Posts Tagged ‘lounge band

02
Apr
21

Lee Porter “Jesus Christ… Lee Porter Made An Album”

This album is a grand mystery, and I’m not willing to spend as much time, at this point, going as deep into the internet as it would require to find out more. Maybe on a rainy day I’ll look further. It came up, to review, using my random system, on Good Friday—nice, so I’m doing my best. The cover is a big fake-out—it looks like classic thrift-store religious art—a handsome, blue-eyed, bearded man—no doubt Jesus—sitting on a rock, overlooking a seashore. And the album title in script letters. On back is a severe looking, we’ll presume, Lee Porter, sitting in a big, wicker chair. I was trying to think of the name of these chairs, and “peacock chair” came to mind, so I was looking that up, and at that moment—I was watching Klute (1971) on TV—and a woman in the movie (not Jane Fonda) was sitting in the exact same chair! I don’t make this stuff up.

Back to the music—the voice on the record matches her look—she sounds like a whiskey-voiced lounge singer—I mean that in the best way. I really like her singing. Yesterday I was not a Lee Porter fan. Today I am. Though if she knocks on my door right now, an elderly resident of this haunted hotel I make my home, I might need a drink. Twelve pop songs with a piano, drums, bass, etc. combo. I’m not going to list the tracks—you’ll know most, or all, of them. There’s no date on the record—I’m guessing the second half the Sixties, but I might be off. No other info, except that it was recorded at Dave Kennedy Recording Studios, Universal Building, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the musicians are: Dave Kennedy, Bob Couey, Bill Otten, Gary Miller, and Merv Pyles. No record company. No other info. Maybe someone will read this and fill me in.

The first song, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” is presented as a live recording, with an MC introducing it, but I suspect it’s another fake-out, because the sound quality sounds exactly the same as the rest of the record, and very little other audience noise is in evidence—though it’s possible the first side is live and the second is studio—as it’s a bit more subdued. At any rate, it’s quite bawdy, so people who bought this expecting Christian music might have put it right on the devil-rock bonfire. The last song on the record is a perfect, slightly tipsy, lounge-band version of “Misty,” which makes me want to go out and find Lee Porter and this band, like tonight—at the classic cocktail lounge, somewhere like Bryant’s or At Random, and just sit there with a Lucky Strike and a Manhattan and maybe hope for a word with Lee during her break—maybe I can ask her to do an interview for this very website. “What the hell is a website?”she asks, wondering if I’m some kind of goddamn spider-man. I hope when I get back in the time machine I won’t take the blood-alcohol level with me, because it was rough giving that stuff up. Or maybe I’ll just stay back there, whenever that was.

23
Aug
19

Dave Major & the Minors “Second Record Album”

I did not expect much from this one, just based on the cover—which consists of the band name printed repeatedly in a sports-bar font with bright colors—so bright, in fact, that I would have guessed it was a few years old—but it’s 1972! On a tiny local label, and recorded in Milwaukee. Inside the sleeve there’s also a couple of color glossy band promo photos with the management company on the bottom—one fairly close-up, the other a wide shot of the band surrounded by a music-store-worth of musical instruments. They are wearing dried-blood-red, wide lapel blazers, and matching ties big enough to use as curtains. It’s so perfect that I also assumed this was contemporary—and also ironic—but no, it’s the real thing. Before even putting the record on I looked them up on the internet and the first thing I find is this story about how, later—not sure when—band leader Dave Perry broke into the house of an ex, shot her husband and his mother, and then tried to shoot it out with the police and was killed. That just depressed me so much I didn’t even want to put the record on. And then I noticed one of the photos is signed by Dave Perry, which frankly kind of creeps me out. I don’t find homicide the least bit interesting (or whatever even more fucked up qualities people attribute to heinous acts—entertaining?)—and it really makes it hard to write about this record. These were real people, with their lives ended stupidly, and there were kids involved, and a tragedy like this partly shapes your life, whether you want it to or not.

But still, I had to listen to it—I figured maybe once, and then to the thrift store—but it turns out the record is so fascinating, I’m kind of instantly obsessed with it. So I’m going to try to pretend I never heard about these tragic events. After all, I only saw this story one place online—maybe it’s one of those obscure urban legends made up by some neo-dadaist smart-ass like that one about Morrissey drinking Rolling Rock with kids in Ohio. Still, though, it’s probably going to color my experience—but it really is an interesting record. First of all, it’s kind of schizo and all over the place—a good example is in a two minute version of “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” which is pretty hot while also being corny, and listenable, except for the Uncle Remus impression at the end. This is a lounge act, after all, and on some songs they sound like it, just in the cheesiness of the approach and the absolute erect jauntiness. But on the other hand, the playing is all not only tight and accomplished, but also really pretty inspired. If you were going out to see this band at some supper club, consider yourself not only lucky but also probably spoiled for all time. This is the kind of band that musicians like, I think—you’d have to, unless you were just jealous. But also, the casual fan, or Saturday nite dancer, or Friday fish fry eater—everyone’s going to like this band. From what I read, and a few online videos, the band put on a great show—they’d have 40 or 50 instruments on the stage with them, then keep switching off instruments—right in the middle of songs, even—with well-rehearsed choreography and highly entertaining and sometimes humorous showmanship.

There’s a big block of liner notes on back that, if you just read, you’d probably say, holy shit, and then dismiss it as someone’s manic attempt at a band description parody. I mean, it just goes on and on about the band members and all the instruments they each play. As impressive as this bit of writing is, it’s even more impressive when you believe it’s all true—and then some. They can sing and they can play! “Proud Mary” almost sounds like a typical lounge band cover, but on subsequent listenings you hear more, there. Most stunning is their version of the “Theme from Fistful of Dollars”—done well enough that it could have been used in the movie. Also, there’s a cover of a favorite of mine, “Sonny”—a fine version. But most notable of all are the original numbers by Dave Perry (one’s co-written by Steve Joyce)—there are five originals interspersed with the covers—that’s half the record—and they’re all good—all reminiscent of other stuff, naturally—but good, compelling songs and performances. In fact, as you listen through the record, each of the originals is better than the previous one—they kind of oddly build on each other. I’m really loving this record by this point, and I’ve listened to it a dozen times! But then, it occurs to me—do I really like it that much, or am I being seduced by the lore of the tragedy—the very thing that initially put me off? I know that sounds contradictory, but then contradiction is the foundation of appreciation, of infatuation, of desire, of love. Can you really ever trust your feelings about anything—even a 47 year old LP by a local lounge band? Oh this world.




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