Monday, July 25, 2016

There's A Great Record Here Somewhere

The circumstances surrounding the acquisition of Simon Townshend's most recent LP, "Denial" make a great story with a terrific payoff. I hesitate to reheat a once boiling pot that has since cooled down, but I am here to entertain, and quite frankly, I doubt any of the persons involved read me anyway, so here goes nothing.

Well over a year ago, a very old friend asked me to help out with a presale for Simon Townshend tickets.  I was happy to oblige, as it meant doing nothing but hitting a few keystrokes and laying out a few bucks, while making my friend's day. "I owe you one," she said after thanking me more than she needed to. I said, "If there's a vinyl copy of the new record at the show, could you grab one for me?" "Of course," she said. "I'll even get it autographed. She knows Simon.

Weeks later, I received a photo of my friend, inside the venue, holding my autographed LP. She was smiling. It was a great pic. I received a bill for $35.

Here's where it gets messy. Did I misunderstand "owe you one?" If I did, should I have at least been informed of the high price tag before the purchase? I just didn't want to pay $35 for a record, autographed or not. This incident spread amongst friends like mono in the high school bleachers. There was rampant friending and unfriending on social media and lots of he said/she said.

Unbeknownst to me, the LP was transferred from the possession of the friend no longer talking to me to a mutual friend, who was tasked to deliver the LP to me at my next record show, which she planned to attend. Also, unbeknownst to me, our mutual gave my now ex-friend the $35, which I did not want to pay in the first place. Now, I owe a different friend $35 for a record I sorta didn't want in the first place.

My friend never made it to the record show. Or the record show after that. When she did show at the next record show, she forgot the record. The next occasion, she couldn't bring the record because she had misplaced it. But I felt bad that she laid out the money, so I gave her $35 credit to buy some of my records. She did. We were even...except I still need the Simon record.

It is now a year later.

My old friend and I still aren't speaking. But I did have a garage sale last weekend, and my other friend showed up, spent a nice chunk of money on records and surprised me. "Look what I found!"

There it was. My autographed LP. Happy ending, 15 months later, though as I said, my old friend and I still aren't speaking.

The next morning, I decided to finally give the record a spin...but could not. The record was shaped like a potato chip. I'm guessing it had been "misplaced" on the sun, as it was warped. Badly.

Determined, I ordered another copy from Amazon, asked if I could return it because it was warped, and swapped the new flat copy with the old. Yeah, maybe that's cheating, but I figure Amazon owes me after hours of mind-numbing frustration, not to mention, stroke-level blood pressure, while being outsourced for customer service.

But the real reason I am here is to say, Simon Townshend's "Denial" is a fantastic record. I have featured the title track a number of times, most recently in this week's "Songs Of The Week." But the entire record is filled with gems. You can't help but hear brother Pete in both the quality and phrasing of his voice, and that's a good thing if you're a fan of The Who. But the songs do not resemble big brother's band. They are all Simon. Think "Empty Glass"-era Pete, but a bit more personal and a tad more commercial. "Denial" will remind you of Pete, but you will not mistake it for Pete. Simon Townshend's got something and this LP is worth seeking out.

I'd post one of the many videos found on YouTube, but all 600 were filmed by another friend, and I can't afford the inevitable lawsuit.

And to all parties involved, if by chance any of you are reading, we are all getting old. It's more fun talking to each other than not. Unless, it costs $35.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Songs Of The Week, 2016: 7/16-7/22

Denial- Simon Townshend
Ain't That Nothin'- Television
Hold Me! Squeeze Me!- The Orioles
Good Eye-Bruce Springsteen & The ESB
The Moon Upstairs- Mott The Hoople
A Whole New Thing- Big Star
Love Burns- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club


Friday, July 22, 2016

Weekend Mix: NYCD Blues

All these cd's came from "The Crates". $2 each or 10 for $15. I always found 10 I was willing to take a chance on.
I've bought lots of records I expected to like, but didn't. I preferred the odds of the crates. No expectations, maybe just a good surprise or two.

I bought 100's of them between 1994 and 1999. I didn't talk to Sal or Tony for the first couple years. I was the furtive silent dude buying all those crap cd's instead of the legit merchandise featured on the wall.

The 1996 me would never have predicted I'd be here, contributing to Burning Wood, about them, the demise of cd's as a format, and the music industry in general.
I bought my last cd from Sal in 2006. I've been hastening the downfall of the music industry, and by extension, Western Civilization ever since.

The songs:

Much as I loved Cheap Trick's first one, I find this 1993 Robin Zander album to be unlistenable except "Jump Into the Fire", one of my favorite Nilsson tunes.

Brilliantly assembled from "All Right Now"(Free), "Public Image"(Public Image), "Something's Gone Wrong Again"(Buzzcocks), "Hush"(Deep Purple), and "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"(Yes).

I don't know a thing about the Pooh Sticks (1995) except this song, which is a lot of fun. It makes me want to be cool in a crisis.

Head Popping Through (no date) is the second worst band name in this collection. "Lonely In Your Arms" is what we were hoping for, but instead received "Double Fantasy".

"Weed Bus" by The Stairs from their album "Mexican R&B"(1991). You get no guesses Who inspired them.

"Running The Rocks Around" The Lucky Charms (1995). I'm a sucker for alt psyche folk grooves.

"Road" by Run On (1996) is the best Nick Drake cover I know. This album was made without high hats.

"Mess With Me", by HUB(1998). A singer songwriter with a taste for electronica. I played the shit out of this album.

I bought more than one by "The Apples In Stereo". "Fun Trick Noisemaker" (1995) is good all the way through.

Chris Connelly's "Ship wreck" (1994) is a lot better imitation of classic Berlin Trilogy Bowie than the man himself was making at the time (Outside). Apparently he's a participant in both Ministry, and The Revolting Cocks. You wouldn't know that from this. I played the shit out of this one, too.

The Botswanas (1995) take on "Rip Her To Shreds" out performs the original.

Bogues (1995) "My Name Is Lou" never fails to crack me up. It is a perfect rendering of '80's Lou Reed. The lyrics as tone deaf and clunky as anything on "Legendary Hearts"(1983), or "Mistrial" (1986), or "New York" (1989). At the same time, it's a loving tribute, or homage, not just a parody. I would have enjoyed watching Lou hear it, if he ever did.

I guess it's the jaunty music and trombone  on "Song Against Sex" by Neutral Milk Hotel (1995) that make me think of "Everybody's In Show-Biz" Kinks.

The Flying Burrito Brothers are recalled here on "Whiskey On A Southbound", from "Shooutout" (1996).
The Mother Hips is not only the worst band name in this collection, it's the worst just about anywhere with the possible exception of Christian Rock. That said I got this and the previous, "Part Timer Goes Full" (1995) out of the crates and name notwithstanding played the shit out of both.

All kinds of stuff that didn't fit found it's way into the crates. Mike Henderson's "Country Music made Me Do it"(1993) is actual Country music. Mike sings, writes, and plays the shit out of lead guitar. Popular around here.

"Public Transport Authority" does not sound like it sounds. The Elevator Drops (1997) are capable of dazzling arrangements of catchy songs. Played often.

Varnaline's drummer is the the singer guitarist in Space Needle where Varnaline's singer guitarist is the drummer.
They cover a lot of ground, much of which is worth exploring. "Sweet Life" (1998) stands out as solidly tuneful from end to end. Played often.

I love a folky funky groove and "Come Clean" by The Mysteries Of Life (1997) is all that.

The Liquor Giants "I Don't Mind" sounds like the best song not found on Big Star's "Third". I played the absolute shit out of "Here" (1994), and went on to collect more of their music.

The Cavedogs "Right On The Nail" does exactly that.  This 1990 slab of astonishing pop never fails to amaze me.

Back in Alternative days Classic Rock became even uncooler. Royal Jelly (1994) was a guilty pleasure there is no need to feel ashamed about. "Generator" sounds like The Firm should have.

Red Red Meat became one of my favorite bands. I collected several of their cd's and followed principle singer songwriter Tim Rutilli into Califone. "Bunny Gets Paid" (1995) is probably my favorite crate discovery. Think of Nirvana and The Rolling Stones mixed with a dash of REM.

I found a lot of "loss leader" style comps in the crates and I bought them all. From "Patience" (Hits Post Modern Syndrome) The Auteurs, "Show Girl" (1993). A classic.

I read somewhere that Acetone had two kinds of songs: slow, and slower. I fell for their album "Cindy" (1993), and it's slow, dark, noir meets The Velvet's couch album. One song, "Louise", which reminds me of "Pale Blue Eyes", I think of as "Lou-ese". "No Need Swim" seemed like a good closer.

This jolly batch of tunes was made with Summer in mind.


NYCD Blues


NYCD Blues Too

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Just In The Nick Of Time...

The Battle Of The Bands

Some stopped listening when Brian Jones died. Many gave Mick Taylor a chance, for good reason, and then jumped shipped when he walked the plank. Some actually say they don't care for "early Beatles." You've heard the words before. "The last good Springsteen record is Darkness." "The last good Costello record is Imperial Bedroom." Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I've been listening to Mott The Hoople's pre-Bowie makeover, Atlantic recordings. There are four albums and it took three to finally get it right with their fourth and final Atlantic LP, "Brain Capers." The first three could have been edited down to one brilliant debut, but most striking to me, is how Mott The Hoople was so obviously two bands. Yet I never stopped listening.

From 1969 to 1971, lead vocals were handled by both the very Dylan-influnced Ian Hunter and guitarist Mick Ralphs. The records seem to be split between longish hard rockers and even longerish ballads. It seems like producer Guy Stevens' only directive was, "Tape's on. Play." With their career just about flushed away, David Bowie comes along with "All The Young Dudes," Ian Hunter takes over as full time lead vocalist, save a track by bassist Pete Watts,  and the rest is history. You know the story.

The difference between the Atlantic records and the Columbia records to my ears is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing one, but this doesn't mean the early records are bad. It's just that at times, it is easy to think you're not listening to Mott The Hoople, if you came in early and left late, or vice versa. That is how different this band was from label to label.

I prefer the "glam" records, though I was never comfortable with that label for Mott. You need more than a top hat and a boa. There were only three studio records and a couple of singles for Columbia, as well as a lineup change for the last record, 1974's "The Hoople." But the change in sound was monumental. Check out the ballad from their debut at the top of the page, the Song Of The Day from the aforementioned "Brain Capers," and their second to last single, below.

Is there someone, an artist or band, that you've listened to from birth to break-up, that has clearly had two lives musically? I don't mean "second careers," like Danny Elfman going from Cali dance punks Oingo Boingo to scoring Tim Burton films. And not someone like David Bowie, who changed from album to album. I mean, 5 records one way and then 5 records another way.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Songs Of The Week, 2016: 7/9-7/15

East St. Louis Toodle-Oo- Greg Osby
Looking For Clues- Robert Palmer
Cindy Tells Me- Brian Eno
This Better Be Good- Fountains Of Wayne
More Than I Can Stand- Bobby Womack
Bittersweet- Galactic
Come As You Are/Lucifer Sam- Southern Culture On The Skids


Friday, July 15, 2016

Where Did We Go Right?

While listening to Eric Clapton's "Journeyman," a "Slowhand" record I like a lot and a record I imagine came 20 years too late for some of you, I was reminded of just how wrong some of it sounded, specifically, the production on the cover of "Hard Times."

"Journeyman" was released in 1989 and produced by Russ Titleman, a name we all know, and a producer who has amassed a respectable body of work, not to mention winning the Grammy for "Journeyman." The record suffers, as most records of that era do, from the unfortunate use of drum and bass sequencing, Fairlight computers and an overall Brylcreem slickness that can, at times, ruin a perfectly good take. And while there is enough to like on "Journeyman," this is about what I don't.

As a producer, is it Russ Titleman's job to simply go with the times or to help create a sound that is right for the artist? When a producer takes on someone as enormous as Eric Clapton, does he surrender all but his name? In the case of Clapton, we know now that 25 plus years later, Eric has made some terrible musical choices, yet he and Titleman created 1994's "From The Cradle," which by and large, worked well. It was simple, raw and even had some balls. It sounds like the record it is supposed to be. This makes me think that the cheese on "Journeyman" was intentional. And if it was intentional, does this still make Titleman a good producer? Didn't he hear the schmaltz and the late night cocktail bar sax tone on "Hard Times?" Or was it both his and Eric's choice to make a record for 1989 because they both thought that was best for this guitar hero?

Another record that immediately comes to mind is Joan Osborne's 2002 R&B covers release, "How Sweet It Is," a record that was intended to get this amazing voice and talent back in the spotlight. On paper, it was perfect. But John Leventhal, another major talent, produced all the grit and grime right out of its soul. Drum machines on Motown and Otis covers? In this case, Leventhal must have had more control over the project than Osborne, so what was HE thinking?

By now, we have all read the Andy Partridge/Todd Rundgren soap opera. And we all have producers we love and hate. Don't get me started on T-Bone Burnett!

But is there a specific record that you feel was either ruined by its producer or because of its producer, became something it might not have in the hands of someone else? I would leave the 60's alone on this one. Maybe most of the 70's, too.