Saturday, November 5, 2016

Week In Review: Or Life Goes On As You Can See

I really haven't been much in a creative mood here.  There has been a couple things that happen, the CMAs and most notably The Chicago Cubs winning the world series.  But I have lost interest in what has been going on in the music world.  I still continue to mine the used bins and buying a few things of note from stores up in Dubuque last weekend but the weather has been simply devine and even on the last day of Daylight Savings Time we're in the 70s and the grass is still growing and the Morning Glories are still hanging around, though the ones on the fence got eliminated from the two days of 30 degree nights in early October.  Otherwise it would be a full lot of those clinging weeds.  Seeing how fairly big the flowers have been I don't think we'll have  the final frost for at least another 10 days.

I still think Daylight Savings Time should continue.  It's not going to be fun watching the sun set at 5 PM during these dark months.  But that's the way life is I suppose. Can't always get what you want.   Life goes on.  So does death.  It comes to everybody.  This week's losses were Kay Starr (94 from Alzheimer's), one of the 1950s favorite pop stars (Rock And Roll Waltz) and Eddie Harsch from the Black Crowes and Rich Robinson's side projects (59, short illness).   Dick Clark Productions has been sold to a China company the Dallan Wanda Group.  But we all know the rock and roll revolution died many years ago, even before Dick Clark passed away.  China has all the money and offered one billion dollars. Sold to the highest bidder.  No changes are planned but if the expectations fall short, heads will roll.


Three days later, Cubs are still celebrating the end of their 108 years of Championship drought with that 8-7 victory over Cleveland.  Miss America 2009 lost a bet with her husband and called their new son Wrigley Oliver Irk.  The Chicago River turned Cubby Blue.  I continue to post Cubs pictures and my best friend stews in silence, after all his beloved Cardinals were in a transitional phase and fell short of the playoffs this season.  I know St Louis been there a few more times but still, a world series win means forever.  Even if my other FB friend Brian would love to rub it in my best friend's face, I don't relish in that.   First World Series I've known with both teams fighting it down to the last out and the best by far.

And with that, the monitor has been put back to 0.

The Native Americans are not happy with Cleveland using that mascot and were on the side of the Cubs.  While mainstream media was more concern about Chief Wahoo and goofy white folks dressed up as him during the World Series, the real Indians were trying to save their land from yet another leaky pipeline company, putting another leaky pipeline of oil through aqua filers and sacred Indian land and across rivers.  Already we have read reports of pipelines breaking or leaking or spilling oil and gas into drinking water and rivers.  And the greedy Corporation behind the pipeline paying security groups to mace and shoot rubber bullets at protesters.  Not exactly making America great again.  Still, MLB will want to try to convince Cleveland to finally retire that logo, I doubt if they'll change the Indians name.   In the long run, somebody had to end their years of not winning the last game of the year and I am happy to see that the Cubs finally did that.  My life is now complete.

I have survived a whole month of no TV in the house, since our cable company went full digital.  Not a big loss whatsoever, I haven't even noticed since I'm always on the computer and internet.  The radio station covered the Cubs game and the bars had them on.  Sometimes I do miss Judge Judy or the goofy Maury or Steve Wilkos show but in reality they haven't changed all that much.  And will continue on despite it all.   I do miss TCM though and football to fall asleep on the couch with.

By now  Hastings Entertainment is now history.  The last store closed on Halloween with little fanfare and about 100 copies of Chris Gaines Greatest Hits for a quarter nobody wants anyway.  If you go to their Go Hastings site, you find a Sorry We're Closed Sign.  It's over.  No more of venturing out to the small Arizona towns and putting up residence at a Hastings store for a day at Bullhead City or Kingman or Lake Havasu City.  I know if I lived in those towns, Hastings would be a second home.  Lucky for me Half Priced Books is still in town and I still take up residence there as well.  But for small town music and books store Hastings was the only place in town for used books and music.  And I still think this is as big as the closing of Wherehouse Music or Tower Records, you can't replace a Hastings store.  I enjoyed going to the Ames store before they shut down in 2010 and of course the Arizona trips that managed to wow me with some hard to find stuff.  Here, Half Priced Books has been here for 11 years and I continue to find off the wall bargains as well.   FYE is still around but in the malls and the last time I visit one (Quincy 2014) it was a shell of itself and I haven't had the stomach to go to Des Moines to check theirs out.   Before the year is out, I'll go through my archives and pick out the best known of the Hastings finds. The one that comes to mind the best is Wet Willie 2, found for 2.99 a decade ago.

The Cedar Rapids Music Scene is still going strong but I am taking time off from the sunday jams to focus on winterizing the home and attending to my own band needs.  If and when Julie And The Mad Dogs gets going again I'll give them some loving and any other bands of note.  Shock Treatment the Ramones tribute band is in Davenport on Black Friday and if the snows haven't hit yet I'll try to go.  But the bands that I known play the same bar band favorites for many years.  Nothing wrong with that, but my bands never played it to the record and sometimes being creative beyond the record gives off ill feelings.  The reason why I walked away many years ago and probably will walk away if I haven't already.  As long as I have a real job, I don't forsee making an impact on the music scene outside of a jam or two.

Life goes on.  People get married, people get divorced, people join bands, people leave bands, overpopulation but people keep making more babies and so forth and people die.  But I still hang around, raving about the Cubs winning it all, ranting about Iowa or Arizona State falling short of expectations, put up cheesecake photos of a dream date I'll never get and continue to listen to off the wall music.  Or posting a batch of found 45s.  And reviewing albums.  It's amazing in the 15 years of blogging I haven't quit.  Maybe it's a force of habit.  It's not a money making venture, it's a invest of 2 or 3 hours posting music news and other assorted things that interest me.  Or maybe going out on a date or night on the town, although the last one I did meet up with didn't turn out all that great.  But there's always music, and there's always sports and always some off the wall story that is worth a shout, and of course the forgotten bands or ICONs.  Once the snow and cold comes I'll get right down and post them accordingly but for now, it's a nice day and for a November afternoon the grass needs mowed.  It's the latest I'd mowed all year.    I'll be back to post more reviews and other assorted bullshit for your entertainment.

I have no use for Donald Trump but somebody thought it would be neat to burn him in effigy on Guy Fawkes Day in the UK.

Oh and BTW, Iowa got blown out by Penn State 41-14.  A team effort, both offense and defense sucked.

And The Cubs managed to find themselves on Saturday Night Live.  Despite Dexter Fowler claims of moving on, he managed to appear on this show.  I'd love to see him back next season.

Record Reviews:

Alejandro Escovedo-Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy 2016)

While All Music is raving about this being his best, I have mixed feelings.  Side 1 works pretty well especially Suit Of Lights and Johnny Volume, Alejandro remains true to his glam rock roots on the latter song.  Side 2 gets trickier, with more on the slower songs Luna De Niel and Farewell To The Good Times the best of that side. Everything ends with a thud on Thought I'd Let You Know which might be one of his worst songs ever.   The second straight album Peter Buck has produced that fell out of my favor.  Tony Visconti and Chuck Prophet were better suited for Alejandro.
Grade B

Billy Vera-The Atlantic Years (Collectibles 2004)

He was one of the white blue eyed soul guys in the late 60s and his two albums for Atlantic proved to be spotty.  In fact Storybook Children benefits from Judy Clay, who at that time, the duo of Vera and Clay was the first interracial soul singers which guaranteed some backlash from the narrow minded.  A mixed Sonny And Cher so to speak.  Storybook Children is not a five star album, but the interplay between Judy and Billy was very honest and sometimes fun (Soul Man and Do Right Man, Do Right Woman).  Billy needed Judy on the second album, the boring With Pen In Hand, to which most of the 11 songs are either slow to mid tempo without much variation. His I've Been Loving You Too Long does pale next to either Otis or Jerry but he does sound honest.  The B side Are You Coming To My Party? I had as a 45 and couldn't complete listening to it, the record was too scratchy but even in CD form, the song is too slow to keep my attention.  You Keep Me Hanging On is NOT the Vanilla Fudge/Supremes version but rather a tepid soul song.   And everybody recorded With Pen In Hand, the Bobby Goldsboro song that is.  B side was Good Morning Blues, easily the best song that Billy recorded on this album that didn't include Judy Clay.  Vera would end up having a surprise hit in the mid 80s (At This Moment) that hit number 1 and Rhino issued a best of, afterward Shout Factory reissued that one.  All albums I have heard are uneven at best.  Vera does a much better job of writing liner notes to reissue albums of the 1990s of soul artists, most notably The Specialty Story and a few others.  He knows his music history very well but musicwise, he's a journeyman and passable at best.
Grade B-  (Storybook Children B+, With Pen In Hand C+)

Cheap Trick-All Shook Up (Epic 1980)

Didn't like it much when it first came out and still don't care much for it even found as a dollar CD.  The band was running on empty when George Martin took a stab at them, but even his ideas didn't translate very well.  Doesn't help when Robin Zander is screaming all over the place and never gets anything going till I Love You Honey (but I hate your friends) and Go For The Throat.  The CD is helped with bonus tracks Everything Works If You Let It (easily the best song on this comp) and the EP of Found All The Parts which includes a decent Day Tripper and Take Me I'm Yours.  Outside of all the turds Cheap Trick laid in the 1980s this is their best effort of that era.  And it's still a turd.
Grade C

Elvis-Almost In Love (Pickwick 1969)

The Camden albums are an exercise of a poor mix tape committed to vinyl and for grab bag 2.98 specials some of them were worth hearing, (Cmon Everybody). Despite the crappy title track Almost In Love is actually decent, which is not to say it's perfect. RCA Camden albums were there for a quick buck for completists out there.  The cherry pickings off the movie albums has some very good ones in Clean Up Your Own Backyard and A Little Less Conversation, which would a second life as remix which did pop up at number 50 in 2002, number 69 as a single in 1969 (har har).   I guess there's a bit of camp in Stay Away and Charro, but I like them both and US Male too and Edge Of Reality which does reveal the direction Elvis would take in the 70s, more musicians, more soul singers etc.   I bought this for a quarter a month ago,  it might be the best of the Camden/Pickwick cheapo comps that RCA issued back then.
Grade B+

Faith (Brown Bag 1973)

Known as the Faith Band, that had a minor hit with Dancing Shoes (later covered by Nigel Olsson) they recorded an album for Terry Knight's Brown Bag label and had issues with him that prohibited them from recording for three years.  Despite the heavy metal looking cover, The Faith Band really was more keyboard MOR rock than anything else.  Side 1 is the better, it's harder rocking (Sometimes, Sometimes, Freedom) and Answer To The Master gives a nod to Steely Dan.  Side 2 really goes more soft rock  with We're All Headed The Same Way going on for 6 plus minutes and a acoustic guitar coda tacked on.  Seems to me they either ran out of songs or lost patience with Knight.  John Casadila would work with John Mellencamp in the late 80s and early 90s before passing from cancer in 1992 thereabouts.  I've heard their Mercury albums were more mellower.
Grade B

(Photo: Dusty Grooves)

Albums from my youth: Jethro Tull-M.U. The Best Of Jethro Tull (Chrysalis 1977)

Jethro Tull was one of those bands that was designated for the after hours on FM radio, although my friend Jeff Kewley's older brother had the first three, The Mick Abrahams led This Was and then Stand Up and Benefit.  For some reason Ian Anderson decided on not including anything from This Was and I'm sure he had his reasons.  It was more blues based than the folk prog rock and yes I consider Tull to be somewhat Prog rockish.  I'm mean who would do not one but two 40 minute concept albums like Thick As A Brick (which I think still holds up) and A Passion Play (not so much).  Before the CD, Best ofs did offer the best songs from bands that 45 buyers would not buy albums from.  The Doobie Brothers Best Of The Doobies was one of those must have best ofs, the other was M.U and it starts out fine with Teacher (to which the CD added the Andy Johns mix, rather than the album which Robin Black recorded, on this LP it does sound like Black's version although Johns is credited), one of my favorite Tull songs ever.  And then we have Aqualung, an FM staple now overplayed on classic rock.  While the consensus is debating about the edits of Thick As A Brick and Passion Play, I think the edits used are the perfect introduction to those 40 minute epics.  Come to think of it, most of songs off this album did get some radio play, from Bungle In The Jungle to an edited Locomotive Breath, Living In The Past and to a lesser extent Skating Away.  I wouldn't say it's perfect, the dubious song is the unreleased cut Rainbow Blues, it's not bad but pales next to Fat Man or Nothing Is Easy, to which Clive Bunker does provide some nifty drumming; he would leave after Aqualung in favor of Barrymore Barlow, a more progressive drummer.  Mick Abrahams would get shafted again for the second installment of greatest hits Repeat-The Best Of Tull Volume 2 which is not as essential.   As time as moved on, there have been other best of Jethro Tull albums that rendered M.U. outdated, the 2 cd Anniversary Collection just about covers all the bases of the best Tull, from Beggar's Farm to This Is Not Love from the 1990 Catfish Rising album.  The Very Best Of Jethro Tull is not, it's halfassed and leaves off key tracks and previous efforts (Original Masters, 20 Years Of Tull) are not cost effective unless you're a hoarder.  For myself I rather much listen to MU on vinyl more than CD, it was one of my go to albums when I was in high school.  It still remains a perfect introduction to classic Tull era, even though Abrahams gets shortchanged, you're better off searching for This Was.  But for FM rock radio of the 70s.  M.U. gets it mostly right.
Grade A-

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