Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this music junkie 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. Compact Discs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no files.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Essential Simon & Garfunkel (2003)

 
A two-disc anthology released to coincide with Simon & Garfunkel’s 2003 "Old Friends" reunion tour (which didn't come within 900 miles of me, but whatever). It contains all of the duo’s 16 singles originally released between 1964 and 1975 to reach the Billboard Hot 100. The remaining 17 songs include album cuts and eight live performances from 1967 to 1969.


 
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #27

Tracks:
Disc 1


Song Year  Hot 100  AC 
Wednesday Morning, 3 AM (Live)1967--
Bleecker Street1964- -
The Sound Of Silence19641-
Leaves That Are Green (Live)1967- -
A Most Peculiar Man (Live)1968--
I Am A Rock19653 -
Richard Cory1965--
Kathy's Song (Live)1969- -
Scarborough Fair/Canticle1966115
Homeward Bound19655 -
Sparrow (Live)1967--
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)1966- -
The Dangling Conversation196625-
A Poem On The Underground Wall (Live)1967- -
Hazy Shade Of Winter196613-
At The Zoo196816 -

Disc 2


Song Year  Hot 100  AC 
Mrs. Robinson196814
Fakin' It196723 -
Old Friends1968--
Bookends1968- -
America196897-
Overs (Live)1968- -
El Condor Pasa (If I Could)1970186
Bridge Over Troubled Water19701 1
Cecilia1970431
Keep The Customer Satisfied1970- -
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright1970--
The Boxer19707 3
Baby Driver1970--
The Only Living Boy In New York1970- -
Song For The Asking1970--
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (Live)197253 27
My Little Town197591

Yes, it includes 9 of the original 11 tracks from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, what of it? That doesn't bother me, but I'm docking this set some points for the almost-but-not-quite chronological sequencing and the inclusion of too many live cuts. Speaking of live cuts, where is the live version of Wake Up, Little Susie, which hit #27 in 1982?

Here's my top five cuts from this particular compilation. Looks like I prefer Disc 2 over Disc 1.
  1. My Little Town
  2. Cecilia
  3. Mrs. Robinson
  4. 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
  5. Bridge Over Trouble Water

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Back on April 27, I was re-rewatching an episode of the wonderful TV series Mad Men, more specifically season 4, episode 7: The Suitcase. The episode ends with Bleecker Street, a deep cut from Simon & Garfunkel's 1964 debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. I immediately liked the tune, but didn't recognize it. I grabbed my phone and used an app to identify the song. Add bourbon and credit card and yada yada yada this two disc set arrives at my doorstep on May 1.

Folk songs always remind me of church camps. I went to my fair share of them as a teen and, at some point during almost all of the camps, one of the camp counselors would pull out an acoustic guitar and attempt to start a folksy sing-along. After a few familiar S&G and/or Dylan tunes, they'd try to get creative and shout out something along the lines of "Hey! Let's sing the words to Amazing Grace to the tune of House Of The Rising Sun!" and teenaged Mark would yearn for a Walkman with some new wave cassettes. 

During my years in 5th and 6th grade, my music teacher's name was Mrs.Kincaid and her music classes mostly consisted of her playing the guitar while we sang along. We sang a lot of tunes, but I can only remember a few: Rocky Raccoon, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy). I always liked Mrs. Kincaid - she was very supportive of me and my talents; like all good teachers, she felt her job wasn't to pass along knowledge, but to build up students. I wonder what ever happened to her. 

And I can't begin to tell you how many times I've sung Bridge Over Troubled Water at the top of my lungs. I don't have the range to pull it off but that doesn't keep me from trying.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Basia - The Sweetest Illusion (1994)


A typical Basia poppy-jazzy-adult contemporary album - if you're in the mood, it's spot-on and if you're not, it can be annoying as hell. (For the record, today I'm in the mood and I'm quite enjoying it.) I'd reckon this album is stronger than London Warsaw New York but not quite up to Basia's debut, Time And Tide. Very easy to digest and there's some good writing here. My only complaint is that the duo tries to take us on a world tour of musical styles - each song a derivation of some groove you've heard before - with mixed results. It's best when they lose the accordion and scatting and stay in their usual, comfy, pseudo-Latin lane. 

Also, as noted in a 1994 LA Times feature:
[Basia's] voice is a little deeper. “That’s because I took vocal lessons, which brought out that side of my voice,” she says. “But it’s also because of the influence of Anita Baker. I love the deep side of her voice and I listen to her CDs constantly.
Listen to a lot of Anita Baker CDs, huh? Join the club. Entertainment Weekly gave The Sweetest Illusion a grade of C+ while Billboard spotlighted the album and gave it a positive outlook for sales. 


For what it's worth, I'd be game for a Danny White instrumental album. The Sweetest Illusion has since been released on a 3 CD deluxe set and the second CD of that set is mostly instrumental versions of these tracks. Hmmm...

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #27
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #20

Tracks: This is one of those front-loaded albums - the first 3⅔ songs are fantastic, then things get hit-or-miss. The lead track, Drunk On Love, hit the top spot on the Billboard dance chart on October 29, 1994, Basia's only appearance on that particular chart. The better tracks from the middle to the end of the album are the title track (which is the most '90s-sounding thing here) and More Fire Than Flame. 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Best of Matt Bianco (1990)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Various Artists - Jazzin' (1990)


10 track budget compilation from Warner Special Products as part of JCI's "Hits" series. I was surprised to see this CD get a look over at allmusic, where it rated ★★½ and called "a mixed bag." Agreed.

A Jazzin' II CD was also released.

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

Tracks: 8 of the 10 tracks have previously appeared on The CD Project.
  1. Tutu by Miles Davis. Previously on this blog from the 1986 album Tutu.
  2. Rio De Janeiro Blue by Randy Crawford. Previously on this blog from the 1996 compilation The Best of Randy Crawford.
  3. Sweet Love by Najee. Previously on this blog from the 1986 album Najee's Theme.
  4. Eggplant by Michael Franks. Previously on this blog from the 1998 compilation The Best Of Michael Franks: A Backward Glance.
  5. Don't Make Me Wait For Love by Kenny G (vocals by Lenny Williams). From the 1986 album Duotones.
  6. Eleanor Rigby by Stanley Jordan. Previously on this blog from the 1985 album Magic Touch, the 1991 compilation Blue Beat: Blue Note Plays The Music Of Lennon And McCartney, and the 2004 compilation Blue Note Plays The Beatles.
  7. Blackbird by Bobby McFerrin. Previously on this blog from the 1984 album The Voice.
  8. Man In The Moon by The Yellowjackets. Previously on this blog from the 1983 album Mirage à Trois.
  9. What Love Can Do by Earl Klugh. From the 1989 album Whispers And Promises.
  10. Makin' Whoopee by Dr. John and Rickie Lee Jones. Previously on this blog from the 1993 compilation Sleepless In Seattle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
So if I already owned 80% of the tracks, why would I buy this disc? Well, I recently purchased an 8 CD lot on eBay for $10 and this disc was in that set. Nice to get a Earl Klugh track I didn't already have, though. I must say I enjoyed the Randy Crawford and Michael Franks tracks more this time than when I originally wrote about them.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Herbie Hancock - Lite Me Up (1982)


 Japanese Import

The magical year of 1982 continues to give me new musical gifts even after all these decades. You won't find any jazz on this album, but there sure is a lot of fantastic soul-pop. Lightweight, but a fun listen - even better in the summer. Hancock's last album before entering his electro-funk phase, the easiest way to think of this album is as the sequel to The Dude (or, possibly, Off The Wall). And I mean that in the most complimentary way imaginable - it plays like an extension of that Quincy Jones album. The most obvious commonality between the two LPs (other than Hancock himself) is songwriter Rod Temperton, who wrote or co-wrote 6 of the album's 8 tracks. There's also lots of familiar personnel from The Dude: Patti Austin, Steve Lukather, Jeff Porcaro, Michael Boddicker, Jerry Hey, etc. 

More on the release from Hancock's personal website: https://www.herbiehancock.com/album/lite-me-up/

Hancock's vocoder use gets old rather quickly, but it does a good job of covering up his occasional vocal pitch problems. (Ironically, American Idol's Randy Jackson, the man who coined the nonsense word "pitchy, " plays bass on track 5).  Hancock wisely hands off vocal duties to Wayne Anthony on several tracks. Regardless, in every tune you can count on Hancock for a tasty solo, even if they're occasionally far too brief. For the record, his best solo work is on the closing track, Give It All Your Heart.


Press of the time:
  • Billboard: "Hancock's musicianship will satisfy his jazz fans if they're willing to wade through a hit or two."
  • CashBox: "a blend of techno-funk and jazz fusion that forms a potent platter"
  • Stereo Review: "thoroughly satisfying"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #151
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #10
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #31
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #113

Tracks: I enjoy the whole thing, but my choice picks are the funky title track and Paradise (a westcoast jam written by David Foster and Jay Graydon, produced by Graydon). Two singles from the album charted on the Billboard R&B chart in 1982: Lite Me Up! (#52) and Gettin' To The Good Part (#47). Paradise and The Fun Tracks were also released but did not chart.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: a cut from Hancock's 1978 Sunlight album (I Thought It Was You) got stuck in my head, so naturally I had to listen to that album, then kept following his disco-era discography chronologically for a while and eventually found myself streaming this album. I was immediately hooked and picked up this CD fairly quickly, wondering why I'd never heard it before.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Madonna - True Blue (1986)


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

Ain't no Madonna like '80s Madonna. Back in '86, I would have called this unabashed synth-dance-pop album a guilty pleasure, but now I'm (much) older and (slightly) wiser and what's it to you if I listen to this? It's my second favorite Madonna album after the Nile Rodgers-produced Like A Virgin. Five of the albums' nine tracks were released as singles and to say they all did quite well would be an understatement:

 U.S. charted singles: Pop DanceAC
 Live To Tell1
1
 Papa Don't Preach1416
 True Blue36
 Open Your Heart1112
 La Isla Bonita4
1

While it may be my second favorite Madonna album, it's the leader of the pack when it comes to cover design - that lovely Herb Ritts photo sure can't be beat. My cassette copy got plenty of playing time on the Sanyo deck in my car at the time, a remarkably unreliable '85 Oldsmobile:

1985 Firenza pictured in its natural habitat

The album's opener, Papa Don't Preach, was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, eventually losing to Barbra Streisand's Broadway Album. The first single, Live To Tell, was featured in At Close Range (a film I have yet to see), starring then-husband Sean Penn. The album is dedicated to Penn, "the coolest guy in the universe." I like the album and was happy to see a cheap copy pop up in a used CD bin so I could enjoy a trip down memory lane. 

Press of the time:
  • Billboard: "reliable sleek dance-floor contenders"
  • Rolling Stone: "Singing better than ever, Madonna stakes her claim as the pop poet of lower-middle-class America."
  • Smash Hits (7½ out of 10): "Definitely enough to keep her fans in the short term, but I doubt it will do her long term reputation much good at all."
  • Stereo Review: "more melodic, less cluttered, and plain just more fun to listen to."
  • Robert Christgau (B): "Critics flock to her uneven product the way liberal arts magnas flock to investment banking"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #47
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #1
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #1

Tracks: 9 tracks, 40 minutes. I dig all the singles, but if I had to pick a top choice, I'd go with Open Your Heart. I also like Where's The Party but usually skip Jimmy Jimmy (the dichotomy of '60s girl group writing with '80s synth bass/drum progamming arrangement just doesn't do it for me). 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I picked this one up through one of several encounters I had over the years with Columbia House. I'm not sure how many cassettes I got on that initial order (had to be a dozen, right?), but I only remember 3: True Blue, a Stevie Wonder compilation which I wore out playing I Was Made To Love Her over and over and over, and the epic Volume 6 of Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947-1974.

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

 
Previously revisited for the blog:
Into The Hollywood Groove (2003)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Howard Jones - Human's Lib (1984)


Note: I listened to the 2018 Cherry Red "Remastered & Expanded" reissue with 1 bonus track.


Mea culpa: I didn't buy this album back in 1984 when, even by my own reckoning, I probably should have. Heck, a cassette wouldn't have left my car's Pioneer deck for weeks. This thing was (and is) right up my alley: bouncy, melodic, upbeat Euro synth-pop from a guy my high school classmates had never heard of - complete with requisite videos on MTV. Nevertheless, I didn't buy my first HoJo album until 1985 when I picked up a vinyl copy of Dream Into Action.

With the exception of a couple of sax parts, Jones is a one-man band and isn't afraid to use every sequencer and tape track available to layer his sounds. Hooks abound and even though I'm not much for lyrics, even I can't ignore the overall positive demeanor of this album.

I read complaints about this CD using the 12" extended version of What Is Love? instead of the original album version, but since I never heard an original version it doesn't make any difference to me (but I'll be the first to admit that switch would bother me to no end if I'd owned the '84 release). Track-by-track breakdown in the liner notes is most appreciated and the remastering is superb.

Press of the time:


Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #59
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #21
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #88

Tracks: I like all cuts - don't skip any - but since we're already here, let's rank 'em:
  1. What Is Love? (#33 pop) 
  2. New Song (#27 pop) - once named "The Happiest Song of the '80s" and it's hard to argue against that pick
  3. Pearl In The Shell
  4. Hide And Seek - that glorious chorus!
  5. Natural
  6. Don't Always Look At The Rain
  7. Equality - I dig the ethereal synth break
  8. Conditioning - the opening slot was the perfect placement for this one.
  9. Hunt The Self
  10. Human's Lib - this dark, minor-keyed tune just seems out of place here.
Bonus track: China Dance is the instrumental b-side from the Hide & Seek single and was a b-side for a reason.

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.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: So why didn't I purchase this album when it was released? It was a matter of timing. 


I first saw the video for New Song on MTV in December 1983, was hooked and immediately wanted to buy the album but, of course, it wasn't to be released in the US for six more months. By the time June 1984 rolled around, I had moved on to other interests and forgotten about wanting that album. Elektra's poor planning, my loss.

Previously revisited for the blog:
In The Running (1992)
Dream Into Action (1985)

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Various Artists - Blue 'N' Soul: Hear It Through The Grapevine (2001)

 
EU Import (not to be confused with a similarly-titled 1992 US Blue Note release)

Even though it never states it is part of a series on the cover or in the liner notes, I'm tempted to declare this disc to be a fantastic entry in Blue Note Records' series of CD compilations titled The Blue Series. This disc highlights '60s & '70s jazz cover tunes of soul hits originally recorded by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, and Booker T & The MGs

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Not released in US

Tracks: 14 tracks, 76 minutes. If you like what Ramsey Lewis did with The In Crowd back in 1965, check these out, particularly my many top choices marked with a ✔.

Song
 Artist 
 Year   
Me & Mrs Jones 1973
Soul Limbo 1969
Ain't That Peculiar 1966
Reach Out (I'll Be There) 1968
If You Really Love Me 1972
I Heard It Through The Grapevine 1976
Mr. Big Stuff 1971
Feel Like Making Love 1975
Pillow Talk 1973
As 1977
Just My Imagination 1975
People Make The World Go Round 1975
Think 1968
Can't Hide Love 1976


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None