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.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Stanley Turrentine - T Time (1995)


I recently rescued this CD from the $1 clearance bin. It's an enjoyable effort from the veteran saxophonist in which he mostly re-records some tunes from earlier releases, including a take on his signature tune, Sugar, re-titled A Little Sweetness. My only complaint concerns the choice of using synth pads instead of bringing in a real string section, but that's a minor quibble.

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

Tracks: 
  1. Don't Mess With Mr. T (original Turrentine version on the 1973 album, Don't Mess With Mr. T)
  2. A Little Sweetness (1970 album, Sugar)
  3. I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do (1971 album, Salt Song)
  4. Impressions (1970 album, Sugar)
  5. Terrible T. (1989 album, La Place)
  6. The Island (cover of an Ivan Lins tune)
  7. Touching (1989 album, La Place)
  8. Side Steppin' (original composed by guitarist Dave Stryker)
The previous owner of this disc had indicated their favorite tracks by writing on the disc itself in red pen: "1, 2, 7, 8" and while I prefer track 5 to track 8, I'm pretty much in agreement with that opinion (except the writing on the disc. Don't do that, folks.). However, there's nothing to skip here - while the album concept/theme of re-recordings gets a bit redundant, the performances here are first-rate and everything swings.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Best of Stanley Turrentine (1990)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Billy Joel - Streetlife Serenade (1974)


I would consider myself a Joel fan, having memorized many of his tunes and seen him in concert a couple of times. But if I'm being honest, I started my fandom with The Stranger when I was in middle school and never really explored his back catalog. I eventually picked up a copy of Turnstiles when I was in college, but didn't go any further. So, surprisingly, I've never heard the entire Streetlife Serenade album. However, I'm familiar with four of the ten tracks via live versions on Songs In The Attic and my (very) used copy of a 1977 promo-only sampler Souvenir.


To rectify the situation decades after the fact, I placed an order and here we are. Let's take the cellophane off this thing and give it a long overdue spin. But first, here's what Joel had to say about the album back in 2011:


Press of the time:
  • Rolling Stone: "Joel's keyboard abilities notwithstanding, he has nothing to say as a writer at present"
  • Stereo Review: "achieving what I shall call a dark brilliance"
  • Billboard: "each song has a brisk creative flavor, in terms of lyrics as well as arrangements"
  • CashBox: "a high peak of creativity and masterful musical energy"
  • Record World: "fulfilling all the promises shown in his prior set"
  • Robert Christgau (C): "Here he poses as the Irving Berlin of narcissistic alienation, puffing up and condescending to the fantasies of fans who spend their lives by the stereo feeling sensitive."


 
Chart peaks:
  • US Billboard Top 200 chart:
  • Billboard's Jazz LPs chart:
  • Billboard's R&B albums chart:
  • Cash Box album chart:

Tracks (many of these are first impressions, admittedly not the best way to write about an album):
  1. Streetlife Serenader: I always liked the version on Songs In The Attic and this studio version isn't quite as bombastic and I could do with out the steel guitar, but it's a good album opener and the piano interlude about 3:50 in is classic Joel writing. 
  2. Los Angelenos: On the other hand, I never much cared for the version of this song on SITA and the cut here isn't any better. The stereotype-driven lyrics wouldn't fly today and probably offended some back in the '70s. Rightly so.
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown: Completely new to me. Starts with Joel experimenting with a Moog synth. Country rock in the vein of the Eagles and Ronstadt of '74. I don't think the writing's bad; it's just a bad arrangement.
  4. Root Beer Rag: A ragtime instrumental which shows off Joel's formidable keyboard technique. It's fantastic, it just doesn't really fit on a country-flavored pop-rock album.
  5. Roberta: Worst song so far. There's a hook sequence in the chorus ("It's tough for me, it's tough for you") that almost saves the track, but it can't quite overcome the mediocrity that surrounds it.
  6. The Entertainer: The single released from the album, it peaked at #34 on the Hot 100 and #30 on the AC chart. Classic mid-70's rock with a little prog-rock taste thanks to the synth licks. The banjo needs to go, though. I'm starting to think Joel got some bad advice and guidance from producer Michael Stewart.
  7. Last Of The Big Time Spenders: This is more like it. A bluesy piano-heavy ballad that sounds more like the Joel I'm familiar with. Until the steel guitar comes in, that is. Sheesh.
  8. Weekend Song: This Three Dog Night-ish rocker chugs along and while it isn't doing much for me initially, I could see this one growing on me over time.
  9. Souvenir: Easily the best cut on the album. Joel reaches back into his classical piano training/influences (Chopin and Schumann, in particular) and produces a brief, beautiful, nostalgic ballad. Just Joel on piano and vocals. Should have ended the album, another decision I'll conveniently blame on the producer.
  10. The Mexican Connection: A pop/Latin/orchestral instrumental consisting of several musical ideas that really don't have much to do with each other and then it just sort of ends. A piecemeal job that isn't terrible, but tracks 9 & 10 should have been swapped.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
My Lives (2005)
2000 Years: The Millennium Concert (2000)
To Make You Feel My Love (1997)
River Of Dreams (1993)
Storm Front (1989)
The Bridge (1986)
An Innocent Man (1983)
The Nylon Curtain (1982)
Songs in the Attic (1981)
Glass Houses (1980)
52nd Street (1978)
The Stranger (1977)
Turnstiles (1976)
Piano Man (1973)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Grover Washington, Jr. - Soulful Strut (1996)


I'm a big fan of Washington, but even I will admit this isn't his best release. I want the smooth stuff and this album is heavy into production gimmicks, world music influences, and weak material. All influenced by bassist/writer/producer Gary "Headman" Hasse who was probably brought in to update a sound that didn't need updating. When his label came out with a greatest hits compilation a few years later (Prime Cuts: The Columbia Years 1987-1999), only one track from this album was selected for inclusion, and even then it was a previously unreleased remix version of Soulful Strut


Chart peaks:
  • US Billboard Top 200 chart: #187
  • Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz chart: # 3
  • Billboard's R&B albums chart: #45

Tracks: The best track is easily the title cut, a tasty take on one of the best summer songs ever written. Also good are Bordertown, I Can Count The Times, and Mystical Force. The single released was a cover of Can You Stop The Rain, which was a #1 R&B song for Peabo Bryson in 1991. Sadly, this version simply plods along despite the urgency in Washington's performance. Then there's the rest.

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)
The Best Is Yet To Come (1982)
Come Morning (1981)
Winelight (1980)
Skylarkin' (1980)
Mister Magic (1975)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Monkey House - Remember The Audio (2022)


Monkey House make pop for people who aren’t afraid of jazz, and vice-versa.

When we went into lockdown in March 2020, I read several articles about how hard times produces great art and that gave me a glimmer of hope during some trying months. Last year, we were treated to Silk Sonic and the new-to-me retro stylings of Tom Shotton. So far this year, this CDP blog has already checked out new releases from Keb' Mo' and Mamas Gun with albums from State Cows and Chris Standring appearing in this space soon. And now add Remember The Audio to that list. Turns out those aforementioned articles were correct. Some great art is starting to emerge.

Remember The Audio is pretty close to a doomsday album and I think the lyrics underscore feelings many of us had during the pandemic, particularly in mid-to-late 2020. It seems band leader/songwriter/vocalist/keyboardist Don Breithaupt handled the pandemic isolation much better than me (I will neither confirm nor deny that I may have spent many daze during the pandemic curled in the fetal position while softly weeping before opening the bar at half-past The Price Is Right.) Lyrics aside, this album is a conglomeration of great melodies, complex harmonies, fantastic arrangements, and perfectly chosen guest artists. Most importantly, while my go-to comparison for this band has always been Steely Dan, I believe this is the album where Monkey House have fully realized their very own unique sound. About a year ago, Breithaupt told me Remember The Audio would be the band's best album yet and dude was right.

The album isn't on Metacritic, but here's some positive blurbs from other media:


 
Tracks:
  1. The Future Is Almost Gone - That song title sets the tone for a post-apocalyptic album, doesn't it? However, it's a peppy shuffle that belies the almost apocalyptic lyrics: "Zero chance for a happy ending" - yikes! Fantastic guitar solo from Drew Zingg, who seems to be channeling Larry Carlton here.
  2. Remember The Audio - Lyrically, my favorite cut on the album. A nostalgic look back at listening to pop/rock/soul music on the car's AM radio. As I've written many times, I'm not much for lyrics, nevertheless I can't help but follow along here. Lots of namechecking and '60s and '70s lyrical allusions which leads to some great rhyming couplets, e.g. "Stagger Lee/Booker T." Over 80% of posts on this blog deal with music from the previous century so this place is a nostalgia site in all but name. And this cut could easily be our theme song. It's also got the chorus hook that sticks in my brain for hours after hearing it. More good stuff from Zingg, too.
  3. New York Owes You Nothing - Musically, my favorite cut on the album. A beautiful ballad that begins with solo piano and slowly builds from there. Nice muted trumpet work throughout from Michael Leonhart.
  4. We Will Meet Again - This thing begins with an infectious eighth-note piano lick and is that a güiro? First time I heard the organ and handclaps on the chorus, I thought this was a great late '70s tribute tune and about that time Vern Dorge rips into a couple of sax solos just like David Sanborn used to back then and what a perfect fit.
  5. Skin In The Game - white-boy funk via a New Orleans filter. I'm reminded of Harry Connick, Jr's '90s output. (Ok, ok - I'll stop with the comparisons with other artists after I said the band had its own sound.) Trombonist Chris Butcher just nails it.
  6. Before You And After - This is the most Steely Dan-ish track on the album. (See what I did there? I said I'd stop with the comparisons and I just couldn't do it.) I love how our forlorn narrator goes from reminding the ex that there were "dreams, champagne, sunshine and rain" to "you're a maritime disaster" in a matter of seconds. 
  7. Major Minor - This relaxed half-time shuffle moves along smoothly from the get-go but the hook in the chorus is what it's all about. There's some clever "major minor" word play here plus a little bonus cleverness if you have a basic understanding of music theory. 
  8. Last Days of Pompeii - A bluesy allegory with a trumpet solo from Randy Brecker. If you're in a good headspace, the lyrics are humorous. If you're not, carry on with your doomsday prep. 
  9. Do Whatcha Gonna Do - a pop song in the traditional sense with a great bridge followed by a sax solo from John Johnson from the legendary Boss Brass.
  10. Let Jenny Be Jenny - I dig the Rhodes part, the syncopated chorus and the Chicago-esque horns (dadgummit, I just can't help myself). Parents can relate to the lyrics - tale as old as time.
  11. Ever Since The World Ended - a great cover of a 1987 Mose Allison tune. Most of it is humorously timely and unfortunately appropriate today, but in typical Moses style, he ends the tune optimistically. Perfect ending to a great album. Note to self: pull out your old Mose Allison vinyl and spin it.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Talk Talk - 12 x 12 Original Remixes (1999)


UK Import (re-released in 2001 under the title Remixed)

Today at blog headquarters we're celebrating the 12th anniversary of The CD Project, which started back on September 15, 2010 when I posted a few random thoughts about Paul Simon's Graceland album. Twelve years and 1800 CDs later, I was able to find a fantastic dance remix CD with the number '12' in the title and here we are.

Talk Talk is one of those groups that makes me facepalm as I say to myself, "you know, the older I get, the better they were!" I listened to the group back in the '80s, but, for some reason, not as much as I probably should have. The 12 x 12 in the title of the disc refers to the fact that this compilation consists of 12 tracks which appeared on 12" singles in the '80s. I had my fair share of 12" remix singles back in the '80s, but none from Talk Talk. To be honest, I gave up on the group after It's My Life and that's on me. Singles here were originally released 1982-1986. Such A Shame appears twice here but I won't nitpick.


Tracks: 
  1. Talk Talk (Extended Mix) - 4:33 - #75 pop, #63 dance, #26 rock 
  2. Today (Extended Mix) - 4:32
  3. My Foolish Friend (Extended Mix) - 5:29
  4. It's My Life (Extended Mix) - 6:18 - #31 pop, #1 dance, #23 rock
  5. Such A Shame (Extended Mix) - 7:00 - #89 pop, #12 dance
  6. Dum Dum Girl (12" Mix) - 5:22
  7. Without You (12" Mix) - 5:54
  8. Life's What You Make It (Extended Mix) - 6:54 - #90 pop, #22 dance, #26 rock
  9. Living In Another World (Extended Remix) - 8:58
  10. Pictures Of Bernadette (Dance Mix) - 8:06
  11. Happiness Is Easy (12" Mix) - 7:01
  12. Such A Shame (Dub Mix) - 6:33
It's My Life is not only my favorite Talk Talk song, it's one of my favorite sings of the entire eighties. Other top picks are the mixes of Talk Talk, Dum Dum Girl, Today, Life's What You Make It, and Pictures Of Bernadette.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None 

Previously revisited for the blog: 



First post, 2010: Paul Simon - Graceland (1986)
1st anniversary, 2011 (post #378): Electric Light Orchestra - Time (1981)
2nd anniversary, 2012 (post #694): Seal (1994)
3rd anniversary, 2013 (post #948): Fun Boy Three - Really Saying Something: The Best of Fun Boy Three (1997)
4th anniversary, 2014 (post #1127): Ultravox - Quartet (1982)
5th anniversary, 2015 (post #1231): Soul Hits of the '70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind, Vol. 5 (1991)
6th anniversary, 2016: no post
7th anniversary, 2017: no post
8th anniversary, 2018 (post #1461): Pat Metheny - Watercolors (1977)
9th anniversary, 2019 (post #1524): Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever (1989)
11th anniversary, 2021: no post


Blog post #1800

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Orquesta Akokán (2018)


From the Daptone website:
Akokán is a Yoruba word used in Cuba meaning “from the heart,” and indeed, every song on the self-titled debut album by Orquesta Akokán feels like a heartfelt gift from the band to the listener. Assembled and led by Cuban vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez, Orquesta Akokán is a big band collective of the finest musicians on the island, both young and old. It features all-original music and was cut live to tape over a three-day session at Havana’s hallowed state-run Estudios Areito. Areito is one of the longest operating studios in the world and where important Cuban records have been made. The album was produced by Jacob Plasse and arranged by Mike Eckroth.
And the CD is as advertised: new, original Afro-Cuban music in the manner of the pre-revolution dance genre as re-popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club. I'm also hearing some Perez Prado and Tito Puente influence in these cuts. Perfect for an evening with a cigar or a dance partner or a mojito. Or all three.

The music is joyous and infectious, always improving my mood. Plus the musicianship is impeccable - these folks can play. But even I was pleasantly surprised to see the high Metacritic ranking of 90. I don't know much about Afro-Cuban music other than to say "I like the stuff" so let's just leave it at that and let it play.

The album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Tropical Latin Album. More on the band available at their website and in this 2018 Billboard magazine feature.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart: #23
Peak on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart: #12

Tracks: An easy listen from track 1 to through track 9. Today's favorites are Mambo Rapidito, La Cosa, and Cuidad Con El Tumbador.  

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: This disc was a pre-pandemic gift from my high-school buddy and cigar-smoking companion, Jim, and was immediately added to my modest 'back porch Afro-Cuban' playlist.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

R.E.M. - Chronic Town (1982)


If I'd heard this EP before, I don't have any memory of it, I prefer early R.E.M. to later R.E.M., it was just released on a stand-alone CD for the first time, so why not? I've heard this EP often described as "acclaimed" so - bottom line - is it really worth the fuss and effort? Indeed it is! Glad I picked it up; it's a great way to spend 20 minutes. Mitch Easter puts it best in his delightful new liner notes: "No other R.E.M. record is like Chronic Town, but you hear traces of it throughout the band's entire career."
 

Nevertheless, this is classic IRS-era, Byrds-ish, mumbling, jangly R.E.M. and that's the best kind of R.E.M. I wish I'd been hipped to it in '82, but I wasn't mesmerized by the band until the next year with Murmur. However, somebody was paying attention as this EP placed second on The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop list and topped at least one Billboard editor's year-end album chart:

Billboard, January 8, 1983, p. 74

 
Reviews/ratings:
  • Robert Christgau (A-): "This headlong tumble proves them the wittiest and most joyful of the postgarage sound-over-sense bands"
  • Trouser Press: "an intriguing approach, best heard loud."
  • Billboard: "the band develops a winning style and sound of its own"
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (1997): ★★★

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

Tracks: I recognize track 2, Gardening At Night, as it appears on Eponymous in a slightly different version. All 5 cuts are good, but if I rank them, that gives me an excuse to listen to them all again, so here ya go:
  1. Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars)
  2. 1,000,000
  3. Stumble
  4. Gardening At Night
  5. Wolves, Lower

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I bought Dead Letter Office on cassette. Woulda coulda shoulda waited for the CD and I would have heard these songs back in '88.

Previously revisited for the blog: