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.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Monkey House - Friday (2019)



I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating: back in 2008, I "liked" a Steely Dan group on Facebook and, because social media loves to sell my personal data, I soon saw an ad that said something along the lines of "if you like Steely Dan, you'll like this Monkey House album." Based on that Facebook ad, I bought the thing unheard and immediately fell in love with the music. I've since purchased the group's whole back catalog, checked out any new releases, including this recent album.

From the album's press release:
Sophisticated musicianship, imaginative lyrics, and a flair for melody are signatures of the sound of Monkey House, a sound that has earned the group serious critical acclaim, peer respect, and a steadily expanding international following.
Click here for full press release.

Breithaupt says this is the best Monkey House album and I'm glad he said it because there's no way I could pick a "best."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: none, but as of this writing, it sits at #11 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Tracks:
  1. 10,000 Hours - Described by Breithaupt as "the track where you realize 'Oh! They don't don't just listen to Steely Dan, they also listen to Earth, Wind & Fire.'" This thing subtly moves from funk to samba near the end and Snarky Puppy guitarist Mark Lettieri deftly solos in both grooves. I used to joke with Breithaupt that I'd be willing to fly myself up to Canada to perform on a MH track or two, but after hearing these guys tear up this chart, I'm rescinding my self-invitation because there's no way I could keep up. The lyrics reference Malcolm Gladwell's faulty 10,000 hour "rule" and the middle eight lyrics "where'd ya get notion that motion is action?" reminds me of many of people I've worked with - so busy they never get anything done (at least that's how I interpret those words).
  2. Nine O'Clock Friday - One of the most Steely Dan-ish songs on the album, including the lyrical allusion to Can't Buy a Thrill. I dig the build to the chorus and the organ pads in this one. "It's nine o'clock Friday and you're going home" - been there.
  3. Shotgun - this catchy, upbeat cut is currently my favorite song on the album and one I nominated as "The Song of the Summer" two months ago:
    Nice trumpet interludes throughout.
  4. Welcome to the Rest of the World - The piano intro reminds me more than a little of Todd Rundgren or Carole King in a very good way and then the band kicks in and keeps a steady mid-tempo groove with a distinct late-70's feel. The chorus is the one of the best hooks on the album. Top-notch sax work throughout from Fran├žois D’Amours.
  5. Book of Liars - A Walter Becker tune from his 1994 album, Eleven Tracks of Whack. Becker died while Monkey House was recording this album, so Breithaupt chose to cover this tune as a tribute. Not my favorite tune on the album, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment.
  6. The Jazz Life - How could these guys possibly take it up a notch? Get The Manhattan Transfer to sing the chorus with their characteristic close harmonies that sound effortless. Fingers crossed for another MH/MT collaboration in the future. Make sure to stick around for the tasty bass solo on the coda.
  7. I'll Drive, You Chill - Yet another hook-filled chorus while the verse groove is reminiscent of the backing tracks to Steely Dan's "Do It Again."
  8. Say It For the Last Time - pleasant mid-tempo cut, reminds me more of the group's earlier work.
  9. When the Mud Men Come - A funky, half-time-feel satire of doomsday preppers. One of the better guitar solos on the album; I keep waiting for an organ solo that never comes.
  10. Because You - One of my (many) favorite cuts. An intro that grabs me from the get-go that eventually gets to a chorus that I have to sing along with. My co-workers don't appreciate my falsetto much. 
  11. Brainyard - Steely Dan ska? Somehow the arrangement works (particularly the horns). Nice instrumental break about 2 minutes in. Any song with the lyric "You kids get off my lawn" appeals to someone my age, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build.
  12. Island Off The Coast Of America - Nice way to close an album. Beautiful shuffle ballad with background vocals to die for, courtesy of Lucy Woodward. Plus the second half of the thing is a muted trumpet solo from Steely Dan's own Michael Leonhart, and even then it's too short. Then you hit the repeat button and it's back to track one.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. Only recently released, I just got my autographed copy that I pre-ordered months ago as part of the group's Indiegogo campaign.

Also, the beautiful cover photo is "Times Square, 1958" by photographer Pete Turner, whose photos graced the covers of many CTI/A&M jazz albums in the '60s and '70s. And now I'm down that rabbit hole.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Left (2016)
Big Money: Singles, Remasters, Rarities, 1992-2005 (2005)

Also:
Just Passing Through: The Breithaupt Brothers Songbook, Vol. II (2014)


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Various Artists - Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon (1995)



In which alternative rock groups cover John Lennon's solo catalog; the classic rock tribute album being a common occurrence in the mid-90's (see also: Two RoomsEncomium, Common Thread, among many others).

Billboard, October 21, 1995, p. 79

Billboard liked it better than me. I'm more aligned with the AllMusic review: "the album is an incoherent jumble...an unqualified mess." It goes without saying that you should stick with Lennon's originals, but there are a couple of decent covers near the end of the disc.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #94

Tracks: My picks are from artists that don't fit the "alternative rock" designation: Cheap Trick's take on Working Class Hero, George Clinton's Mind Games, and the delicate cover of Grow Old With Me by Mary Chapin Carpenter (which may or may not have brought a tear to the eye of your humble blogger - I admit to nothing).

SongArtist
I Found OutRed Hot Chili Peppers
I Don't Wanna Be A SoldierMad Season
Steel and GlassCandlebox
ImagineBlues Traveler
Working Class HeroScreaming Trees
Power to the PeopleThe Minus 5
How Do You Sleep?The Magnificent Bastards
Nobody Told MeFlaming Lips
Well, Well, WellSuper 8
Cold TurkeyCheap Trick
Jealous GuyCollective Soul
IsolationSponge
Instant Karma!Toad the Wet Sprocket
Grow Old With MeMary Chapin Carpenter
Mind GamesGeorge Clinton

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Andy Williams - 16 Most Requested Songs (1986)


Admittedly, this compilation would be of more interest to my parents than to me, but here we are. Williams (1927-2012) was a singer during a time when the word "crooner" was in play and was used to describe him even after his death. Williams was blessed with a fantastic, seemingly effortless voice and somebody (manger? agent? record company?) paired him with some talented arrangers and performers to support.

Judging by the copyright date of the compilation, this was an early entry in the "hurry up and release old recordings on this new, overpriced format/don't worry about the cover art" compact disc sweepstakes.

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

Tracks: 16 tracks, 43 minutes. I know them all just by reading the titles. Lots of movie stuff, as one would expect. Let's take a look at where they peaked on the pop and easy listening charts:

SongYearHot 100EL*
Canadian Sunset19567
The Hawaiian Wedding Song195911
Can't Get Used to Losing You196321
Red Roses for a Blue Lady1965

Dear Heart1964242
Moon River1962

Born Free1967

Danny Boy1961
15
Days of Wine and Roses1963269
Emily1964

Sweet Memories1968754
More1964

Maria1962

What Now My Love1967

Love Theme from "Romeo and Juliet"1969

The Impossible Dream1968


*The Easy Listening chart premiered in the July 7, 1961 edition of Billboard.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: It's like a freakin' time machine back to simpler days. (I'm not sure they were "good ol' days" but it was certainly nice having all my needs taken care of with absolutely no effort on my part). I remember singing Born Free at the top of my lungs when I was 3 or 4, but I had more likely heard Roger William's version than Andy's. Moon River naturally reminds me of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, which I've seen more times than I could count (even though I prefer Truman Capote's ending over Blake Edward's). My favorite scene is the party scene, especially the woman looking in the mirror.


Friday, July 19, 2019

Various Artists - Bye Bye, Love: Original Soundtrack Album (1995)


This landed on my doorstep earlier this year as part of a multi-CD "care package" from a long-time reader and friend o' the blog. Never seen the movie so I have no idea what would be on the soundtrack. I'm guessing The Everly Brothers. Let's slide this thing into the tray and find out.

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

Tracks:
  1. Let It Be Me - Jackson Browne & Timothy B. Schmit. The Everly Brothers released their cover version in 1960 and it was a top ten hit. This country-rock/adult contemporary version sounds exactly like you think it would, but I've got to admit that the voices blend together well. 
  2. I Will - Ben Taylor. Well, this is certainly a pleasant surprise. Ben is the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon and he sounds remarkably like his father. Uncanny. This cover of a 1968 Beatles tune would be worth the price of the album, if I'd purchased the album.
  3. Don't Worry Baby - The Everly Brothers featuring The Beach Boys. There's nothing wrong with this cover. But it's one of those covers that makes you want to hear the 1964 original instead of hitting the repeat button. At least we finally get some Everly Brothers.
  4. Bye Bye Love - The Proclaimers. Made famous in 1957 by The Everly Brothers. I have no idea who thought having The Proclaimers cover it was a good idea. And a no surprises/straight-ahead cover, at that. Again, find the original.
  5. Stones in the Road - Mary Chapin Carpenter. Title track from Carpenter's 1994 album. Pleasant enough, but I keep waiting for it to get where it's going.
  6. Our House - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This peaked on the pop chart at #30 in 1970, but it's happy nature makes it a natural for TV ads and movies. If you're lucky, you get to sit in your living and think the lyrics apply to you and your place.  I'm not a big CSN&Y fan, but I find it difficult to dislike this one, especially the la-la-la sing along midway through.
  7. So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) - The Everly Brothers. Written by brother Don, this was a top ten hit in 1960. And it represents everything good about the duo and their music. Simplistically beautiful and mournful.
  8. This Little Girl of Mine - Dave Edmunds. Originally the gospel tune This Little Light of Mine, transformed into a R&B tune by Ray Charles in 1955, then a top 40 tune in 1958 for The Everly Brothers. This cover by roots rocker Edmunds is respectful to the original, but makes it his own.
  9. Falling in Love Again - Linda Ronstadt. Taken from the 1984 standards album, Lush Life, and now I'm going to need to hear that whole album. Lawdy this is good stuff. Ronstadt's voice, a swinging rhythm section, and a tasty piano solo from Don Grolnick. Thanks, Linda, I needed that.
  10. The Main Thing (Original Score Ballad) - J.A.C. Redford - instrumental music from the film score. Even with this 2½ minute song, the whole album barely hits the 30 minute mark.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but I can pretty much guess the plot of the movie just from the song titles.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Rickie Lee Jones - The Magazine (1984)



To be honest, other than her radio hits, I hadn't given much thought to Rickie Lee Jones in many years. But five years ago, I put together a list of Billboard's jazz charts and found two of RLJ albums charted on said jazz charts. That got my attention, but then I noticed many of the social media accounts I follow mention albums such as The Magazine when listing the usual suspects in regard to "yacht rock" session musicians (i.e., Jeff Porcaro, David Hungate, Buzz Feiten, Neil Larsen, Jerry Hey, Steve Lukather, Steve Gadd - they're all here ). So, long story long, when I saw this beauty in the $2 clearance bin at the local used CD joint two years back, I didn't hesitate. Wise move on my part cuz this thing is fantastic.

Billboard, September 29, 1984

"Truly intelligent AC music," huh? Sounds like something I'd get into. And I dig the risk-taking in the songwriting, even though most critics of the time did not.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #44
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #20
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #26

Tracks: One of those albums that needs need to be heard top-to-bottom as it is apparent (to me, anyways) that a great deal of thought was put into the album sequencing. The singles were It Must Be Love (did not chart) and The Real End (#83 pop, #37 AC) but the Chuck E's in Love redux is Juke Box Fury.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. While Jones had matured quite a bit for this album, the 1984 version of myself had not. So not only did I not hear this album until much later, I wouldn't have given the thing a second look in the record store bins. 1984 version of myself wasn't that bright.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ralph Towner - Solo Concert (1980)


Confession: because of the similarity in name and the fact they are both guitarists, I usually confuse Ralph Towner with Robin Trower, formerly of Procol Harum. Maybe the recent rescue of this CD from the used bin will help remedy my confusion. And by "recent," I mean yesterday evening.

CD liner notes. Click to enlarge.

Recorded live at Amerika Haus in M├╝nchen, Germany and Limmathaus in Z├╝rich, Switzerland in October 1979. This guy claims that "Solo Concert is to the guitar what Keith Jarrett’s The K├Âln Concert is to the piano. It’s that good." And he's right. I'll be pairing the two together for a late night listen in the near future, if not tonight. Maybe I'll throw some Leo Kottke into the mix, too. The pieces are melodic and relaxing, yet display stunning technique. As such, it holds up to both active and passive listening.

Billboard, December 20, 1980, p. 92

Is it jazz, classical, New Age, all of the above? I'll just say it's on the ECM label and leave it at that.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #43
Peak on Cash Box Jazz chart: #39

Tracks: 7 tracks, 48 minutes. On first blush, my picks are Spirit Lake, Zoetrope, Timeless, and a nice take on Miles Davis' Nardis.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Friday, June 21, 2019

Adam and The Ants - Prince Charming (1981)


Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP, recently replaced by a CD. The CD I listened to was the 2004 remastered reissue with six bonus demo tracks.

This past weekend, I saw the image of a skull and crossbones and almost immediately started singing the song Jolly Roger from Kings of the Wild Frontier. So I grabbed that CD off the shelves and gave it a listen. Man-oh-man, that album is good stuff. Listening to that album made me think of the song Stand and Deliver which led me to think of Prince Charming. I owned a copy of the LP in high school, but I had never replaced it with a CD (probably because I never thought it measured up to KOTWF). But I've got a music addiction to feed, so I ordered a copy and am about to listen to it all the way through for the first time in over 35 years.

Smash Hits, Nov. 12, 1981, p. 25

To be fair, I have four songs from this album (the 3 singles and an incredible b-side) on the 1990 compilation disc, Antics in the Forbidden Zone: Stand And Deliver (#1 UK), its b-side Beat My Guest, Prince Charming (#1 UK), and Ant Rap (#3 UK). Oddly, Beat My Guest isn't included on this edition. I'd rather had b-sides than demos, but whatever. Let's give this thing a spin...

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #94
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #85

Tracks:
  1. Scorpios: It's been a long while, but I immediately recognize it. This one starts off like a soundtrack to a '70s TV detective show. The verse isn't good but the chorus is pretty good. Not at all like the Antmusic from Kings Of The Wild Frontier, but not a bad opener - lets the listener know this album is going to be a little different.
  2. Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios: Even though it harkens back to KOTWF, I'm gonna pass on this one. I don't think I listened to this cut much 35+ years ago, because I have little memory of it. For good reason, it turns out. 
  3. Prince Charming: An odd little chord progression from Marco, but Adam does the best he can with it. This tune wouldn't be out of place on Friend Or Foe, so it indicates the direction was headed with their writing. A British #1, I'm not sure this was even released as a single in the US.
  4. Five Guns West: man, this album sure could use some of the old drumsticks on cement/Burundi drumming. This ditty is derivative of spaghetti western soundtracks and not a very good derivation, at that. "I'm a big tough man and my name is Stan." 
  5. That Voodoo!: Starts off with a promising groove, but never quite delivers on that promise, despite the amusing Tijuana Brass section. I have absolutely no memory of this one, so I'm guessing that I flipped over my LP to side two after hearing Prince Charming. (Is the above reviewer correct? Are the intros the highpoints here?)
  6. Stand and Deliver: Finally, Adam and the boys come through with what might be their best single ever. It's certainly the reason I originally bought this album. "...the faux-tribal calls of his previous hits are suddenly shifted into the 18th century setting with the gloriously idiotic chant of 'fa diddly qua qua!'. "Gloriously idiotic chant" - wish I'd written that.


  7. Mile High Club: No memory of this one, either. Maybe because there's not much to it. Not even three minutes in length but still too long. But if there's ever been a rock star who I'd believe is a member of the mile high club, it would be Adam Ant (or Rod Stewart).
  8. Ant Rap: a favorite of young Mark and I still know all the words. It's silly and an affront to the term "rap" but I simply don't care.
  9. Mowhok: I'm not sure why I like this one - is it because it sounds like a discarded track from KOTWF or because it immediately follows Ant Rap or because the catchy chant of the chorus?
  10. S.E.X.: I didn't care much for this haunting experimental cut as a 16 year old, but today I'm thinking its brilliant and probably the second best track on the album. Odd that I wouldn't like a song titled S.E.X. as a 16 year old boy, because sex was all I could think about back then.
  11. The Lost Hawaiians: an unlisted track, this is stuck on the end of S.E.X. on this Cd reissue. It's an slack-key guitar version of Los Rancheros from KOTWF. A goofy way to ended a disjunct album.
Bonus tracks (original 1981 demos and writing tapes):
  1. Prince Charming: I've written it before - demos are interesting to hear once, but certainly not more than that. I can't even say this one is worth hearing once. If you were forced to go see your nephew's high school production of Grease, would you rather watch the performance or a read-through of the script?
  2. Stand and Deliver: see above
  3. Showbiz: sections of this demo have promise so it makes me wonder why they never fleshed out a version of this. At the very least, it would have been a serviceable b-side.
  4. Picasso Visits The Planet Of The Apes: I had hopes that the demo might be better than track 2. Go fish.
  5. Who's A Goofy Bunny Then?: I'm a goofy bunny for listening to this shite. (Low hanging fruit, admittedly)
  6. Scorpio Writing: an in depth, informative look at how a song is written, developed, and produced in a studio setting. I'm just messing with ya - it's 3½ minutes of studio chatter and the musicians messing around hoping lightening will strike.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: When trying to cultivate my Johnny Slash image in 1982-3, I almost always had an Adam Ant pinback on my shirt or jacket (see below). Nonetheless, the only song from this album I'd ever blast on my car's Pioneer deck was Stand And Deliver. No surprise there.

Various Adam Ant/Adam and the Ants pinbacks from my personal collection.
My favorite that I wore the most is the yellow one on the left.
Somewhat related trivia: even though the band had been around in some form since 1977, they were nominated for the (cursed?) "Best New Artist" Grammy award for the year 1981 (presented February 24, 1982), losing to Sheena Easton. Other nominees that year were The Go-Go's, James Ingram, and Luther Vandross.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Antics in the Forbidden Zone (1990)
Friend Or Foe (1982)
Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)