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 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.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Carpenters - Christmas Collection (1996)


In 1978, The Carpenters released their Christmas Portrait album, followed by another Christmas album, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, in 1984. This 2 CD set contains both albums with their original sequencing. It supplants the previously released Christmas Portrait compilation CD.

19781984

I've never been asked what my favorite Christmas album is, but Christmas Portrait would certainly get some serious consideration, along with Vince Guaraldi and Phil Spector. (Rolling Stone recently ranked it at #16 of all-time; I respectfully disagree.) It is nice to listen to it here in its original running order. If you don't mind, I'm just going to enjoy Karen's effortless voice and Richard's classic arrangements for a while and not write anything.

Disc 2, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, released after Karen's death, contains several unused tracks from the Christmas Portrait along with some newly-recorded instrumentals alongside their 1974 single, a slow version of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.  Complete liner notes available here.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: originally, Christmas Portrait #145, An Old-Fashioned Christmas #190, the Christmas Portrait album has made more appearances in subsequent years.

Tracks: It's all good and while I love a good Christmas tune medley, it doesn't get much better than Merry Christmas Darling.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Christmas Portrait was introduced to me in the early '80s by a good friend, so listening to it always brings back good memories of his brief time with us. Did I mention how nice it is to hear the original sequencing again?

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Singles: 1969-1981 (2000)
Christmas Portrait (1984)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

JD McPherson - Socks (2018)


"... wouldn't sound out of place blasting out of a 1949 Mercury, or a turntable next to a flamingo pink Christmas tree." - Matt Collar, Allmusic

A few friends recommended this album to me last year shortly after release. Worn down by their nagging (jk), I streamed the thing and immediately fell in love. Back when I had a Facebook account (don't get me started), I posted a declaration that Socks was the Christmas album of the year for 2018. I haven't heard anything better yet in 2019, so it retains the top spot again this year.

Incorporating Christmas-ish instruments such as celeste and glockenspiel to his '50s-inspired R&b/rockabilly, McPherson has created a set of Christmas originals that sound as if they've been around my entire life. Hooks a'plenty and witty lyrics. Git ya some.

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

Tracks: 11 tracks in 33 minutes - yes, it's too short and the only way to combat the brevity is to immediately spin the disc again. All 11 tracks are winners and would be welcome additions to any Christmas playlist/mixtape/shuffle.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: This CD has not left the 6 disc CD player in our family's SUV in 2019. Yes, our SUV has a CD player - why wouldn't it?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Mozart - Requiem, K 626 (1992)


Sir Georg Solti conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic) and the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Chorus of the Vienna State Opera). Recorded live in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, on December 5, 1991. Recorded live in Vienna to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. More on Sir Solti, his personal score, and this specific performance can be found at the Harvard University Library website:
The Mass was officiated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna and was televised throughout Europe. “Through the two days of rehearsals, I had been troubled by the thought that Mozart had died only a short distance away and his funeral had been held in this very church. I felt that his spirit was there, somehow, and I feared that would unsettle me during the performance and I would start to cry.”
I've written about my love for this piece earlier on the blog for another recording, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'd pick up another recording of Mozart's Requiem, especially one conducted by Solti and inexplicable languishing in a used CD clearance bin.

The whole recording is a little heavy for my personal tastes, but that's a very minor quibble (and the subject matter is heavy, after all). The tone and tempi are spot on, but as I was digging the immaculate sounds and wonderful interpretation of the piece, the music stops and a foreign tongue speaks beginning about 30 minutes into the CD. Dahell? And then it hit me - they're doing an actual full Requiem Mass for Mozart, at the church where Mozart's funeral was held, on the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death, using Mozart's own music. I'm not even Catholic but I've got to admit that's pretty cool and drives home the actual liturgical purpose of the music and text. Powerful stuff.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Horowitz Plays Mozart (1987)
Serenade in B flat, KV 361 "Gran Partita" (1984)
Requiem, KV 626 (1983)
Mozart Overtures (1982)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Pat Metheny Group - American Garage (1979)


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

Just your typical Metheny greatness which was his norm during the ECM years. It's more popish than fusionish, but that's fine with this guy. Besides, music can be both commercially accessible and artistically challenging.

Cash Box, November 11, 1979, p. 15

Nominated for the Grammy award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, losing to The Manhattan Transfer version of Birdland.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #53
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #57
Peak on Cash Box jazz album chart: #2

Tracks: Rumor has it Metheny isn't fond of track 5, The Epic. Admittedly, that's the worse track on this album, but it's still dang good. Don't skip any. In fact, this thing is so short (35 minutes), spin it twice back-to-back. If you're looking for my favorite track, just pick any of the first four.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but I love the cover photo by Joel Meyerowitz. And with titles like (Cross The) Heartland, Airstream, and The Search, I should really listen to this more on the open road.



Previously revisited for the blog:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Krayolas - Best Riffs Only (2007)


So I'm sitting at Sam's Burger Joint waiting for the Marshall Crenshaw show to start and the pre-show music playlist included the song Cry, Cry, Laugh, Laugh sending me (and every other Crenshaw fan nearby) scrambling to pull out their phones to identify the song. The day following the show (which was a most excellent concert, btw), I discovered The Krayolas are a local band from right here in San Antonio and I was immediately down that rabbit hole. Yada, yada, yada, and I eventually found a copy of this 2007 compilation CD. I'm happy to have found a copy because it's tough find, even in San Antonio.

"It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." - Ferris Bueller

Here's the skinny from the CD liner notes:


Even though I had kinda fashioned myself into a New Wave wannabe Johnny Slash guy in 1982, if someone had handed me the group's debut album, Kolored Music, back then, I would have loved it and pestered all my friends to give it a listen.

The band doesn't yet have their own Wikipedia page, but here's a little info on the band from Texas Monthly magazine: https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/hector-saldana/. They've also got their own website (that appears to have been dormant for a few years): https://thekrayolas.com/ and a MySpace(!) page: https://myspace.com/thekrayolas

In 2014, the Krayolas were inducted into the Texas Music Office’s South Texas Music Walk of Fame. That walk of fame can be found in an off-the-beaten-path location on Market Street in downtown Corpus Christi. This past summer, on my way to the Executive Surf Club (I recommend the Executive Surf Burger), I spotted The Krayolas' star:


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

Tracks: 16 tracks, 51 minutes. My top picks are All I Do Is Try, Aw Tonight, Sometime, Happy Go Lucky, Rhymes Of Tomorrow, Sunny Day, Dorothy, You're Not My Girl, and, of course, the aforementioned Cry Cry Laugh Laugh. There's also a holiday waltz, Christmas Time, which would be a fun tune to include on your next Xmas playlist or mixtape.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above

Note: much of this post appeared previously over on the My Favorite Decade blog.  Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Michael McDonald - If That's What It Takes (1982)


A voice like none other. Mikey had so much clout by the time he put out his first solo album that he didn't even bother putting the title on the album cover - the name says it all.

Musician, November 1982, pp. 90 & 92

With Ted Templeman on the boards, this album can't help but sound a like Michael's stint with the Doobies at times, but if you like that stuff (and I do), then kudos all around. Simply put, this is stuff is fantastic and it never fails to put me in a better mood, even if my singing along with Mike just doesn't do it justice. And just check out this supporting cast:
  • Additional keyboards: Greg Phillinganes, Michael Boddicker, Michael Omartian
  • Guitar: Dean Parks, Steve Lukather, Robben Ford
  • Bass: Willie Weeks, Louis Johnson, Mike Porcaro
  • Drums: Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro
  • Percussion: Lenny Castro, Bobby LaKind, Paulinho Da Costa, Ted Templeman
  • Saxophones: Edgar Winter, Tom Scott
  • Backing vocals: Ed Sanford, Maureen McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross, Brenda Russell, Kathy Walker, Amy Holland

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #6
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #10
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #3

Tracks: They're all good, but lemme try to rank 'em.
  1. I Can Let Go Now
  2. Losin' End
  3. Playin' By The Rules
  4. No Such Luck
  5. That's Why
  6. Believe In It
  7. If That's What It Takes
  8. Love Lies
  9. I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)
  10. I Gotta Try

For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox,
go visit The Legend of the Longbox.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: In 1982, I was trying to adopt a skinny tie/spiky hair/pinbacks New Wave persona so the thought of purchasing this mainstream album when it was released never crossed my mind. Unbelievable. My mistake, admittedly, but that fact didn't keep me from enjoying the singles on the radio and catching up with this thing later on.

My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. McDonald in concert this past summer and I'll be doggoned if he doesn't have so many hits that he can start a show with whatever smash he damn well pleases. In our case it was I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near) (#4 pop, #8 AC, #7 R&B). FWIW, Chaka Khan wasn't the supporting act on this date, but McDonald's wife Amy Holland made a brief onstage appearance to sing a duet on one of his newer tunes (Hail Mary, maybe?).



Previously revisited for the blog:
The Ultimate Collection (2005)
The Christmas Collection (2004)
The New York Rock And Soul Revue - Live At The Beacon (1991)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Crusaders - 5 Original Albums (2017)


A budget-priced box set featuring The Crusaders studio albums released during the years 1975 - 79, the second prime era of the group's long career. No liner notes, just cardboard sleeve replicas of the original vinyl releases, but for $16 I ain't complaining.


CHAIN REACTION (1975)
10 tracks, 41 minutes


Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #26
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #9
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #39

The band had five members for this release: Wayne Henderson - trombone, Wilton Felder - bass, saxophone, Joe Sample - keyboards, Stix Hooper - drums, and Larry Carlton - guitar. This album mixes it up nicely with funk (Creole, Give It Up, Hot's It), melodic '70s jazz-rock (Chain Reaction, Mellow Out, Soul Caravan) and some slow burners (I Felt The Love, Rainbow Visions). The only problem here is that there are so many artists that can be featured, but so little time. Occasionally, they step all over each other's playing, but that's a minor complaint. I think Joe Sample's electric piano steals the show, but then again, I always think Joe Sample steals the show. Of the reviews I found online, the consensus is Chain Reaction is the group's best album since they dropped "Jazz" from their name.

Cash Box, August 16, 1975, p. 27


THOSE SOUTHERN KNIGHTS (1976)
7 tracks, 40 minutes


Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #38
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #2 (kept out of the top spot by Breezin')
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #9
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #49


Sweet mama this is good stuff. Classic mid-'70s jazz fusion timbres on some funky grooves, both fast (Spiral) and slow (And Then There Was The Blues). Carlton and Sample shine throughout. And it is remarkably consistent - I dig all of what was side one (tracks 1-4) and most of side two, except for track 6, Serenity, which never seems to get where it wants to go. But don't let that discourage your from spinning this album, which is one of the group's most enjoyable if you simply want to set it and forget it.

Cash Box, May 15, 1976, p. 18


FREE AS THE WIND (1977)
8 tracks, 43 minutes


Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #41
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #8
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #37

In my opinion, the first three albums of this box set represent the peak of this group's studio output and I'd be hard pressed to pick one above the others, but Free As The Wind just might win in a photo finish. This release is the first without trombonist Wayne Henderson and, as one would expect, Joe Sample picks up the slack. Don't skip any tracks, but by all means listen to The Way We Was multiple times. The review below states that "lots of bands can cook but the Crusaders know how to simmer..." 'Nuff said.

Cash Box, June 4, 1977, p. 23
Larry Carlton would later re-record Nite Crawler on his self-titled 1978 album and Lee Ritenour would tastefully cover It Happens Everyday on his Rio album.

IMAGES  (1978)
7 tracks, 40 minutes


Note: this release was originally purchased as an 8-track tape, later replaced by this CD.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #34
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #18
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #33

I first heard this album in 2014 after picking up a copy of the 8-track tape. You can read my initial thoughts here: My Favorite Decade: Crusaders - Images. My views haven't changed much. Larry Carlton had left the band and that was a huge blow. The remaining band members certainly bring their best, but ultimately, Images doesn't hold up when compared to the previous three efforts. Shrug - it was bound to happen sooner or later.


Cash Box, July 22, 1978, p. 22


STREET LIFE (1979)
6 tracks, 40 minutes


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

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #18
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #3
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #21

And then there were three: Sample, Hooper, & Felder. The epic title cut is the obvious highlight of the album, the commercial peak of the group's career, and served as my introduction to the group. From the 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (p. 426):
The 11-minute-plus title track that kicks off the six-cut collection is so strong that it could be released as a four-track EP with an instrumental, radio edit, and live version thrown in - and still qualify as a classic.
Of the remaining five tracks, I'm partial to Rodeo Drive (High Steppin'), Carnival Of The Night, and Night Faces.

Cash Box, July 15, 1979, p. 45

Exclusive photo courtesy of Dirk Digglinator of the Hambonian Archives.
For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox, go visit
The Legend of the Longbox.

This whole box set is making me long for the 5-disc CD player I purchased in the mid-to-late '90s.

Personal Memory Associated with these CDs: None. I wish someone had introduced me to these albums when they were released. At the very least, I would have worn out Street Life on my turntable in 1979-80.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Rural Renewal (2003)