Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince "Controversy"

RIP, Purple One.

This album is right at home in any white new wave fan's record collection, with its topical rock action, and to be honest, like the best punk, is very confrontational and provocative. That quality makes it as important as a Mappelthorpe work (whether you're gay or not), a Dali acid-melted clock, or Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies ' The American Metaphysical Circus (review forthcoming).

Prince slept on the floor of a studio as a young artist so that he could learn to record his music without editorial input from some non-musical engineer. He caught on quickly, and developed a sound that rapidly became the soundtrack of everyone's 80's. Pretty amazing how the genre-bending music made such an impact with its blatant sexuality ("Jack U Off"), political content ("Ronnie Talk To Russia") and everything in between.

Prince had 5 Number 1's, 14 Top 10's, and will forever be remembered as The Artist Formerly Known As...


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Original Soundtrack "Everybody Wants Some"

Brian Eno and Sugar Hill Gang on the same record?

I can't buy it, even if it comes from the same era!

I promised myself, when beginning this blog, that I wouldn't trash a record, in the interest of fostering peace in a confused world, but this POS album takes the cake. Hot Chocolate and Van Halen on a collection of songs from a period piece (the cousin to Dazed And Confused) leaves me smarting with pains of political correctness. I remember the era (I was in the first punk rock band from the town that spawned Jimmy Connors, Stag Beer and Uncle Tupelo, fer crissakes), and to believe in punk meant that there was NO room for soul, R&B, heavy rock or disco in your LIFE, much less generic shitty classic rock (which this poorly-assembled montage resembles, to a degree) in your record collection.

It makes me realize how far down, culturally, we've devolved. This is nostalgia?

The prophecy Of Devo has been realized, Boogie Boy. Run to the toilet and comb your hair, in the immortal words of Frank Zappa's Disco Boy.

Boy, does this record suck. The songs are OK, the collection and juxtaposition of so many styles just hurts my sensibilities. That is what this particular era was built on, musical sensibilities, whether they be any of the stylistic elements chosen for this excuse to rummage through your past. It would be akin to shopping at a thrift store that has no turnover of merchandise, yet you find it necessary to hunt for bargains knowing you'll find none. I should find beauty in the idea of this collection, but the sheer number of songs and the lowest-common-denominator element ruins it.

The oil and the vinegar have separated in this mix, and it tastes like crap. Sounds even worse.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Al Kooper's record collection circa 1990

I referenced this story in my first post in the warm teenage tangerine, and as promised, here's the back story to the pic I posted:

I was Googling the name of a record store I worked at in the late 80's in Hollywood while reaching for the brass ring back then, and found a Yelp tribute page to my old employer.

This was my contribution (long):

"I used to work at Aron's on Melrose in the late 80's. I was in a great local band called The Peckinpahs that almost signed to Geffen Records. Capitol was always at our gigs scouting us. The signings fell through. We were voted Top 10 Best New Bands in 1989's LA Weekly Best Of Reader's Poll issue. We were alternative before alternative was.

LOTS of networking pre-Google going on there. Two weeks after moving to Hollywood to join The Peckinpahs I was hired at Aron's. I quickly knew where the action was.

The gigs were already lined up and the records were at Aron's.

I used to go on record buys with owner Manny (usually to Malibu or Hollywood Hills), and all stripes of celebs bought and sold there. Al Kooper once sold us a ton of vinyl junk, dumping hundreds of his totally-beat records for a nice $1000 CD credit. We did it as a mercy buy, for a true music legend. The records were unplayably trashed from decades of his personal use.

Sherman Helmsley (George Jefferson on The Jeffersons TV comedy) always used to come in looking like he just smoked a huge bongload (or 5), and loved Gentle Giant and Genesis, that damn hippy. We used to ask him how Weezy was doing all the time.

Frank Zappa used to send his gofer in, knowing better than to face our sometimes sarcastic scrutiny. We were generally professional though, and never asked for autographs. Keith Morris used to shop the dollar rack every day. We used to regularly see Billy Mumy (Barnes and Barnes, Lost In Space), Pierce Brosnan, Belinda Carlisle, Andy Summers, David Byrne, and the like.

Notable rock writers, record company people and liner notes editors were common customers, as were well-known entertainment industry insiders and TV commercial actors of all ages and kinds.

Danny Sugerman (Doors publicist) was a regular as well. He sold me a personal copy of his autobiography, and I have his Doors business card. Rest in peace, my brother in music and literature. He LOVED Aron's as a vinyl collector and music lover.

Aron's then was a hundred times better than any record store I have ever worked at or been in, and I've been in and worked at a lot of record stores. They moved to Highland and the mojo was released like smoke from a vintage receiver. I helped moved them there, it was a shit-ton of backbreaking work for weeks. The building on Highland was a former meat packing plant with a dumbwaiter, thank God for small favors. Melrose was where the magic lived.

And it died there too.

Jesse Klempner and JC Courneya were my managers, and they were the best. They hired up-and-coming musicians because they knew that we were the most music-dedicated and the smartest. They knew this from years of experience doing it. They just couldn't pay.

Mike MacCready of Pearl Jam worked with me. His band at the time (Shadow) was pretty poor, and was largely relegated to shitty North Hollywood metal gigs. He left LA and became a millionaire and hugely famous within 2 years of moving. He couldn't afford LA rent in 1989, in 1991 he made an all-time-classic grunge rock album with Pearl Jam out of Seattle.

My profile pic was taken at Aron's. I'm the hippy in the middle with the Beatles T. Jeff Froyd is on my left (CD buyer) and on the right is Brian Talley (Jeff's assistant). They were my buds. We were truly amazed at how useless Al Kooper's collection was (those are his records we're scrutinizing). Didn't matter, we were just tripping that he even came in period.

I won't mention the name of the clerk who got kicked in the nuts by a shoplifter who was in a hurry to leave for some reason. I was charged to hold the crook, who we had in handcuffs, face-first in the floor of our office, while waiting for the cops to arrive.

It took a couple hours. They were on Sunset hanging out with a jumper and a crowd.

Despite nagging rumors, Paul Rock is still alive, and still loves power pop.

The other employees were all iconic each in their own way, and I'll carry these memories to my grave. I remember well.

Mike Yaffe
Lenzburg, IL

Anyone ever shop there? Share your stories.

Friday, March 25, 2016

On my Top 10...

My musical tastes run from fairly hard rock to sunshine pop, so at any given time I could be running the gamut between those complete extremes. My first two pop albums were Black Sabbath "Paranoid" and "Cowsills In Concert", to demonstrate my claim as far back as 1971 at age 13.

For a record to land in my Top 10, it must be an easy, happy listen, full of melody, rhythm, dynamics, thoughtful lyrics, and superb production. Every album in my Top 10 exhibits every one of those qualities to the hilt.

It has to be a record I've lived with for many years, bucking the burnout factor, and delivering year after year the sweetness I first discovered upon hearing it for the first time.

Not always THE most popular albums, they have to have that "certain something' that ticks all my boxes, and I'm always open to new discoveries. This list can and will be fluid to that degree, but as with anything, near perfection doesn't come waltzing up to my ears every day, I must seek it out, and identify it when it appears. 

The Millennium "Begin" should really be a provisional pick for my list, and that's why I reviewed it ahead of my Top 10 list declaration. Many other albums round out a much larger top list.

Maybe I'll expand to a Top 100 some day (for review purposes) but for now the Top 10 list I offer here is a good beginning set of LP's to recommend for the casual listener, and as the more esoteric album reviews creep in to this blog, my musical personality will reveal yet further for those brave enough to follow.

So, if these choices make anyone curious, seek them out if you haven't already heard them, comment below each review as moved, and fill me in on your own top 10s.

Now, get outta here, and get busy!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Top 10 Albums

10. Sweet "Desolation Boulevard"

9. Emmit Rhodes "Emmit Rhodes"

8. Humble Pie "Performance Rockin' The Fillmore The Complete Recordings"

7. David Bowie "Alladin Sane"

6. The Byrds "The Notorious Byrd Brothers"

5. The Beatles "Revolver"

4. Bob Dylan "Blonde On Blonde"

3. The Who "The Who Sell Out"

2.  Paul McCartney & Wings "Band On The Run"

1. The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds"

Reviews (all but #1, see below) to follow.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Aphrodite's Child "666"

Here's a heavy from 1971, with all the eastern flavor a Greek progressive rock band could muster.

Remember, this was the soundtrack to many a skip day from school, meaning it was always accompanied by a certain vibe, central to the era! Everything was Indian and sitar-y and 70's-laden.

Musically the album is a sort of concept with Revelation running loosely as a theme, then the double LP culminates with a long hugeantic medley that encapsulates the whole piece.

In between? Lots of period vocals, Vangelis' amazing synthesizers and keyboards, and all in all a really heavily hippyfied record from the time period where you could listen to this and really be transported. Check it out.


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Millennium "Begin"

This album is hard to leave out of my top 10 (it's probably within my top 5 actually) favorite all-time records. Made in 1968, it was Columbia's most expensive-to-make rock album up till that time.

It shows.

Lush vocal harmonies, melodies you'll never forget, instrumental textures lovingly labored over, Begin has it all for me. It opened the door (for me) to Curt Boettcher's timeless production, which is essentially a how-to on how to make a record to stand the test of time. Like most amazing discoveries, it was a flop in the day.

Time has caught up to this classic, and to Boettcher, and to sunshine pop in general. This Japanese issue is particularly accurate and well-prepared, truly a labor of love for an era of music that remains vital and essential to any collection. Highly recommended.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" in stereo

Let me tell you, I was prepared to poo poo this reissue (yet again, oh no...), but due to Mark Linnett's superb job as the Boys' archivist and engineer on this go-round, under Brian's watchful supervision, I was pretty much taken aback at the improvement of sound quality. On Let's Go Away For Awhile, for instance, the mix was so tight and taut that it reminded me of a basketball slammed into a hardwood floor! The bloom that track always possessed was left intact, with no digital artifacts, and was truly worth the price of admission.

If the rest of this series is this good, I'll expect to peel off some more bucks in exchange for some more sonic thrills.

Highly recommended.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ritchie Blackmore not to attend RRHOF ceremony

Deep Purple has been fighting an uphill battle for years to get recognized by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for their contribution to rock music, and the news that Ritchie Blackmore won't be attending the ceremony honoring the band (which almost always includes a jam) saddens me tremendously.

This is what I posted on Audio Karma in response:

"So sad.

Steve Morse will never fill The Man's shoes. Nobody in the world plays the guitar so out of bounds (out of mode, abolishing every rule we as musicians cherish) than him, except maybe Frank Zappa when he goes into gnat-note mode.

I appreciate Blackmore's choice of notes much more now than ever before (only Mark 1 and 2 Purple, no Rainbow qualifies even remotely in this equation, nor later iterations of Purple).

He personifies icon. Forget his latest work too. Nothing touches his playing in early Purple, just pay attention to the live versions of anything before David Coverdale. This puts him in the rarified airspace dominated by Hendrix."

It's been said that he's recently had hand surgery, which would play in his decision not to attend in a big way, but there has been acrimony between the two camps for years.

No justice here, however you slice it. This is bad news for me, even with the diminishing returns of being in the Hall these days.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

David Bowie "Blackstar"

Sadness from David's recent death, along with the overwhelming response I've had to this, his last (most recent?) collection, prompted me to fire off this bit about Blackstar.

Simply, it's the most compelling new work by any artist, far and away the most innovative and emotionally evocative piece of music I've witnessed in a very long time. It really shows in a kind of almost final way what magnitude of artist we're discussing here.

It almost makes me miss him more than most music icon deaths in recent and long-range memory. I was pretty upset when Lennon was shot, but that, in hindsight, is what happens to famous people who get stalked (not that that's OK by any stretch). Bowie died a slow death that can't be imagined.

In this, early 2016, Blackstar is the top artistic achievement of the year thus far, by far.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Billy Nicholls "Would You Believe"

I've been perusing YouTube in search of gems (I actually have an unreleased series of these finds called Mining YouTube Gold), and perhaps I'll review my own comps in the future (one way to garner a good score!)...

Billy Nicholls' LP is a rare and true gem in that it happened to fall into the gray area when Andrew Loog Oldham was losing Immediate records, and it only saw an initial run of 100 promo copies till it was reissued a number of times in the 90's, by various labels and by Billy himself. Originally, Billy was hired as a staff writer for Immediate, and charged to create a British Pet Sounds, as Andrew was very into that sound and style. Labelmates Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane produced the title track, and Andrew oversaw the rest.

On this LP, many notables appear from the London recording scene, including Big Jim Sullivan, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Jerry Shirley, Steve Marriott, Nicky Hopkins, and Caleb Quaye, to name a few. Tall cotton here, making this a world-class obscurity in my book. Sunshine pop understandably informs this album, and with the right promotion and airplay, could have been a breakthrough for Billy at the time. Instead, history (as it always does, even in my own experiences with releasing music) redeems itself nicely, as age has added to the importance of this release.

If you're a fan of the lighter side of British pop, this is the grail.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Welcome all, to this, my inaugural entry on the warm teenage tangerine!