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.

Friday, August 7, 2020

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (1988)

By request!  (In this particular case, "by request" means that a reader actually sent me a CD - thanks)

I haven't heard this album in 32 years and that's assuming I even heard the whole thing back in '88. But I remember MTV having the video for Parents Just Don't Understand on "heavy rotation" (4 or 5 plays a day). I should note that, as a broke college student, I didn't have any money for an uptown cable package that included MTV, but I was able to bootleg it if I could rig some wiring up correctly - the picture was far from perfect, but you could mostly kinda tell what was going on. Granted, I was mainly trying to watch Kari Wuhrer on Remote Control, but would catch the occasional distorted video.

The album turned out to be a hit mainly because it made pop-rap accessible to the masses. It doesn't take itself too seriously and is okay with that. A 19 year old Will Smith is disarming but Jeff steals the show with his turntable pyrotechnics. This from a 2017 retro-review over at Pitchfork: one’s idea of a revolutionary document. It’s proudly, cheerfully, purposefully corny: The first song is a Nightmare on Elm Street parody featuring the line, “He’s burned up like a weenie/And his name is Fred.” Listening to it often feels babysitting a room full of fourth graders for a few hours. And yet, it racked up a lot of “firsts”: It was the first hip-hop double album and the first rap album to win a Grammy; in fact, it was the first year the Grammys even acknowledged rap.
Spinning this CD today, I'm in full agreement, especially the babysitting part.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #4
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #5

Tracks: I'll admit to enjoying hearing Parents Just Don't Understand again (and laughing at myself for remembering most of the lyrics). In typical late '80s style, there are no writing credits given for the tunes sampled on here (the stylist gets his/her due, however), but I recognize some Stevie Wonder, Bob James, Steve Miller, James Brown, Cheryl Lynn, and George Benson, among others. I'll confess that I needed to take a 5 minute coffee break about 11 tracks in and by track 14, I was ready to be done. These days, it all makes for an interesting time capsule, but not much more than that. There's some homophobic stuff on here, which was sadly commonplace in the '80s and definitely not condoned by this humble blogger.

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

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: While I didn't own the album, a friend of mine had the pre-recorded cassette and he brought it with when we took two girls on an unfortunate trip to Matagorda Beach in the summer of 1988. The trip was such a disaster that I've tried to forget about it, and that's the reason why I don't remember if I've heard this thing before.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Nick Lowe - Nick the Knife (1982)

Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP, later replaced by a CD. The CD I listened to was the 2017 Yep Roc reissue. Good job on the remastering.

Thanks to my buddy Jim, I was exposed to all sorts of British pub/roots rock in 1982, including the music of Nick Lowe, who, if he wasn't recording the records I was buying, he was writing, playing, or producing the records I was buying. This album may be a mixed bag of genres, but it sure is a fun listen. There are Lowe songs I like better than the tunes on Nick The Knife, but from top-to-bottom, I think this is his best release (granted, I haven't kept up with his entire catalog over the years although I probably should have).

Lots of great musicians on this release. Lowe gathered up friends from Rockpile, The Rumour, The Attractions, and Squeeze along with his then-wife Carlene Carter, whose backing harmonies often steal the show.

Reviews were mixed upon release, to say the least:

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #50
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #22
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #48
Peak on Rolling Stone chart: #28

Tracks: My top picks are Burning, Heart, Stick It Where The Sun Don't Shine, Too Many Teardrops, Raining Raining, and One's Too Many (And A Hundred Ain't Enough). There's also a few fun throwaways like Ba Doom and Zulu Kiss. The demos included as bonus tracks are of interest only once or twice.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Nothing comes to mind, but last time I put together a list of my favorite albums of 1982, I ranked this at #41.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Basher: The Best Of Nick Lowe (1989)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Terence Trent D'Arby - Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby (1987)

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

A spring/summer album for me (see personal memory, below). To be honest, I didn't give this album much of a chance when it was released even though it was breath of fresh air in the world of late '80s R&B. That said, I certainly enjoy it more now than I did then. To my admittedly contrarian way of thinking, it didn't help that to promote this release, TTD went around declaring himself a genius, and allegedly describing his debut as better than the Beatles' legendary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (ed.- I could not locate any primary sources for the Beatles boast, but I really didn't put in much effort). The Beatles it ain't, but once you get past the silly lyrics and vocal pitch problems, there's a lot of good grooves here, helped along by co-producer Martyn Ware (Heaven 17, British Electric Foundation).

The album was awarded the Grammy award in the (now-discontinued) category of Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

Press of the time:
  • Billboard: "so impressive it simply can't miss"
  • CashBox: "one of the freshest, sassiest, most welcome breezes to whistle through this year."
  • Rolling Stone: "D'Arby's writing isn't always up to the measure of his vocal prowess."
  • Smash Hits (9⅔ out of 10): "no one could ever sing these pop pilferings quite as unbelievably confidently and blisteringly brilliant as he can."
  • Stereo Review: "isn't as good as you want it to be."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #4
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #1

Tracks, ranked in order of personal preference:
  1. Wishing Well (#1 pop, #1 R&B, #7 Dance, #44 AC)
  2. Dance Little Sister (#30 pop, #9 R&B, #7 Dance)
  3. If You Let Me Stay (#68 pop, #19 R&B, #47 Dance)
  4. Who's Lovin' You
  5. Rain
  6. Let's Go Forward
  7. I'll Never Turn My Back On You (Father's Words)
  8. Sign Your Name (#4 pop, #2 R&B, #13 AC, #23 Dance)
  9. Seven More Days
  10. If You All Get To Heaven
  11. As Yet Untitled
I've never heard another song like Wishing Well - the sparseness of the arrangement coupled with TTD's pleading vocals. I also enjoy many of the song's updated attempts at Motown soul. I must not have listened to side two of my cassette very often because when I bought the CD, I had no memory of the later tracks.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Even though this album was released in the US in the fall of 1987, I didn't buy it until the spring of 1988, which leads me to The Lost Summer Of Mark memories. In particular, I'm reminded of the end-of-semester party me and my two roommates held at our small house near campus. Our aim was to have the party go from noon one day until noon the next day, and while we started on time, things sputtered to an end in the early morning by which point all the living room furniture had been moved to the front yard. The party even had its own promo poster, courtesy of a friend who was majoring in art:

My roommates and I all had permanent addresses
in San Antonio so our house was normally referred
to as "The San Antonio House"

I'm not sure any legacies actually began that evening, but you never know. Yes, May 11 was a Wednesday - what of it? Anyway, while cleaning up the next day and preparing for a run to take all the empty beer cans to the local recycling center, I remember this album playing.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Natalie Cole - Unforgettable... with Love (1991)

Natalie's album includes covers of standards previously performed by her father, Nat King Cole. It's a nice tribute to her legendary father and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the first 21 tracks, but I'm partial to Ronstadt singing standards, most likely because I heard those recordings first and they were my introduction to many tunes. It's more about timing than quality.

As for the hit title track, count me out - too creepy for this guy. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, the producers "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should."

The album won two Grammy Awards: Album of the Year & Best Engineered – Non-Classical.

Press of the time:

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #5

Tracks: My picks are Route 66, Straighten Up And Fly Right, Too Young, and Thou Swell. It probably wasn't a good idea to tackle Mona Lisa and no one would have blamed her if she'd simply deferred to her father's definitive version of that one.

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

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Just remembering how popular this album was when it came out (even my father bought a copy) and no one but me seemed to be disturbed by the title duet. And I'm reminded I need to pick up a copy of producer Tommy LiPuma's recently published bio.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

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

EU Import

Note: this release was originally purchased as a cassette tape, later replaced by the 2012 remastered edition CD. Disc two previously featured during "Thinking Out of the Box Set Week" (March 8 - 14, 2020)

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.
The single mentioned above, a live version of Promised You A Miracle, didn't chart in the US, but placed a respectable #19 on the UK chart.

Press of the time:

Billboard, July 25, 1987, p. 23

  • Billboard: "packs a larger punch than more manicured studio versions"
  • Rolling Stone: "lively, if a bit predictable"
  • RPM: "should create intense anticipation of their follow-up"
  • Smash Hits (6 out of 10): "faithfully reproduces a typical performance"
"Lively, if a bit predictable" pretty much mirrors my thoughts, but there's a bit of truth to all the above blurbs.

Remastering is good, but the liner note booklet is fairly light on content consisting mainly of photos of band members not taken in Paris and a few concert pics. In other words, no 5,000 word essay from rock journalist/fanboy. Disappointing.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #96
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #114


Disc 1: the better of the two discs - my problem here is the sequencing. If you start off with a great tune like Ghostdancing, I would think you need to ratchet it up a notch on the second tune, but the band opts to kill momentum with Big Sleep. Don't get me wrong, Big Sleep is a decent enough tune, but just not second on the playlist. (According to the band's website, Big Sleep was actually 7th on the playlist at these concerts, which would make more sense to me.) Love the live versions of Waterfront (which should have kicked off the album), Someone Somewhere In Summertime, Oh Jungleland and Alive And Kicking. Lot of energy, lot of focus. Promised You A Miracle is a touch too fast for my tastes but still worth your time.

Disc 2 (recycled from previous post): Of the 7 tracks here, my favorites are Don't You Forget About Me, Once Upon A Time, 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 3 & 4 - lackluster versions of Book Of Brilliant Things followed by East At Easter are unfortunate show killers.

As mentioned above about the LP gatefold sleeve, this ad features the photograph taken
at another show from the same tour in a square in Locarno, Switzerland.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I'm not a huge fan of live rock albums, but I bought these pre-recorded cassettes on the cheap from a resale shop in summer 1988. They then spent a lot of time in my car's deck that summer. Faithful readers of this blog may remember that I usually refer to the summer of 1988 as the Lost Summer of Mark (those not familiar with the personal particulars of that long, hot summer can click here for further info). For some reason, my memory is thinking this album soundtracked a visit that summer to Lake Tawakoni State Park.

The girl I dated that summer lent me a Simple Minds concert tee, similar to the one pictured below. As of this writing, that was the softest shirt I've ever worn so I wore it as often as I could before the inevitable break-up. I dig the graphics, too.

I went to a Ticketmaster box office to get tickets to the band's Dallas stop on the tour on which this album was recorded (April 9, 1986 - Bronco Bowl with The Call opening). Being an unemployed college student living on the generosity of my parents, however, I just didn't have the funds to afford the ducats and walked away empty-handed. Epilogue: a Home Depot now occupies the lot where Bronco Bowl once stood.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Acoustic (2016)
Glittering Prize (1992)
Real Life (1991)
Live In The City Of Light, Volume Two (1987)
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)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time (1989)

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

I like most everything about this sensual, bluesy, slick pop-rock collection. Bonnie writes and selects music that's perfect for her voice, gets a great supporting cast of musicians, works closely with producer Don Was, and let's not forget her underrated bottleneck slide guitar playing.

The album and its title track won 3 Grammy Awards (Album Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance), sold 5x platinum, and in one of Rolling Stone's '500 greatest albums of all time' lists, it placed at 230. Not too shabby.

Billboard published a decent oral history piece last year for the album's 30th anniversary: 30 Years of 'Nick of Time': How Bonnie Raitt's 'Underdog Record' Swept the Grammys & Saved Her Career

Press of the time:
  • Billboard: "this is a Bonnie-fide blues-based Raitt outing"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★½): "another beautiful near miss"
  • Stereo Review: "loose, primal funkiness of blues-oriented rock-and-roll"
  • Robert Christgau (B): "Bonnie being Bonnie, it sounds perfectly OK"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #1

Tracks: Even though the album is definitely front-loaded, I like the whole thing and have no problem listening to tracks 1-11 in order. Thing Called Love and Love Letter are the cream here; other top tracks include the title track, Cry On My Shoulder, Real Man, Have A Heart, I Will Not Be Denied, and The Road's My Middle Name. What was the last track on side one of my cassette, Nobody's Girl, is a perfectly fine cut, but to my 23 year old ears in 1989, its quiet simplicity didn't fit in with the rest of the album, so I'd often flip the cassette over and rewind to start side 2. I like to point out that Love Letter and Have A Heart were written by Bonnie Hayes because I'm wild about that Bonnie, too.

Exclusive photo courtesy of Dirk Digglinator of the Hambonian Archives.
For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox, go visit
The Legend of the Longbox.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I was a casual Raitt fan at best until I saw the video for Thing Called Love and I was all in. Me and thousands of others.

I spent the most of the summer of 1989 living in my parents' spare bedroom looking for my first teaching gig and waiting for my mid-August wedding. No, it wasn't a particularly good idea to think about starting a marriage without any income, but somehow we made it through. This album reminds me of that summer, particularly, working with my church's youth group - and by working, I just mean hanging out with them at minor league baseball games and whatnot, being a sounding board for their hopes and angst.

For years I foolishly made do with a greatest hits compilation instead of buying this CD. I'm glad to have rectified that situation as this is a fantastic summer steamy porch/open road album.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Best of (2003)
Green Light (1982)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Smithereens - Especially For You (1986)

So I received this text message earlier this week:

There ya have it. And while I didn't need that reminder, it did prompt me to pull some Smithereens CDs from the shelf.

You know from the first drum smack that you're in for a rockin' treat here. Leader Pat DiNizio was a gifted singer/songwriter who wrote power pop hooks a'plenty, influenced by all sorts of '60s groups, mainly British Invasion. The band is tight, arrangements first-rate, energy is high, and the vocal harmonies are on point. The music has aged well and certainly the band should have been bigger than they were. And yes, the Smithereens are badass.

Now this disc is going to take up residence in my truck's CD player for a few months. Again.

10 things you might not know about The Smithereens’ ‘Especially for You’ album

Press of the time:
  • Billboard: "a wealth of Beatlesque pop hooks"
  • Rolling Stone: "like a long-lost greatest-hits album"
  • Stereo Review: "when you're faced with music as exquisite as the Smithereens make here, the only sane response is to shut up and enjoy it."
  • Robert Christgau (B-)

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #51
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #41

Tracks: My favorites are Strangers When We Meet, I Don't Want To Lose You, Time And Time Again, In A Lonely Place (with Suzanne Vega and a tasty vibraphone solo), Crazy Mixed-Up Kid, and Hand Of Glory.  I know I'm supposed to like Blood And Roses because that's a fan favorite, but it just doesn't do much for me except for the guitar solo.

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

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but after discovering the band through Green Thoughts in 1988, it took me much longer than it should have to explore the group's back catalog.

Previously revisited for the blog:
2011 (2011)
Blown To Smithereens: Best Of The Smithereens (1995)
Blow Up (1991)
11 (1989)
Green Thoughts (1988)