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, July 14, 2018

Lee Ritenour - Stolen Moments (1990)

You never know what a Ritenour album will bring: is it AOR/West Coast pop? Brazilian? Reggae lite? Smooth jazz? This 1990 effort is more of a straight-ahead "return to your roots" jazz album for Ritenour and he brings in Ernie Watts and Harvey Mason to help out. Rit is in fine form in this mix of originals and arrangements of standards. I love his tone here - he's trying to sound like Wes Montgomery and that's okay by me. Sadly, the album was released and quickly forgotten, being overshadowed by his next release, Wes Bound, in 1993; I found this Stolen Moments CD in a clearance bin.

On a marginally related note, this '90 release got me to thinking about how artists at the time were dealing with the new, extended time capacity of the CD. Many of pop artists stuck with the 40 minute/8-10 songs album length that vinyl used, while classical CDs were jamming 75+ minutes of music on each disc. Eventually, things seemed to settle in the 50 minute range for pop and jazz releases. For what it's worth, this 8 track CD clocks in at 46:37. Then came the bonus tracks, demos, and hidden tracks, which is a discussion for another time. 

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on the US Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart: #3

Tracks: The Ritenour originals - Uptown, 24th Street Blues, Waltz For Carmen, and St. Bart's - are all quite enjoyable. Also of note is Haunted Heart, a beautiful take on a 1940's tune.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Rit's House (2002)
Larry & Lee (1995)
Festival (1988)
Harlequin (1985)
On The Line (1983)
"Rit" (1981)
Rio (1979)

Friday, July 6, 2018

Barry Manilow - Summer of '78 (1996)

In August of 1978, my family moved from the Chihuahuan Desert town of Odessa, Texas to the more humid climes of Bay City on the Texas gulf coast, near the mouth of the Colorado River. A culture and climate shock, I think I handled it fairly well. But I remember the summer months before the move as a wonderful time. I had completed the 6th grade and I had adventures with my friends that included soccer, tennis, swimming, backyard fort-building, family vacation to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and chasing girls at the local roller rink on Friday nights. At that time, I was already a big Manilow fan  - I believe my very first album purchase was Even Now, but I'm just guessing. I had also wowed the local PTA with the definitive interpretation of Mandy.

Your humble blogger in April 1978

So this 1996 covers album seems like a perfect fit, right? And it might have been if: 1) it hadn't been made in the '90s with all the production values that go along with that decade, and 2) Manilow had stuck to 1978. Or at least the '70s, maybe? Perhaps he was thinking that all these songs could be heard in 1978, which is true.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #82

  1. Summer of '78 - a Manilow original. C+
    "...and it seemed that every song they played on the radio was ours." Cheesy, but not a horrible tune with a brief, simple arrangement that segues into...
  2. Interlude: Love's Theme - Barry White, 1973. A
    Who knew Barry was such a tease? Only 25 seconds of this classic theme before getting slapped in the face with electronic drums, a key change, and the first verse of...
  3. Reminiscing - Little River Band, 1978. C
    Such a beautiful tune - fits Manilow's vocal range, too. The arrangement, however, leave me wanting the LRB original. And not only is there no trumpet solo, there's no solo.
  4. I Go Crazy - Paul Davis, 1977. B
    It doesn't match the dreamy atmosphere of the Davis original, but, except for the gated drum, it sounds exactly like it would have if Manilow had recorded it for the b-side of Copacabana. The only misstep is the synth solo.
  5. When I Need You - Leo Sayer, 1977. C-
    I wasn't sure if Manilow would have the vocal chops to pull off the falsetto, but he doesn't even try so I'll never know. The slow, plodding arrangement isn't doing him any favors, either.
  6. The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies, 1974. B+
    I know The Hollies version is a cover, but it's the version I'm familiar with so I'll compare this to that. And I gotta admit that I dig this sparse, slightly slower arrangement. Imagine that - a mellow, understated Manilow arrangement. Nicely done. 
  7. Bluer Than Blue - Michael Johnson, 1978. B
    I've loved this song since the first time I heard it on the AM radio. This cover is fairly rote, right down to the vocal harmonies. So while Manilow isn't adding anything to this one, he isn't subtracting anything, either.
  8. We've Got Tonight - Bob Seger, 1978. D-
    I've never been a fan of this ballad, but ballads are Manilow's sweet spot so I can't blame him for trying. After you get over the shock of not hearing Seger's rasp and the oboe comes in, you settle in and reach for the skip button.
  9. I'd Really Love to See You Tonight - England Dan & John Ford Coley, 1976. C
    Another rote cover, but this lazy take doesn't quite match the energy of the original.
  10. Sometimes When We Touch - Dan Hill, 1978. B+
    Now we're back to Manilow's wheelhouse. Good choice, good arrangement.
  11. Never My Love - The Association, 1967. F
  12. Just Remember I Love You - Firefall, 1977. D
    We're given a piano/strings treatment here and it just doesn't suit the material. It almost comes off as a child's lullaby, which might be what they wanted for an album closer, but he would have been better off briefly reprising track 1.
Grade average for the album: C  Stick with the originals.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Ultimate Manilow (2002)
Here At The Mayflower (2001)
If I Should Love Again (1981) 
Barry (1980)
One Voice (1979) 
Even Now (1978)
Tryin' To Get The Feeling (1975)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Various Artists - Disco Discharge: Cruising the Beats (2011)

EU Import

Tomorrow, I'm headed back to the town I lived in from 1966-1978; given that time frame, I thought some disco might be in order. I recently picked up this 2 CD compilation in the used clearance bin for a few bucks even though it had never been opened. Score!

12th in an ongoing, poorly named series. Originally on the now-defunct Harmless label, it appears the newer releases are on another Demon Music Group label, Crimson. According to the promo sticker:

Happily married for 29 years, there's no need for me to cruise and I'm fairly certain the British disco experience was quite different from what we had going on in the US, but let's dive in anyway. I don't recognize any of the tracks except for the Dan Hartman joint. I usually comment on the liner notes here but they're just too small for my old eyes to read and I don't feel like fooling with my magnifying glass and you kids get off my lawn.

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

Tracks with Billboard US Disco chart peaks:

CD 1

Can't Take My Eyes Off You (Original 12" Mix)Boys Town Gang198215
Vertigo/Relight My Fire (Original 12" Mix)Dan Hartman19791
Golden Eldorado (Original Album Version)Voyage19781
Palace Palace (Original 12" Mix)Who's Who1979
Dance (Original 12" Mix)Night Force198128
Dancing Is Dangerous (Original 12" Mix)Noel197991
What A Way To Go (Original 12" Mix)Lifeforce1984
Maybe This Time (Original 12" Mix)Norma Lewis1983
Sound Of My Heart (Slightly Baroque) (Original 12" Mix)Sleeping Lions1983
The Two Of Us (Disconet Extended Remix)Claudja Barry & Ronnie Jones198139

CD 2

Anything Like You (Original 12" Euro Mix)Janet D'Eon1988
Satellites (Original 12" Mix)Ellie Warren1985
I Believe In Dreams (Original 12" Mix)Jackie Rawe1985
This Girl's Back In Town (Original 12" Mix)Raquel Welch198729
Take A Chance (On Me) (Original 12" Mix)Waterfront Home198314
Midnight Lover (Original 12" Mix)People Like Us1986
Suspicious Minds (Original 12" Mix)Bobby O1988
Mama Told Me (Original 12" Mix)Fantastique1981
Manhattan Shuffle (Original 12" Mix)Area Code (212)198041
Can't We Try Again (Original 12" Mix)Technique198339
The "Gay Paris"/French Pillow Talk (Original Album Medley)Patrick Juvet1979

A highly enjoyable, if poorly sequenced, compilation of disco beats with more than a smattering of '80s synthpop (read: CD1 > CD2). Some cuts are so derivative you think you're listening to other tunes (What A Way To Go is just an updated Shake Your Groove Thing, for example), but no matter - it's all in the name of dance (and glitter. and sex. and cocaine. etc.). If you put these tunes in a mix with more familiar disco tunes, you'd have a great party shuffle. Reminds me of the Super Rare Disco CDs. I've provided YouTube links for "new-to-me" tunes that I liked. Skippable tunes are Dancing Is Dangerous and Anything Like You. Overall, not a bad pickup.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Linda Ronstadt - Required Ronstadt (1998)

Promotional CD

Lifted directly from a previous Ronstadt post:
What. A. Voice. About the time Ronstadt was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I received a text from my buddy Jim that read something like "I'll listen to anything sung by Linda Ronstadt." I'll second that. That simple text message led to the purchase of this box set later that day. Over her career, Ronstadt proved to be something of a musical chameleon, moving effortlessly from country to Cajun to rock to Latin to movie soundtracks to jazz standards to comic opera. She did it all and she did it well (and looked fantastic doing it).
In 1977, Rolling Stone magazine called Ronstadt "rock's supreme torch singer" and I can't improve upon that title so I'll leave it at that. Why Elektra thought Ronstadt needed a promo greatest hits CD is beyond me, but record execs aren't known for making good decisions and it got me this sweet chronological compilation, so I'll shut up now and get to the tracks. Speaking of these tracks, this thing must have been remastered because it sounds fantastic.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart but I believe if Elektra had released this to the general public it would have easily peaked in the top 50.

Tracks (with Billboard chart peaks): as you would expect from such a disc from such an artist, this is "all killer, no filler" stuff. Thanks, Linda.

Song Year Hot 100  AC CountryRock
Different Drum196813

Love Has No Pride19735123


You're No Good1975110

When Will I Be Loved1975231
Heat Wave1975519

Love is a Rose197563
Tracks of My Tears197625411
That'll Be The Day1976111627
Blue Bayou1977332
It's So Easy197753781
Tumbling Dice19783230

Back in the USA1978163041
Ooh Baby Baby19797285
How Do I Make You198010

Hurt So Bad1980825

Get Closer198229

What's New1983535

Don't Know Much198921

All My Life1989111

Oh No, Not My Baby1993

The Waiting1995

Dedicated to the One I Love1996

Songs that peaked in the Top 40 that didn't make the cut for this compilation: Long Long Time (#25, 1970), Poor Poor Pitiful Me (#31, 1978), I Can't Let Go (#31, 1980), I Knew You When (#37, 1983), Somewhere Out There (#2, 1987). And we didn't even cover her journeys into operetta, Spanish language albums, and her Trio albums.

February 28, 1977

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Since Ronstadt provided much of the soundtrack for my youth, there are many. As newlyweds, my wife and I wore out our cassette of Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind (I don't have that album on CD yet, but I just ordered a copy. Facepalm.). We're going on a road trip later this morning and I'm gonna slip this into the CD player in the SUV and give it another listen on the road. Perfect.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Original Album Series (2012)
'Round Midnight (1986)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The English Beat - Here We Go Love! (2018)

This CD landed on my doorstep yesterday. Let's slip it into the tray* and give it a spin. What follows are first impressions.

Three quick notes before we begin:
  1. Expectations are high. Last time I put together a list of 30 "desert island" discs, this group's last studio release Special Beat Service was on it. I realize it's not fair to compare a 2018 release to a 1982 release, but I can't help it - it's human nature.**
  2. Bob Sargeant, who produced the band's other albums, isn't on the console for this one. Production for this album is credited to a Kyle Hoffman.
  3. The band now is Dave Wakeling and his friends/session/touring musicians. I'll miss Ranking Roger and Saxa, but let's be honest - Wakeling was the lead singer and main songwriter for the band. And while the album credit goes to the band, Wakeling's name is almost hidden in the busy cover art.

    Also, the liner notes booklet doesn't list any playing credits, just a URL address for more info. Why make it so difficult?
Enough rambling and ranting, let's get to the tunes.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: to be determined, fingers crossed for an appearance.

  1. How Can You Stand There: This couldn't be any group but the Beat. All the characteristics are there: ska beat, accordion, organ, sax, etc.  Plus Wakeling's voice is immediately recognizable. True to the title, it is hard to just stand there when this dance tune is playing. Great opener - off to a good start.
  2. The One and the Only: Not ska, but guitar-oriented pop. Is that profanity?! Nice little piano break. Another good track.
  3. Redemption Time: Reminds me of the old 2 Tone Specials stuff. Waiting for the toasting to begin. And there it is. Rub-a-dub. The chords/melody remind me a bit of the group's earlier song Rotating Head. Bonus points for the trumpet and trombone interplay. For the record, I still haven't stopped moving/dancing, which makes keying in these track notes quite difficult.
  4. If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now: anti-war tunes never sounded so good. Like track two, this isn't ska and the bridge on this one is weak, but it's got a good enough groove and a tasty sax solo so I can give this track a thumbs up.
  5. Here We Go Love: Hard-driving rocker with a good riff and catchy chorus. More f bombs. Dave's frustrated with the state of the world today (as is this humble blogger), so why not some swearing to drive the point home? Great track. Wears me out.
  6. Never Die: I was afraid a ballad might be coming, but I'll give it a shot. Reminds me of something Colin Hay might sing. Not bad as far as ballads go and it goes into double time for a bit, but it's not what I buy an English Beat to hear. 
  7. The Love You Give Lasts Forever: The album bounces back with a strong chorus and some almost uplifting lyrics. Sounds more like a General Public tune than English Beat, but I guess that's just nitpicking at this point.
  8. You Really Oughtta Know By Now: a soul-infused shuffle with a Motown backbeat. Derivative, but nicely done so who cares? Hopefully female background vocals at the chorus? No dice, dadgummit. Woulda been nice, but the horn parts make up for it. Nice keyboard work, too.
  9. You're Stuck: another high-energy rock tune with perfect Farfisa organ licks. I like how this one builds to the chorus. A rare guitar solo! Great tune. My favorite tune so far.
  10. Every Time You Told Me: Who snuck a Huey Lewis b-side on this disc?
  11. Dem Call It Ska: And finally another ska tune! Lots of wordplay in the lyrics, but the groove and chorus are solid in this happy cut.
  12. Drive Her Away: The most '80s-sounding tune on the disc. This ska-pop fusion wouldn't have been out of place on Special Beat Service, so that's good enough for me.
  13. Be There For You: Loping reggae-ish tune. I gotta say - whoever did the horn arrangements on this disc knew what they were doing. Well done. No hooks are grabbing me in this song, but the sax solos fit perfectly and the slow groove is a good way to close the album.
I'm glad I bought the disc. Should make for some great summer listening.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Not yet, but I'm glad Dave decided to use the classic Beat-girl image on the album. I loved that image so much I was known to draw it on book covers during my high school years (do they still have book covers?). Heck, if that girl had magically come to life in a Weird Science sort of way, 17 year old me would have proposed within an hour of meeting her.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Complete Beat (2012)

*Ever wonder what equipment The CD Project uses for playback? Currently, it's a Yamaha CD-S300.
**Back-to-back Michael Jackson references (apropos of nothing)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sting & Shaggy - 44/876 (2018)

They really could have put more effort into that cover photo, don't ya think? At least put Sting on the left under his name?  Make no mistake, while Sting gets top billing, this is really a Shaggy CD with a few contributions from Sting. And that's fine with me because Sting hasn't put out anything consistently good since 1993. But it's exactly what you'd expect if you heard Sting and Shaggy  were putting together a few tunes. I was hoping that Sting would revert to late '70s Sting "reggatta de blanc" but it isn't to be (the closest we get is the verse of track 8, Dreaming In The U.S.A.). The album isn't quite as awkward as the cover photo, but it comes close at times.

Metacritic has this rated at 49 which is close enough. But Sting doesn't play any lute and it sounds like he and Shaggy are having a good time, so I'll just accept this album for what it is: a fun, back porch, bucket of beers, summer listen. I'll probably listen to it quite a bit over the next three months, add a few tunes to a reggae playlist, then shelve it.

FWIW, I picked up an edition with 4 bonus tracks because it was there.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #40

Tracks: I'll categorize and rank them for your convenience.

Good fun:
  1. Don't Make Me Wait & the Dave Audé Rhythmic Radio Remix⁺
  2. Morning Is Coming (with Brandford Marsalis)
  3. Dreaming In The U.S.A.
Good enough:
  1. To Love and Be Loved
  2. Just One Lifetime
  3. 22nd Street
  4. If You Can't Find Love⁺
  5. Sad Trombone*
  6. 44/876
  7. Gotta Get Back My Baby
  1. Night Shift
  2. Waiting For The Break Of Day
  3. 16 Fathoms⁺
  4. Crooked Tree
  5. Love Changes Everything⁺ (from the 1989 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Aspects of Love. Yes, it is truly a reggae attempt at a show tune.)
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I picked this up at a local Target and promptly stuck it in my truck's CD player which was ill-equipped to handle the preponderance of bass in these mixes. Probably best heard on Beats headphones (if those are still a thing).

*(yes, that’s really the title, and no, it doesn’t get the reference)
⁺ indicates bonus track

Previously revisited for the blog:
57th & 9th (2016)
Sacred Love (2003)
Brand New Day (1999)
Roxanne 97 (Puff Daddy Remix) (1997)
Mercury Falling (1996)
The Best of Sting 1984-1994 (1994)
Ten Summoner's Tales (1993)
The Soul Cages (1991)
...Nothing Like The Sun (1987)
Bring On The Night (1986)
The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Various Artists - The Best Blue Note Album in the World...Ever! (1999)

In the words of allmusic:
The Best Blue Note Album in the World Ever may boast a silly title, but it's hard to argue with what's on this double-disc sampler. Not all of the label's greatest artists are here, but everything is representative...and that the latter-day stuff, no matter how good it is, isn't quite as magical as the classic era, but there's no denying that The Best Blue Note Album in the World Ever provides a lot of bang for the buck.
I always tell people who are interested in acquiring a taste for jazz to listen to Kind Of Blue every week for a six months. My next move should be to let them listen to this primer. Even with a Richard Elliot cover of a Stevie B hit, it's a helluva lot better than a pop album masquerading as jazz compilation, i,e. Now That's What I Call Jazz.

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

Tracks, personnel included because these are names worth knowing(for the most part):
CD One:
  • Song For My Father - Horace Silver. From the 1965 album, Song For My Father.
    Horace Silver – piano
    Carmell Jones – trumpet
    Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone
    Teddy Smith – bass
    Roger Humphries – drums
  • Blue Train - John Coltrane. From the 1958 album Blue Train.
    John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
    Lee Morgan – trumpet
    Curtis Fuller – trombone
    Kenny Drew – piano
    Paul Chambers – bass
    Philly Joe Jones – drums
  • Moanin' - Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. From the 1958 album Moanin'.
    Art Blakey – drums
    Lee Morgan – trumpet
    Benny Golson – tenor saxophone
    Bobby Timmons – piano
    Jymie Merritt – bass
  • Blues Walk - Lou Donaldson. From the 1958 album Blues Walk.
    Lou Donaldson - alto saxophone
    Herman Foster - piano
    Peck Morrison - bass
    Dave Bailey - drums
    Ray Barretto - congas
  • Autumn Leaves - Cannonball Adderley. From the 1958 album Somethin' Else.
    Julian "Cannonball" Adderley – alto saxophone
    Miles Davis – trumpet
    Hank Jones – piano
    Sam Jones – bass
    Art Blakey – drums
  • Midnight Blue - Kenny Burrell. From the 1963 album Midnight Blue.
    Kenny Burrell – guitar
    Major Holley – bass
    Bill English – drums
    Ray Barretto – conga
  • The Sidewinder - Lee Morgan. From the 1964 album The Sidewinder.
    Lee Morgan – trumpet
    Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone
    Barry Harris – piano
    Bob Cranshaw – bass
    Billy Higgins – drums
  • Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock. From the 1962 album Takin' Off.
    Herbie Hancock - piano
    Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
    Dexter Gordon - tenor Saxophone
    Butch Warren - bass
    Billy Higgins - drums
  • Amen - Donald Byrd. From the 1960 album Fuego.
    Donald Byrd - trumpet
    Jackie McLean - alto saxophone
    Duke Pearson - piano
    Doug Watkins - bass
    Lex Humphries - drums
  • Born to Be Blue - Grant Green. From the album 1962 Born To Be Blue.
    Grant Green – guitar
    Ike Quebec – tenor saxophone
    Sonny Clark – piano
    Sam Jones – bass
    Louis Hayes – drums
CD Two:
  • Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) - Us3. From the 1993 album, Hand On The Torch.
    Rashaan Kelly - vocals
    Gerard Presencer - trumpet
    Dennis Rollins - trombone
    Mike Smith - tenor saxophone
    Ed Jones - soprano and tenor saxophones
    Tony Remy - guitar
    Matt Cooper - piano
  • The Turnaround - Big John Patton. From the 1965 album Let 'Em Roll.
    Big John Patton - organ
    Bobby Hutcherson - vibes
    Grant Green - guitar
    Otis Finch - drums
  • Greasy Granny - Charlie Huntrer Trio. From the 1995 album Bing, Bing, Bing!
    Charlie Hunter – eight-string guitar
    Dave Ellis – tenor saxophone
    Jay Lane – drums
  • Back At The Chicken Shack - Jimmy Smith. From the 1963 album Back At The Chicken Shack.
    Jimmy Smith – organ
    Stanley Turrentine – tenor saxophone
    Kenny Burrell – guitar
    Donald Bailey – drums
  • Soy Califa - Dexter Gordon. From the 1962 album A Swingin' Affair.
    Dexter Gordon – tenor saxophone
    Sonny Clark – piano
    Butch Warren – bass
    Billy Higgins – drums
  • Garota de Ipanema - Elaine Elias. From the 1998 album Elaine Elias Sings Jobim.
    Eliane Elias – voice and piano
    Michael Brecker – tenor sax
    Amanda Elias Brecker – background vocal
    Oscar Castro-Neves – guitar
    Marc Johnson – bass
    Paulo Braga – drums
    Café – percussion
  • Thinkin' About Your Body - Bobby McFerrin. From the 1986 album Spontaneous Inventions.
    Bobby McFerrin - vocals
  • Tupelo Honey - Cassandra Wilson. From the 1993 album Blue Light 'til Dawn.
    Cassandra Wilson – vocals
    Brandon Ross – acoustic guitars
    Charlie Burnham – violin & mandocello
    Lonnie Plaxico – bass
    Lance Carter – snares
    Kevin Johnson – percussion
  • At Last - Lou Rawls. From the 1989 album At Last.
    Lou Rawls – vocals
    Dianne Reeves – vocals
    Stanley Turrentine – tenor saxophone
    Richard Tee – pianos
    Cornell Dupree – guitar
    Tinker Barfield - bass
    Chris Parker - drums
  • Because I Love You - Richard Elliot. From the album Soul Embrace.
    Richard Elliot - tenor saxophone
    Ron Reinhardt - keyboards

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: The Us3 track, Cantaloop, always makes me think of the birth of my oldest son.

I also remember being blown away the first time I ever heard a Jimmy Smith track.

The first time I heard Song For My Father, I thought, "Hey! They totally ripped off Steely Dan!" Of course, it was the other way around. Live and learn.