altering stuff in these shows, which of course I didn’t get at all, on the surface (I mean, I didn’t even get that it was funny). A couple characters in particular—Frank Gorshin’s version of the Riddler, and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman—they both raised the bar for this kind of, part-comic, part hypersexualized physical performance that I don’t think has been matched— or ever will be—even though a lot of fine actors have given it the old college try.

I guess I got sidetracked there. Anyway, I had to put the record on again, getting carried away with memories like I was. This is one of those thrift-store records I expected to put on once and see if it disturbed any stones along memory lane—I guess I wasn’t counting on it causing a kind of Batman flashback. Anyway, nothing on here is consciously recognizable, but the big surprise is I really like all of it. She was choosing some fine songs at this point, many by Bob Crewe (a producer on this record, along with Quincy Jones). One of my favorites, “Maybe Now” is credited to L. Gore and M. Gore—I’m guessing that’s her, and who else? Martin Gore, from Depeche Mode? Probably not—he would have been, like six. Okay, the internet tells me it’s Michael Gore, a successful composer, and Lesley’s little brother! Anyway, this record keeps getting better as it goes along—it’s one of those. “The Bubble Broke” is a particular standout. The picture on the cover is nice, too, though odd, but I’m not going to try to describe it or I’ll be here all night.




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