Monday, August 21, 2017

Thirty Years Of CD Collecting

Time flies.

Time has a way of getting away from us.  It might be due to the fact that I spend too many hours wasting away on the internet blogging about my band and playing somewhere and documenting it but here at Record World I have kept a fleeting moment or two letting the world know about what music came into my collection or somebody passing away.  This week Dick Gregory, activist comedian of the 1960s who took a bullet in a knee defending somebody during a peace walk.  Couple weeks ago Don Baylor, former Orioles star and future Rockies and Cubs manager also departed from this world. And yet among the insanity of news we still get alternative facts from both the left and right.  No wonder I quit watching TV last year.  And all for the better of it.

It's hard to fathom that 30 years ago, I was down at B J's Records, at that time the best place to buy records anywhere in the state that they had a small CD section of new albums which cost about 20 dollars for most of them.  The one that stood out was something called The Very Best Of Vee Jay Records that came out ironically on Motown, and at that time Barry Gordy was committed to issue just about every decent Motown album on CD, including some 2 on 1 sets, two albums on one CD.  Which at that point was somewhat radical.  At that time CD players sold for like 500 dollars for the more state of the art ones, but back then you had to deal with plenty of skipping issues.  One speck of dust and the player would hiccup. So I took a look at the Discman's which sold for 200 dollars and ended up buying one of them just to get the Vee Jay Greatest Hits.

That wasn't the first CD I ever bought, it was the third.  The first two was Lynyrd Skynyrd Nuthin Fancey for 10 dollars and a cutout of Pete Townsend's Deep End Live for 7 at the original Best Buy location, on the property of the former Twixt Town Drive In.  It's strange how I can remember such trivial nonesuch such as that.   CD's were created around 1982, but the first ones I even seen were at Target and at 20 dollars for one.  But they touted better sound, better longevity, more durable screamed the major labels.  And we bought into that.

Over time CDs would come down in prince and although the jury is still out on if they were better sounding some CD's did have better sounding albums and it had to do with whoever mastered them.  The best came from Steve Hoffman who did wonders for the MCA Vintage Collection of the late 80s, from the catalog of MCA associated labels. Hoffman worked behind the scenes of certain MCA releases, Steely Dan's Aja first generation CD master sounded like him mastering it and some still prefer it over later editions.  Hoffman was also in charge of a up and coming label called Dunhill (Later DCC) which showed him work his magic on Beach Classics and a Ted Nugent/Amboy Dukes comp. Rhino Records with Bill Inglot remastering put out some sonic sounding albums, the first Bobby Fuller Four Best Of makes you feel like you're in the same studio hearing them record it as it happens. Reissues of classic albums from the major labels were hit and miss.  Capitol got it right the first time when they put out Pink Floyd's The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and even if Jimmy Page may have improved Led Zeppelin's catalog with each remaster, I am still drawn to the first Led Zeppelin album recorded in a murky type of recording, the way I remembered it from the album.  Sometimes upgrades were needed.  Secret Treaties, suffered from a hiccup on Cagey Cretins, the second remaster corrected that.  The first Steppenwolf album was a blotched job from the beginning, I'm sure Universal corrected that but I opted for a Mobile Fidelity Gold Master which made the album sound ten times much better.  Polygram blotched all of the Moody Blues albums before a remastered made them sound much better.  And so on and so forth.

The best part of CD collecting was to purchase albums that were out of print on vinyl, MCA restored most of 3 Dog Night's albums but like vinyl most got thrown in the cut outs.  Camelot Music really did expand my CD collection via the Cut Outs, mostly WEA products, which the Reprise Roxy Music albums were acquired that way.  Still used cds sold at 7.99 at most stores, 5.99 if they had scratches or of lesser known bands.  In fact the 1990s were the golden age of bargain hunting for used cd's and Cedar Rapids has two Relics stores, a Rock And Bach, A Co Op, Camelot, Disc Go Round, even Best Buy took a stab at selling used CDs.  But around 1996 I discovered pawnshops had s nice collection of off the wall CDs.  And if a place I knew that had off the wall CDs I would frequent that place till I got most of them. Mr. Money in Davenport had some of the forgotten cd's of the 1980s that all ballooned my collection.  That's how I discovered bands like 54-40, Blue Rodeo, Danny Wilde and others.

But in 2002, the decline was beginning to set in.  People were not buying CDs as they once did and record stores began to close up. Relics was done by 2003, Rock N Bach held on for another two years and Co Op never did well outside of Moline.  The Compressed and Loud sounding CD was a turnoff, the copy protected CD two years later was the end as the Sony Root Kit CD had a virus that would make computers useless.  The major labels morphing into three mega giants and not promoting new artists.  And continuing to reissue albums that we bought two or three times over were beginning to turn people off.  When Emerson, Lake And Palmer issued their album for the fifth time on another label that would be grounds to quit buying right there and then.  Pawnshops then quit taking in used collections, nobody really wants old rap acts that nobody listens to or having 200 copies of Cracked Rear View or Chris Gaines Greatest Hits.   And then the big box stores begin to close.  Wherehouse Music got bought out by FYE and then FYE started closing shops left and right.  Hastings Entertainment which somehow would get cutout copies of Velvet Underground live at Max's Kansas City and Love's Forever Changes for under five dollars closed up shop last year.  And Best Buy and Wal Mart have shrinked their CD section down to almost nothing. 30 years onward, we have seen the best years of the CD go by.  And sad to say it will never be like it once was.

Even in the declining years of the CD, I still continue to find new music and old releases that I haven't heard yet.  I still did get a couple of Eagle reissues of vintage live Rolling Stones albums and despite the shitty digipacking of CDs nowadays, still buy them.  I rather much have jewel cases but for the most part if I'm still interested in hearing new music I have to buy them.  I just don't do Spotify or streaming.  I'm too old fashioned to give up the art of looking for something I don't usually buy full price.  I may not be around for CD 40 or beyond but rest assured that as long as I'm alive and as long as it's fun, I still come up with more new music.


Some reviews:

Del Shannon-The Dublin Sessions (Rock Beat 2017)

For historical purposes, the Dublin Sessions remain a bootleg classic.  Del couldn't get arrested in the late 70s, he didn't sell out to the disco era like most and continue to write his own music, which borderlined on the dark side of love and to the end he remained true to his vision.  Which is fine and dandy.  It's not a dud album, Del's back up band knew what they were doing, the problem remains there wasn't anybody to give him that extra kick to make it a classic.  Drop Down And Get Me is a classic due to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.  And while Jeff Lynne might have made these songs better, the problem is that there's more of a Roy Orbinsen sound that Del was trying to get out of, case in point a version of Oh Pretty Woman, which is one of the better songs. And of course Del could find classic covers to do too, Los Brovos' Black Is Black and Merle Haggard's Today I Started loving You Again, which would foretell Del's country period to which Warner Brothers would issue a couple singles but not a complete album.  Maybe in the future Rock Beat can put that one out there too.  My favorite tracks are The Best Days Of My Life and One Track Mind, the latter vintage Del Shannon heartbreak songs.  The rest have good moments but not enough for me to give this than a passing nod and a smile and then moving on to other things.
Grade B-

Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones (Eagle 2017)

Mick Jagger contends this is the best of the the live Stones I concur.  Get Your Ya Yas Out is that document where sloppy fun and hard rock and blues come into play but Ladies And Gentlemen, is still a sloppy fun album.  Recorded around the time between Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street, it's interesting to hear how Sweet Virginia and Dead Flowers play the country rock mode, through they seem a bit boring to me.  The whole fun starts later on when Charlie Watts ups the ante for All Down The Line and Midnight Rambler is so damn loose the wheels damn near fall off the car. The band is not exactly on the same page judging on how Jumpin Jack Flash ends, but Street Fighting Man ends things and does lay claim that the Stones could be the best rock and roll band in the world. As for myself, as long as Live At Leeds from the rival Who and Get Your Ya Yas Out, Ladies And Gentlemen falls a bit short on that argument.
Grade B+

Dan Johnson-Out Of The System (Hot Fudge 1998)

Dan has always been the champion-er of live music. He's one of the hardest working musicians out there and continues to play every chance he gets.  He hosts The Parlor City Blues Jam, he hangs with legends such as Tony Brown, Skeeter Lewis, Billy Lee and Bryce Janey and Dennis McMurrin and The Blue Band with Bob Dorr and Jeff Petersen the two guys that been with that band since day one. Johnson also played with Made You Look, Men Working (later changed to Men Rocking due to a certain Aussie band that had a 1982 hit with Who Could It Be Now), Falcon Eddy and so on. Dan recorded a few songs and highlights that Dorr put out on Hot Fudge in the late 90s that was on my wish list to get.  In some ways this is the companion to Tom Giblin's Choice Cuts, but unlike Gibby's album, Dan does dab in the blues but shows a more nod to his favorite band The Beatles, which works sometimes (Sister Blue), and sometimes goes on too long for its own good (Song For A Loved One). Dan is more at home with the blues nowadays and tends to play That's Where My Money Goes at blues jams (I actually played this song with him one night), Blues Song and even gives Little Richard his due at the end.  Unlike Choice Cuts, Out Of The System has a bit too many filler songs and segments that don't exactly work (I Love You Madly, a strange disco number with a couple false stops, 98 Seconds-an answer to Free Jazz and Conversations With Diamond Ray, less said the better). But it does provide a nice insight into the music of one of Iowa's best musicians out there.
Grade B+

Toni Basil-Mickey And Other Love Songs (Razor And Tie 1995)

Like Josie Cotton, Toni made a couple hook driven singles but her albums like Josie, was bubblegum 80's new wave.  No use of escaping Micky, forever a part of the MTV generation and oldies stations and skating rinks across America.   If you're not careful, Mickey is a ear worm that will eat your brains out if you're not careful.  Most of this best of is better than Josie Cotton's, at least Toni had Devo helping her out on a couple songs (Be Stiff one of them) but once hackmaster Ritchie Zito pops up on the final four songs, it's piss poor dance music.  And if you stayed and listen to this best of that far, you got to hear Mickey sang in Spanish. Collector's item for those hard up to listen to a one hit wonder and nothing more.
Grade C+


Monday, August 14, 2017

Singles Going Steady-Pick Of The Best From This Summer

This summer has gone by in record time.  I have kept busy doing music related projects and among the usual things, finally having a date for the first time in half a decade and then getting ghosted ever since.   I realize that being myself I may not be your kind even in dating and general interests. But I'm at the age that playing Casper is not time productive and if you're not in love with them, you will not convince them otherwise.  So I moved on, back to the music and back to the records that have kept my spirits up. Wasn't that Jim Morrison that screamed out Music is your only friend, until the end?  We never met in person but I feel that he speaks to me.

The Marion Antique Mall to which BDW Records was a part of is now history.  And whatever 45s were found is now in the history books.  BDW may not been very consistent but at least they did managed to have at times some vintage stuff that harken back to the days of my growing up years.  This summer there were more misses than hits but I did get lucky at a estate sale and finding a bunch of records that my mom used to have.  On the night that I got ghosted by the person of interest I found a bunch of off the wall stuff at the Iowa City Goodwill store and then of course Madison and whatever Davenport had to offer too.  But I am beginning to shy away from museum 45's for example, 45's over 6 dollars.  As much as I like going to CD's 4 Change or Ragged Records I am not fond of playing used CDs prices for scratchy records I'm not familiar with.   The Mad City Music Exchange findings were 4 dollars or less.  I realize it's supply and demand but when supply is priced too high, my demand will be low and not interested, unless it's a song that I have been looking for. There's still a few out there but I am getting picky.  Again, our CEO at our sinking ship company has threatened more layoffs but at this point I rather hang around another 11 months before being there 30 years and then put my name in for severance and living off their dime for a whole year.  The CEO has been doing this now for a whole decade.  If he was living in the states he would fit in great with the crap government we have today. Give us another tax break and fuck you all.

But enough of that.  The music today sucks, so for the imaginative record collector there's always a backward look at 45s long forgotten and donated to the thrift stores or museum record stores. This time out, I am posting the 10 best 45s that didn't make the SGS blog of earlier, nor the medley of empty songs.  Whatever the case may be.

1)   What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You-Mitchell Torok (Guyden 2034)  1960

B Side to Pink Chiffon (#60), this record was part of my mom's record collection that dictated on how my music tastes would vary over the years.  Pop, big band standards, rockabilly, rock and country, this turned out that the variety of music would be the norm.  I spent years trying to find a decent copy of this song, most that I came across were in bad shape.  Mitchell Torok might have been a teen idol of sorts, but he did score a deal with Paul Guyden so he had to be a teen idol with some bite. Pink Chiffon is a nice ballad but I enjoy the more uptempo What You Don't Know including a poppy sounding organ doing the hook and melody.  It might have been the better song, but Pink Chiffon was the A side.  Torok would not dent the top 100 after that again.

2)   Smoke Gets In Your Eyes-The Platters (Mercury 71383)  #1  1958

On the trip to Davenport last month, I ended up blowing 45 dollars on a used 45 storage box and had nothing to show for, but found a cheaper and more beat up collector's case for 2.88 over at Goodwill that had a bunch of scratched up records and I really didn't need most of them, so I tried to thin them out, however there was a few 45s that I overlooked, namely this 1958 chart topper from the beloved Platters.  While the record looked somewhat beat up, it played a lot better than the more deceptive clean looking but bad sounding records that I had to redonate back. Tony Williams remains one of the best vocalists of that time.  Of course when American Graffiti came out, that song was on the soundtrack which got it back on the top 30 in smaller radio markets.  Not one of my more favorite songs but I have come to like it more as time goes on. B side No Matter What You Are is a Buck Ram original and like most Platters records, is more uptempo.  Since The Platters are now one of the more forgotten acts of the golden age of rock era, the world continues to bury them deeper in the sands of time. But I think they are due for a decent box set of their classic Mercury era.  Bear Family anybody?

3)    Good Ole Mountain Dew-Dick Metko And His Boys (Polkaland 544X45)  1955

Polka music done bluegrass?  Heh!  This was the only free 45 that was in the other record box that I got from Ragged Music and came across among the dividers.  Only thing that is true judging from the label was it was a record label dedicated to polka music and it was based out of Sheboygan and a slew of Wisconsin polka acts on this label although the internet does not have a discography of Polkaland Records, not that people would care much for that anyway.  Most polka fans from that era are dead anyway.  The main acts might have been Cousin Fuzzy, Romy Goez and Dick Metko who had another hit with Fireball Polka.  Basically Mountain Dew is of interest since it draws from bluegrass and the mix of polka music with bluegrass is interesting indeed.  I was more familiar with Stringbean's version of this but these guys found a couple more extra verses on  this version.  But then again you will never this version anyway.  It's still a polka number.

4)    Run Run Run-Jo Jo Gunne (Asylum AS-11003)  #27 1972

For a song that hit number 27 on the Billboard chart, it did nothing at KCRG, in fact when I tried requesting it, they claimed they didn't have the song and instead played The Candy Man.  Jo Jo Gunne was Jay Ferguson going for a more boogie rock and roll after breaking away from Spirit. So basically this was heard on WLS, it might have gotten some airplay on KLWW. Not sure where I got my copy of the 45.  The guess might be in Lincoln at the place that used to sell records (Not Woolworth's) or perhaps it was a juke box copy from Ole's Ham and Egger.  Probably one of the most pointless set of lyrics ever penned in the FM rock era but compared to Florida Georgia Line, this is Einstein.  "You better ride on baby you were born outside of the law"......


5)   She's About A Mover-Sir Douglas Quintet (Tribe 45-8308)  #13  1965

One of the greatest if not the greatest garage rock song ever made with a Vox organ courtesy of Augie Meyers.  This is one song that if I have gotten on 45 years ago, the grooves would be worn off. This copy I found at a Estate Sale actually still sounds good, despite being manufactured by London Records.  Their records tend to get very scratched up after repeated plays. Doug Sahm never sounded more rocking than on this version.  A later version appeared on Mercury in a different style and not as potent.

6)   Shall We Dance-Bram Tchaikovsky  (Arista AS-0601)  1981

I do wish that Peter Bramall would have a more easier to spell name for his alter ego, Bram T.  He was part of The Motors, then went solo and did three albums, two for Polydor and had a minor hit with Girl Of My Dreams then over to Arista for the underrated classic Funland.  But Arista had no clue on how to promote him and while they could have some success with Stand And Deliver, they went with this song, which I've seen as a scratched up promo copy at the Waterloo St Vincent De Paul.  But I made a note of its existence by putting it in this top ten. Alas after label indifference and poor sales, Bramall dissolved the band and hasn't been heard from since.   A shame really.  Side note: Stand And Deliver was issued as a second single AS-0621 from Arista.  That too didn't chart.

7)    Ride Ride Ride-Foghat (Bearsville BSV-0016)  1973

It seems to me that Foghat might be the band with the most edits of their songs on 45. They edited Slow Ride, they edited Fool For The City, They edited Driving Wheel, hell, they even edited What A Shame as well.  So once again we get a 3:00 edit of a 4 and half minute song.  Not that anybody cares, you never hear Ride Ride Ride on the radio anyway.  Another 45 found at an estate sale, it goes to show that anything Foghat I'll pick up since I'm a fan of them for many years.   Imagine my surprise that the B Side It's Too Late is in it's full five minutes and twenty seconds.

8)    The Good, The Bad And The Ugly-Hugo Montenegro  (RCA Victor 47-9423)  #2 1968

You can't go wrong when it come to Ennio Morricone, a composer that was instrumental in shaping up the Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name movies, most likely The Good,Bad,Ugly. RCA does have an overview of Morricone's songs on a best of that is worth seeking out. Montenegro, has been a long time conductor of movie tunes and muzak songs for RCA as well and most folks did have a copy of Music from A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good The Bad And The Ugly as well.  I also favor this song as a 45, since I had a copy of it years ago and it disappeared and it would take a couple decades for me to find a so so copy.  Always loved the barking vocals of one two three four and whatever the hell they're singing.   This made number 1 on the local charts but number two on the Billboard chart.  Hugo would have less success with the followup single Hang Em High, which didn't make the LP.  That song struggled up to number 82 half a year later.

9)   Zip Code-The Five Americans (Abnak  AB-123)  #36  1967

Best known for Western Union,  The Five Americans recorded for Abnak from 1967 to 1968 till Johnny Durrill opted for a country career with some success here and there for United Artists.  Like Western Union, the song's hook is done by a Vox organ and might be my favorite Five Americans song of all time.  A later best of Five Americans has a longer version that goes slightly over 3 minutes, so it appears that this was a 2:25 edit.  But then again not too many people ever hear it, unless you hear on Cousin Brucie's show or Underground Garage on XM/Sirius Radio.  Fun fact: the Abnak label is a direct rip of the Atlantic black and yellow label of the mid 1950s, but surprisingly Atlantic didn't see fit to serve a cease and desist note to that label.  Didn't matter, Abnak went belly up around 1968 anyway.  Another fun fact, the song was produced by Dale (Susie Q) Hawkins, who was A and R for Abnak at that time.

10)   Oh, Pretty Woman-Andy Kim (Capitol 4234)  1976

Kim had the number 1 Rock Me Gently in 1974 but later singles didn't do much, in fact outside of Fire Baby, I'm On Fire, later singles didn't chart at all.  Now in 1976 I was really into buying 45s of that time and anything out of the ordinary I did buy, but I can say that I known nothing about Andy's cover the Roy Orbinson's oldies classic song till I found a promo copy in June.  In all fairness Andy does a note by note version close to Roy's but of course without that high falsetto that Roy is famous for.  It's not bad but folks would rather have the original version.  This would be Andy's last single for Capitol.   He is still around, he is friends with me on Twitter and hasn't unfollowed, unlike Kevin Montgomery, to which Kevin's CDs got donated to charity.  So be it.

On that, this blog is dedicated to the memory of Anita Anthony, beloved wife to Steve who passed away from a sudden illness.  Steve was gracious enough to let me start my career in blogging at his web site back in 2002 and now have moved on over here after About.Com shut down the Yardbird Roost in 2005 which lead to stops at the despised My Space and even worthless Multiply.  Steve has been a good supporter in my rant and raves and even though we may not see eye to eye on some things politically, our music interests have kept our friendship alive all these years. Anita will be missed.




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Glen Campbell RIP (Written By Jimmy Webb)

Glen Campbell finally succumbed to Alzheimer's today, just about 6 years after announcing that he had it.  The man was of many talents, great singer songwriter, excellent guitar player and gave us the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour back in the late 60s.  He was the voice behind the single My World Fell Down by Sagittarius, the studio band led by Curt Boetennger and Gary Usher.  For the most part his best known songs were written by Jimmy Webb.  Today, Jimmy Webb pays tribute to him:

 Dear Friends,

Well, that moment has come that we have known was an inevitable certainty and yet stings like a sudden catastrophe. Let the world note that a great American influence on pop music, the American Beatle, the secret link between so many artists and records that we can only marvel, has passed and cannot be replaced. He was bountiful. His was a world of gifts freely exchanged: from Roger Miller stories to songs from the best writers, to an old Merle Haggard record. My friend, my brother in music, Glen Campbell has passed.

He gave me a great wide lens through which to look at music. I watched him in awe executing his flawless rendition of “The William Tell Overture” on his classical guitar in his Vegas show. Jazz he loved. He claimed he learned the most about playing the guitar from Django Reinhardt. The cult of The Players? He was at the very center. He loved trading eights with George Benson in a great duel that broke out on a television show one night. Vince Gill and Keith Urban he eulogized. (About Urban he said one night, “that kid is a monster.”) Talking about Vince he would slowly shake his head in disbelief. He was recognized internationally in that unchartered fraternity of the very hot players, like Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck and Paul McCartney. (Sir Paul was present at one of the final concerts and paid a backstage visit.) He loved The Beach Boys and in subtle ways helped mold their sound. He loved Don and Phil, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, Flatt and Scruggs. This was the one great lesson that I learned from him as a kid: Musically speaking nothing is out of bounds.

Of course, he lavished affection and gifts on his kids, family and friends. His love was a deep mercurial thing and once committed he was a tenacious friend as so many in Nashville and Phoenix, L.A. and New York, compadres all over the world would testify. One of his favorite songs was “Try A Little Kindness” in which he sings “shine your light on everyone you see.” My God. Did he do that or what? Just thinking back I believe suddenly that the “raison d’etre” for every Glen Campbell show was to bring every suffering soul within the sound of his voice up a peg or two. Leave ’em laughin.’ Leave them feeling just a little tad better about themselves; even though he might have to make them cry a couple of times to get ’em there. What a majestically graceful and kind, top rate performer was Glen on his worst night!

I remember one evening after his Vegas show he grabbed me and Roger Miller and Carl Jackson and we all went over to a hotel on the back side of the strip where Kenny Rogers was playing a one a.m. gig in a half empty room. Kenny was floating somewhere between the First Edition and mega stardom and things were kinda slow round about then. In we trooped and Glen sat down in a big booth and ordered ice buckets full of beer and champagne. We whooped and hollered our way through every damn song. We went back stage after and we loved on that big old bearded guy with a frog in his throat who was headed for the stratosphere of stardom.

When it came to friendship Glen was the real deal. He spoke my name from ten thousand stages. He was my big brother, my protector, my co-culprit, my John crying in the wilderness. Nobody liked a Jimmy Webb song as much as Glen! And yet he was generous with other writers: Larry Weiss, Allen Toussaint, John Hartford. You have to look hard for a bad song on a Glen Campbell album. He was giving people their money’s worth before it became fashionable.

I am full of grief. I am writing because I think you deserve some sort of message from me but I am too upset to write very well or at any great length. It’s like waking up in the morning in some Kafkaesque novella and finding that half of you is missing. Laura and I would call upon you to rest your sympathy with Kim Campbell and her children Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his older children, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren. Perhaps you could throw in a prayer for the Webb kids, Chris, Justin, Jamie, Corey, Charles and Camila who looked upon him as a kind of wondrous uncle who was a celebrated star and funnier than old dad.
This I can promise. While I can play a piano he will never be forgotten. And after that someone else will revel in his vast library of recordings and pass them on to how many future generations? Possibly to all of them.

Jimmy

Another Steve Miller Best Of

Steve Miller Band-Ultimate Hits (Capitol 2017)

Let's face it world.  The major labels are not promoting new music and all they ever did is rehash greatest hits after greatest hits packages from bands of the golden age of Classic Rock And Roll, a oxymoron on "Classic" Rock.

For many years I enjoyed the space cowboy although his albums have been uneven masterpieces.  Sometimes some great surprises (Brave New World) sometimes total garbage (Rock Love, Italian X Rays) and sometimes missteps that either do (The Joker) or don't work (Journey From Eden...Recall The Beginning).  I was never a big fan of The Joker album, but it kept Miller in the limelight.  But then Miller simplified it to three chord recycle utopia and struck gold with Fly Like An Eagle and to a lesser extent Book Of Dreams.  Hell, anybody can play Rock N Me or Jet Airliner and the earworms of the hits plus Take The Money And Run have made the mentioned songs corporate rock radio staples.  But Miller would take another 3 years off and gave us the half assed Circle Of Dreams (the 19 minute Macho City as worthless as Revelation by Love) and the more power pop directed Abracadabra, which might have been more of a band effort since that band backed up Gerard McMahnon on his neglected 1981 album Blue Rue.  Miller never made another album that would be that listenable, Italian X Rays was techno crap, Living In The 20th Century turned out to be a half album tribute to Jimmy Reed, despite Kenny G playing on I Want To Make The World Turn Around. Born 2B Blue, was Miller's jazz/blues escapism and Wide River was one last attempt to recreate the sound that he found on Fly Like An Eagle, with so so results.  A couple more attempts to recreate the blues later in the 2000's and Miller has relied on his live performance hits when he tours.

The best way to hear Miller's highs and lows have been greatest hits packages. Anthology, was the more flawed but idea place to hear the early stuff (although he couldn't spared us with the 8 minute snoozer Baby's House) and of course the half Fly Like A Eagle, half Book Of Dreams plus The Joker on the Greatest Hits 1973-1978.  Anthology, while it remains in print, was regulated to the donate bin by The Best Of 1968-1973 to which most of the early stuff got issued along with the more tolerable stuff from The Joker.  And Baby's House was left on the cutting room floor.  Capitol did attempt a couple more attempts to balance both the early period and the hits era with 2 albums of note: Young Hearts and a revamped Greatest Hits, the former striking a delicate balance between the pre and post Eagle era but the Greatest Hits tacking on Keeps Me Wondering Why for shock value. Still, countless best ofs and they can't seem to add anything from Children Of The Future, mainly that the best song Baby's Calling Me Home was written by Boz Scaggs.

So here we go again.  Yet another compilation of the usual songs and pointless filler known as Ultimate Hits.  Yet in both a single or double CD set and like the rest, if you have the original best ofs or albums, you don't need this in your collection, unless you want to hear live versions of Loving Cup or Space Cowboy. The only surprise is Baby's Calling Me Home  Outside of that, Miller ignores Children Of The Future and Sailor as well as Rock Love and gives us a crap cut from Italian X Rays. Don't get me wrong, Steve Miller has been a good guitar player with an eye on simple but catchy riffs. But forty years on and we still get that upgrade to a better overview.  And to leave off Your Saving Grace is sacrilegious since that song got played in the years of FM radio before Corporations bought everybody out.  That's the problem with Ultimate Hits, it doesn't shows the contributions of Boz Scaggs nor Tim Davis in the early years but rather focuses more on throwaway tracks from the classic albums. (Winter Time, The Window).  To which you're better off saving your money or simply find cheaper copies of the earlier best ofs and leave it at that.  Another major label crashgrab that doesn't change anything from what you haven't heard before.

Grade C

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Goldy McJohn

Some news to report.  Goldy McJohn, best known for his tenure in Steppenwolf passed away on August 1 from a heart attack.  He was 72.

Outspoken in his ways which lead to butting of the heads with John Kay, McJohn managed to give Steppenwolf their sound with his use of keyboards and Leslie Speaker effects organ playing.  You can hear it in the hits of Magic Carpet Ride and Born To Be Wild.  But he also does a fine job doing the piano intro to Everybody's Next One. Mc John would stay with the first edition of Steppenwolf before Kay retired the band after 1972 but the band returned with 1974's Slow Flux to which Goldy played on and then later got booted from the band.  McJohn continued to play in his own band Manbeast with Mike Monarch but in recent years has done his own thing till his passing this month.  He was slated to do a benefit show with Alvin Taylor on drums in September.