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, May 23, 2022

Mamas Gun - Cure The Jones (2022)


During the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists would live stream performances from their living rooms/basements/bedrooms. The ones that I dropped in on never did much for me, save for one: Mamas Gun. These guys sounded fantastic live, looked like they were having a blast, and didn't charge me anything for the experience. One of the few musical highlights of early 2020 for me, along with discovering a wonderful Brenda Russell album.

Always considered a retro-70's band, Mamas Gun really skews towards the soul end of the spectrum on this release. Lots of characteristic, rich, thick backing vocals harmonies (see track 5, Reconsider) and familiar soul tropes. For example, if track 7, Friends To Lovers, doesn't remind you of Al Green's Love And Happiness, I suggest you spend more time with the Rev. Green. No dance tracks here - this is all about the mid-tempo love songs and introspective ballads. In a previous post about the group, I wrote "It's odd how an album of new music can immediately take you back 40+ years to the hot summer days of youth, but somehow they done did it" and that holds true again here. Simply put, if you like Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, and the groups like the ones mentioned below, there's most likely something on this album for you.

Those are my brief thoughts, let's see how the (presumably) paid professionals do it:
"Listeners who appreciate undiluted soul music with meaningful words are advised to set aside 45 minutes in their schedules, lay back, and enjoy this sonic cure for the jones" - Soul Tracks

"Cure the Jones is a supreme alignment of intent and execution. Its song are not accidentally poignant. Its exquisite craftsmanship happens by design." - Nevermind

"Plenty of commentators are already tipping ‘Cure The Jones’ to be nominated as one of 2022’s best albums… we won’t argue." (5 out of 5) - Soul and Jazz and Funk

"On this new album they discover the soul of the early seventies with many of these new songs here having the soulfulness of The Stylistics and The Delfonics mixed with the eighties pop of Hall and Oates." - Chimeo

"arguably their best work yet." - Jazz Revelations

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

Tracks: Videos were produced for Party For One and Good Love, both good tracks with so-so videos. The best track may be Looking For Moses or When You Stole The Sun From The Sky. I can't say I like what how the electric piano pitch is manipulated at the beginning of the title track, but the second half of the song is good once you get past that nonsense. Track 9, You're Too Hip (For Me Baby), has '50s doo-wop vocals over a rudimentary synth drum part and somehow that dichotomy works.

So get over to the group's Bandcamp site and get you a copy of the signed CD:

 
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Golden Days (2018)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue (1963)


First off, that is a fantastic album cover. Masterfully designed - like most Blue Note covers of the '60s - by Reid Miles.

This might be called "bluesy jazz" or it might be called "jazzy blues" or it might be both. Regardless, Midnight Blue is a great, relaxing album whether it is midnight or midday. True to the genre but very accessible. Possibly a great starting point for your personal Blue Note discovery adventure?

Burrell - guitar
Stanley Turrentine - tenor saxophone
Major Holley, Jr. - bass
Bill English - drums
Ray Barretto - conga

I've found this album to be a great pairing with Grant Green's Idle Moments album, also recorded for Blue Note in 1963.

Reviews/ratings:
  • CashBox: "A standout showing"
  • Billboard: "This is a vibrant set"
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (1999): ★★★
  • The Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999): ★★★★★
  • The Penguin Guide to Jazz (5th ed., 2001): ★★★½
NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library" where it is described as "the perfect 'late night, neon light flashing outside of the window, cigarette smoke swirling up into nothing' record."

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


 
Tracks: It's easy to see why they chose to release Chitlins Con Carne as the single since it's a slinky blues number on which both Burrell and Turrentine shine. Mule is a slow-burning blues followed by a brief, melodic interlude titled Soul Lament. The title track has a gentle swing to it and that's as hard as the groove gets on this record. Wavy Gravy is lilting waltz with an odd fade-out. A tasty cover of the 1929 standard Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You, might feature Burrell's best work on the whole dang album. The album ends with Saturday Night Blues, which is as advertised by the title - sounds like any jazz club on a Saturday where the band leader just calls out a key ("blues in F") and off they go. Turrentine certainly makes the most of his opportunities.

This 1999 Rudy Van Gelder Edition concludes with two bonus tracks which were recorded on the same day as the others - Tuesday, January 8, 1963. The first, Kenny's Sound, has a quick tempo and isn't blues-based, so it might seem out of place on the album proper. Great cut, though. The other, K Twist, would have fit nicely so I can't figure why it was excluded. 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. 


Blog post #1750

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Kirsty MacColl - Kite (1989)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 2012 Salvo Records expanded edition which includes a 17-track bonus disc.


A tune from MacColl appeared in this previous post about a 1981 UK hits compilation CD where I wrote: "There's no acceptable excuse why I haven't explored her entire catalog. Currently accepting suggestions for a starting point for that journey." William, a friend who does blog business over at musicofmylife.net, suggested that I start with this album and am I ever glad he did - what a treat this thing is. It's hard to decide what I like more: MacColl's voice, the music compositions, or those spectacular overdubbed vocal arrangements throughout. And we've got lyrics so good I actually pay attention to them.

Press of the time:
  • Entertainment Weekly: "It’s hard to imagine how anyone so joyfully sharp-tongued could have worked so long in the shadows"
  • Stereo Review: "MacColl's strong, clear voice matches the straight-forwardness of her material."
  • Billboard: "this effort shows off MacColl's vocal talents, which are exceeded only by her top-notch songwriting."
  • Record Mirror (★★★★): "quite a decent record"
  • Q (★★★★): "expect to see Kite high on everybody's list of favourites come the year's end"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★½): "MacColl has created a sparkling, modern folk-rock sound"
  • The CD Project: "Have mercy that Kite album gets better with each listen."
OK, so maybe that last one is a more recent quote, but it certainly holds true. And that "sparkling, modern folk-rock sound" description from Rolling Stone is spot-on accurate.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart in the US, but it did peak at #34 in the UK.

Tracks: The first half of the CD is nothing but enjoyable pop music and includes most of the singles that charted in the UK: Free World (#43), Innocence (#80), and a cover of The Kinks' Days (#12). The second half kicks off with the country waltz Don't Come To Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim (#82) and I initially want to write it off as a novelty tune, but by the end of the thing I'm asking myself, "Is this woman gonna get me to like post-'70 country music?" And are those mariachi horns??" So it turns out I really dig that song and my ears are fully primed which is a good thing because things really start going in the second half with the rollicking Tread Lightly followed by the sardonic and accurate What Do Pretty Girls Do? Then the beautiful, sparse Dancing in Limbo (the a cappella vocal parts on the chorus are what initially got me to order the CD). But wait! There's more! The best track is track 11, The End Of A Perfect Day, co-written by Johnny Marr. The album then ends delicately with the melancholy You And Me Baby. The perfect ending to fantastic album.

Sounds to these ears like Nick Heyward was quite familiar with track 6, Fifteen Minutes, when he recorded These Days a few years later. That same Heyward album has another track titled Kite. Coincidence?


Bonus tracks - the bonus CD is nearly twice as long as the original album (17 tracks, 60 minutes): mainly b-sides, we're treated to the usual demos, single versions, alternative mixes, cover tunes, and soundtrack tunes plus the three tunes included as bonus tracks on the 1989 CD version. The difference between these b-sides and most other b-sides is that these are worth your time.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but it's highly unlikely this will be MacColl's last appearance in this space.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Tom Scott - Blow It Out (1977)/Intimate Strangers (1978)/Street Beat (1979)



UK Import

I discovered Tom Scott in the early '80s through his live album, Apple Juice. I eventually picked up most of his back catalog on vinyl, including these three albums. That made this 2013 BGO set an easy purchase decision. 

Excellent remastering job on these plus a fantastic liner note booklet that includes full credits and original liner notes by Lee Underwood of DownBeat magazine as well as a comprehensive essay by Charles Waring, jazz columnist for Record Collector and contributor to MOJO and Wax Poetics. Well done.

BLOW IT OUT (1977)
8 tracks, 42 minutes


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

Not much jazz here; it's more like instrumental pop-rock-funklite performed by the finest session musicians in the business including Steve Gadd, Hugh McCracken, Eric Gale, Will Lee, Rick Marotta, Ralph MacDonald, Chuck Rainey, and one of my all-time favorites, Richard Tee who steals the show on many tracks. There's a bit too much use of the Lyricon over traditional saxophone for my taste, but I understand Scott's desire to be on the cutting edge of musical technology. Nevertheless, the whole thing is highly melodic and I enjoy the eight tunes here. 

Reviews/ratings:
  • CashBox: "Scott continues his march into the mainstream"
  • Billboard: "a tender and melodic instrumental excursion"
  • Record World: "an exemplary instrumental lp"
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (1999): ★
  • The Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999): ★★

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #87
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #5
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #39
Peak on CashBox album chart: #83
Peak on CashBox Jazz Album chart: #2

Tracks: Track 1, Gotcha (Theme From "Starsky & Hutch"), was released as a (sadly unsuccessful) single, but almost all the tracks are good so I'm not picking favorites on this one. I do recommend skipping track 7, Down To Your Soul, not because it's a bad tune, but rather due to the fact that Scott decides to sing on it.


INTIMATE STRANGERS (1978)
7 tracks, 47 minutes


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

An odd attempt at a concept album, I really didn't like this album at first listen because the "suite" that takes up side one turned me off to the whole thing. Fortunately for me, I gave the album a few more listens and realized that the second half is quite enjoyable and the first half isn't as bad as I initially feared. The same great backing band as above, but this time there are also contributions from Toto members Steve Porcaro and David Paich, as well as a beautiful cameo from legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Original liner notes here. Album press release below (click to enlarge):


 
Reviews/ratings:
  • CashBox: "Scott's sax and lyricon work is up to his usual highest-quality standards"
  • Billboard: "a multi-textured, multi-mood musical package"
  • Record World: "a skillfully crafted blend of jazz, disco and funk"
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide (1985): ★

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #123
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #6
Peak on CashBox album chart: #123
Peak on CashBox Jazz Album chart: #5

Tracks: Side one is a forced effort to musically describe a one night stand between a saxophone player and "that lovely lady on the front row" complete with occasional canned applause and crowd noise. Taking up the whole of side one on the vinyl album, the suite's three parts are titled Sudden Attraction, A Day & Nite Out Together, and Loving & Leaving.  Not bad even though there's a bit of Scott's singing again; but I greatly prefer what was side 2 (tracks 1-4 on disc two here) which is typical Scott fare. The final track, Beautiful Music, which was co-written by Ralph MacDonald, features a tasty flugelhorn solo from Chuck Findley, and was released as a (sadly unsuccessful) single.


STREET BEAT (1979)
8 tracks, 42 minutes


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

Scott wrote or co-wrote all 8 tracks here and, frankly, the material just isn't as good as the other two albums in this set. Scott was writing quite a bit of music for movies and TV shows, so not surprisingly, some of the tunes sound like they come from that genre. One track actually does come from a movie: Car Wars was on the soundtrack to Americathon, a movie I've never seen, but stars such actors as Elvis Costello, Tommy Lasorda, and Meat Loaf.
 

 
Also, this album utilizes a somewhat different set of backing musicians from other albums in this set:

Notes on above credits:
  1. I had to look up what an "ARP Quandra" is and discovered it is simply an analog synth keyboard. 
  2. Notably, Scott brought in other vocalists here. Smart move.
  3. I'm pretty sure that "BS trombone" is an abbreviation for "bass trombone" but can neither confirm nor deny.
Reviews/ratings:
  • CashBox: "diverse, perceptive mainstream jazz offering"
  • Billboard: "He has done better with previous offerings"
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide (1985): ★

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #162
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #7
Peak on CashBox album chart: #131
Peak on CashBox Jazz Album chart: #8

Tracks: The best tracks here are We Can Fly and the title track, the latter of which was released as a (sadly unsuccessful) single.



Previously revisited for the blog:

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pet Shop Boys - I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing (1994)

CD Single

Recently found this disc and figured since I liked the tune, I'd pick up the CD single used. If a little bit is good, more must be better, right? Normally, I'd say yes, but since I already have 3 of these IWDTKOT remixes elsewhere, it didn't turn out to be the most prudent purchase. Ah, well - there's still 4 tracks that are new to me.
Peak on the US Billboard Dance chart: #2

Billboard, January 22, 1994, p. 61

Tracks:
  1. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing (Album Version) - found on Very
  2. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing (Club Mix) 
  3. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing (Wild Pitch Mix) - found on Disco 2
  4. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing (Extended Nude Mix) - found on Disco 2
  5. West End Girls (Sasha Mix)
  6. Violence (Hacienda Version)
  7. Too Many People
That's 7 tracks in 44 minutes - we certainly used to get bang for our buck with the early '90s CD singles. The best remix of IWNDTKOT is track 4, the Extended Nude Mix. The West End Girls remix is good, not great and the other two b-sides are pleasant enough - Violence is laid back while Too Many People is a full-on typical PSB dance track.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but my back and knees are telling me I shouldn't try the same dance moves I was doing back in '94.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Yes (2009)
Fundamental (2006)
Somewhere (1997)
Bilingual (1996)
Disco 2 (1994)
Very (1993)
Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) (1991)
Discography: The Complete Singles Collection (1991)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Bob James/Earl Klugh - Cool (1992)


This album is pleasurable enough, just not very memorable. I'm not sure what it is about the collaborations between these two that seem to bring out the bland in each other. James has had good collaborations (I'm thinking specifically of Double Vision) and so has Klugh (Laws and Benson come to mind) so I don't know why this one never gets me going. But it was a #1 album so what do I know? I guess it's decent enough for your Sunday jazz brunch next weekend. Whaddaya mean you don't have a jazz brunch every Sunday?

Reviews/ratings:
  • CashBox: "an exceptional jazz album"
  • Billboard: "a pleasant quartet set that's as elegantly performed as it is emotionally toothless"
  • The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (1999): ★★
  • The Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999): ★★

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #170
Peak on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #88

Tracks: Of the 12 tracks, 4 were written by Klugh, 5 were written by James, and they wrote one together. I tend to gravitate towards the Klugh originals, the best of which is The Sponge


 
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Two of a Kind (1982)

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Depeche Mode - Violator (1990)


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

A few years back, I wrote these words about a Depeche Mode compilation: "I should have just purchased a CD copy of 1990's Violator and been done with it." Well, I recently came across a used copy and here we are. 

I think it's the group's best album without Vince Clarke, but let's see what the rabid fans astute reviewers over at Amazon have to say about it:
  • "It is dark and bleak and examines personal demons and feelings of loneliness, despair and neediness. Heavy stuff that is usally [sic] only found in the everyday rotation of the clinically insane and depressed unless you are really in the mood." (ed. note: yikes!)
  • "their last GOOD album"
  • "Depeche Mode remains the pinnacle of gothic techno-beat producing mongols [sic] that they are surrounded by."
  • "The music is very dated"
  • "it's still very current sounding!"

In the latest list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list, Violator ranked at #167. It was also included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005): "Violator represents a group at the top of their game and still sounds effortlessly excellent today."

I listened to this album quite a bit when it was released but I haven't listened to the whole thing in over 30 years, so let's see what I remember. 


Press of the time:

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #7

Tracks: I will admit this album flows better as a continuous CD rather than split in half on a cassette. A fun trip down memory lane to a time when I was newly married but didn't yet have children.  Of course, I remember the singles:



Hot 100
Modern
Rock

Dance
Personal Jesus28312
Enjoy The Silence8 16
Policy Of Truth1512
Halo
21
World In My Eyes52176

Definitely some legitimate chart success there. My top pick back in '90 was Policy Of Truth, but today it's Personal Jesus. The other singles aren't far behind. I've only vague memories of the remaining four tracks. Sweetest Perfection isn't on the top shelf like the other tracks but that's not a bad batting average for an album.

On a related note, Johnny Cash recorded a beautiful, stripped-down version of Personal Jesus in 2002 that rivals the DM original.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: In 1990, I started a middle school band director teaching job and one of the first things I did in my new position was authorize the purchase of a quality Denon rack stereo system for the band hall. I think I also refurbished some 4 ft high Klipsch speakers that were already there.  It was probably a lot more equipment than was required - it had a pre-amp ferchrissakes - but it sounded fantastic. In an attempt to be the cool, young teacher on campus (I was 24), I played my Violator tape quite frequently before and after school as students would wander in and out of the band hall: "Hey, guys! I listen to the same music you do!" A pathetic attempt to be sure, but I think most young teachers probably go through similar experiences.

I left that middle school in 2000, it closed in 2011, and the building was finally demolished in 2020. In 2021, a new elementary school opened on the site. I wonder what happened to all that high-end audio equipment. Best case scenario: it was all moved to another campus. Worst case scenario: it's in a landfill. Most likely scenario: somebody "borrowed" it and now has a helluva vintage home system.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Singles 86>98 (1998)