Archive for the 'Randy' Category

04
Oct
19

The George Shearing Quintet “Burnished Brass”

My parents had this 1958 record and played it a lot, along with other George Shearing—but there may be no other music that sounds like my childhood than this particular record—George Shearing Quintet “with Brass Choir”—songs arranged by Billy May. I’ll always get a weird feeling from this particular, singular, George Shearing sound—a combination of nostalgia, comfort, and a little bit of sadness and even some queasiness. I mean it’s so present from my childhood, he almost seems like a distant uncle or something. Yet I know nothing about him, except that he was blind from birth and put out an insane amount of records. Once in awhile I’ll read something, then forget it—like I forget that he was English, born in London, and came to the US after the war. I’ve tried to figure out what that “Shearing Sound” is all about—it has something to do with how what he’s playing on the piano works with the vibes and guitar—but I don’t really understand it—it’s over my head—maybe some patient music person can explain it to me someday.

George Shearing was popular enough, sold enough records, that you can find beat-up copies for nothing, and I’ll pick them up when I see them, like this one. I’ve hardly ever paid any attention to the front cover, which is a woman in a sparkly red dress lying on some golden satin sheets—she’s looking up seductively while exposing the full length of one of her long legs. On the bed with her is a trumpet, a trombone, and a French horn. I wonder if this record was subliminally responsible for me attempting the cornet as my first instrument—though I totally failed to get anywhere with it. I should have taken up the French horn—is there a cooler instrument out there, when you really think about it? I loved the picture of Shearing on the back cover so much I put it on the cover of one of my zines (an early issue of The Sweet Ride, from the Eighties). I never thought too much about the individual songs on this record—they all just kind of melt into each other with ultimate smoothness—but this is probably the first place I heard the standard, “Memories of You”—and I’ve always really loved that song. The rest of the songs, except for “Cheek to Cheek,” I couldn’t name, off-hand, but they are all so familiar, it’s like they’re DNA—the song “Burnished Brass,” for instance, with this smooth horn part that drops in and out with the piano—it could be the main theme for the documentary on my life. Yet, listening now, I feel like I might have gotten annoyed by this record, then dismissed it entirely. Now, it almost holographically recreates the space I grew up in so vividly that it’s somewhat overwhelming.

17
Aug
19

The Addrisi Brothers “We’ve Got To Get It On Again”

This Addrisi Brothers LP interested me because I had no idea who were The Addrisi Brothers—interesting because I should have known immediately, because I’m literally obsessed with the song “Never My Love”—which they wrote, though The Association had the big hit with it. I must have looked up who wrote this song, within the last couple of years, at least, but the Addrisi name didn’t stick. It will now. Do you know that “Never My Love” (by some BMI reckoning) is the second most played song on American radio and television of the Twentieth Century? That’s particularly interesting to me because I actually love the song, and I’ve looked up and listened to countless cover versions of it. I’ll save you, if you’re reading this, from looking up what’s number one, because you’ve got to know—it’s not surprisingly a Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil composition, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”—of course Phil Spector shoehorned his way in there as co-writer as well (perhaps at gunpoint?). How is Phil Spector doing, anyway?—at least according to Wikipedia? Oh, he’s eligible for parole in about six years, and you can bet if he gets out (one would hope not playing with guns would be a condition of parole) that hungry young bands will still line up to work with that nut job. I guess, in one sense, I can’t blame anyone for wanting something to rub off from the co-writer of the greatest song in rock’n’roll history (“Be My Baby”), but also, sadly, we’re now in an era where history is forgotten as fast as it happens—well, maybe faster—maybe we’ve crossed the event horizon of memory.

I’m fascinated with siblings (my novel, The Doughnuts (20??) has not one but three sets of brothers) and unlike many popular acts called “Brothers” or “Family” they are actually brothers—they are Don and Dick Addrisi, born around the same time as my mom—and at press time Dick is still with us, though Don sadly died very young, in 1984. The internet claims that as youngsters they were part of the family’s acrobatic group, The Flying Addrisis—and while that’s exactly the kind of bio I would write for myself in an inspired moment (and still may)—who knows, it might be true. The closeup photo of the two on the front and the wide shot on back are obviously from the same session, outside, in front of searing blue sky. If you stop and look at the back cover photo, you’ve got to wonder where in the hell are they? It looks like it could be a desert anywhere in the world, or a seashore (but who takes a photo with their back to the water?) or maybe a vast, recently bulldozed and graded lot waiting for the construction of a new mall. I’m not sure which one is Don and which is Dick—they are roughly the same height and build—one has hands awkwardly folded, while the other is doing that hands partially thrust into tight pockets thing where one finger is either inadvertently or intentionally pointing to his Johnson. In the closeup, the family resemblance is unmistakable, yet they look totally different—which is something fascinating about siblings. They are both handsome, and it could be an interesting party question—which one would you make out with? They are both wearing brown leather jackets, though one is shiny and one is suede. And most significantly, they are both wearing these GREAT matching yellow turtlenecks that look pretty similar to the one Frank Sinatra wears in Tony Rome (1967).

I admit, on first listening, this record did nothing for me, at least until the last song, “Never My Love,” and my realization that I’m in the presence of greatness. That made me want to listen to the whole thing over again, with that perspective. I realize how unfair that is—it’s reminds me the scene in Christmas in July (1940) where, because they think he’s won the slogan contest, some top ranking executives listen to Jimmy’s ad ideas, but as soon as they realize it was a mistake, they dismiss him as a schmoe. This is an old story, and it’s obviously unjust, but it’s the way the world works. To their credit, they don’t put a spoken word intro on “Never My Love” or anything—they do throw a lot of weight into it, with strings and horns, and there’s lot going on with those voices, but they don’t go totally Wisconsin cheeseball, and they keep it reverent and bring it in at a modest 3:26. The first song on the LP (never judge an album by its first song!) however, is a bit of a bummer, as hopeful as the lyrics are—it’s about as convincing as a salad bar. Fortunately, every other song are what the brothers and pretty much every other popular songwriter in the popular era do best—love songs.

There’s a good reason that we attribute love to an internal organ most of us won’t ever have to see firsthand, but stylize with an easily rendered symbol. I don’t know what that reason is, but I’m convinced that if we replaced the heart with say, three wavy lines, civilization would implode—or at least social media would. Most of these songs (including the golden egg) are addressed to the immortal “you”—though the title song addresses “Hey Girl”—it’s one of those about needing to rekindle the flames by any means necessary (though it stops short of any specific suggestions, like animal costumes). A couple songs refer to “She”—including “Twogether”—which is an inspired title, why didn’t I think of that? (Though, if it hasn’t already been attempted, I’m totally going to steal that and write a song called “Threegether.”) This is not an original or brilliant observation, but concrete language and painful specifics are often what makes a pop song pop. That’s why I’m always a little torn about songs that come just short of rhyming the Social Security Number (“Angie,” “Rosanna,” “867-5309”) because stalkers are out there. Also, rarely do they address men—can I think of any?—“Dan” (can’t even remember what song that is), “Lola” I guess. Randy, but only when Randy is a woman. Anyway, this song called “Windy Wakefield” cracked me up, because there’s obviously no one with that name—or is there? Maybe there’s a story there (I’ve never, ever met anyone named Windy, have you?)—but I’ll have to look into that later. For now, it also amused me that, you remember, The Association had a hit with “Windy” (I had a 45 of that one)—and that was in 1967. The word “stormy” is not in the lyrics of this one, but when your name is Windy, weather imagery is never far behind. But actually, this is quite a beautiful song, and—though I’m not going into details, listen to it!—quite weird.

31
Jul
19

Neko Case “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”

That’s the kind of title, I admit, that I wish I had thought of, for anything, I suppose, but really, it’s best for a pop album, or maybe a novel. Could be a song or a short story, I guess. Maybe a song on this record? We’ll find out. It’s a sentiment easily understood on first hearing it, but when you think about it a little further you realize that “you” and “things” are inextricably linked. And who is “you?”—could it be, in this case me? I may be wrong about this, but I think I follow Neko Case on Twitter, and I might of replied to something she tweeted, and she may have replied to my reply. So in my mind, that means we’re like this far from dating. Oh, boy. Someone come up with a better term than “social media”—please! The only thing that saves me, in this case, is that I’m not sure. I maybe fabricated that whole exchange. She’s got a great singing voice—certainly one that inspires ones heart to stop, or whatever that metaphorical heart does when confronted with beauty and clarity. The songs are catchy, compelling, and I can understand the lyrics (no lyric sheet) even if I can’t understand what they’re about. I mean, maybe I could, if I really worked at it, but I’m short on time and wine and cool dry air. I will vow to come back to this record, by and by (make a note). I don’t know if I can afford to buy it, as it looks like it was quite a production—the extra thick cover has imagery that is both flat back and glossy black. Also, color, including someone I would naturally presume is Neko Case, with a cartoon sword and no pants. There is also a lot of art, and some temporary tattoos, and an extra record that has a few songs on one side and some etched art on the other! (It won’t play music, the art won’t, so don’t even try.) The first “bonus” song is one I recognize—it’s “Madonna of the Wasps” by Robyn Hitchcock—a good song, and this is a nice version. Overall the record is solid and pleasant and thought-provoking—but that doesn’t sound like love to me. It’s hard to put my finger or, I just feel like once removed from the entire enterprise, like I’m a ghost trying to hear with ghost ears. I need more, I guess, when it comes down to it… but I’ll keep trying.

20
Jul
19

Eagles “One of These Nights”

There are worse album covers, though right now I can’t think of one. I mean, it’s okay, like if you bought an 8×10 framed version of that image at Wall Drug for $2.99, to put in the sleeping cabin of your truck, or a rec-room back home, nothing could be more appropriate. Who would name their band “The Eagles” or “Eagles” anyway? I mean, if you’re like ten years old, and/or it’s your first band, that would be cool. My first band was called The Chinese Electrical Band, and we made what could have been some hit music, but we just couldn’t get past that name, mostly because half of the potential fans thought we were communists, and half thought we were racist, and half thought we were Chinese, and half thought we were goofballs. Do the math. The song, “One of These Nights,” when not in conjunction with some heinous commercial or movie (I don’t actually know if it is; I don’t want to know) actually sounds pretty good. The song, “Take It to the Limit,” however, I hate with a passion, and I’m never going to come around to that one, even though I think it was sung by Randy Meisner, and I like him if for no other reason than he’s named Randy, and I’m somewhat partial to that name. This is a fairly early version of the Eagles, from 1975, when Bernie Leadon, who I like, was in the band. But this was the last album for him, I guess. Then Joe Walsh joined, and I like him, too. I guess on paper, I should really like the Eagles. But this is vinyl, of course, not paper, and some of the sound this particular vinyl makes rubs me the wrong way. I kind of had a theory that I like their more country tinged stuff, and don’t like their more metal tinged stuff, but there are exceptions. So many exceptions, in fact, that I realize that was a dumb thing to even say. I’d just delete that whole thought, but I get paid by the word for writing this crap. Somewhere I seem to remember the Eagles are considered “soft rock”—but that can’t really be a thing, can it? Maybe it was back when they kept trying to categorize different types of rock music with different dumb names. I hope to God that trend is long over. Oh, then there is this “I Wish You Peace” song on the end of the record, which is really pretty nice, a lovely song. Way to put the best song last, Eagles, and make me feel like an asshole for my negative review. But anyway, it really is nice to go out on a positive note, so there you have it.

26
Feb
19

Randy Newman “Sail Away”

I first heard Randy Newman’s song “Sail Away” on a Warner Special Products box set LP called Superstars of the 70’s that came out in 1973 and was sold on TV. I heard a lot of music for the first time via that thing, but they placed “Sail Away” directly after Seals & Crofts “Summer Breeze” and The Beach Boys “Surf’s Up” so I kind of dismissed it as “Yacht Rock” (which wasn’t invented, or at least named, yet) and didn’t bother to listen closely enough to the lyrics to realize it wasn’t about… “sailing.” I’m sure I understood irony at the time, but at 12 and 13 I was (like a lot of kids) kind of a raging maniac, and it wasn’t until my first year in high school—when my English teacher Mr. Kimble used a lot of popular songs in his class—that I started to listen to song lyrics a little differently. It’s interesting how kids kind of mature at different rates—I mean it’s both different for each individual and each person has different parts of them maturing—so it’s all out of whack. I think this is fascinating, and can also be scary. Pretty much everyone is born into the pain of a raging narcissist, and you can even keep that childhood part of you vital—I think it’s really built into what’s necessary for “success”—and it’s possible to find a mate who supports it. It might even really not be a problem until you become a parent, or a boss, or the President. Other people keep other child parts vital, which can both make you happy, and suffer (often both simultaneously). I pretty much go by feelings more than intellect, to a fault, and my music listening often reflects that. Like, on that Warner collection, “Tumbling Dice” was my favorite song, and still holds me under its spell, and I still have no idea what Mick Jagger or the backup singers are singing. What’s it about? Tumbling dice, I guess, but also an unspeakable desire.

Anyway, this record is great, I love it from beginning to end. I feel like these songs will work on your computer, or MP3 player, at home, or while walking, but it’s nice the album has the lyrics inside—I think it’s one where you can eventually get more out of reading along at some point. I don’t know about you, but I never like to read lyrics when I first hear a song—I’d rather really get to know a song before I ever go to the lyrics. But it does have some value, I think, reading lyrics, to appreciate songs on different levels. You can find this one in a thrift store, too, but you might overlook it because it has one of the murkiest album covers you’ll ever see, of Randy Newman looking a lot like Ian Hunter—and it’s one of those that annoyingly folds out sideways—so no one ever knows how to put it on a shelf or in a bin. Opened up, it’s like a super closeup photo of him sitting at a piano wearing sunglasses and corduroy jacket in extremely low light, as if the photo was taken surreptitiously with a telephoto lens through door opened only a few inches without his knowledge. In the act, no doubt, of writing a song. Or maybe thinking about writing a song, which, I guess, is the same thing.

This is a record I’m still only scratching the surface of, and it could easily accompany me to my grave (I mean in a good way). A few years back I discovered the Randy Newman song “Wedding in Cherokee County” (from a different LP) and it became my favorite song for about a year, and an example of what songwriting can, could, should (and maybe never, for me, would) be. The twelve songs on this album are sitting there like the complete works of some (pick your favorite) writer, heavy on the shelf, but nothing but wallpaper until you tackle them with all the parts of you working as best as you can aspire to (at this point). What’s kind of amazing is 1972 is getting near half a century ago, and this music feels contemporary (at least to me). Also, several of these songs are under two minutes long and only one is barely over three and a half. The richness can’t be taken in all at once—I mean it can, it’s enjoyable—but to really get at it. I’ve got to go in for just a little bit, and then come back for more later. The title song is a complete experience, it’s just so beautiful on the surface and so angry and caustic just underneath. Randy Newman is an LA guy, but spent a lot of time in the South, has a kind of accent, writes a lot about the South, but it’s interesting there are a couple of songs on this record referencing Ohio. For one thing, he probably understands that southern Ohio is the South, and maybe he even knows, like I do, that so is all of Ohio. His song “Burn On” sounds like it’s in the tradition of southern river songs, but it’s about the Cuyahoga River which famously caught on fire in Cleveland (even much younger people might know about that). It kind of caught people’s attention about pollution, at the time, and provided fuel for those annoying environmentalists. Of course, now we’ve got a genius in the White House, who, if the river was to catch on fire again, would tweet that the river didn’t catch on fire, it was FAKE NEWS, and his supporters would believe him—shit, dude’s got it figured out.

08
Feb
19

Thelonious Monk “Pure Monk: Thelonious Monk Piano Solos”

This record is some sort of a cheapo re-issue, I think, on the Trip record label. I’m guessing all eight of these songs were on other records, and they’re all solo piano. I think this record came out about 1974. Thelonious Monk released a lot of records and was immensely well-known and popular (while there are people who just can’t stand him at all). Ever since I first heard some of his recordings, in 1981, I’ve been fascinated with him, because I didn’t know there was any music that sounded like that. I feel like I’ve written about him a lot, and so I’m just repeating myself, so I’m not going to write much here. I guess there are times when I don’t feel like listening to his music, just because it’s my favorite—it’s like, if you have a favorite food, do you eat it every meal? But most of the time when I hear a recording of him playing, whether with a band or solo, I just stop what I’m doing and listen. There’s something there, connected right to my brain—I mean, it’s almost like without the microphones and magnetic audio tape and records and speakers or even my ears. It’s too bad you don’t find his records in cheap stores all that often—I guess they go for a lot of money. This one is probably not very desirable among collectors, and as an object it’s pretty lackluster—it’s just an uninspiring presentation. It almost seems like it could have come out yesterday, so it’s kind of weird that it came out like 45 years ago. I’m talking about the cover—the record itself sounds fine. The music, of course, is great—look, I don’t have a favorite food—or book, or writer, or movie, or artist, or a favorite anything. Except for Thelonious Monk’s music—all of it—that’s my favorite music.

07
Feb
19

Easy Williams “Easy Does It”

I never heard of “Easy Williams” but I saw this record in a thrift store and no way I was not going to buy it, based on the cover alone, which is a highly arranged portrait, set up in a studio, I guess (there’s no background). A woman (we’ll presume Easy Williams) is stretched out on her stomach on couch pillows, and just behind her, a young boy wearing what looks like a jockey uniform is fanning her with a huge fan made out of some kind of giant bird feathers. The whole setup is a reference to something, I guess, but I don’t know it, so I’m not getting it, I suppose. It’s possible it could all be highly offensive. But at face value, it’s just plain weird. And on the other hand, not really weird at all. She’s taking it easy, and a servant of some kind is fanning her. My favorite thing, though, are all the details in the set-up. The cushions she’s lying on are yellow, red, and blue—cleverly, the same colors as the letters on the “Dot” record label (one of my favorite labels)—though the blue might be green—but there is a blue one, too—these random, brightly colored cushions. She’s dressed casually, jeans, no shoes, though her jewelry might weigh several pounds. She’s sipping some champagne and looking off somewhere to the left. Theres’s also a bowl of fruit, and a lit cigarette in a long, long holder, resting across an opened box of chocolates. The red pillow is actually more of a queasy orange (unless the cover is faded) which matches pretty much the shimmering, satiny pants of the boy with the fan. Now that I look more closely, maybe it isn’t a boy after all, but perhaps a “little person”—possibly of some difficult to determine ethnicity. Maybe it is offensive, after all, but I’m sure it’s all in good fun. Though we’ve heard that before.

The record sounds a lot like you’d expect from the cover—12 vocal numbers with minimal jazz arrangements, some with guitar and vibes and flute. I know some of the songs, like the first one, “Easy Street,” which sounds like Julie London’s version, but even more sultry. “Mean To Me” is another of my favorites. “Easy Come, Easy Go” is also a killer, here, as well as “A Woman Needs So Little.” They’re all good—I prefer the slowest and the quietest ones. Her voice is great—they didn’t really need to drown you in reverb, but I guess that’s part of the “Easy Does It” feeling they’re going for. Looking quickly on the internet I don’t see anything about Easy Williams, so I’ll have to go with what’s here. The brief liner notes mention that it’s her debut. Where she went from here, I have no idea. It occurs to me that maybe there is no “Easy Williams”—I mean, there’s a fine singer here, singing, but not credited, and of another name. After all, would a woman in 1957 call herself “Easy” Williams? It’d be like, if you were a guy, going by something like “Martin Everhard.” Maybe this is one of those records made to exploit the young people with hi-fi lifestyles, like those mood music, “Music for…” records—(you know, “Music for Dining,” “Music for Cleaning,” etc.) I could see this going on the turntable at make-out time—just maybe keep that album cover hidden! Still, I want to believe there’s an Easy Williams out there somewhere—maybe someone will let me know.




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