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, October 18, 2016

Herb Alpert - Beyond (1980)

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

Herb Alpert recently regained control of his catalog (he had licensed it to Shout! Factory) and on September 9, 2016, he released all of 'em in one fell swoop on his new vanity label, Herb Alpert Presents. The new releases have all been remastered (this one sounds great) and Alpert has released several CDs that Shout! Factory chose not to reissue for whatever reason (like this 1980 release, for example). In any case, I'm glad to have this one for reasons of nostalgia.

Alpert had left behind the cocktail party music of the Tijuana Brass for instrumental disco with his 1979 hit album Rise.  Well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it (this adage may be followed more closely in the record industry than elsewhere). On this follow-up to Rise, the production crew is the same and so is the format: mid-tempo instrumentals with a disco feel.  In fact, except for the final track, the whole album has a mid-'70s disco feel.  Unfortunately, while the production hasn't changed, the songwriting isn't as good as Rise.  And, to be honest, I don't think Alpert is that great of a trumpet player.  His tone is average at best and he really doesn't have great solo chops.  But those setbacks have never seemed to hamper crossover success (see Kenny G., for example).  The use of hand claps is prominent throughout the album.  So much so, this credit is given:

Alpert, who contributed some tracks to Rise, didn't write any of the pieces on this disc.  However, he was the "A" in A&M Records (Jerry Moss was the "M"), so I'm sure he didn't have any problem finding material.  

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #28
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #6
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #26
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #32

  • Kamali: Not surprisingly, the lead track is almost the same tempo and feel as Rise, so it's almost too easy to label this formulaic and derivative (but I did it anyway).  You can't chase a hit, but they sure give it the college try here. The great Ernie Watts shows up to help out on the bridge and is almost ignored - why didn't he get a solo turn?
  • The Continental: A complete throwaway.  If the introduction doesn't turn you off, the repetitive melody will.
  • Reach for the Stars:  After an unaccompanied trumpet intro, this falls into the familiar disco lope with big hand claps on beat 4 of each measure.
  • Interlude (For Erica): Now things are looking up. A very beautiful ballad with songwriter Andy Armer on piano.  Like much of Armer's work, it is very repetitive, but the repetition works here.
  • Red Hot: Alpert and the gang keep the momentum going here with an upbeat party tune that is a welcome departure from the disco 16th-notes-on-the-high-hat feel.
  • Beyond: Now the album starts to stretch out and sound a little different.  While not leaving the disco realm entirely, this piece sounds more like something Giorgio Moroder would come up with. Lots of synth sequencing.  All that's missing is the synth drums.
  • That's the Way of the World:  A fairly straight ahead instrumental cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire tune.  A good choice for a cover.
  • Keep It Goin': A pseudo-reggae feel backs up a boring melody.  The only glitch in an otherwise enjoyable side.
  • The Factory:  The relentless percussion and bass lines churn out a memorable musical representation of a factory and set the backdrop for long, repetitive trumpet lines from Alpert and guitar work from Peter Frampton.  Yes, THAT Peter Frampton.  I know it all sounds silly but somehow it works. 
Let's rank 'em from best to worst:
  1. The Factory
  2. Beyond
  3. Interlude (For Erica)
  4. That's the Way of the World
  5. Red Hot
  6. Kamali
  7. Keep It Goin'
  8. Reach for the Stars
  9. The Continental
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: My family moved from West Texas to the Gulf Coast in 1978, but we would go back occasionally to visit friends. One visit must have happened around Christmas 1980 because that's when I remember buying this album at a discount store in Odessa. It was a frustrating experience having a brand new album with no way to listen to it until the vacation was over a few days later.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Classics, Volume 1 (1987)
Rise (1979)
What Now My Love (1966)

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Eric Gale - Ginseng Woman/Multiplication (1977)

Note: Ginseng Woman was originally purchased as a LP, later replaced by CD.

Gale is a noted studio musician and member of Stuff, but he also released 12 albums under his own name - here are two. Both albums were produced by Bob James and feature an all-star cast including James, Richard Tee, Ralph MacDonald, the Brecker Bros, Grover Washington, Jr., and Steve Gadd. James isn't known for letting loose those players under his charge and these tracks are no different - it's all enjoyable, but safe.

I first heard of Eric Gale in the early '80s through his involvement on Tom Scott's Apple Juice album, a longtime personal favorite. This two-fer CD, released in 1991, includes exceptional liner notes, with full credits and a nice essay by Chris Albertson of Stereo Review.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Ginseng Woman #148, Multiplication did not chart
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: Ginseng Woman #7, Multiplication #6
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: Ginseng Woman #56
Peak on Cash Box album chart: Ginseng Woman #153


Today, I'm digging Red Ground (featuring Grover Washington, Jr. on tin whistle!), the almost-reggae version of Hall & Oates' Sara Smile, and the cheesy fun of the island groove of De Rabbit. Nothing to skip, though.

Billboard, March 19, 1977, p. 66

Personal faves are Morning Glory (written and originally recorded by Lee Ritenour and featuring a tasty solo from Washington), the title track, and the blues take on the classic gospel song Oh! Mary Don't You Weep, which was released as a single.

Cash Box, December 17, 1977, p. 23

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I paid $5.99 at the used store, thinking that was a good deal for a two album compilation disc. Turns out I could have gotten it brand spankin' new at Amazon for $4.99. D'oh!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits (1974)

A nice compilation of Croce's pop folk work for casual fans such as myself. If you're like me, you forget the incredible string of hits Croce in a short time period and a CD like this is a great reminder. All the hits are here and even the filler ain't bad. The songs are almost all under 3 minutes, so even if you don't like a cut, it's not long until the next one.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #2

TitleYear Chart Peak
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)
Photographs and Memories

Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)

Time in a Bottle
New York's Not My Home

Workin' at the Car Wash Blues
I Got a Name
I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
You Don't Mess Around With Jim
Lover's Cross1973
One Less Set of Footsteps
These Dreams1973
Roller Derby Queen

My personal faves are Operator and I Got A Name. While Time In A Bottle is a classic, I've heard it enough for one lifetime.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: In February 1978, the Junior League of Odessa put on some sort of musical revue called the "Fuelin' Around Follies" as a fundraiser. Then as now, Odessa's economy revolves around the oil industry, hence the name. My mother was involved in the production with a group of about 20 other ladies singing and dancing to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. I was dragged along to many of the rehearsals that took place at the local YMCA and at least one of the three performances at a junior high auditorium. So even 38+ years later, that's what I think about when I hear Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

And at some point today, I'll be singing "Movin' me down the highway!" at the top of my lungs while driving.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Best of ZZ Top (1977)

A few months back, I received a gift package here at blog headquarters that contained a sealed, unopened longbox with this CD inside. I've chosen not to open it, but thought it should make a blog appearance.

Click photos to enlarge.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #94
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #83

Tracks: all the good ones also appear on the 1992 Greatest Hits compilation.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above

Previously revisited for the blog:
Greatest Hits (1992)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Robert Palmer - Riptide (1985)

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

I originally purchased my cassette version of this tape because I dug the song (and the video, let's be honest) Addicted To Love. I was somewhat prepared for the songs similar to Addicted to Love and the earlier Power Station stuff but was completely unprepared for Palmer's reworkings of an old blues tune (Trick Bag) and torch songs old (Riptide) and new (Get It Through Your Heart). There's also a Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis joint on here, the cover of Cherrelle's I Didn't Mean To Turn You On. The backing band is basically The Power Station then Bernard Edwards bombastic production puts Palmer's voice and Tony Thompson's booming drums front and center and that sounded great on my car stereo as I subjected my small college town to my musical preferences. All that going on and it's still one of the most cohesive, messy listens of the mid-'80s. If I remember correctly, the critics of the time didn't care for this one; but they all eventually sold out and got jobs at MTV so screw 'em.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #8

  1. Addicted to Love
  2. Trick Bag
  3. Hyperactive
  4. I Didn't Mean to Turn You On
  5. Get It Through Your Heart
  6. Flesh Wound
  7. Riptide
  8. Discipline of Love
The weakest tune (and the first released single, oddly enough) is Discipline Of Love, but even then Edwards' production makes it enjoyable enough.

I've never heard a blues cover like the Devo-esque Trick Bag before or since - how does something so bizarrely arranged work so well? 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I'm not sure which I remember more - wearing out this cassette in the Markmobile or watching MTV, waiting to catch a glimpse of the video.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Very Best of Robert Palmer (1997)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

BWB - Groovin' (2002)

BWB is a a smooth jazz "supergroup" in the same vein as Fourplay and Urban Knights. We're treated to Rick Braun on trumpet, Kirk Whalum on saxophone, and Norman Brown on guitar - there's also Christian McBride on bass, but for some reason he didn't rate a title credit. This is a covers album that offers up versions of tunes from a varied array of artists from D'Angelo to Leiber & Stoller to Joe Zawinul to George Clinton. Good stuff; definitely above average smooth jazz (I'm particularly fond of Brown's soloing). I'm guessing the trio originally envisioned this as a one-off covers album because they didn't release another album for 11 years, but I could be wrong.

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

Tracks: My favorites are Groovin', Ruby Baby, the slow burn of Mercy Mercy Mercy, and It's Your Thing. I don't care much for the plodding cover of Alicia Key's A Woman's Worth.

This was released as an "Enchanced CD" and, amazingly, I was able to get it to play with a few work-arounds:

Contents: links to websites, a small photo gallery, and a 10 minute promo video.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:

Rick Braun:
Shake It Up (2000)
Body And Soul (1997)
Beat Street (1995)

Kirk Whalum:
The Babyface Songbook (2005)
Unconditional (2000)
Floppy Disk (1985)

Norman Brown:
West Coast Coolin' (2004)
Celebration (1999)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Various Artists - Northern Soul: The Soundtrack (2014)

Two weeks ago the DVD for the 2014 movie Northern Soul appeared in my mailbox and sent me spiraling down a rabbit hole that included the purchase of this soundtrack set as well as locating several books on the subject.

First, the movie: Meh. Not much of plot, poorly written dialogue, and no character development. But the dance scenes are entertaining and the soundtrack is so good that it prompts people like myself to buy soundtrack CDs. All of these songs didn't appear in the movie, but that's of little consequence to me.

The book I picked up was Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Again, meh. A bit wordy with many editing errors. Admittedly, it must be tough to stretch out what would be a Wikipedia post into a full book. And an index would have been useful. Heck, this CD set's liner notes were as helpful as the book. However, the book does contain several song lists/DJ set lists that I found useful. But there are plenty of Northern Soul books so I can keep looking and reading.

For a brief description/definition of the Northern Soul movement/music, click here.

Finally, this CD is a great primer for Northern Soul rookies such as myself. I've been a dancing fool since these discs arrived. Considering all these tracks weren't hits or b-sides, the music is exceptionally good, which speaks more to the racism of the '60s than to the quality of the music.

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

Tracks:  95% of these tracks were new to me and they're all representative Northern Soul. Don't skip any (and bust out your dancin' shoes), but the ones I've marked with a ✔ are tracks I find to be a cut above.

CD1 (27 tracks, 74:07):
Billy ButlerRight Track1966
Edwin Starr Back Street1966
Shirley Ellis Soul Time1966
The Vel-Vets I Gotta Find Me Somebody1967
The Precisions If This Is Love (I'd Rather Be Lonely)1967
James Fountain Seven Day Lover1970
Towanda Jones You Don't Mean It1969
Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons The Night1972
Lou Pride I'm Com'un Home in the Morn'un1965
Gwen Owens (Just Say) You're Wanted and Needed1966
Freddy Chavez They'll Never Know Why1968
Don Varner Tear Stained Face1967
Duke Browner Crying Over You1966
The Luther Ingram Orchestra Exus Trek1966
Larry Williams & Johnny Watson Too Late1967
The Crow Your Autumn of Tomorrow1970
Eddie Parker I'm Gone1968
The Tomangoes I Really Love You1967
Marvin Gaye This Love Starved Heart of Mine (It's Killing Me)196?
The Salvadors Stick By Me Baby1967
Edwin Starr Time1970
Don Thomas Come On Train1973
Sam Dees Lonely For You Baby1968
Rita & The Tiaras Gone With the Wind Is My Love1967
The Originals Suspicion1966
The MVP's Turning My Heartbeat Up1972
Tobi Legend Time Will Pass You By1968

CD2 (27 tracks, 72:50):
Mel BrittShe'll Come Running Back1969
Patrinell Staten Little Love Affair1969
Epitome of Sound You Don't Love Me1968
Linda Jones I Just Can't Live My Life (Without You Babe)1969
Darrow Fletcher What Good Am I Without You1967
Eddie Holman I Surrender1969
The Group feat Cecil Washington I Don't Like To Lose1967
Tony Galla In Love1967
Herbert Hunter I Was Born to Love You1966
Jimmy Burns I Really Love You1965
Bob Relf Blowing My Mind to Pieces1968
The Ivories Please Stay1967
Johnny Howard The Chase is On1969
The Admirations You Left Me1966
The Royal Esquires Ain't Gonna Run1969
The Antellects Love Slave1967
Ronnie & Robyn As Long as You Love Me (I'll Stay)1968
Milton James My Lonely Feeling1966
Charlene & The Soul Serenaders Can You Win1970
Lester Tipton This Won't Change1966
Eloise Laws Love Factory1973
Joe Tex Under Your Powerful Love1973
The Carstairs It Really Hurts Me Girl1973
The Montclairs Hung Up On Your Love1973
Edward Hamilton & The Arabians Baby Don't You Weep1967
Melba Moore The Magic Touch1967
Dena Barnes If You Ever Walked Out of My Life1967

Also included in this set was a brief DVD with only two features:

  1.  a 19 minute interview with the film's director. Nothing to see here, move along.
  2.  a 24 minute audio interview (with cheesy sound effects overdubs) with DJ Richard Searling under a slide show of his memorabilia from the 70s. Worth a listen.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above