Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Week In Review: End Of May, Start Of June, BDW Record Finds

We started out strong and faded at the end.  Mother Russia gave us a nice boost of a few days of 200 plus views but now the net has been turned off over there and we'll back to the familiar 50 to 75 views a day.  Mostly old stuff that carried this month-the three year old Old 97's Hanging With The Band Blog, I added the Bettie Page Record Player photo once again after it disappeared three times.  It should hang around a while longer.  The Mother Russia Blog wins the number one spot with 41 views, the other three came from this month.  The All Time Views remains a joke.  I think the Swinging Steaks blog certainly has more than 193 all time views.   I don't think you can really rely too much on the stat checker.  Despite not many blogs written, this month turned out the be the best month of views since our record shattering 6,192 views in January, this month 3575 views;  not bad for a seldom read blog that doesn't get much promotion. I'm guess I'm doing well.

So the unofficial beginning of summer starts up with Memorial Day and nothing to really report.  A few bands played over that weekend that I caught part of.  Julie And The Mad Dogs celebrating Sharon Melville's birthday.  I hope Sharon didn't mind having an old crabb giving her a birthday hug.  And the Popcorn Jam, went on for the first time, Tim Duffy was not there and guys carried on.  Weatherwise, it's typical for this time of year, humid, lots of sun, a pop up thunderstorm once in a while, some wind damage in the corn fields but I have to say that May was a uneventful month for storms.

(Photo: Elizabeth Amanieh: KWWL)

Memorial Day where we pay tribute to those who gave some, some gave all and some paid the ultimate price for us to be free but a bunch of fucktards spraypainted the Freedom Rock in Cedar Falls over the weekend, of course everybody got mad about that.   I'm not the flag waving patriot that some like Charlie Daniels stressed to be but when you get douchecanoes who vandalize things such as the Freedom Rock and a few other things, you really want to go Islam on them and cut their fucking hands off, or paint-spray their eyes.  The things we can do without in life: Taggers and Vandals.  A bit of good news: the black paint has been taken off the Freedom Rock and with a bit of touch up paint will be good as new. 

June promises to have some sort of bargain hunting finds as I'm still working on details of doing a major city bargain hunting tour.   The top of month also brings the latest BDW singles as well.   For new music, it'd be nice if Best Buy had the new Monkees album in for review but once again they failed to deliver.  But they did the the new Rap album from whoever available, and continue to shrink their CD selection.

You may have not noticed but the Big Ten Baseball Tournament happened and the Iowa Hawkeyes were on the verge of doing something they've never done, win the title and go into the NCAAs.  They still haven't.  Ohio State came from  a 4-0 deficit and won 8-7.  Alas, the starting pitcher could only last three innings due to a sore shoulder and the reliever promptly gave up the lead, with the BIG TEN announcers, very pro Buckeyes ooh and ahh on every hitter on that team.  Iowa didn't do much in the regular season but got hot winning all the way up to the final game, but ran out of steam.  For their effort, they get to take the rest of the summer off.

Thursday (the 2nd was Marion High School's class of 1979's 37 year reunion.  A very low turnout due to it being on a weeknight but a few of the regulars did show up, Russ Swearingen and Doug Spinler plus the rare appearance of Dave Plond.  I had other plans and was on the wrong side of the state to attend. But it was a good time who showed up. 

Gordon Downie, Tragically Hip's lead singer announced that he is terminally ill with brain cancer, so the band will continue with one more album and a farewell trip.  While most in the states don't know they were still around, they have been going strong in Canada for 35 plus years, although the last album I heard from them Phantom Power was awful.  Their last good album was Fully Completely back in 1993 with the catchy hit single Courage.  MCA declined on Day For Night so Atlantic issued it.   Since then, they have been around on various labels, with so so results.

RIP Dave Swarbrick, best known for his fiddle work with Fairport Convention died Thursday at age 75 from emphysema.

Wounded Bird, the reissue label has quietly been putting out reissues of Rhino Handmade product, but they did put out a 2 CD set of Iron Butterfly Fillmore East 1968 which is a collection of different performances at different times.  If you want four versions of Iron Butterfly Theme, three versions of Are You Happy and four version of So Lo, to go with In A Gadda Da Vada's two fifteen minute versions, this is your baby.  Otherwise, To Bonnie From Delaney, the 1971 classic album from Delaney And Bonnie makes it's first US debut.  That is the one to get for your collection.  You'll thank me later.

It is a slow news week and I have been listening to albums but really don't feel like posting reviews of albums I already reviewed, so I am doing something different.  Samantha Fish is out and about on her 2016 trek through the country and she's back in Davenport on the 16th, with Wooden Nickel Lottery opened up for them at The Redstone Room.   She remains one of the best guitar player out there so catch her if you can.

So far, the new Blake Shelton LP has given Farce The Music some ammo in the Blake Vs Miranda situation, which Miranda doesn't care heads or tails about her former hubby, who's now with Gwen Stefini. But it is worth a laugh or two, despite a bit of photoshopping....or is it?

 (Photo: Steve Truesdell/RFT)

The Social House in University City in Missouri opened up this weekend.  I may have to do a road trip to see this place.  They showing their love to the city council who didn't think much of their body painting topless place.

Record Reviews:

The Monkees-Good Times! (Rhino 2016)

Fifty years ago, the first episode of The Monkees TV show was shown and life would not be the same again, if you were into them.  Perhaps the first manufactured band, The Monkees benefited from great song writers like Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce And Bobby Hart and let's not forget Carole King and Gerry Goffin.  They were also blessed by the country style of Mike Nesmith who later would have a up and down solo career.  They were on top of the music world in 1966 and 1967 but their creative downfall started when they demanded to do their own songs.  Headquarters was uneven but the next album (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. was a classic.  While opinions varied on anything after that (I found Head to be slightly overrated, Changes overlooked) rock really has never embraced The Monkees all that much.  Once in a while they would get back together, sometimes Dolenz and Davy Jones would continue, in 1976 picking up Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart for a meddling album for Capitol, and then on the 20th Anniversary, Peter Tork rejoined them for a surprise hit single of That Was Then This Is Now, and then the trio (without Nesmith) made the poor Pool It!  10 years later, came Justus, an answer record to Headquarters, slightly better but reviews were mixed.  2 decades later, things turn full circle on perhaps their final album Good Times, which takes us back to the S/T album.  The major difference is Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne) producing this album and fans of the band writing some damn good music, even XTC Andy Partridge came up with You Bring The Summer and Rivers Cuomo gave them She Makes Me Smile. Even Mike Viola (the guy that sang the lead to That Thing You Do) helps out as well as members of Fountains Of Wayne and even some old demos produced by Jeff Barry got retouched.  Mike Nesmith adds a bit of irony and hippie dippy on Ben Gibbart's Me And Magdalena and Birth Of An Accidental Hipster, written by the modern day Boyce/Hart  Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher.  I guess for me, my favorite song is the late Davy Jones singing from the grave on Love To Love and this song connects the present with the past.  The passing of Davy Jones really did hurt them, although had he lived, there'd be more ballads but Love To Love and to an lesser extent  Good Times (with old dead rocker Harry Nilsson resurrected on tape to add backing vocals) is really what The Monkees were all about. Fun music and fun pop rock, something that was lacking on Pool It! or Justus.  Nevertheless, the surviving Monkees are now over 70 years old and Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork's vocals do remind us, they no longer 20 years old trying to be pin up poster dolls for teenage girls.  But while time worn, Dolenz and Tork's vocals do sound they're having more fun this time out.  Which might be the last time, since Monkees reunion albums tend to come out every 2 decades.  Which means if they stick around for 2036, they'll be in their 90s.  But let's enjoy Good Times! for what it is worth, a fun trip back the 60s, when a collection of upstart musicians on a TV show trying to be like the Beatles, which is impossible to do, but they did their damnest against all odds  to make decent albums and they sometimes succeeded.  For a reunion album, the 3rd time is the charm, despite losing the cutest Monkee a few years ago, they managed to get some ear candy songs  from fans the likes of Paul Weller, Ben Gibbard, Rivers Cromo and let's not forget Schlesinger himself.   If this is the final goodbye (and history has suggested it might be their last), Good Times is a good time of an album.  Back in 1966 do you ever imagine that these manufactured Fab Four who make a great album five decades later?  Me neither.
Grade A-

Waylon Jennings-Hanging Tough (MCA 1987)

While Will The Wolf Survive was a nice comeback album after RCA dropped him, ole Waylon felled victim to the canned and cold digital recording that plagued Nashville in the late 1980s.  And like fellow outlaw Willie Nelson, Waylon took to classic rock, although Baker Street lacks that saxophone solo that made the original fun and memorable, and Chevy Van which Jennings sounds bored as hell.  This album is best known for his final number 1 song Rose In Paradise, to which country radio never plays anymore.  What saves this record from total meh, is two songs on side 2, Fathers And Son which might be the best song about Dads and Sons ever, better than Cats in The Cradle. And The Crown Prince, which has echoes of what Waylon would do on his RCA return Waymore Blues Part 2. In the end, whatever Jimmy Bowen was trying to do, Waylon wasn't into the sessions and Hanging Touch shows it.   He'd probably better to call this Hanging On, since he was doing that, but barely.
Grade B- 

Let's Hit The Road-More Truck Driving Favorites by Various Artists (Starday 1965?)

Starday remains the most hillbilly country label ever.  If you're into real hillbilly country, Starday is your best bet.  Kind of a minor collection of old hillbilly country truck driving songs from the likes of the Willis Brothers (Give Me Forty Acres), a fun remake of Bubbles In My Beer by Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan, Betty Amos's yodeling 18 Wheels, and Jimmy Dean's Bumming Around has been one a few of those old country collections.  Joe Maphis' guitar wheeling  Big Rig Guitar, shows why he was one of the best guitar pickers of the 1950s.   I was familiar with a edited I'm Leaving But Won't Be Long by The Homesteaders but this one adds a few more seconds. Even for a minor collection of truck driver's songs this is a very worthwhile find for me.  Takes me back to the days that country was hillbilly and not Bro country.  The Good old days.
Grade A-

Vince Guaraldi-Oh Good Grief! (Warner Brothers 1968)

The classic Lucy and Linus remains on Fantasy but this Peanuts tinged album came about due to the success of the Peanuts Christmas show and It's The Great Pumpkin and of course I grew up watching and listening the music.  Vince is somewhat like Dave Brubeck although Guaraldi is more straight lined jazz rather the odd timings of Dave.  Adding harpsichord and guitar slants this a bit more toward a rock sound and I think it tries too hard, it should have been more straight lined jazz without the harpsichord.  The title track sure sounds like Down At Papa Joe's, but the re-imagined versions seems more of a distraction than the stripped down versions that you can get on Fantasy.   For a curio listen, it's not bad though.
Grade B

Lukas Graham (Warner Brothers 2016)

And now your hyped album of the month or year.  Farce The Music put it in their best of 2016 and if you like this sort of Hip pop, you might consider and like  it, but I'm too old for this type of music.  Originally this record came out in 2015 under a different cover art and that cover art was NSFW so Graham retouched it for PG purposes.  I'll give him this, he's a damn good songwriter with the top forty hit 7 Years, and the songs do take time to get through to you.  I think the highlight of the record is Strip No More about a guy looking for a certain dancer that isn't at the strip club anymore (sounds familiar) and second highlight is Funeral, to which Lukas wishes that everybody gets wasted at his funeral when the time comes.  I'll drink to that.  Oh, and BTW, the banned cover art is actually tucked inside the digipack. Gets a few points for being a rebellious.
Grade B

Singles Going Steady Medley-BDW Records June Version.

West Of The Wall-Toni Fisher  (Big Top 3097)  #37  1962

Forever known for The Big Hurt, this would be her final top 40 showing in 1962.  It's one of those oddball songs, I can't figure if it's a country spoof or a pop spoof.  B side What Did I Do, is a passable torch ballad.  I guess.

My One Sin-The Four Coins  (Epic 5-9229)  #28  1957

Imagine that, the record has the song titles mixed up,  This Life the B side is typical pop group balladry, somewhat like the Four Preps were doing, or the Four Freshmen or The Four Aces or The Four Whatever.   I think my mom had this song in her original 45's collection.  Sounds more like my Aunt Sarge must have bought this Crew Cuts rip of My One Sin.  I don't think my mom could tolerate listening to this tripe.  I know one listen was enough for me. Back to the donation pile.

Merry Go Round-Helen LaCroix  (Warner Brothers 5261)  1962

Back in the 1960s, Warner Brothers didn't really have a major star outside of the Everly Brothers, and they issued some weird shit in the early 60s.  I couldn't find Dell Paul's Turkey Talk (WB 5260) and somebody did add Italian singer's Gino Paoli's Sassi (WB 5259), both records had too much dirt and mold for me to consider but I did buy LaCroix's song of Merry Go Round. This uncharting single borrows the piano riff of Autumn Leaves but seems to be more country driven.  B side Dear Teacher, is a weird number about a jealous 11 year old girl writing a note to a teacher bout this sort of puppy love.  It's pretty bad.  Nevertheless, the only WB single from LaCroix who disappeared from view after the record flopped.  (I'm not doing very well on this month's finds, NEXT)

Long Distance Love Affair-Rafe Vanhoy (Woodmont  W6464002)  1982?

Another obscure 45, so obscure that 45 Cat has nothing in the database about this song, but Sheena Easton ended up having a number 9 hit with it, renamed Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair). Vanhoy was a successful Nashville songwriter, scoring hits for Tommy Overstreet, Michael Murphy and his wife at the time Deborah Allen (Baby I Lied).  Van Hoy recorded one album for MCA in 1980, and the guess is that this came out after MCA dropped him.  B Side Summertime Gone By Blues is more soft rock than country, in the style of Parker McGee or Dan Seals or Lobo.  Pleasant but forgettable.

Call Me Up (And We'll Get Down)-Maximillion (Columbia 3-10129)  1975

They call this a soul classic but my ears tell me this is more bubblegum pop and it's really not that bad of a song.  Jimmy Wisner is the reason why this is a bubblegum pop number, he co produced with Alan Abrahams.  Outside of that, even the internet draws a blank on this band.

Fire-The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (Atlantic 2556)  #2 1968

The best 45 out of the bunch, imagine that.  Hard to find a decent copy of what is considered a true one hit wonder, although Arthur Brown has been around and still records to this day.  The lineup included Vincent Crane (later of Atomic Rooster) and Carl Palmer (Asia, ELP, 3) and if you look hard enough the old Beat Club video of Arthur is still around, as well as a Top Of The Pops taping. B Side Rest Cure was co written with Crane.  Produced by Kit Lambert and originally put out on Atlantic in the 1960s before Polydor Universal reissued it on CD in the 1990s. Followup single I Put A Spell On You was issued via Track/Atlantic (T-2582) , which failed to chart.  While Nightmare was the A side, our AM station actually played I Put A Spell On You instead. An oddball moment in radio history that nobody really cares about anyway.

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