Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my 1300+ CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

You might have noticed things slowing down around here. I'm running low on CDs, so I'll probably be posting only occasionally from this point on. Feel free to browse the archives or go over to 1976-1985: My Favorite Decade, another music blog written by the same guy on the same computer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Grover Washington, Jr. - The Best Is Yet To Come (1982)

Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP, later replaced by a "Target" CD.

Not the best GWJr album, but with one of the originators of the smooth jazz/instrumental R&B genre, you know what you're getting into when you buy the thing. It's predictable, formulaic, and even a little dated, but none of that matters because it's perfect music for relaxation, decompressing, and de-stressing. Grover is joined by some of my favorite studio jazzers of the time: Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Marcus Miller (bass), Eric Gale (guitar), and Richard Tee (electric piano).

The title track feature vocals by Patti LaBelle and I'm guessing it was an attempt to repeat the success of Just The Two Of Us from 1980. The single didn't make the Billboard Hot 100, bubbling under at 104, but it did peak at #14 on the R&B singles chart. It was also nominated for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category at the Grammy Awards losing to Chaka Khan's eponymous fourth solo album.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #50
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #8
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #45

Tracks: The better tracks are Can You Dig It, the title track, and the cleverly titled Mixty Motions. Skip track 4, Things Are Getting Better, with vocals and scat solo by Bobby McFerrin and track 7, I'll Be With You, with vocals from Pieces Of A Dream bassist Cedric Napoleon.

The final track is bland theme music for the short-lived TV series Cassie & Co. I have no memory of that show, but I'm guessing they wanted a film noir kind of theme, maybe? Even an appearance from guitarist Lee Ritenour can't save it, though.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Prime Cuts: The Columbia Years 1987-1999 (1999)
All My Tomorrows (1994)
Time Out of Mind (1989)
Anthology of Grover Washington, Jr. (1985)
Skylarkin' (1980)
Mister Magic (1975)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Marshall Crenshaw - Life's Too Short (1991)

From the opening guitar crunch, you know you're in for some quality tunes, but you already knew that when you saw it was a Crenshaw album. Why I don't own his entire catalog is a mystery, even to me, but I picked this up out of the used bin recently. On a side note: am I the only person that comes home from the used music store with a bundle of goods and immediately proceeds to wipe the album jackets and jewel cases with disinfectant wipes? I don't know where those things have been.

Anyway, I was familiar with the album opener, Better Back Off, from its inclusion in the stellar Rhino compilation The Best of Marshall Crenshaw, but the other 9 tracks were new to me. Long story short: I wish I had found this back in 1991 and now, 25 years later, I'm going to ride around town with this in my truck's CD player for a few weeks.

Rolling Stone, June 13, 1991, p. 116
And because I love to pick at low-hanging fruit: the title is Life's Too Short, but unfortunately, Crenshaw's mullet wasn't. Full disclosure: mine wasn't either, but it met it's demise around 1986.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: In addition to Better Back Off, I'm digging the Smithereens-ish Don't Disappear Now, Delilah, Starting Tomorrow, and Everything's The Truth. There's nothing to skip here, even when Marshall tries his hand at grunge-lite with Face Of Fashion.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but all Crenshaw albums have the same effect on me: at some point today, I'll be singing one of these songs while going about my business. Which song and in what context TBD.

Previously revisited for the blog:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brian Culbertson - Come On Up (2003)

An enjoyable album of smooth jazz in the same vein as Brian Simpson and Jeff Lorber (which is a nice way of saying there's nothing here that can immediately identify the artist). Lots of familiar names: Marcus Miller, Norman Brown, Jerry Hey, Rick Braun, etc. The only downside is the use of synth drums - a fad that should have run its course by 2003. Culbertson uses live horns and strings, but synth drums. Go figure. Credit to Culbertson, his writing, and the fact that he plays many instruments: keyboards, percussion, trombone, and trumpet (his dad was a school band director). Most reviews I've read give this 3 out of 5 stars; sound about right.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #197
Peak on the US Billboard Jazz Albums chart: #3
Peak on the US Billboard R&B Albums chart: #36

Tracks: The better tracks are Say What?, Playin', and the title track, which got a lot of airplay ("lot" being a relative term for jazz radio). I had high hopes for the cover of Earth, Wind & Fire's Serpentine Fire, but after an exciting intro, the thing just lies there. Skippable tracks include Days Gone By and Fly High.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None - just picked it up recently out of a used bin for $1.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Spyro Gyra - A Foreign Affair (2011)

Today is my 27th wedding anniversary so I'm celebrating this morning by listening to Spyro Gyra's 27th studio album while waiting for the real anniversary festivities to begin later on.

Over the past 40 years, SG has been fairly consistent in what they bring: Latin-flavored instrumental pop/smooth jazz with songs written by band members. And while there's a lot of that here, the band goes off track on a few tunes and while I respect an artist's need to grow, it doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm guessing from the title the band wanted this disc to be a sort of international travelogue, and for the most part, they succeed. Warning: there are three vocal tracks on this thing.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on the US Billboard Jazz Albums chart: #2

Tracks: My favorite track is Shinjuku (because it sounds most like early '80s SG, sue me). Other top tracks are Sweet Ole Thang, Falling Walls, and Samba for Two. The oddest track is bluesman Keb' Mo' singing Last Call, a song written by country artists Fred Knoblack and Danny O'Keefe, with an accompaniment straight out of a late-night jazz club - it probably shouldn't work, but the deft touch of the band makes it happen. There are very few Spyro Gyra tracks that I'll skip, but Kuhda is one of them.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Down The Wire (2009) Point Of View (1989)
Good To Go-Go (2007) Stories Without Words (1987)
Wrapped In A Dream (2006) Breakout (1986)
Original Cinema (2003) Alternating Currents (1985)
In Modern Times (2001) Access All Areas (1984)
Got The Magic (1999)City Kids (1983)
Road Scholars (1998)Incognito (1982)
20/20 (1997)Freetime (1981)
Love & Other Obsessions (1995)  Carnaval (1980)
Dreams Beyond Control (1993)Catching The Sun (1980)
Fast Forward (1990)Morning Dance (1979)
Three Wishes (1992)Spyro Gyra (1978)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive! (1976)

Note: the CD I listened to was not one of the 25th or 35th anniversary reissues.

I was accused the other day of "mainlining 1976" this summer and that's on target so let's continue on with it.

While I dug the radio singles from this album, I never could have purchased it because if I had come home with a album showing a stoned, long-haired hippie on the cover, my parents would have had a fit and might have discussed rehab for their young son (I don't mean to harp on my parents, they were just raised in a very different time). Anyway, all the cool high school kids listened to it and I longed to be like them. And this 10 year old boy was a complete sucker for the talk box and thought it was the coolest sound ever until he heard the special effect sounds in Star Wars.

Because of his success, Frampton came became an easy target for derision (he was even mocked in the High Fidelity movie), but unnecessarily so. He's an above average guitarist/songwriter and while his voice isn't the greatest, it's good enough for the material. Much has been made of the amount of studio overdubbing that went into this recording and, to be honest, I don't give a care because it gives me what I need: a mid-70's time capsule.

Rolling Stone, March 11, 1976, pp. 60 & 62

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #1 (10 non-consecutive weeks between April - October, 1976)
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #1 (13 non-consecutive weeks between March - October, 1976)

Tracks: Other than the three hit singles, I enjoy Something's Happening and All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side).  First time I head Doobie Wah - I thought the it was the Doobie Brothers and then I read the title - d'oh! I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes. But the Pablo Cruise-ish song is titled I Wanna Go To The Sun, so go figure. By the way, I Wanna Go To The Sun may have the best guitar solos on the album if you like that sort of thing. Disc two isn't as nearly as strong as disc one but finishes with the epic 14 minute version of Do You Feel Like We Do (my favorite track on the thing). When the vinyl was originally released, I'm betting that side three wasn't played much, but that's just speculation on my part because that's what I would have done so I'd miss the bland Jumpin' Jack Flash cover.

Frampton's own track-by-track thoughts can be found here.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rare Silk - American Eyes (1985)

When I was a lad, I picked up Rare Silk's 1983 album, New Weave. It was rather Manhattan Transfer-ish, which I dug at the time. The difference being that MT was a vocal quartet with 2 male and 2 female voices while RS was a vocal quartet with 1 male and 3 female voices, so the sound was different in that way. They still relied on jazz transcriptions, vocaleses, and close harmonies. However, I never heard of them again and figured that they were one and done. Turns out they were just one and done as far as major labels go.  I first heard of this album while putting together this list, then found the CD fairly inexpensively a few weeks back (as of this writing, people are asking $54-$310 for this CD on Amazon; I found a copy at Goodwill for less than $20.) This follow-up was issued on a small but well-respected California jazz label, Palo Alto, which for some reason released CDs on a different imprint, TBA Records (bad decisions all around on that one). But enough of all that, what about the music here?

In music that features vocal harmonies, the material and arrangements must be strong and it's hit or miss on this one. Of the 8 tracks, I can recommend about half. On a couple of tracks, the group tries their best imitation of Al Jarreau scat which is best left to Jarreau. Stick to the harmonies.

Billboard, April 6, 1985, p. 66

"Eclectic but accessible" is a nicer way of saying "hit or miss" - I'm gonna need to steal that phrase. Overall, I'm going to use my usual cop-out phrase: it's good, not great. I'd rather hear New Weave again.

I could easily tear into the lack of liner notes and lack of credits therein, but since these CDs were a newfangled thing back in 1985, I'm giving the label a pass 31 years later (even though it's an easy target with a label name like TBA). Thanks to Discogs - hope your info is accurate because this is all I got:

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on the US Billboard Jazz LPs chart: #4

Tracks: The band shines on 'Round Midnight and Stanley Turrentine's Storm. I also like the cover of Steps Ahead's Oops!. I want to dislike the laid back island groove of Hello, but the marimba and steel drums draw me in. The song was written by bassist Kim Stone and features Dave Samuels and Manolo Badrena, all of whom have played with Spyro Gyra so maybe that's why I'm digging it. Skippable tracks include Watch What Happens, an ill-advised Hendrix cover (Up From The Skies), and the eclectic final track.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above

Monday, August 8, 2016

Peter Blegvad & Andy Partridge - Gonwards (2012)

I'm sure there was a reason I bought this CD a year ago, I'm just not sure what it was.  From the label's website:
Gonwards is the second release by Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge.

Mixing spoken word and songs, the material is voiced by Blegvad and features music played, programmed and assembled by Andy Partridge and Stu Rowe (in whose Swindon-based digital studio the recordings were made).

The trio has produced an album that began as a re-imagination of the myth of The Blues and grew from there to encompass a multitude of musical and lyrical themes; the latter including a roll call of words and terminology for use in The Blues, musings on alcohol and St. Augustine, the role of the car and much more.

A typically brilliant and playful fusion of disparate elements from two of Rock music's most inventive eccentrics.
That last sentence is key. I'm a simple man with simple tastes. That's not to say that the lyrics/poetry and music don't each have their moments; it's an interesting listen. Once.

I feel like I'm at a coffee house for open mike night. Maybe one of the songs was featured in a TV ad?

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: I'm strangely drawn to The Devil's Lexicon. The Impeccable Dandy In White is as close to an XTC song that there is on the thing.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: none