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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Masayoshi Takanaka - An Insatiable High (1977)


Japanese import

When I first heard this album, I immediately compared its late-70s smooth jazz sound to George Benson and Lee Ritenour (see below) and felt more than a little smug when I eventually checked the album credits and there's Rit. But he's not the only familiar name performing here.


With that crew, it's no surprise this album has a definite Westcoast feel to it. A perfect summer album and since it is currently 89° outside, I'm already in summer even though it's only been spring for less than a week.

I love the thing, but let's check out some select YouTube comments:
  • This feels like a shot of Vitamin D.
  • The worst thing in this album is that it ends at some point.
  • Listen on a gray day and it'll lift your spirits.
  • This is one of the albums you play 284 times the first day you hear it
  • Happy just got happier
  • never have I wanted to leave work so bad and go skate.
  • I burned my tater tots because I was too busy dancing around, not even mad
More on Takanaka here and here. Dude's got chops.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: not released in the US

Tracks: It's all good, but today my favorite tracks are Sexy Dance, E.S.P., the closing ballad Good (Bad?) Old Days,  and there's something for everybody at some point in the title track.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: A couple of years back, I was looking at a MTV programming list from April 13, 1983 and found several songs/videos with which I was unfamiliar, including the song Thunderstorm by Takanaka:

please take the time to watch a bit of this video if only for the costuming
Once I got past the headgear, I was digging on the prog fusion but not falling in love with it. However, YouTube then suggested this An Insatiable High album, which I initially ignored, but faithful CDP reader @DirkDigglinator did not. He gave it a try, got word to me to try it, and it was love at first listen. I soon tried to spread the word like a 21st century Paul Revere via twit & text:

Eventually found a copy at CDJapan and here we are.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions (1967/2011)


Well this is simply fantastic. This set placed at #381 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and if it had been properly completed and released in 1967, it might have cracked the top ten. It's that good. And we missed out for more than 30 years. I wouldn't be going out on a limb to call it a masterpiece, even in this rough cut.  As the Billboard review correctly notes "It's a consistently brilliant album."

If you go in with the mindset that the discs are full of unfinished song fragments/modules, you'll be better off.  The modular approach also provides a convenient excuse not to listen this thing as often as I should, unfortunately.

Heck, the vocal harmonies along are worth the price of admission.  Yeah, it's unfinished but I've never heard anything like it and I probably never will.

Billboard, October 29, 2011, p. 40
The compilation was made available as a single CD, a deluxe 2-CD package, as well as a limited edition deluxe box set composed of 5 CDs, 2 LPs, 2 7" vinyl singles, a poster, and a 60-page booklet that features high quality photographs, essays and recording sessionography. While all the contents of the box set are in English, my promo sticker on the front was printed in French:


I cheated my way through two years of high school French over 35 years ago, so allow me to translate (accuracy not guaranteed): The most anticipated album in the history of rock. Contains the whole SMiLE album + 1967 sessions + a 36 page booklet with text by Brian Wilson + a poster and a SMiLE badge.

The set is beautiful - 2 discs, a poster, liner note booklet, and a pinback. The first disc has the Smile album and other session materials. Disc 2 is all session outtakes. The 5 CD package won the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album.

Headphones, closed eyes, and high volume recommended.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #27

Tracks: It's difficult to pick favorites, but here goes: Our Prayer, Heroes And Villains, Wonderful, what I'll call the "Surf's Up Suite" (tracks 10-12), and when the all-too-familiar Good Vibrations finally comes around at track 19 (admittedly a slightly different version), you fall into that goodness like it's your own bed after a two-week vacation.

Bonus tracks: the tunes Heroes And Villains and Surf's Up get a lot of attention here (9 of 21 bonus tracks) plus a fair share of demos and session snippets - the same vibe as a lot of the Beatles Anthology discs. I dig track 25 & 26, the simply titled Smile Backing Vocals Montage and a 1967 piano/vocal version of Surf's Up.  But they're really just interesting curiosities featuring amazing performances.

Not worth my time is the silly, attempt at (improv?) sketch comedy Brian Falls Into A Piano.

As mentioned above, the second disc consists of session outtakes (it's titled The SMiLE Sessions for good reason) and is only of occasional interest to these ears. I'll admit to getting a kick from hearing the Boys say things between takes like "Danny, do you have any hash joints left? I know you do." or "Do you guys feel any acid yet?"

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
That's Why God Made The Radio (2012)
20 Good Vibrations: The Greatest Hits (1995)
Pet Sounds (1966)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

INXS - Listen Like Thieves (1985)


Simply put, this is a fantastic, danceable, no-nonsense rock album. In my mind, Listen Like Thieves is the group's second-best album to Kick. Great for both open road and relaxing poolside. Recommended.

Rolling Stone, December 5, 1985, p. 58
The above review is pretty much in line with my opinion except for the "sags at the end of the first side" bit.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #11
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #33

Tracks: The high points for me are What You Need, This Time, Kiss The Dirt, and the title track. Probably not coincidentally, those 4 tracks all made appearances on the Billboard Album Rock Chart while Listen Like Thieves and What You Need also placed on the Dance Chart. The only skippable track is the instrumental Three Sisters.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I'm not sure which of my friends owned this LP but someone must have because I recorded it on one side of a C-90 cassette with Wang Chung's To Live And Die In L.A. on the other (not sure where I got that album, either, but it was most likely from the same person).


In February 1986, while I was away for my sophomore year at college, my parents (now empty-nesters) moved to San Antonio. Like many people, they rented an apartment in their new city until more permanent living quarters could be acquired. So when I went to visit over spring break in March, it was an adventure: new living arrangement, new city, new people, etc. Even though the apartment complex was marketed to an older clientele, it did have a swimming pool (below). When the weather was nice during my visit, I hung out by the pool to get some "color."

Apartment swimming pool as it appeared earlier this week.
I remember it being cleaner 34 years ago, but it's oak pollen season.
What's the pool got to do with anything? For some reason, whenever I think of that dubbed cassette or either album that was on it, I am immediately transported back to this pool and March 1986 - the tape must have soundtrack all my visits there that week.

And you may ask yourself: "Mark, if you enjoy the music of INXS, why haven't more CD's appeared here on the blog?" That's a fair question which reminds of a completely unrelated story: I was in grad school in the mid-aughts with a man who had recently spent time serving in the Peace Corps teaching English in Uzbekistan. While there, he could (questionably) purchase CD-ROMs from local vendors that consisted of mp3 files of artists' entire catalogs. I admit to nothing, but, hypothetically, he might have be able to share such discs with me, theoretically including one of an Australian rock band.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Kick (1987)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wang Chung - To Live And Die In L.A. (1985)


From William Friedkin, director of the movie, in the CD liner notes:
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to Points On The Curve that Jack Hues and Nick Feldman are two of the most innovative musicians around. It might also come as no surprise to listeners of their music that while their sound is contemporary, their musical orientation is classical... Strauss, Wagner, Schoenberg, Stravinsky.

Their work stands out for me from the rest of contemporary music, which is why I asked them to create an original score for the film To Live And Die In L.A.. What they finally recorded has not only enhanced the film - it has given it a deeper, more powerful dimension.

While mixing the soundtrack I was struck by the inseparable flow of one musical piece into another. Listening to the album, just now I discovered, to my surprise, that each track also stands out on its own - and delivers its own statement. For me this is not only an exciting film score, but a fine album of modern music.
While I agree with Bill to a point, there are a few skippable tracks on this disc, particularly ones without lyrics to add interest. Overall, however, I think it's a solid album and one I heard quite a bit in late '85/early '86.

For more on Wang Chung's film scoring process (taken from the September 21, 1985 issue of CashBox), click here. As someone who once aspired to score film soundtracks, lemme tell ya - it ain't easy and Leonard Bernstein will tell us why:
it is a musically unsatisfactory experience for a composer to write a score whose chief merit ought to be its unobtrusiveness. It has often been said that the best dramatic background music for a motion picture is that which is not heard.
In other words, soundtracks shouldn't simply be pop/rock music without vocals (that's for karaoke). But soundtracks in the mid-'80s were all about $ales and that meant lots of current bands producing hits (see Footloose, Top Gun, Pretty In Pink, Beverly Hills Cop, Flashdance, The Breakfast Club, etc.). This soundtrack album tries to bridge the two paradigms, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #85
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #109

Tracks: The LP was sequenced with vocal tracks on side one, instrumentals on side two. The best three tracks are on side one: the title track (#41 pop, #21 rock), Wake Up Stop Dreaming, and Wait (which was directly lifted from Points On The Curve). The remaining vocal track, Lullaby, suffers from a weak, pseudo-reggae arrangement, but the bridge is outstanding. Of the instrumentals, the most successful track is City Of The Angels; the least successful track is The Red Stare.



Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I've tried to watch the movie once or twice but never finished it, so I won't get into film reviews here. I'm not sure which of my friends owned this soundtrack LP but someone must have because I recorded it on one side of a C-90 cassette with INXS' Listen Like Thieves on the other (not sure where I got that album, either, but it was most likely from the same person).


In February 1986, while I was away for my sophomore year at college, my parents (now empty-nesters) moved to San Antonio. Like many people, they rented an apartment in their new city until more permanent living quarters could be acquired. So when I went to visit over spring break in March, it was an adventure: new living arrangement, new city, new people, etc. Even though the apartment complex was marketed to an older clientele, it did have a swimming pool (below). When the weather was nice during my visit, I hung out by the pool to get some "color."

Apartment swimming pool as it appeared earlier this week.
I remember it being cleaner 34 years ago, but it's oak pollen season.
What's the pool got to do with anything? For some reason, whenever I think of that dubbed cassette or either album that was on it, I am immediately transported back to this pool and March 1986 - the tape must have soundtrack all my visits there that week.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Points On The Curve (1983)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Chicago - Group Portrait (Disc 1) (1991)


THINKING OUT OF THE BOX SET WEEK (MARCH 8 - 14, 2020)*
*In which I've lost/misplaced/can't find/never had one or more CDs in a multi-disc set.


Disc 1 of a 4 disc box set which covers only the group's tenure with Columbia Records and does not include their 80's Warner Bros. hits. Liner notes here. I'm guessing the set was aimed at '70s Chicago fans who wanted to listen to the band on CD but didn't want to re-purchase all their albums on CD (especially Chicago 13).


Selections on this first disc are hits and album cuts taken from the groups first two albums, Chicago Transit Authority (1969), and Chicago (1970). In chronological order!

Detroit Free Press, October 27, 1991, p. 4Q

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

Tracks:
Song Hot 100  AC 
Introduction--
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?7 5
Beginnings71
Questions 67 & 6824 34
Listen-
Poem 58- -
I'm a Man49-
Make Me Smile9 -
So Much To Say, So Much To Give--
Anxiety's Moment- -
West Virginia Fantasies--
Colour My World7 -
To Be Free--
Now More Than Ever- -
Fancy Colours--
25 Or 6 To 44 -
Where Do We Go From Here--

I'm normally not much for prog rock, but there's some tasty playing on these tracks regardless if they're meandering jam songs, neo-classical suites, or pop/rock singles. I prefer the singles but that's simply because they've seemingly been blaring out of some nearby speaker my entire life. And now I'll most likely spin Only The Beginning: The Very Best Of Chicago at some point today.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  Track 3, Beginnings, reminds me of an ill-advised trip to the beach during the Lost Summer of Mark, 1988. Long story short: I listened to my cassette version of Chicago IX on said trip and was talking to another musician about the trombone solo in Beginnings. My erstwhile companion was incensed that I would dare talk to someone other than her, walked out of the room, and a fight ensued. Good times and very possibly my only fight over a trombone solo. Heckuva song though; maybe the best on this disc.

When I saw the band live in Ft. Worth in 1985, touring in support of Chicago 17, the classic single Colour My World (vocals then by Bill Champlin) surprisingly brought the show to a screeching halt. I guess the preteen girls who came to hear Stay The Night couldn't be bothered with their mom and dad's make-out music which included things such as romantic subtlety or flute solos, if only for 3 minutes.

And, if you are of a certain age, after you learned Chopsticks and Heart and Soul on your older sister's piano when you were 8, you might have gone on to learn the arpeggiated introduction of Colour My World.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Only The Beginning: The Very Best Of Chicago (2002)
The Heart of Chicago 1967–1998 Volume II (1998)
Greatest Hits 1982-1989 (1989)
Chicago 17 (1984)
Chicago 16 (1982)
Greatest Hits, Vol. II (1981)
Greatest Hits (1975)
Chicago Transit Authority (1969)

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Best of The Doors (1985)


THINKING OUT OF THE BOX SET WEEK (MARCH 8 - 14, 2020)*
*In which I've lost/misplaced/can't find/never had one or more CDs in a multi-disc set.


Disc 1 of a 2 CD compilation set (which I previously owned on cassette).

I dig The Doors because few of their songs sound the same and they're all like nothing else. Morrison deservedly gets a lot of the attention, but the whole band was excellent. For example, Manzarek's organ work on Light My Fire is fantastic and that was as on their debut album (Rolling Stone ranked that LP as the #34 best debut album, but I'd put it in the top ten. Same rag also lists the album at #42 of all time, which is closer to my way of thinking.).

This compilation was the group's 8th (that total is currently topping 20), but it was the first Doors purchase I made. If I had to choose one over the other, I'd rather have Disc 2 of this set, but that ship has sailed. I can't really recommend the compilation as you're better off buying the albums individually, especially since they've been recently remastered (again) for 50th anniversaries.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #32

Tracks: Of the 11 tracks on this disc, my top picks are Break On Through, Light My Fire, People Are Strange, Love Me Two Times, and When The Music's Over, but they're all psychedelically good listens.

For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox,
go visit The Legend of the Longbox.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: During my college years, I always had to listen to my Doors tapes when I was by myself as none of my friends cared much for the band. Their loss.

And I'm thinking I'll watch the 1991 Oliver Stone movie The Doors sometime today.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Simple Minds - Live In The City Of Light, Volume Two (1987)


THINKING OUT OF THE BOX SET WEEK (MARCH 8 - 14, 2020)*
*In which I've lost/misplaced/can't find/never had one or more CDs in a multi-disc set.


Disc 2 of a 2 CD set (which I previously owned on cassettes).

From the band's website:
Live In The City Of Light is the first (double LP / CD) live album by Simple Minds. It was released in May 1987 to document their successful worldwide Once Upon a Time tour, and charted at No. 1 in the UK. The album spawned one chart single release, a live version of “Promised You a Miracle”.

The album was recorded mostly at Le ZĂ©nith, Paris in August 1986, with one track recorded in October 1986 in Sydney, Australia. (Although the album was not recorded there, the inside of the gatefold sleeve features a photograph of a concert from the 1986 tour which took place in a square in Locarno, Switzerland). It features the band’s 1986 touring lineup, which included second vocalist Robin Clark and percussionist Sue Hadjopoulos. Lisa Germano (at the time, a John Mellencamp band member who would perform on Simple Minds’ next studio single, Belfast Child), contributed studio-overdubbed violin on “Someone Somewhere in Summertime” and former Simple Minds member Derek Forbes contributed (uncredited) bass guitar overdubs.
I'm not a huge fan of live rock albums, but I bought the pre-recorded cassettes on the cheap from a resale shop in summer 1988. They spent a lot of time in my car's deck that summer, so I didn't hesitate when I saw this CD sitting in a bin at another resale shop many years later (I'm detecting a resale shop trend). I didn't even look at the disc beyond the title because I already knew what was on the CD - it's the two albums on one disc, right?

It was not. In this case, two albums = two CDs. So I was stuck with only Volume 2 of this set. Live and learn. I shouldn't complain - after all, it's still 41½ minutes of music. But I'm a big, pouty baby, so I cross my arms, stomp my feet, and don't often listen to this disc on principle.

Billboard, July 11, 1987, p. 64

While I agree that the record packs a punch, radio did not, in fact, move on it. Despite the video being in "medium rotation" on MTV that summer, said single didn't sniff the Hot 100. Not that you asked, but Promised You A Miracle is track 4 on CD 1, so it won't get a sniff in this post, either.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #96

Tracks: Of the 7 tracks here, my favorites are Don't You Forget About Me and the medley of Love Song/Sun City/Dance To The Music. I've been to many shows where the band trots out the Sly Stone warhorse Dance To The Music as a way to introduce the band, so there's nothing new there, but I like the way the medley flows and they get their jabs in at apartheid, so I dig that, too. Tracks 2 & 3 - lackluster versions of Book Of Brilliant Things followed by East At Easter are unfortunate show killers.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I've got a couple, but I'm going to save them for when I eventually post about the complete CD set. Yes, I've purchased this set yet again, both discs this time.


Previously revisited for the blog:
Acoustic (2016)
Glittering Prize (1992)
Real Life (1991)
Once Upon a Time (1985)
Sparkle in the Rain (1984)
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) (1982)
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84): Deluxe Box Set
Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call (1981)